Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood (Blog of Retha Faurie)

My previous post got me thinking: Leadership is good. Submission is good. So where does the problem with gender hierarchy come in?

“Loving, humble leadership.” “Joyful, intelligent submission.”

It sounds good, does it not? And I agree: There is something good to it.

But everything has a context.

Melissa told her little daughter, Cherise: “You should trust what the doctor say. He knows what is good for your health.”

One day, little Cherise had to go to the doctor She complained of a pain in her side, not far from her tummy.  The doctor said: “We have to take your appendix out.” Little Cherise did not scream or complain at the thought. She submitted to the superior knowledge of the doctor.

Little Cherise grew up. Decades later, she had back problems. She went to another doctor. All the advice he gave seemed to make it worse. He recommended an operation, which she got. After that, her back was even worse. If someone tells her now that she should still trust the doctor, he will be wrong.

This is where complementarianism fails, as I see it.

I believe in humble leadership. Humble leadership say: “I know I am not always right, I know you do not always have to follow me. But in this topic, I know something, and I will share it with you. Follow if you are convinced.”

But complementarian leadership, at its humblest, could only say: “I know I am not always right, but you always have to follow me. Whether you or I know more, follow me.”

Loving leadership say: “I will lead where I can see obstacles my followers cannot, and where I can see opportunities my followers cannot.”

But complementarian leadership, at its most loving, could only say: “I must lead even when my followers see obstacles I cannot, and where they can see opportunities I cannot. Even when they know more, they should not act except when I allow it.” The moment someone say his wife/ the woman in the church could lead where they know more, he is not practicing complementarian leadership any more.

Humble submission say: “You know more, so I submit” or “this is a need to you and only a want to me, so I yield.” “I don’t have to get my way all the time.” (This blogger, you may not believe it, is rather submissive in real life. But I do not want to be so at the cost of wisdom or caring about others.)

Complementarian submission could sometimes say the above. But the wife also has to submit when it means saying: “You know less, but I submit” or “this is a need of me/ our children , but I yield, even if our needs go unmet.” “You can get your way all the time.” It takes a very mature man to not get increasingly self-centered if he can get his way all the time.

Intelligent submission say: “I can see you have studied this, so let us do it your way.” “Your plan sounds more sensible than mine, so we will follow yours.” And then, intelligent submission stop submitting the moment submission seems unwise for reaching the goal. The definition of intelligent submission, as I see it, is to submit only when submission is working towards a good goal. It is not intelligent to give in to, say, a husband who abuses your children, or even to a man who demands his missing socks right now, even though he is going nowhere and you are busy.

Gender hierarchist submission say: “You are male, so let us do it your way.” “Even when your plan do not sound more sensible than mine, we will follow yours.” And gender hierarchy submission keep on submitting when submission seems unwise.

The difference, as I see it, between good and bad leadership and submission, is that good leadership is followed because it has a useful purpose and knows or does what you cannot know/do yourself. Bad leadership is when leadership is to be followed whether it is wise or unwise, productive or counterproductive, good or bad for you. I absolutely believe in the first kind. The second is folly, madness and bondage to follow.

And the difference between complementarian marriage submission and almost all other forms of bad leadership, is that you could usually close your front door and be rid of your employer or your president. With this particular teaching, you cannot close even your bedroom door to it.

Comments on: "Intelligent submission, good leadership, and the problems with hierarchy – some ramblings." (3)

  1. krwordgazer said:

    Very true. There is also the misapprehension that husbands are intended by God to be the leaders in their marriages. Husbands were in authority over their wives in Paul’s day. That doesn’t mean that husband-authority is divinely granted.

    I often ask this question of Christian husbands on blogs and forums: “If you came home in the middle of the day with a high fever and a hacking cough, and your wife was home, and she took one look at you, then led you to the couch, told you to lie down, covered you with a blanket and then brought you a glass of water and two pills and said, ‘Take these!’ would you submit?

    If you would, then you are practicing mutual submission in your marriage. Your wife is taking the lead when she feels it necessary, and you are following her. So how can you say husbands are always supposed to be in authority?”


  2. Good post. I don’t believe in husband leadership because he is the husband. I don’t believe God has ordained a hierarchy where one sex has to follow the other simply because of the body they were born in.

    My dad believes that headship means he has a responsibility for the welfare of his family. I kind of agree with this. It does entail a degree of leadership (e.g. ‘I know more about this than you do, and I can see you’re going down a bad path so stop.’ Or even, ‘We should eat out tonight (unless you’re busy)’). But it means thinking about one’s wife or family in a way that prioritises their needs. My dad is not controlling or commanding in the least. He’s a lovely, patient, thoughtful man. I think he’s got it right when he relates headship to responsibility and love, not to an automatic pass on decision making. His concern is about us. It’s a good frame of mind, because it helps stop a husband from becoming self-centred. Dad believes he doesn’t have the authority to making the final say, but he does have the authority to do what it takes to make sure we’re all OK.


  3. To: Sunnysombrea

    Your dad sounds like a very decent father and husband. I wish more men were like that!


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