Monday, January 14, 2013

Taking my daughters to church (or not)

I wouldn't take my daughters to a doctor's office where women weren't allowed to be physicians. I wouldn't take them to a school where women weren't allowed to be administrators. I wouldn't take them to a store where women weren't allowed to be managers. So what is it about a church that would grant it some sort of exemption from that logic? I can answer for the church I grew up in: nothing.

For those of you who didn't come from a complementarian church background, or did but didn't know that's what it is called (*raises hand, wondering when church people made up this new word for patriarchy*), it contrasts with egalitarian churches that believe crazy things like maybe your genitalia shouldn't be the sole basis for your role in the church or family (or your chromosomes, or internal anatomy, or hormone profile, or whatever. Because they aren't all perfectly correlated, e.g., you can be 46 XX and have a penis; nor do they all represent a perfect binary, e.g., you can have ovaries and testes, or be 47 XXY. In other words, like most areas where religion and science intersect, it isn't quite as simple and straightforward as I was led to believe in my church (shocking, no?). So how, ye literal interpreters of the Bible, are we supposed to sort these people who are not so easily divided into "leaders" and "baby makers"?? And why in the world should we??)

Here is what the Southern Baptist Convention says about women: "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation." 
[ed update: here is an interesting blog post that addresses the scripture behind this view]

In other words, men and women are totally equal, you guys. The man is is just in charge of the woman, and she is just his little helper. But still. Totally equal. I'm sorry but if my boss at work had the same office as I did, the same responsibilities, same salary, the same division supervisor, but she was in charge of me? That right there, that last one, THAT is what makes us unequal. All I can think when I hear this argument (and I've heard it all my life) is the scene in Animal Farm, "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." And then I think about Plessy v. Ferguson (separate but equal) and how it was overturned by a sort of monumental case that changed the course of our country FOR THE BETTER ("segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn.") I get that you aren't physically segregating the sexes (well, at least not in my church), but I think the underlying premise still stands. When you are using a physical trait to determine who can do something/be somewhere/have power and who can't? That is not OK.
More articles about the problem with complimentarianism:
Arguably the Bible is, at least in some parts, patriarchal, pro-slavery, racist, sexist, genocidal, anti-Jewish and homophobic. Also arguably, the Bible, at least in some parts, teaches us that God is not patriarchal, pro-slavery, etc. What does this mean for Christians and our use of Scripture? -Questions about Patriarchy, Slavery, Racism, Sexism...
"I hate the term 'complementarian' by the way, because it’s such a dishonest euphemism; just say hierarchical.” -Why Gender Hierarchy Makes No Biblical Sense to Me
Complementarianism isn’t working—in marriages and in church leadership— because it’s not actually complementarianism; it’s patriarchy.  And patriarchy doesn't work because God created both men and women to reflect God's character and God's sovereignty over creation, as equal partners with equal value." -It’s not complementarianism; it’s patriarchy
I believe, with every bone in my body, that patriarchy is a result of sin, and that followers of Jesus are to be champions of equality. I believe it is our calling, as imitators of Christ, to reflect God’s new vision for the world, initiated through  Jesus Christ,  in which there is no hierarchy or power struggle between slave and free, Jew and Greek, male and female, for all are one in the family of God. -Is patriarchy really God’s dream for the world? 
We need complementarianism without a gender binary...We need a complementarianism without hierarchy... -Reclaiming Complementarianism

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