Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Complementarianism. . .

Complementarianism is a theological view across many traditions of Christianity (some might include Rabbinic Judaism and Islam) that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, society, and religious leadership.  In this teaching, masculinity and femininity are ordained by God and that men and women are created to complement, or complete, each other. Gender cannot be a matter of choice nor is it optional.  The complementarians believe that roles for the genders are established in Scripture, laid down in creation, and divinely intended and, when applied in the home and church, promote the spiritual health and well-being of men and women and the family, home, and society as a whole.  Embracing the divinely ordained roles of men and women is part of the vocation given by God and the pursuit of this does not hinder but aids God’s people to reach their God-given purpose and fulfillment.

There was a time when complentarianism was not simply a religious view but a cultural one as well.  Our American indulgence for individualism was held in check for most of our history by our respect for and pursuit of the distinct roles of men and women in marriage and family.  The immigrant people coming to the promise of freedom did not end up perpetuating everything from their homelands but they did largely preserve the roles and complements of fathers and husbands and mothers and wives.  Here, the husband bore the more public face of the family while the wife was more responsible for the domestic sphere but neither was subservient to the other and both were given honor and place.  The parallel purpose of church and state encouraged this -- not formally but functionally.  The remnants of this are in the proposal that typically comes from the man to the woman and woman takes on the man's name.

There were many factors undoing this complementary arrangement.  Not in the least of these was the urbanization of our nation and the wars which robbed every public sphere of the men sent to battle in far away places.  But there were other more deliberate factors at work undoing the complementarianism of our past.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not simply about race but also prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex (something now being extended to genders never contemplated then).  Here was the legal mechanism for deconstructing the partnership of church and state in complementarianism.  It was not simply about voting or equal pay but about the very assumptions that under gird sex, sexual relations, gender, and family life.  Unfortunately, this, like abortion and same sex marriage, was adopted not on the basis of public opinion or debate but judicial ruling or legal codification.  Prior to this, the economic arrangement enabled the vast majority of women not to work outside the home and children to avoid day care.  Some jobs specified male only applicants and others female.  Church and state and even entertainment media not only supported this but promoted it. Churches taught the man as provider and protector and woman as homemaker and child rearer as did advertisers, television, and the big screen generally.  

While the feminist complains about women being forced to be “barefoot and pregnant,” standing in front of the washing machine and stove all day long, it was never codified that woman could not do what men did but that the order was beneficial to all.  Maybe half of America's four-year colleges and universities enrolled women at the turn of the century but by the end of WWI it was two-thirds and now women dominate the student bodies of nearly every college or university, both undergrad and graduate programs.  Society preserved the male public face and female domestic face precisely because it was deemed essential for the larger good of nation and society.  As last as the 1960s, many Ivy League schools still has women's colleges that were separate and did not admit women.  The same could be said of professional schools (for medicine and law).  Equal pay for equal work eventually ended up with the conclusion that men and women were not different in any meaningful ways and the ways they were different were due to an oppressive and patriarchal system that must be undone.  Now women are drafted and serve in combat roles along side men -- protected and preserved from nothing of the worst we can heap upon ourselves.  

The value of modesty is lost to most all of us.  The institutions of marriage and family and struggling.  We have loads of money and all the entertainment screens can provide.  We can release our basest desires without fear of recrimination.  But are things better than they were?  Ask the children raised in single parent homes or the women who work multiple jobs in order to support children the fathers have no interest in.  There always were and always will be those who are the elite, for whom no rules apply, but the vast majority of Americans are not these people and their uncertainty and depression is not the least the result of the freedom from roles that has turned into oppression.  But the worst is that feminism has evolved into the bigger tent of approval for all kinds of sexual desire and every felt gender and that the law has put itself on the side of these things that destroy marriage and family and weaken our entire nation and society. We are, in effect, not simply labeling masculinity as toxic but criminalizing it.  Instead of making headway against the evils once identified, we label any and every institution hopelessly and systematically racist and phobic against the new found ideas of freedom and individualism and a distinction without a difference between male and female.  Hopefully, the time will come when we can honestly and openly ask if we are better off -- before it is too late.

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