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

Archive for the ‘Other Thoughts’ Category

Does purity culture lead to disregarding consent?

There is a conclusion I sometimes saw in purity culture material that I can’t quite grasp. The conclusion is that consent can’t be taught in purity culture.

The argument goes like this:

Premise 1 – Purity culture calls women givers in sex. They save themselves for marriage, they lose virginity, and some even teach that virginity is a gift they give to their husband.
Premise 2 – Purity culture calls men takers in sex. They score, they get what they want.
Conclusion: You can’t teach consent without eradicating purity culture.

I see this argument as incorrect and too fatalistic. Both premises are probably true, but they do not automatically lead to this conclusion. If you see something as yours to give or keep, does this mean that you can’t consent, or learn consent around this thing? No! For example, you see the contents of your wallet as yours. You can consent or not consent to spending it or giving it away.
If a man sees it as something he does not have but gets from others, does this mean that he has to take it without asking consent? Of course not. Children learn from a young age to ask for what they want. Does it mean men can’t say “no” or “yes” to it? Of course not – they still have the right to refuse or accept a gift.

“So what?”, you may ask. “Why does it matter if purity culture is compatible with consent or not?” My answer will be that it matters to those who grow up in a church that practices purity culture.

I found this picture doing the rounds on Facebook. It presents the conclusion I question as a meme.

For their churches’ leadership, purity is important – it is part of the foundations for a good life, a good marriage, and living close to God. Those who are schooled in feminism mostly know that purity itself is not synonymous with what we call purity culture, but the term “purity culture” makes them sound pretty close together to the uninitiated.

This means these churches won’t stop teaching purity. If feminists then testify that purity culture (which they see as synonymous with teaching purity) and consent is incompatible, it means that consent is the enemy and something they can’t even start to teach. Since some church youth are very much influenced by their church, this makes it impossible for them to learn about consent.

And consent is very much compatible with actual Christianity! Jesus said the greatest law is loving others as yourself – this is very much compatible with men asking what their partners want (asking consent) as much as what they themselves want, and women seeing their own needs as equal to those of their partners, and thus consenting or not from that place.

What about intercourse that purity culture already sees as wrong, starting with sex outside of marriage? Can consent still be taught then? Well, purity culture will tell both partners to not do it. (Purity culture assumes this is harder for the man, but that is not the point of this post.) Teaching a boy that a lack of consent turns what he does into rape is entirely compatible with telling him that he should not do it at all. Teens – and the adults teaching them – are completely able to understand there are various classes of wrong behavior, ranging from undesirable to serious crime.

I used to be a very religious, very legalist late -80s-early-90s teen in a Calvinist church. I am less legalist now, but still religious (although I don’t prefer the word religious) and still in a Calvinist church. I know from firsthand experience what it is to believe purity ideas. I nevertheless knew from a young age that rape is a lot wronger than illicit consensual sex. If even I, with my autistic limitations in understanding non-autistic minds, was able to instinctively know that without any direct lesson comparing these issues, then other young people can too.

It is very important for young people to learn consent. As such, I hope my readers would encourage even conservative churches to teach it – it is the caring thing to do!

Image: My own


PS: If you see this topic as important, you may also like:


I drew this picture maybe two or three years ago. It deals with how the church sometimes translated the Bible in such a way that the (egalitarian) meaning of the text does not come through, and then church members pointed to those translations to “prove” their point.

For example, “head” in koine Greek never/ very seldom had any inkling of leadership in it. In English it is a major definition, so it is not the perfect way to translate the Greek in “the man is the head of the woman.” To then refer to the text “the man is the head of the woman” to prove male lead is misusing scripture.

John Piper – as wrong about Domestic Violence as ever (read if you want to see me agree with Piper on something)

Domestic abuse is always about power and control
… Red Flags” Of An Abusive Personality:
… 2. CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR: At first, the batterer will say this behavior is because they are concerned for your safety, a need for you to use time well or to make good decisions…” – Cantara Safehouse

John Piper is at it again. He is vehemently denying that Complementarianism can ever be complicit in the abuse of women.

