Reclaiming Complementarianism: Introduction

An escalating tempest steadily foments in gender relations. And that which is made publicly manifest through media outlets are but tips of this flaming dry iceberg. For if it can be said, at an individual level, that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34); it can be likewise posited that that which is publicly well-known throughout society is that which escapes from out of the hidden subterranean bowels of society through the media mouthpieces and gatekeepers.

This tumult permeates Christian subculture in the forms of Evangelical “egalitarianism” versus Danvers “complementarianism;” neither of which, I contend, are biblical nor good. Both positions, regardless of their veracity, display a not-so-obscure correspondence with the natural vested interests of each gender. Both positions come short of the ideal relational structure (a.k.a. glory of God), which will lend, in of themselves, to deleterious outcomes.

Herein, “in of themselves” is an important operative phrase. For in the complexity of existence; the goodwill, virtue, and wisdom of the participants in a marital relationship can partially mitigate, ameliorate, and even overcome the inherent flaws of any social construct. Contrariwise, even if the proper social structures are put in place and accepted by both parties, lack of goodwill, virtue, and wisdom in those participants will undermine the state of marital relations; all the while, its participants blaming the structure for their own moral shortcomings.

To illustrate, without getting sidetracked onto another social issue, we currently dwell within a society with excessive levels of socioeconomic disparity. This, in turn, impedes the ability for those on the bottom rungs to latch onto the ever distant and elusive Brigadoon of socioeconomic security and prosperity. However, there will always be those rarities, with extreme levels of talent, and/or ingratiating shrewdness, and even lottery luck, who are able to traverse that great socioeconomic gulf. These exemplars will be publicly paraded (i.e. Marco Rubio) by the powers-that-be as examples of the virtues of the present socioeconomic system.

Likewise, while Rachel Held Evans may profess that there are very few hiccups in her egalitarian marriage, (the lesser angels of my cynical nature awaiting the day they file for divorce); anecdotal exceptions are no proof positive in a sea of contrary results. There was wreckage which yet floated aloft the ocean surface after the Titanic sunk.

The psycho-social logic and dynamics of the (Evangelical) egalitarian model will tend to spawn a battle of wills, war of attrition between spouses; lending towards a marital dispiriting, dissipation, and divorce. On the other hand, Danvers Complementarianism, which I suggest is merely a kinder Christian version of a Roman hierarchical patriarchy, will practicably leave the wife too beholden and vulnerable to the goodwill, virtue, and wisdom of the husband; without sufficient and effectual voice; and mildly suffocating under a, hopefully benevolent, suzerain lord. Nevertheless, extraordinary virtue and gentleness of the husband may overcome these otherwise intrinsic structural deficiencies.

On the political continuum between lawless anarchy and oppressive tyranny, Evangelical Egalitarianism pushes towards the former; Danvers Complementarianism the latter. And the inherent flaws of each position tend to make their victims, converts of the other position, in endless feedback cycle.

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