3 Things I’ve Noticed About Many Complementarians

by | Oct 26, 2023

Last week’s post about deconstructing from bad marriage advice caused a little kerfuffle online, not in the comment section of the actual post on my blog, but at a social media site. A group of complementarians were miffed at what I had to say. I wasn’t surprised and at this point in my journey of life and leadership, I generally do not respond in the comment section on social media when something heats up. I’ve learned it feeds the fire, and I have often been counseled by wiser people who have more experience than me at this who say: “Don’t feed the trolls…” The more you comment the more they roar back with nonsense and honestly, they aren’t up for an honest debate. Their minds are not open at all. People such as these stopped learning anything new long ago.

This week I want to share three observations about many complementarians.

First a clarification for those who may not be versed on what I’m talking about.

To be complementarian doesn’t mean you go around giving compliments, in fact, it has nothing at all to do with compliments or complimenting. The word is complement with an “e” not an “i.” Here are the two theological streams most people fall into:

Complementarian: They believe that women are equal in value as human beings but have different roles in a relationship, with men being the authority and women following their lead.

Egalitarian: They believe that men and women are equal in every way. This does not mean they believe women have no uniqueness, are brutes or that we should be able to bench press a Buick. This simply means that women are equal as human beings and that they are called by God to lead alongside men, rather than in a hierarchical relationship.

I love the fact that the fellowship that I serve within (The Assemblies of God) is an egalitarian one. This unfortunately doesn’t mean every pastor out there lines up with this or lives this out in their relationships. Nevertheless, the AG has always been egalitarian.

Here’s what I notice about many complementarians:

Many complementarians flare up when their beliefs are challenged because it’s something they’ve believed their entire lives, and is difficult for them to look at the issue with completely objective eyes.

To be clear, it was once difficult for me and my husband to see any other view than complementarian. We both came from an AG background, (me for life, and him ever since he was a teen) but were led mostly by pastors who were complementarians. Once you’ve believed a certain thing for so long and lived that way, it is extremely difficult to do a 180, and tell everyone you were wrong. Many people are more comfortable continuing to go in the same direction they have gone in for decades rather than opening up the Bible and taking a fresh look at how things may be interpreted rather than just believing what they were told their whole lives.

For many people, to say they were wrong means also saying their momma and daddy were wrong…their grandma and granddaddy were wrong, their great-grandparents were wrong, their former pastors were wrong, etc. There is typically a long line of folks these people deeply respect, and to say they were all wrong would not only be a challenge but they would create their own kerfuffle. The pushback is awful from complementarians when you become egalitarian and openly share that. And for some people, instead of taking a deep dive to theologically take another look at this issue, they will hold on to a complementarian view justs to keep the peace not to mention the power. And this leads me to…

Many complementarian men react horribly when challenged to give up the power that complementarianism gives them.

If you held all the power in a relationship, would you be excited about relinquishing it? Who would be? This alone is the biggest reason this view and way of doing marriage flourishes. People can’t even make the claim, “If flourishes because it’s scriptural!” (Complementarianism isn’t the only Biblical game in town. There are also scriptures to back up an egalitarian view.) Plenty of people who are not even Christians, or even those who are within false religions or a part of cults espouse a complementarian way of doing marriage. As one example, a complementarian marriage was simply the way of life in the 1950’s.

Prior to very recent days, men were the ruling class throughout the world – the primary owners of all things – land, real estate, corporations, the church and sadly…even people. Let that sit with you in a minute that it was common just a few hundred years ago for people to own people, or more clearly for men to own people.

Bringing it to less than a hundred years…In America, women didn’t have the right to open their own bank account until the 1960’s, and they didn’t have the right to get a credit card until 1974. Women at that time could not go on birth control without their husband’s permission.

Most people think women got the right to vote in America in 1918. Not true. Only white women got the right to vote in America in 1918. For African American women that didn’t take place until 1965. Black women got the right to vote just a year before I was born. I don’t consider myself old, so there’s that. This is a terrible piece of our history to have to come to grips with. And it’s not that long ago.

So, it is a fact that we have lived in a male-dominated society for many thousands of years, and only in the last 100 years are things starting to change at all.

A male-dominated society was never God’s plan. It was not how God set things up in the Garden of Eden, it was not how Jesus lived, even after the fall of man.

Through the life and teachings of Jesus and His work on the cross, the effects of the fall are reversed and equality is restored.

My main point here is that prior to very recent days, men held all the power whether they were atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists or what have you. And again, if you were the one holding all the power in a relationship, wouldn’t you fight like crazy to hold onto it? But men aren’t the only ones holding on…

Many complementarian women love having the few perks that this view/lifestyle gives them.

For example, if a horrible decision was made in their marriage and everything goes awry the wife can say, “Hey, that’s not on me! I don’t have to answer to that, because he’s the head, and I submitted to his decision. He’s the one responsible to stand for that, before God!”

Doesn’t it seem a bit appealing to be able to abdicate responsibility for every hard decision?

Additionally, if the woman isn’t growing in Christ, she can blame it on the fact that, “It’s not my fault. I was waiting for him to step up and lead me…”

If there are problems with the kids or the home in general, it can be blamed on, “He just hasn’t stepped up enough as the spiritual head of this home.” Instead of the woman taking up her call as a priest (We are ALL called priests in scripture — we are ALL referred to as the ‘priesthood of believers’) she can blame it on him for not “taking up his rightful place as the priest of the home.” This seems like a good time for me to mention that absolutely nowhere in scripture is a man referred to as the “priest of the home.”

Quite frankly I have known a few complementarian women who fit the description of what used to be termed a “kept woman,” and just like a man wouldn’t want to give up supreme power in a relationship, there are some women who enjoy being “kept” and have less responsibility not to mention blame when anything goes wrong.

These are just a few things I’ve taken note of but there are many more.

I’m sure these three observations may create a kerfuffle of their own, and it’s a good thing I’m a strong egalitarian woman whose husband could protect me from those types of comments but chooses to let me handle them on my own, knowing I’m fully capable.I don’t need him to come roaring out with a sword and shield and defend me. It’s such a blessing to have a brain as well as my own sword and shield and be able to use them.


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