Even before we go to Piper, I want to compare a definition of complementarianism to the definition of domestic abuse at the start:

“Complementarianism holds that “God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood, but different and complementary in function with male headship in the home and in the Church.” – Duncan, Ligon

The first part – before the word “but” is asserted by egalitarians too, and as such is not what Piper speaks about when he opposes egalitarianism. Basically, complementarians say leadership, or control, belongs to men. If abuse is always about power and control, and controlling behavior is a red flag for an abuser, complementarianism is a red flag for abuse.

But let us hear Piper in his own words.

First, note that he does not define abuse. In fact, I never heard one complementarian actually deal with the link between control and abuse. (As an aside, if any complementarian leader ever starts out by mentioning the link between the two issues, and then discuss how complementarianism can or cannot be called complicit in calling men to be controlling, please tell me where! I am very curious to see them handle the elephant in the room.)

At 1 minute and 20 seconds, he says:

25 “We not only say: ‘Humans do not treat humans that way’, but ‘men don’t treat women that way’…”

Firstly, please bear with me if I get very literal. (Hey, I’m autistic. I take things literally. It is better than kleptomaniacs, who take things – literally.) He is wrong. Men do treat women that way. Not all men, of course, but too many of them. In fact, whether you define abuse as control, or as giving your partner physical injuries, more men than women do it.

I realized he meant it as a form of shaming. He meant it as peer pressure: Men shouldn’t where he said men don’t. The same way boys in high school would shame a another boy who does not (falsely) brag about (alleged) sexual prowess, he wants to shame men who abuse women.

However, most men are less influenced by peer pressure now than they were in high school, and Piper is not the cool kid in most circles. (To be fair, there are a few theological seminaries where John Piper is regarded as one of the “cool kids”. That is why I would love if he really speaks out against abuse. But I digress.)

Ultimately, messages like: “(Real) men should not abuse women” is less effective than “(real) men should control/ be the heads of women“, for a simple reason. Manhood, to be anything, must be different from something else, in this case from womanhood.

Men should not abuse women” would be a special manhood assignment if women had the right to abuse men. Women do not, so it is not. “Men should control/ be the heads of women” is a manhood assignment if women are not supposed to control/ be the heads of men. By complementarian theology, women are not supposed to control, so it is.

“…It is written on your soul, man. You are a wicked, unmanly person if you do that. Complementarians are the only people who can talk that way.”

Complementarians may be the only people who talk that way, but it is a very ineffective way of talking: Your average baby, child, or woman do not abuse a woman. The majority of people who abuse them are men. Why would an abuser believe his behavior is not manly, if it is more common in men than in women and even supports male “headship” – which Piper endorses?

1:50 “It makes for beautiful and safe and flourishing relationships.”

When I heard the word “safe” in there, my mind immediately returned to the second red flag for an abusive personality:

“CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR: At first, the batterer will say this behavior is because they are concerned for your safety…”

When I heard flourishing, I smiled because it is such a typical Piper adjective. I don’t think I ever hear anyone else say it, except him discussing complementarian relationships.

But my favorite part is about 25 seconds into the video:

“Complementarianism stood in the gap between (gesturing with his right hand as far right as it can go) abusive, dominating, patriarchalism and egalitarianism (gesturing with his left hand as far left as it can go) over here.”

I actually believe him here. Egalitarianism is as far as can be from abuse! He actually made our point for us. Thank you for that, John Piper!

Gender role adherents need a deeper view of work


A 1950s ad with “traditional gender roles”

You know the scenario in which Daddy goes to work to provide, and Mommy stays at home with the kids. You have even heard of people who claim that this is the Biblical™ Will of God for all Men and Women. (If you read this blog before, you probably know that I don’t think this is Biblical.)

Have you ever noticed the way they speak of work? Women’s paid work is seen as selfish. Women’s unpaid work is not recognized as work. Men’s paid work is seen as an effort to get money for their families.

Work does not, in complementarian doctrine, get described as a mission, as a way of giving love, as help to society, as a witness to the world. The contents of what men and women do outside the home seldom get discussed by complementarians. When it does, it is often in the class of this quote:

“If a woman’s job involves a good deal of directives toward men, they will need to be non-personal in general. If they don’t, men and women won’t flourish in the long run in that relationship without compromising profound biblical and psychological issues.

