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some thoughts/responses to gender stuff

I started a comment over at Angela’s blog but realized it was getting long. So here are a handful of thoughts that aren’t really very connected to one another but are in response to some thoughts being tossed around over there.

I disagree with this statement based on my own experience and that of many of my egalitarian friends and I will expound below

but there can only be one true leader in our home or there would be chaos.

I have not experienced this “chaos”. Now, I’ve only been married 8 years and only have 2 kids so maybe a larger family or longer marriage would prove something out differently…I doubt it but I’ve learned never say never.

I don’t deny that SOMETIMES, someone might need to let go of something they are firmly convinced of and “give in” to the other person’s desires. BUT ONLY after much discussion, prayer and advice from well respected friends has not yielded a unified decision AND it doesn’t have to be the wife giving in by default to the husband. I also believe it should only be with prompting by the Holy Spirit…which means, I need to obey GOD first and foremost and if he lays on my heart to lay down my own will and defer to my husband then I will, because I need to obey GOD. Same for my husband.

But I can honestly say that this has never happened in our marriage. Our rule is no movement without unity. We do not make a major decision until we are able to move together on it. It’s never failed us yet, and we’ve made some very radical, life altering decisions and live on the cutting edge of life pretty much all the time.

In regard to roles and whether or not women should automatically prioritize the “home hearth and children” role above all else by default… this is tricky and let me see if I can articulate this. I STRONGLY VALUE the role of wife, mother and homemaker WHEN A WOMAN CHOOSES IT. In other words, the problem I have with much of VCC (very conservative christianity - thanks Helen) in this area is that there seems to be an elevation of this role to the point where women who do not choose it really feel left out and as if they have no place in the Body of Christ. Women who choose to stay single or couples who choose not to have children are often subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) condemned by Christian culture because we have elevated the nuclear family as defined by America to the point of an idol. Or if I don’t necessarily want to jump on the women’s ministry band wagon in order to be a “mentor” to all the women in my church, I don’t want to be made to feel like a leper.

When a man and woman marry and choose to have children, I would suggest that it is “ideal” to have the woman stay at home and nurture the baby, primarily because of biology. A lot of this comes from my views on parenting and breastfeeding as well. However, this does not mean the man doesn’t have a role in the home or that the woman can have no other role and again, I emphasize, WHEN A COUPLE CHOOSES THIS. Also, how each couple works this out in the day to day minutiae is up to them and I’m not going to pull verses out of the Bible to try to convince anyone that a woman’s “place” is in the home because God created it that way.

In our family, David and I currently have “domains” that work for us because of where we are in life and ministry. They weren’t chosen according to sex organs. My main domain currently is my home - kids, hearth and husband, it makes sense for us right now. Part of that domain is also freelance work as a graphic artist and I am so fortunate to be able to do this from home and avoid the annoyances of getting child care. David’s main domain is his job at Group and then together our secondary domain is Revolution, leading our faith community. I would also say that the spiritual growth and nurturing of our family/children is also a shared domain. David is not solely responsible for the spiritual growth of our family nor am I and neither of us is the main leader of Revolution.

In those domains, that person pretty much by default makes decisions without too much input from the other unless it’s something big. For example, I don’t ask David what cut of meat I should buy for a roast or if it’s ok if I buy the girls some new outfits. But in things that involve the whole family unit or big purchases or issues we work together, submitting one to another, listening to each other thoughtfully and humbly. And in Revolution, we almost always work together to make decisions in everything except the things we have taken on individually (I send out calendar emails and such without prior approval for example) and when one person makes a decision, the other backs them up on it and supports it.

I also want to agree with something Jamie said - I do not see a well balanced, loving complementarian marriage as inherently bad/evil in any way. I wouldn’t even say it’s wrong even though I do think it’s a result of a system that has injustices built into it, and, I do not see it as God’s originally created ideal. I see the inequality as a result of the sickness and death of sin that is at work in all humanity, not a work of God’s hand in his creation from the beginning. And since I believe we have a role as Christians to move ourselves and our world toward a more redeemed state - God’s kingdom come and will be done on earth….FOR ME, it’s important that this issue be tackled in the American Church.


  1. Jonathan Brink — September 12, 2007 #


    Thanks for a great response.

  2. myste — September 12, 2007 #

    well said, as always Mak. its great to hear from couples actually living in egalitarian marriages how they end up working.

    in a Theology of Gender class i took in school and later TA’d for many of the students would always call themselves Complementarians but the qualify this by saying that the man’s authority only should come in situations where “veto power” is needed. he should be the ultimate decision maker. and our professor always had the greatest response, “there may be those who feel the need to veto their spouse, but in my 60 years of marriage (the first 40 of which were not theologically egalitarian) my wife and i have never come to a decision that had to be made by one spouse acting as the ultimate decision maker.”

    he also said that in all his life, he had known several married couples, most very fundamental, and nearly all though subscribing theoretically to traditional views of gender, practically have marriages that look very egalitarian. because when it comes down to it, if you love someone, you put them first, you don’t seek to override them or take away their decision making abilities.

