The Complementary Sexes

Sign me up! (Oops, I missed it)

John Piper’s Pastor’s conference looked like just the place for me and you’ll probably want to take a look at it, too, if only to see what you missed. “Masculinity is the Glad Assumption of Responsibility” promised to be one session I’d not want to miss nor the optimistic “A Culture of Hope for Men in the Church.” Time permitting I would have hoped to be able to drop in on at least one more: “The Difference Between Masculinity and Femininity” led by Doug Wilson. I’m fascinated to know what that one difference is and how one man knows so much about something he is not.

Despite my desire to attend what surely was an outstanding conference to help male chauvinists couch their sexism in Christian-ease, I’m guessing I would have been barred at the door.

Complementarity strikes me as worse than in-your-face sexism. As least when someone admits to being patriarchal, they are being honest about whom they are. But, complementarians simply argue that their form of sexism isn’t and instead they are living into their God-ordained roles as men of God. An earlier iteration of this movement was led by Bill Gothard. John Piper is spouting the same stuff, just under a different name and to a new generation.

In Piper’s video he appears almost giddy by his thought that there continues to be a strong movement in the United States that embraces complementarity as a God-ordained model. Here’s what I wonder: what is at the heart of this need to assume responsibility for someone else, to think one has greater authority than another, to believe one’s gender is somehow the most important characteristic determining the entire course of one’s life?

I’ve read the gospels a few times and I keep struggling to reconcile this emphasis on gender and roles with Jesus’ example. As far as I can see Jesus interacts with social outcasts, surely not an illustration of his power or authority since no one really paid any attention to Jewish peasants anyway. Jesus interacted with religious authorities but not in a way one would expect, nor in a way where Jesus could be perceived as being in charge or having a particular role. Jesus broke the laws of honor and shame by engaging in dialogue with and healing women.

Where was Jesus living out some kind of prescribed gender role? And, if this is as important as the John Pipers of this would want us to believe, why didn’t Jesus talk about it? One would think if our gender is supposed to play such a large part in how we construct marriages, in how churches should be governed, in whether or not someone embraces a career and/or family, this information would have consumed much of Jesus’ teachings.

OK, for those who want to argue Jesus set the stage of male leadership by having twelve disciples I’ll ask a couple of questions. First, who are the twelve? A careful consideration of each gospel looking for twelve disciples might be an interesting project. And, second, is there any chance the idea of twelve disciples is a literary device, created by gospel writers to make the connection between Jesus (many years after his life) with the twelve tribes of Israel (who had existed many generations before)?

Fair enough: as a woman I’m not supposed to ask such sticky questions, certainly not in public. I guess I’ll have to wait until Bryan gets home so that I can ask him. And, I’ll try to forget or at least not admit that I am the one, not he, who has spent years studying this stuff. Being male trumps actual study, this much I’ve learned from Piper without attending his conference.