Conversely, if a woman’s relationship to a man is very personal, then the way she offers guidance and influence will need to be more non-directive. My own view is that there are some roles in society that will strain godly manhood and womanhood to the breaking point…” – John Piper to a woman who wants to be a police officer, in a sound clip at Desiring God.

In this type of work discussion, people are afraid that certain jobs may take people out of their pink and blue boxes.

There is more to work than that.

Whether you are a truck driver or teacher, a nail technician or a nuclear scientist, a librarian or a landscape artist, a short order cook or a stationery store owner, you only get paid for one reason. This reason applies to both owners of their own businesses as well as wage earners. You get paid because someone believes your work is worth something. You gave your boss or customer something they wanted, and they paid you for it.

We should put our Christianity into the things we do, and our jobs or careers are no different. The purpose of your job – whether you are a man or a woman – is not just about earning an income, it is living out our gifts and serving the world. Maybe this is another place where complementarian doctrine falls short

On being a real woman, undeceived by flowery prose

True or not 1a

Is the content of the flowery prose true, or not?

Have you ever heard religious people saying things designed to get other believers to agree, but which has no substance? Here is one of those examples. It is full of Christianese like being created by God and giving in to God’s design, but never gives evidence that what it advocates for is actually God’s design:

A real woman is a woman who recognizes that she has been exquisitely and perfectly created by a loving God for a unique purpose. Out of genuine gratitude, awe, and a desire to please her Maker, a real woman joyfully embraces her femininity and submits every aspect of her identity – the attitudes and affections of her heart and mind, her appearance, her manners, her speech, her ambitions, and her beliefs – to God’s original and unique design for her as a woman. A real woman understands that God designed femininity because masculinity was not enough in itself to represent God’s image and glory. The differences between men and women glorify God, and downplaying these differences downplays God’s glory. A real woman wants to bring glory to God by being a woman.”

This is one of those deceptive paragraphs where someone with a pre-decided notion surrounds his notion with religious-sounding language. A similar example will be someone who believes God called blondes to other roles than brunettes (an idea not in the Bible) and then saying:

A real blonde recognizes that he has been exquisitely and perfectly created by a loving God for a unique purpose. (Unique does not mean the same as other blondes/ other women. Yet this kind of message calls all blondes or all women to the same “role”.) Out of genuine gratitude, awe, and a desire to please his Maker, a real blonde joyfully embraces his hair colour and submits every aspect of his identity to God’s original and unique design for him as a blonde. (No evidence is given that God’s design for blondes differs from His design for brunettes.) He understands that God designed blondness because dark hair was not enough in itself to represent God’s image and glory. (Does God say that was His motive, or is it their interpretation?) The differences between blondes and brunettes glorify God, (If that meant not dyeing your hair/ not going for gender reassignment surgery, I could follow the argument. But once other things except for hair colour/ genitalia is seen as “being blonde/ being feminine”, then the argument is deceptive.) and downplaying these differences downplays God’s glory. (By the same measure, do the person who asserts this downplay the glory of God by pretending there are more differences than the ones God intended? If s/he called some commands from God the job of blondes to keep, did s/he discourage non-blondes from keeping those commands?) A real blonde wants to bring glory to God by being blonde…

People, blonde and brunette and redheaded and grey and bald, are made in God’s image. So are men and women. People, blonde and brunette and redheaded and grey and bald, should be what God called them to be. So should men and women. But the same way the previous paragraph doesn’t actually tell us anything about living for God as a blonde, such flowery prose don’t tell us anything about living for God as a woman.

Also, a real woman is any woman who really exists, regardless of lifestyle, attitude or religion. Wonder Woman, Cinderella and the Goddess Artemis are unreal women. Atheists and religious women, virgins and mothers of five by five men, murderesses and soup kitchen organizers, women who never wear a touch of cosmetics and those who don’t go anywhere without full-face make-up are all real women.


True or not 1b

If you sweep away some flowers, you may find this.


If gender roles are good for women, do not tell us

Sometimes, people on my Facebook timeline shared this:


If Jesus is enough, what is the point of a second and third umbrella? Should anything stand between wives/ children and Jesus, as in this picture?