  3. sonja — September 12, 2007 #

    I’m going to step out of the margins here and state this …

    I do have a lot of problems with complementarianism and maile headship. Here’s why.

    In a healthy marriage where the husband and wife are coming from healthy backgrounds there likely isn’t a problem. BUT … there are many cases where that just isn’t so and complementarianism is a front for various forms of abuse. Male headship is even worse. I’ve seen it too many times.

    And even when people appear healthy it can be a trap. As an example, we have friends who because of circumstances the wife is the primary breadwinner in the family. The husband used to be a pastor but will never be again because of some poor choices he made several years ago. The wife (who makes a nice living now for the family) is often heard to say, “I did not sign up for this. I wanted to be a pastor’s wife.” Please do not misunderstand me, I am not being critical of my friends here. They are fully set free, but long for their cage. So my question is … if people love their cage, yet it is indeed a cage, what good is freedom?

  4. Mak — September 12, 2007 #

    myste - the point you made about many healthy godly complementarian marriages looking very much egalitarian is something I’ve pointed out many times and compl. inevitably say “then why does it matter to you?” It matters to me because I would rather encourage, disciple and help people to grow strong marriages that are INTENTIONALLY in service to one another instead of accidentally stumbling upon it because you are fortunate to have 2 healthy godly individuals in the marriage.

    sonja, yeah, that’s a big reason why I dislike the “headship” thing fundamentally..because it only works well and in a healthy way when man is very humble and sacrificial and the woman is healthy and strong.

    I mean really, shouldn’t we as Christians be working toward God’s best?

    it’s the same sort of logic I use when I talk against spanking - is it always damaging? no. but it often is and it only is “safe” under the most ideal and best conditions…and if the ideal and best conditions exist (no anger, privacy, etc), then why would you need to spank? Why would we strive to be the best spankers we can be when we know it’s not necessary and can be very dangerous….esp. if you’re talking to a mixed group and you don’t know what kind of history people have. (we can debate this issue another day, I’m more pointing to the redeemed kingdom bringing people we’re supposed to be and why we’d settle when we don’t have to)

  5. kathy — September 12, 2007 #

    thanks as always for the great conversation. i agree, the thing that struck me about the blog post was the “without one ultimate leader there will be chaos”. (and makeesha i have 5 kids and so it has nothing to do with numbers.) i hear this all the time related to church organization stuff, too. they can’t believe that two people could actually co-pastor and one not be the other one’s boss. “what happens when someone really needs to make a decision????” um, duh, we work together to make a decision. it’s not rocket science. yes, it’s a little bit harder here and there but we submit to each other’s giftedness and we make sacrifices for each other. at the refuge, sometimes i don’t get it it my way and sometimes the other co-pastor doesn’t either. we are teammates, co-leaders, and we believe in mutual submission not just to each other but to our team. it seems so utterly ridiculous to me that in the church “just because he is a man” or someone has the title “lead pastor” that that automatically means that he is the one to make the best decision. ephesians 5:21 gets overlooked all the time and it drives me crazy.

    for years, jose and i actually originally did a more traditional christian complementarian marriage and because he’s a basically nice guy it worked out okay (plus, honestly, not one person we hung around even considered doing it differently) then God stirred up this passion in me for pastoring & leading & i was ready to not be at home just taking care of kids anymore. it stirred up a ton of trouble in our marriage (and in some of our “friendships” for a while) but it has transformed us into this beautiful egalitarian partnership that i believe is also such a better example for our kiddos. oh how much more free & healthy & creative they will be, in my opinion. it took us a while to get here but i’d never in a million years go back. decision making isn’t an issue, it’s not chaos, we just communicate a lot and submit to eachother’s giftedness & make sacrifices for eachother. making this shift has done everything to change our view not only of church leadership & structure but God and the Kingdom, too. it has opened our eyes to freedom and i will forever be grateful for God giving me the courage (and fairly huge push) to step out of the box i had myself in and say “hey, i am not happy being stuck in this culturized role of ‘the good christian woman’ anymore and that does not mean i am disrespectful, sinful or disobedient.”

    i respect that the complementarian model does work for people, good for them, but i agree with you makeesha that we should not underestimate how many single women, strong leaders, women who really aren’t that excited about hearth & home (not to mention men who would much rather have a teammate than someone to be head over) are in the church feeling pretty lonely & bummed that they aren’t lining up with the church-culture-we-have-the-market-cornered-on-what-God-meant views of marriage and leadership.

