This will be the last ‘Confession’ for wee while, as normal service is disrupted over the next few weeks during my mystery trip abroad, but this is just a brief hiatus, rather than an end to the conversations. I mentioned in part 1 that I had originally intended it to just be a one-off, but that I’d had to extend it since there was too much to say. Well, I still don’t think I’m done saying stuff. I’ve actually really enjoyed writing this series, and I’ve enjoyed the real-life conversations that I’ve had with students and colleagues and family off the back of some of the posts (although if I could persuade some of those people to embrace the idea of the blog-comment system that would be swell). One of those RL conversations has led me to reading a new book* on the subject, and that has prompted today’s topic:
Complementarianism in the workplace (or ‘Is a stay-at-home-dad really worse than an unbeliever?’)
As I discussed in part 5 of the series, the issue with saying ‘I’m a complementarian’ is being able to pin down what that actually means. The scale of theology into practice is very wide and mysterious, but one interpretation that tends to annoy me more than many is the school of thought that wishes to extend complementarianism beyond church (and human marriage) and take it out into the ‘secular’ workplace. This tends to work itself out in a variety of ways but broadly can be seen a couple of irritating positions:
- The issue of ‘authority’ is important in all areas of life. This means that women should never be ‘above’ men in the workplace: no women supervisors, no women bosses, no women managers, and so, presumably, no women running for Vice President (Sarah Palin) and no women ruling a nation (HM, Queen Elizabeth).
- Men and women are supposed to occupy separate ‘spheres’. This means that men go out to work, and women stay at home, baking and looking after the babies.
As you may have guessed, I’m not on board with either of the above positions. Please allow me to tell you why:
- With regards to the first point, it is suggested that men are ‘better suited’ to boss and be decisive and be in charge than women, but that argument falls down for 2 reasons: firstly, because to say ‘men are…’ and ‘women are…’ is far too much of a generalisation; and secondly, because a bossy, aggressive, take-charge style of leadership isn’t, to my mind, all that biblical. This is the example of leadership that we have in Jesus:
[He] being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!
It strikes me that if we have to choose between a worldly, aggressive, ‘take charge’ style and a humble, servant-hearted Jesus style, the latter would probably be the way to go.
- Moving to the issue of women staying home to bake and have babies it’s worth saying now that if I had the opportunity to bake and have babies I’d probably quite like to. And yet, since I don’t have that option, does make me a bad female? There was an infamous statement from Mark Driscoll (well, actually, it’s his wife, Grace, who says it, whilst he just agrees with her) during a Q&A as part of his ‘Peasant Princess’ series on Song of Songs. A question was posed about ‘stay at home dads’ and whether they were okay, if the wife wanted or needed to work. Mrs Driscoll answered the question first by saying something along the lines of ‘If a man won’t provide for his family then scripture tells us that he’s worse than an unbeliever’. The problem for me here is the enormous logic leap that seems to have taken place – ‘My wife is going to go and work while I look after the children’ has somehow been heard as ‘I don’t care about my family and refuse to work to keep them in clothes, food and roofs. In actual fact I’m planning to sit at home all day playing video games while my wife is forced to work all hours of the day and night’. According to this standard, when Bob, who works for minimum wage in a supermarket, marries Jane, who is a doctor, (trained for many years, at great expense, and now earning many, many thousands of pounds a year) Jane should quit her job whilst Bob brings home the bacon. Why on earth would this be at all sensible, or in anyway a good idea? And what about this is ‘biblical’?
I think the problem in all of this stuff is the fact that somehow in amongst the history of the church the complementarian workplace brigade have managed to mix up cultural standards with biblical standards. Baking and sewing and flower arranging and being barefoot and pregnant and chained to the kitchen sink have somehow become synonymous with ‘biblical womanhood’. I don’t know how or why, but I do know I disagree.
I’d love to hear some of your thoughts. Don’t be shy, just head towards the comments box below.
In summary: culture vs. Bible.
*I won’t tell you the name of the book yet (although a review of it may be forthcoming), mostly because currently my opinion of it isn’t terribly good, but I’m only part of the way through it, and I’d rather not cast judgement before all the facts are in.