Regular readers of my blog will know why the message is problematic and less than true:
* The protection of Jesus has no holes, and therefore other umbrellas beneath Him are a waste.
* God calls husbands and wives to protect and love one another – it is not one-sided.
* The picture comes from cult leader Bill Gothard to say that children who disobey their parents/ wives who disobey they husbands move out from God’s protection (what authorities want, he says, is in line with what God wants). Gothard used this view to blame sex abuse victims for allegedly bringing it on themselves.

When we point out problems with this, someone jumps in: “You are getting it wrong! This umbrella/ gender roles, in general, are about God wanting women protected. Men are taught in Ephesians to love and to give up their lives for women…” (more…)

How should an egalitarian church discuss sexuality with its youth?

When I was a teen, I loved Christian youth camps. But there was one thing that I did not care for: It seems most camps, had, on one particular day, The Lesson. That one where somebody who is not afraid of the topic tells us we are not supposed to get sexually active, and why this is harder for boys, and how girls should be careful how they dress …


Do complementarians not understand themselves, or do they understand and lie to us?

mixed messages

Once more, I read one of those: “Complementarians are NOT like this, you characterize us wrong” articles. But they always sound like: “We would NEVER advocate for playing music loudly! We only say people should crank up the volume! We do NOT advocate for disturbing the peace, only that your neighbours should always hear your music! We are against noise! We only say that music should not be played at a low volume and that you should buy quality speakers that could handle a lot of sound. Oh, and some people who do not read this blog also plays music loudly, so it is not my fault if my fans do. Nobody hates loud music more than me.”

To quote this article:

Myth #1: Complementarianism is obsessed with male authority.

…Complementarianism… in reality focuses on … God’s … binary design where the husband’s leadership is exercised through love and servant leadership and women are included as significant participants in the church’s mission. A biblical perspective of the male-female relationship in the church’s ministry doesn’t picture a man wielding authoritarian leadership
Myth #3: … Because of [complementarianism’s] affirmation of male leadership and authority

What I see: “We are not obsessed with male authority, only with male leadership! And we affirm male leadership and male authority!”

Love, servanthood, and women included as significant participants are the egalitarian focus (too). The thing which makes them complementarian as opposed to egalitarian is, indeed, their focus on male leadership.

Whether he calls it leadership or authority or both, it comes down to telling others what to do. Leadership could be beneficial at times – if I do not know the way out of a forest but my guide does, I would let her (or him) lead. However, complementarians never explain the real difference between their leadership and lording it over her. What kind of leadership is no wiser than the one being led, but does not act on the power or right to give orders? What kind of leadership is loving and beneficial when the leader knows no better than the follower?

Myth #2: Complementarianism confines women to the home
… but these roles are to be lived out by God’s grace and are freely entered by a woman as instructed by Scripture… her divine calling [is] in relation to her husband and children. In Paul’s letter to Titus, women are called to be “workers at home” and to love their husband and children. We believe that the joy and work of women’s lives will be best lived out as she centers herself primarily on her family and in her home.
… complementarianism is not ruling out that women ever work outside the home. In fact, it’s commonly acknowledged that the married woman of Proverbs 31 was active in the community while still being centered in her home… Overreactions are common, however, such as insisting that women may engage in any activity outside the home with virtually no or minimal concern for God’s specific creation purpose for each gender. This is contrary to biblical teaching and deeply problematic.

What I see: “Complementarian women are not literally confined to the homes, but every step away from their homes, husbands and children is  a step away from God’s creation purpose for them.”
I never met anyone who claimed that complementarians literally chain the ankles of bare-footed, pregnant women to the kitchen table, so this message tells me exactly what I already know about complementarians.

Myth #3: Complementarianism leads to domestic violence and spousal abuse.
… implicating complementarianism with domestic violence is based on a misconception of what complementarianism in fact teaches regarding the true nature of male authority … It should also be noted that abuse of women is in no way limited to one side of this debate…
So, the charge that complementarianism insufficiently condemns or unwittingly condones or can lead to domestic violence and spousal abuse is manifestly untrue. Recent complementarians have gone on record to state unequivocally that they strongly condemn and oppose any form of domestic violence and spousal abuse. In their “Statement on Abuse”1 adopted March 12, 2018, which follows earlier, similar statements, the board of directors of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the principal complementarian organization, writes, “We condemn all forms of physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse.”

