Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

***Working to be a safe place for all sides to share.***


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sacred Marriage and Love & Respect: A Conversation, by John Hobbins and Marilyn Johnson, Part 3

Part Three

Marilyn to John:

Having said that, I'm not exactly the typical complementarian wife. I work outside the home. I also represented the market segment complementarians view to be the most difficult to reach - the "I'm an evangelical feminist because nothing as ugly as the complementarianism on which I was raised could possibly be Biblical."

John to Marilyn:

The market segment I represent is even harder to please: "I'm a fourth generation egalitarian who has seen over and over again that egalism is far from being a Holy Grail or a saving grace. Who do you think you're fooling if you wish to suggest that complementarianism is some sort of Holy Grail or saving grace?"

Marilyn to John:

Many complementarians undoubtedly question whether it is appropriate for me to work outside the home. Related to this, I think that complementarians don't have good answers for the "but, what about personality differences" questions. Put in Myers-Briggs terms, complementarian wives are supposed to be ESFJs. It sometimes seems as if the extent of a wife's deviation from an ESFJ personality is defined by complementarians as a sin issue. So, I still struggle with the question of what is sin versus woundedness versus giftedness issue.

John to Marilyn:

I think comps and egals need to allow more room for gift-based authority. Gift-based authority represents almost by definition a deviation from the norm. So what? Open your eyes, as John Wesley did on more than one occasion, and be ready to see God do a new thing.

At the same time, extraordinary gifts and wounds go together. I sometimes go so far as to say that extraordinary gifts are wounds.

Sins and gifts also go together. A harder topic to broach, but it stares us right in the face if we look around. All the great saints in the Bible were also great sinners. Fancy that. It makes one wish for mediocrity at times.

It is no accident that Moses and Paul were both murderers. Was murder a necessary preparation for their life-giving subsequent missions? Murder was a misuse of the gift, the same gift of zeal and sense of justice that God went on to use in positive ways.

Marilyn to John:

On the other hand, I also believe that I should follow traffic laws. If a stoplight is red, I should stop my car even if there are no other cars in sight. If everybody disobeyed traffic laws when they didn't see an immediate need to follow them, the result would be chaos. (And, chaos is what we're currently experiencing when stop lights turn yellow.) I think there's a parallel to gender roles, but I'm either unable or unwilling to develop the argument. And, of course, Thomas' point about our being put in our marriages to serve is always relevant!

John to Marilyn:

More traffic lights, please. I would say that egal family life tends to look like slightly regulated anarchy these days. You would think that Christian comps and egals alike would make common cause against the tendency, for example, to give teenage children almost full control over their lives at an increasingly early age.

That's an easy case, but it's not that different with respect to the question of gender roles. The question: what is the right balance between cultural expectations and flexibility so as to make room for the exercise of particular gifts? More generally: in what sense is the Christian faith to accommodate culture, or instead be counter-cultural, and on what grounds? As you will notice, I have more questions than answers.

Marilyn to John:

I'm not sure that I have a complete response to the egal domain-based arguments that you have raised. I guess there are two issues - our roles and how we relate to each other. With respect to roles, I see the key issue as the couple's intent, not their outcomes. Even if a husband and wife earn comparable incomes, I do believe that they view their jobs differently. She wants to choose whether to work. He wants to choose where/how to work. That difference is huge. The husband assumes the primary responsibility for provision and protection. That supports his authority, irrespective of whether the practical outcome is that she earns a comparable or higher income.

With respect to how the couple relates, Emerson uses the example of Margaret Thatcher, who when once asked how she winds down after a difficult day with Parliament, responded along the lines of, "I curl up in my husband's arms and have a good cry." That example resonates with me. How I want to be perceived in the work place is not who I want to be or should be in relation to my husband.

John to Marilyn:

Your examples are well-chosen. I note that the role-reversal of which you speak was not across-the-board in Margaret Thatcher's case. Indeed, she needed it to be incomplete in order to maintain her sanity. However, I would describe provision and protection on the one hand, and choice on the other, along domain-based lines with sufficient scope given for exceptions to the norm in terms of who detains authority in a particular domain.

For example, in the home, the norm is that the mother provides in the kitchen and protects the physical health of all family members, whereas the father may choose to do so on particular occasions. And if for some reason, roles are reversed for a time, as often in today's world, or even permanently on relatively rare occasions, I fail to see how that alters the norm. BTW, I don't believe that all current cultural norms are excellent. For example, I think the greatest and most destructive gender imbalance in our society right now is the lack of male teachers at the K-12 level. But I appear to be a voice howling in the wilderness on that one.