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My Christian Feminism: On Being Complimentarian

It’s been some time since I’ve given a piece of myself in this space, anything personal. I’m not really sure why that is. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m fairly certain that I’ve kept myself at arm’s length because it gets kind of weird that so many people know me and my family so personally from what I write on here. Doesn’t it? What’s most difficult about that, besides the creepiness, are the assumptions that people make about me from the slivers that I give of myself. And a lot of what I communicate does paint a picture of me that isn’t accurate or isn’t actually all that true. For instance. Did you know that I am, in fact, a complimentarian? That I don’t believe that women should be ordained in the church? Like, are you kidding me, Ashley?  No, I’m not! How is it possible to be a feminist and believe that God made women and men distinct from each other and created to compliment each other through their different roles and responsibilities? I’m not entirely sure, either.

I’m constantly having to search myself and pry out any unbiblical stereotypes, biases, prejudices, and hierarchies that I create and believe, but because I do hold a very high view of scripture I do believe that there are truths about our genders and our roles in the church. I know, I know. I’ve disappointed you. It won’t be the last time. And it’s really why I try to avoid using the term in the first place. Too many people start coming at me with pitchforks and fire, assuming that I’m a bigoted patriarchalist. Because humans just can’t resist a good binary, of course. As if women and men can’t be distinct and beautiful and equal in their differences. That roles don’t create hierarchies; humans do. That the biblical view of gender is not a black and white binary, but a nuanced understanding that men and women are equal, though not interchangeable, image bearers of God. Christ-centered complimentarianism is not patriarchal. In fact, the biblical “headship” of men is not a call to domination, but to service, denial and death. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). There is nothing more countercultural and subversive than serving unto death. That is the call and responsibility of biblical headship. There is no domination, systematic oppression, or denigration. Taking away the idea of headship in response to the evils of patriarchy only intensifies the problems of sexism. Why? Because the biblical self denial and service that is demonstrated through Christ’s headship is subsequently removed, leaving room for the evils of domination and hierarchies to thrive and oppress.

What I have mostly been thinking about as I grapple with this liberal feminist identity that I’ve created for myself is that it is much more nuanced and complex than I tell people. I also realize that I am a walking contradiction. That I have views that cross both the church and the secular culture. And I think that’s okay. I think it’s, oh I don’t know, normal. I’m also unashamed to say that I believe submission is a good thing. We all are called to submit to others in some capacity and part of what I think us enlightened scholars believe is that it is the right of every human to never have to submit to anyone. How untrue and prideful this is. We are all answerable to someone, not least of all God. To lay down yourself for another in submission and love is a picture of the gospel. It is a humility that is honorable and good. It’s what Christ has done for us and what he calls us to with each other. It’s manifested in our different roles as men and women, children and parents, bosses and employees, congregants and elders. There is no room for hierarchies and oppression in the gospel. Only love. Only humility. Only service. And this is what God has engrained in his creation. And how beautiful it is.

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