What I see: “We are against abuse! Only, we leave out that abuse is tied to controlling the partner, and that our teachings indeed want men to control lead women. We recommend the controlling, we shame men for not controlling well and women to not accepting control leadership.”

Also, a charge is not “manifestly untrue” if what happened was not your true intention. If “complementarianism leads to domestic violence and spousal abuse” only when misunderstood, it is still true that the message was a factor.

Myth #1: …
Complementarianism, the myth goes, is tantamount to being anti-women or anti-women-in-ministry with the intent of keeping women out of positions of leadership in the church, the corporate world, and the political sphere…

Myth #4: Complementarianism only limits women’s access to the pastoral office.
… the biblical teaching on gender is much more thoroughgoing and profound than a singular negative stipulation would convey, … in other contexts where the teaching of Scripture or the exercise of spiritual leadership occurs, this should be carried out by qualified men… It is the teaching and ruling authority that leadership roles entail that is at issue here.

…The full-orbed creation mandate for man and woman, and its implications for masculine and feminine identity and roles, should be a concerted focus of attention from the pulpit and be upheld in our churches as beautiful, worthy, and desirable…

What I see: “Complementarianism is not like being anti-women with the intent of keeping women out of leadership. It only keeps women out of leadership. It is beautiful and worthy to keep women out of leadership, not anti-women.”
How is it not anti-women?
“Because we say it is not anti-women!”

Myth #5: Complementarianism can and should be culturally compatible…
It is sometimes alleged that complementarianism is advocated out of traditionalism or conservatism regarding men’s and women’s identities and roles… it is doubtless true that some hold to complementarian teaching because of underlying traditionalism or conservatism… mischaracterization of complementarianism as merely traditional… try to accommodate their teaching and practice to the culture …  complementarianism… is profoundly countercultural, if not culturally unacceptable.

What I see: “Our teaching is not compatible with any tradition or culture, not even traditional or conservative culture, but some hold to complementarian teaching because of their traditionalism or conservatism.”
If it is incompatible with traditional or conservative culture, how do people manage to be conservative/ traditional and complementarian?

Myth #1: …the beauty of complementarity within God’s purposeful and beautiful binary design … Myth #2: …the joy and work of women’s lives… part of his blueprint for the man’s and woman’s mission on earth to be lived out together for his glory… Myth #3:.. God-honoring marriages among complementarians… exhibit the beauty of God’s complementarian design in practice. Myth #4: …The full-orbed creation mandate for man and woman, and its implications for masculine and feminine identity and roles, should be … upheld in our churches as beautiful, worthy, and desirable…God’s glorious plan for them… Myth #5: …complementarianism in all its glory and truth…joy of living and teaching God’s design for man and woman…

What I see: “Complementarianism is beautiful, I tell you! And true, and glorious, and worthy, and desirable, and joyous, and did I mention beautiful?”
Neither Köstenberger nor other complementarians ever explain how men leading women, women not being encouraged to use their gifts outside the home, denouncing only some aspects of abuse, women not teaching, and living in a way the culture notices as regressive is beautiful, true, and glorious.

Do complementarians even know that they contradict themselves?

How did Paul and Peter understand submission?

When the church talk of wives submitting to husbands, they tend to quote Paul and Peter, the writers of Eph 5:21-24 and 1 Peter 3:1 respectively.

So, to see what these apostles meant with submission, we could look at how they lived, and compare that to their words.


Artwork of Peter preaching, which he sometimes did in defiance of authorities.

How Paul lived out their submission (more…)

How (not) to talk about weaker vessels

The Bible calls wives “the weaker vessel” in a sentence to instruct husbands. Many people, including me, have discussed what the text means, going deep into New Testament Greek in some cases. Today, let us ditch the Greek for now, and look at the plain meaning of the text.

To get this plain meaning, see what is ordered in this sentence: (more…)

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