How is it that you ended up in a relationship that you say you didn't sign up for, Michawn?
I'm no idiot, y'all. I didn't sign up for 'patriarchy' or abusive leadership. Of course the word 'abusive' was never used. But also, the term 'patriarchy' was never uttered either.
The way it was all presented to me was that a husband and wife give themselves to each other. The wife gladly and beautifully submits to the husband as he also submits to her, given 1) the verse that calls them to submit to one another and 2) that the husband is even called by scripture to lay down his life for his wife. What could go wrong?
As I now know, that is not actually what is taught. No, it's not that simple in patriarchy. That teaching above might be a part of it, but what is also taught is that the man is the head, the man is in charge, and the man is responsible. The man is to be revered and respected above the woman.
I grew up in patriarchy. I didn't even know it...at all. Why?
It is presented as God's way. Anything else is rebellion.
Anything else is said to be motivated by not wanting to do 'hard' things...women (and men) wanting to make it easier for themselves. Women who believe anything different than 'man leads, woman follows' aren't 'strong' enough to lower themselves to a place of submission and are too full of themselves to admit that they are 'the weaker vessel.' Men who believe anything different than 'man leads, woman follows' aren't strong enough to assume leadership and are so weak that they welcome equality. At best, these men and women are just terribly deceived. But they are usually said to be rebellious and said to have 'issues with authority.'
Patriarchy, as it was presented to me my whole life, was The Way. It was Gospel.
Anything else was unholy.
What I've come to find out is that, thankfully, although patriarchy still prevails in much of theology and women are marginalized the world over, some of the most holy and righteous and wonderful people I know oppose patriarchy vehemently. Some of these people I know personally, and some of these people are well known and revered, even in the 'gender roles' complementarian crowds. Maybe I'll write about some of those well-known and revered people in the future (Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade; Loren Cunningham, founder of YWAM; Jen Hatmaker; Ann Voskamp; etc.). But for today, I want to tell you about someone else.
I have a friend. She's a virtual friend only...I've only ever communicated with her via computer and the written word. But, I've known her for years now. We don't talk often, but we keep up with each other, and we'll usually talk personally once or twice a year about something or other.
From the outside looking in, it would be easy for one to think that she and her family probably fall into the patriarchy/complementarian camp. I personally didn't know much about her background or beliefs of that nature. But, from the outside looking in, I thought she looked like most I know in complementarianism.
What do I mean?
She and her husband have been married for 26 years. Once children started coming, she became a stay-at-home-mom. They now have a total of 9 children...the oldest in his 20s and the youngest, age 4. She has always homeschooled them all. Her husband goes to work every day. She stays home with the children and manages all things home-related on their farm.
While she has never blatantly said anything complementarianism-ish...she has also never really made it a point to mention being against patriarchy either (not that I've seen...of course I haven't read every single thing she's written). I always knew she was a strong woman...but, honestly, I always thought, as complementarianism teaches...well, her husband must be 'ok' with that.
See that? It's subtle. But, we're taught that the lady has to mold and tweak herself into what her husband is ok with. She has to 'watch herself.' She has to be mindful of his preferences. It's never the other way around. Sometimes it happens the other way around too and the husband is mindful of the wife's preferences...but that is shear luck. It's not because that is taught by complementarianism.
Complementarianism requires women to do that. Complementarianism allows for men not to do that.
So, back to my friend. I had just guessed and supposed at her beliefs from the outside looking in. Which is why I seriously BEAMED when I got her message the other day. Here are a few excerpts of a couple of different messages:
My theological background does not teach that man is over woman in any way - not patriarchal at all, so I am not going to even think the same way as other friends might.
I wouldn't put up with *any* crap in marriage. Just...wouldn't. So I wouldn't judge someone nor try to correct/control. I might not handle it nearly as well nor healthily as you.
Anyway...didn't want you to have to wonder nor mistake my quietness for disapproval. Not at all.
I am very sure that I wouldn't have survived patriarchy more than 15 minutes. Even subtle patriarchy is too much to bear. It's not what God wants. I think it is beginning to fall, though - probably not among the leaders, because they will do almost anything to retain their grip of power, including shame, isolation, shunning. It's a hard thing to approach from the outside, though, because if one tries to tell the truth (to the one inside) they become suspect and heretical, accused of being godless and trying to break up a marriage.How incredibly validating and reassuring to hear this from a Christian wife and mother whom I respect greatly. And all that she said there was just full of truth! She knows that what I've been through, much of it 'in the name of God' and religious beliefs, much of it because of a theology and belief system...she knows that it's wrong. She knows that deep down in her soul. She was never taught that man being over woman was The Way.
She's deeply devout and also what most would consider very 'conservative.'
So, look and listen to this. It's very important...
Deeply devout and conservative Christians who are opposed to patriarchy of any sort do exist...and they are much more plentiful than anyone raised in patriarchy and complementarianism know.
I believe, like my friend, that the tide is turning. I am a part of a group on Facebook called Biblical Christian Egalitarians. I would highly recommend this group to anyone. There are Christians there who are seasoned egalitarians. But also there are sooooo many there like me and Joel...people who are coming out of patriarchy and complementarianism. Lots of people who have experienced personally the destruction of such belief systems...and also some who fortunately haven't experienced it personally, but have seen it over and over nonetheless, and have learned by watching others.
A quick google will point to so many sites that give story after story of such destruction. I pray everyone wakes up to the dangers and risks of patriarchy and complementarianism.
I love what that particular friend, that stay-at-home homeschooling mom of 9, wrote a couple of days ago on her Facebook page:
One of the things I'm most grateful for this far in to marriage (26 years) is how my husband consistently gives me the gift of letting me...be me. He does more than "allow" for my quirkiness, he enjoys it. He has never tried to change me nor control me. My projects pile up, he steps around them. I invade his space, he scoots over and makes room for me. When I get distracted, he steps in and does the laundry. He never fusses nor corrects. He's no pushover, either. He's a very strong man. It's just that we belong to each other, and I do the same for him. He's for me, and I'm for him. There's no upper-hand to be gained, we just enjoy each other. We trust each other to do good, and to do it for each other and for our family.
I write with humbleness, knowing full well that much is not as it should be in this world. I know that many suffer from things which have not gone right in marriage, and I write with no condemnation. I'm not writing for "likes" or for comments; it is difficult for me to share things like this. And yet I want to give a glimpse from inside a long marriage. What do I value about my husband, and what does he treasure about me? Why do I think it has worked? Is it because we are super people? No. Definitely not. We have flourished because we have grown together by allowing each other to be fully alive, fully ourselves, to listen and follow God's heart for our life, considering each other, with both laying down a desire for power or control.
Marriage is the deepest, best friendship of all.And that is true marriage. That is what God has always had in mind.