“If we would just listen to the Word of God and not try to overthrow God’s established order, we would not have nay trouble.”
Does this statement sound like a conservative Christian statement concerning gender roles?
It was actually said by conservative Christian, Bob Jones, in April of 1960 concerning the segregation of blacks and whites in America.
Jones was absolutely certain that the separation of races was biblical and to allow blacks and whites to attend the same schools together was not Christian, not biblical, and even satanic (Source URL: http://www.drslewis.org/camille/2013/03/15/is-segregation-scriptural-by-bob-jones-sr-1960/).
Jones pointed to Acts 17:26 as “clear” evidence that God intended every race to stick with their own kind.
“From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.”
Jones, along with many conservative Christians at that time, believed that blacks and whites were equally valuable in God’s sight, but different. Jones was the founder of Bob Jones University and he did not want black people attending his college. It is evident that Bob Jones was a racist who used the Bible to fit his personal agenda.
Can the same be said about complementarian leaders, but in the area of sexism?
If you are unaware, complementarian leaders teach that men and women are equally valuable in God’s sight as image bearers, but they are designed by God to function in different roles. The role of the man is to lead and the role of the woman is to submit.
In 2015, leader and co-founder of complementarianism, John Piper, was asked by a woman if she, as a complementarian woman, could pursue a career as a police officer. Piper gave her a round-about “no” and here were his reasoning’s in his own words:
“To the degree that a woman’s influence over a man, guidance of a man, leadership of a man, is personal and a directive, it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order (Source).“
It seems clear that when some conservative Christian white men, who hold influence, want to exclude, control, and limit other human beings based off race or gender, they are quick to point to “God’s created order” and their sinfully warped versions of what is “biblical.”
Bob Jones continues,
“You cannot be superior to another race if your race is in the will of God and the other race is in the will of God. But the purposes of these races were established by almighty God; and when man attempts to run contrary to the directive will of God for this world, there is always trouble.”
The self proclaimed complementarian, “Council of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood” lays out the following affirmations (http://cbmw.org/about/danvers-statement/):
- Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood.
- Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart.
In other words, this organization has made it their primary mission to convince the Church that men are not superior to women in worth, but that men and women are purposed by God to fulfill different roles, and to ignore this idea is to ignore “God’s created order.”
The problem is that complementarians always give men the superior roles of authority in the home, church, and according to Piper, even in societal jobs. Therefore, women who sense a call to leadership in any of these realms are discriminated against if a complementarian man has any influence.
Creation order should hold no authority in this debate when we consider the fact that God created animals before God created humans in the Genesis account. If creation order mattered when it comes to the question of “who is in charge,” then animals should be in charge of humans.
Let’s take a look at another similarity between Bob Jone’s teachings about segregation in 1960 and John Piper’s teachings about gender roles.
‘”Well,” you say, “The colored folks have not been treated right.” I agree with you.”
Piper states in 2012,
“Complementarians acknowledge and lament the history of abuses of women personally and systemically, and the present evils globally and locally in the exploitation and diminishing of women and girls (Source).“
It is evident that both Jones and Piper know that people of color and girls & women have been abused and continue to be abused today, but still call for an unhealthy distinction of “purpose.”
It is evident that men and women are different in some general ways, but to cause a division among the two by focusing on their supposed “different roles” is to empower the already powerful and weaken the vulnerable. It is sexist in its purest form; just as it was racist in 1960.
Just as Bob Jones did not know he was being racist when he delivered that sermon 56 years ago, John Piper and all complementarians do not know that they are being sexist in 2016 by limiting women from leadership opportunities, not permitting women to be church leaders/elders or pastors, discouraging women from becoming police officers, and maintaining their position that “husband headship” means that of “authority over.”
Embracing complementarianism as “biblical” and “Christian” means that women will always have the lower-level jobs (and lower-level pay) in the Church. This means that women who are not trained and ordained will have even lower level positions in the Church. “Equal but different roles” means “unequal opportunities and unequal pay,” which means men and women are not at all equal in worth or person-hood under this sneaky system.
Although we still see much racism today and we still have a long way to go in racial reconciliation between blacks and whites, segregation is illegal in the Untied States of America. Even Bob Jones University accepts people of color today.
It is my prediction that conservative Christians as a whole will someday begin to recognize that it is not biblical, just, or right to limit women due to their gender.
It is not right for churches to discriminate against women who are called to be church leaders/elders, Bible teachers, and pastors. It is not right for husbands to claim authority over wives, as if the humanity of a woman is less capable of directing and making critical decisions for the family unit with her husband.
I believe that most Christians, even conservative Christians, know this to be true deep in their guts, but are afraid of disobeying what they believe to be God’s Word.
The truth is that God’s Word should not rub against the consciences of so many Christian men and women because the Spirit of God lives within each of us. As the Church, the Body and Bride of Christ, let us unite to set girls and women free from our sexist interpretations of the Bible and embrace them as equals in both worth and spiritual authority. It is not too late to show the world that we can join forces and do what is right.
“The time is always right to do what is right.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Update: Please note that there is still profound racism against people of color happening in the USA today and this post is in no way meant to diminish that fact. As a white woman, I am aware that I write from a privileged place, but I advocate daily for the oppressed and marginalized. Please extend me grace if this post was in any way a negative trigger to your heart concerning the injustices and dangers you and your loved ones are facing. -Jory
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