Friday, May 4, 2012

"Usurping" is an ugly word

Rachel Held Evans wrote a post yesterday about complementarianism, in which she says the following:
...even married couples who identify as “complementarians” are functioning as equal partners rather than forcing a hierarchal pattern onto their relationship that is highly prescriptive regarding gender. This should come as no surprise seeing as how a truly complementary relationship is one in which differences are celebrated, but not forced. If your marriage is like mine, this means that the complementary differences between you and your spouse often fall into gender-influenced norms (I am more emotional; Dan is more even-keeled), but not always (Dan is better at nurturing relationships than I am; I am more competitive). Rather than trying to force our personalities and our roles into prescribed molds based on gender, it just makes more sense to allow our natural difference to enhance and challenge one another. We lead where we are strong; we defer where we are weak.
I agree that all of the complementarian marriages I know of look egalitarian; I know of no husband who would make a big decision without his wife's approval and support (the 'final-say' thing seems to be the ultimate test of practical complementarianism). The problem I've noticed is the worry that goes along with trying to be complementarian: the wife worries because she doesn't know what specifically-wifey submission is supposed to look like, and the husband worries that he's not doing enough initiating and leading (or sometimes it's the other way around: the wife doesn't think her husband is enough of a leader, and the husband doesn't feel as though his wife respects his authority). No one seems to know how to work out the hierarchy in practice without losing the trust and intimacy and equality necessary to make a marriage work well.

The part I particularly enjoyed about the post, though, was this comment by Kristin Richardson (edited slightly, for my own anal reasons):
What if the church started saying things like, “It is inappropriate for men to ever hold their children unless the mother is absent or they are given permission by the mother; to do otherwise usurps the God-given role of the female in the family.”

Saying, “Oh, well a good husband listens to his wife and considers her opinion” is akin to saying, “A good wife would allow her husband to hold the baby on occasion.”
So, is any instinctual desire by the man to hold his own baby there by accident? After all God made WOMEN the caregivers. His desire to hold the baby is obviously just stemming from his sinful nature and wanting to control everything!
Richardson admits her analogy is limited but offers it as food for thought, and I had lots of fun chewing on it this afternoon! Grudem talks a bit about usurping in his books, but only in relation to women; it was a nice change to think through what it could look like for men instead (in light of the primary responsibilities of men and women according to complementarians).


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