Complementarians, Show Us Your Truth

When women are celebrated and not fenced off as possible trouble, it creates a seamless transition for benevolent complementarian churches to clearly call their congregation to responsibility for lack of self-control; that means we should teach everyone that they have faculties and should use them. Boys will not be boys. Locker room talk is never okay. Hitting girls is not a sign of affection. Women are not responsible when a man crosses a line. Ever. Benevolent protection refuses to concede that position. 


As I toured a local domestic violence shelter I asked if they find the women and children escaping danger have faith in God or come from certain religious backgrounds. Without batting an eye she commented that one of the largest megachurches in the Dallas area, that happens to be complementarian, had the highest number of women and children coming to their shelter. She casually mentioned it was because of their view on protecting the institution of marriage.

I wasn’t surprised. Countless women attending complementarian churches have confided in me their blow with abuse, violence, and sexual assault. To my dismay, a pattern emerges in their experience—when confronted with the abuse of my sisters, many male leaders choose not to report abuse to authorities. Instead, most of these issues are kept in-house. In extreme cases, women have been encouraged to endure abuse for a time, lovingly submit to win over their husband, or threatened with church discipline at the mention of separation.

By God’s grace I am safe because of the godly complementarian men in my life and on the elder board at my local church. I know what it’s like to have my brothers in my corner. Everyone should feel this safe. But they don’t. Like Rachel Held Evans has said, we have an abuse problem and we need to talk about it.

You’ve got the right convictions.

There is momentum behind the #metoo, #churchtoo, #silenceisnotspiritual movements. As that momentum grows the Church is faced with a reckoning. We cannot just stand by hoping for the best, we must teach and practice the truth. And that starts by taking a good hard look in the mirror and declaring, “This is not us.”

If Rachael Denhollander is right by saying, “the extent that one is willing to speak out against their own community is the bright line test for how much they care and how much they understand,” then here I stand proving that I care and understand. I don’t want to stand alone, and I don’t think I have to.

The last time I checked, complementarians still hold to the belief that “at the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationship.”

A benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women.

Perfect, the stage is set for you to show everyone you mean it.

Where It’s Gone Wrong

Choose to care for the married, not just the marriage.

The #metoo and #churchtoo movements have created the kind of comradery that gives the abused confidence to come forward. This is the kind of thing that should cause Christians to praise God for dragging sin from the darkness into the light. But all too frequently, the response from the complementarian church has been to advise more submission from the vulnerable party.

When church leadership chooses to defend the institution of marriage over defending the married person, they are pushing what’s been brought into the light back into the dark. Defending institutions more than the people in them is never the answer. This is not benevolent. If we value marriage over a woman’s life or livelihood, can we even call that biblical?

No. The answer is no. Always no. Hard no.

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