Some time ago, I mentioned to a woman that I am worried about a certain (complementarian) message that she gave to the Sunday school children. Before you accuse me of meddling in things that are none of my business, please know that (a) I was also involved with Sunday School in that congregation at the time, and (b) what she taught was not in the handbook and (c) the writings of theologians from our church tradition speak against her message.
Instead of hearing what my worries are, she became defensive:
“Do you have anything against male lead?”
(That is a loaded question. I have nothing against either men or women leading when the spirit calls them to do so.)
“If this bothers you, you did not grow much spiritually.”
(Giving a bad message to children does not bother me because of any effect on my spirituality, but because of the effect on theirs.)
“Do I look oppressed to you?”
No, I don’t think she is. Not in the sense of the discussion, any way. But that question relates to the one that I want to discuss here.
I actually think that some of the stories of women who claim they were strongly assertive, but found happiness in complementarianism is true. It is all about balance.
When a woman wears the proverbial pants1 in the home, the female submission message could help to get the balance right. Someone like the woman above, who totally overpowered the conversation with me and may do the same with her spouse if he is not very assertive, may actually need to remember that it is good to yield to her spouse too.
I think a lot of the women who most agressively teach female submission may be the kind who most need to do a bit more submitting, just to balance the scales. But the average woman does not need it. Too many messages in society tells men they should take charge, and women they should not – on average, even without the “Biblical” submission message, the scale is balanced the other way.
What works for these women is bad advice for the average woman, and the worst possible advice for some.
1 Wears the pants: I dislike that metaphor, as it implies leadership is more suited to manhood, by relating it to what the proverb maker would have regarded as masculine attire.