What can an egalitarian or complementarian church offer gays?
For my example I will use a young women whose blog I recently read in my anti-porn, anti-prostitution feminism readings: She believes she is bisexual. She chooses to find love from women because she is afraid of men. What does the not-gay-affirming church have to offer someone like her?
Complementarians, assuming they oppose lesbian intercourse:
“Well, be single for now and stay in your gender role. Your gender role is submitting to a man which you do not have and raising children which you do not have, staying quiet in church, and not leading or providing. Who should lead your home and provide for you? Well, since there is nobody else, we don’t stop you from providing for yourself. But even if you provide for yourself and lead your home, we will call other people home leaders and providers without acknowledging that you are one. Your household will not be represented by vote or voice at our church meetings. Perhaps one day you can find a nice man who will kindly
boss you around dominate youlead you. But since our churches have up to 3 women for every 2 men, and since you are afraid of men, you may not. But the unmarried are second-class citizens here: They do not picture Christ and the church and cannot live their gender roles.”
Egalitarians, assuming they oppose lesbian intercourse:
“Be single for now and live out all your gifts. You have gifts often labelled “masculine? Bring them! Your clothes/ mannerisms are called “too masculine?” It does not matter, the Bible does not prescribe clothing or mannerisms that you should change into. We can support and respect you, in the same way we respect any man or woman, as you lead your home and provide for yourself. If you find a good husband some day – praise the Lord. If you do not, our way of thinking does not make an idol of marriage.” You can live a full, God-glorifying life with or without one.
My readers are welcome to add to this. But altogether, I believe that the egalitarian church offers her a lot more than the complementarian church.
While gay issues is evidently not as clearly related to a particular stance on women as Strachan suggest, I would say that my egalitarianism is linked to a certain view of transgenderism, and it is the opposite from what Strachan would think:
Egalitarian thought and transgenderism
Complementarians say that everyone who have a certain set of genitals (sex) fits into a certain gender role box (gender). Women (biological sex) should do, be, dress, talk and perform according to the female gender role box. Men (biological sex) should do, be, dress, talk and perform according to the male gender role box.
Christian Egalitarians like me say that people should do, be, dress, talk and perform according to their gifts and personalities and the lead of the spirit. Except for the biological, there are not good, God-glorifying activities which are only for one sex. From that, I would suggest that calling certain behavior “feminine” is oppressive – it limits women to certain desirable behavior and discourage women from all the other things we can do and be: if those are not as “feminine”, it would mean they are less suitable for women. Calling certain behavior “masculine” is oppressive for about the same reason.
Transgender activists say male and female is not decided by biology: “A vagina does not make you a woman1” is a typical statement. They usually talk of male and female in terms of gender roles. A “person with a uterus” will, for example, be seen to “present as male” if (s)he dresses in what we call men’s clothing, has what we call a masculine hair style, wears no make up, sits and walks in a way more acceptable for men, etc. Caitlyn Jenner, as one example of such thinking, said: “The hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear.” For Caitlyn, how to dress is a form of womanhood, not an external preference.
At other times, they say some people are born with “female brains” inside bodies with penises or vice versa, and you are the gender your brain say. But that brings us to the question: If your brain calls you (fe)male, and it does not mean a certain set of genitalia, what does your brain mean by it? In essence, it tends to mean they feel attracted to a certain gender role.
In short: The view that male and female is not about gender roles is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the transgender activist’s message. For transgender activists, male and female is not proven by bodies, but shown in gender (roles). For complementarians, male and female is about both bodies and gender roles. For Christian egalitarians like me, male and female is not about gender roles2. I (I may not speak for all egals) define male and female by biology.
So: No, Owen Strachan, egalitarianism does not put anyone in a tension regarding homosexuality and transgenderism. Homosexual intercourse and women-limiting gender roles are unrelated, as far as Biblical explanation go. The relation between accepting transgenderism and women-limiting gender roles is that the messages of transgender activists reinforces those roles.
But egalitarians could more easily accept people whose personalities, looks and talents does not fit into the gendered boxes Strachan & Co. sets for men and women. Thus, they have more room in their communities for Christians for whom gender expectations is hard to conform to (at least some of which are attracted to their own sex). And if knowing and loving people, while you both love Christ together, causes you to treat people differently, that is great!
Note: If you comment here, note the “If you comment here…” rules. Thank you.
1 If that was true, I would have no way of knowing if I am male or female.
2 Here someone else explains how male and female is not about gender roles in more detail: http://thefederalist.com/2015/06/03/how-the-hypersexual-trans-movement-hurts-feminism/#disqus_thread