  6. Mak — September 12, 2007 #

    kathy, thanks so much for that :) all really good stuff

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  8. Cynthia — September 13, 2007 #

    We have had chaos in our marriage … when we were trying to follow the complementarian/patriarchial model of marriage. Me becoming less of who I am, trying to force him into a position that he really didn’t believe in or want, much wringing of hands because he take his place as spiritual leader in our home, etc.
    Now we are purging ourselves of those toxic thought patterns; the chaos hasn’t gone yet but it is better. I didn’t see how much damage it was causing, has caused. Now, I am aware; he is aware … it is still a process though, much healing is still needed.
    How I wish we had figured this out long ago.

  9. Mak — September 13, 2007 #

    Cynthia - bless you. I can’t imagine how challenging and painful this process if for you - may God guide you and bring wholeness

  10. Heather Fischer — September 14, 2007 #

    I’m not convinced yet. My parents raised me in a similar set of circumstances as you and your husband with one major difference in that my dad stayed at home with us.
    My mother and I had a much unexpected conversation about it about a month ago.
    My mom stayed at home with my sister and I until we were both in school. She then went back to college, then medical school, and then residency to eventually become an OBGYN physician. My dad stayed at home with us and did a wonderful job raising and nurturing us with great creativity. I am glad that my dad was willing to quit his job and career to sacrifice for my mom. My sister feels she missed out on my mother’s nurturing but I do not feel I missed out on my mother’s nurturing, for she really is not a nurturer by her nature. But as a child I still hated her for leaving us for the medical profession for some reason (and I do mean hate).
    Of course my mother became the bread winner and weighed in heavily when my parents made a decision together. My father is by no means a push over and he would in fact say that they made decisions together but my mother never submitted to his wishes.
    Our relationship has mended to some degree over the years. What’s interesting to me is that in retrospect my mother says that she feels after all these years she feels she modeled a poor example to her daughters and wishes she had thought more on her theological position on roles on marriage. I was floored!
    I still agree that marriage is a partnership but I have considered carefully her recent words.
    Food for thought…

  11. Mak — September 14, 2007 #

    Heather - Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts. I’m sorry for the pain from your past. I had hate toward my mom for years and she stayed home with us…but I know that feeling and it’s painful.

    again, I still don’t think that problem in your family would have just automatically been solved by the “man has the final say” rule. There are so many complex dynamics going on there, I think it does your parents and God himself an injustice to try to answer it by saying it would have all been fine if your mom would have done what your dad wanted and because of that, the complementarian ideas must indeed be right.

    There are many situations in which the woman having the final say would have seemingly “solved” the family problem. How many people do you know have a rift with their dad because he was a workaholic? and how many of those wives “submitted” to their husbands? the woman staying home and the man working has become part of the nuclear family idol and it’s been very dangerous to families.

    My point is that family dynamics, who works, who stays home, what they do with the kids, etc is all very complicated and it’s insulting and unwise for complementarians to suggest that all would be better if people would just “obey God” (a phrase often used to add shame and guilt to manipulate people to do something).

    I respect complementarians who follow their convictions and have a respectful mutually submissive loving marriage but I lose that respect when they suggest that all would be right with the world if everyone would just be like them.

  12. Steve — September 14, 2007 #

    Hi Makeesha

    Yeah - I can’t think of a time in Jill’s and my eleven years where the “veto” thing has even been raised. We work as one - hey because we ARE one! Not that we don’t fight etc, but in the end we are “for each other” (Jill’s expression) enough to want to please the other. Still working on it all though! Give us another forty years together Lord!

  13. Tia Lynn — September 16, 2007 #

    Hey Makeesha! I’m one of the girls that commented on Angela’s blog. Im really glad you and Deann made up. I know her personally (not just from the blogging world) and she is really a wonderful person who loves the Lord and her family and tries really hard to know what is right, so she can do what is right. :)

    Anyway, I really dig your blog and ideas about egalitarianism (sp?) and added you to my friend link list over on my blog, so I can come by and read often. Feel free to pop on over to Abandon Image (www.tialynnlecorchick.blogspot.com) and share your thoughts there as well. :)

    Peace out.

  14. Mak — September 16, 2007 #

    thank you Tia :) I appreciated your comments over there…i’ve seen you somewhere else too…but I can’t place you. Anyway, thanks for stopping by and for the link and your encouraging words! :) I’ll add you to my reader so I can keep up with you.

  15. myste — September 19, 2007 #

    Kathy, i think you hit the nail on the head with “we submit to each other’s giftedness and we make sacrifices for each other”. to me that is the key to keeping all relationships egalitarian. recognizing your own weaknesses and allowing another’s strengths to fill in. that is what is so beautiful and complementary about an egalitarian marriage. two peoples’ individual gifts and personalities fit and together make a whole unit that is stronger and more able to reach the world in love. complementarity isn’t a bad idea, but generalizing strengths and weaknesses based solely on gender is, and to me that is where even Godly complementarian marriages fall short.

    Steve, thank you for raising the issue of “oneness” this was something i often asked traditionalists in my gender class, if you truly believe that husband and wife become one flesh, how can you advocate destroying that unity by allowing one half to override the other, that is not oneness.

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