Do some complementarian women live unknowingly privileged lives? Does that privilege give them a pass on educating themselves on gender equality? These are questions I have been wrestling with lately.
The Trouble With Contentment
I’m attending a new church that differs from the rigid complementarian church I grew up with. The members of the congregation vote on everything, giving the women an equal say. Women even receive praise from the pulpit. However, it is still a complementarian church. Women don’t lead the congregation in scripture reading, lead the song service, teach adult Sunday School, or even read hymns aloud.
Very few of the women talk about gender equality. It’s a taboo subject. Because they put on a pedestal of “biblical womanhood”, many haven’t looked into the egalitarian view. Many don’t want to talk about it at all. It doesn’t affect them personally and they don’t feel called to teach or preach, so why would they? The men certainly don’t encourage conversations about women’s equality. Why stir the pot if everyone is content?
We Have To Look Beyond Our Place Of Privilege
Here is my question. Should we let the fact that something doesn’t impact us personally keep us from looking into how it oppresses others? I’m sure most of us would agree to help if we saw our neighbor’s home on fire. We would shake our heads in amazement to see someone simply turn their gaze, look out the other window, and refuse to acknowledge the fire blazing from their neighbor’s roof. But in our churches (and many other places), that’s what we are doing.
I believe we shouldn’t have to be hurt by sexism, racism, or other forms of oppression first before caring about those who have. Women who are happily complementarian cannot ignore the stories of their sisters: the women of color who have been excluded and disenfranchised by faith communities, the women with a call to preach who are told God does not value their gifts, and the women and girls denied basic rights and advantages to be kept at home as “Stay-at-home-daughters.”
We Have To Be Willing To Ask Questions
In some complementarian circles, I’ve seen that even questioning the system or looking into other beliefs is viewed as disrespectful or having a rebellious spirit. Our “tradition” keeps us from having honest conversations about women’s equality.
Many women are scorned by their families and their church communities for simply expressing an interest in gender equality. I’ve seen women attacked by church members on their Facebook statuses, and asking questions in secret online groups to avoid being “found out” by their family members.
Being afraid to be heard talking about egalitarianism, feminism, or equal roles for women in the church is a sign that something isn’t right. This hostility is counter to Christ’s example. We are encouraged to think about and question our faith. Intelligence and discussion are holy attributes modeled by Christ. If we are going to keep the body in one piece, we must allow our sisters (and brothers) to question the status quo free of judgment.
My Hopes For Creating Safe Spaces to Grow
I hope we all remember that Christians should discuss all things in love, even if we never agree. I know this isn’t always possible, but I hope we can try harder.
As I continue going to this church, I hope that I can create safe spaces for open discussion.
I hope complementarian women will realize that just because you don’t feel called to the ministry, doesn’t mean there isn’t a woman in your congregation who is and is too afraid to speak up.
I hope that we can tap into our empathy, not just our sympathy. When we hear stories of women abused and manipulated by the church, we can’t turn a blind eye. Saying, “That would never happen in our church” doesn’t help.
I hope that we will see the harm in limiting discussion and creating fearfulness. Whether we close our eyes to the discussion or openly rebuke the ones brave enough to have differing opinions, we are creating an atmosphere of punishment for thinking differently.
I hope we can engage in fewer Twitter wars and screenshotting “epic clapbacks”.
And I hope that we will cease legitimizing actual violence and oppression agaisnt women with our silence.
Fires Burn Even When You Can’t See Them
Being privileged means that you are in a situation that allows you to escape the problems that others find unavoidable. If we ignore our priviliege, we shut the door to healing and growth. Maybe my soft-comp church isn’t so bad, but if we revel in being “not so bad” then are we truly striving for Christ-like excellence?