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Today, we're going to do a brief (lol, brief) review of Evangelical Christian Complementarianism. There have been whole books written on the subject, so this thread is in no way exhaustive. I'll do my best to show my work, and make it as practical as possible.
Before we dive in too deep, it's worth noting that while ECs talk about this topic a lot, they don't agree, particularly on the practical applications.
For example, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) has a statement of faith on their website:…
Here, they use half a paragraph to describe their core reason for being: "Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood. Adam’s headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall and was-
"-not a result of sin. The Fall introduced distortions into the relationship between men and women but redemption in Christ restores this relationship. In the home husbands are lovingly to lead their wives and wives should intelligently and willingly submit to their husbands.-
"-In the church, some governing and teaching roles are restricted to men."

I think that all ECCs would agree with the above statement, but they'd disagree on matters of practicality. What is Biblical Manhood?
I've been exploring David Murray's answer (… for the whole lot), but his particulars are different than other people's.
I believe that this kaleidoscope of different ideas is a feature, not a bug. It's worth noting that for a group of people who believe that the Bible text has a single literal clear message, it's telling that they can't agree on what that message is. (…)
Another brief disclaimer - I love nuance, mystery, and conflicting viewpoints. Everyone's story is valuable, and your experience has meaning. So I don't feel the need to flatten the world into a false binary of true/false.
My issue with them is that they do flatten into that binary AND say that their true is the Universal Truth For All.

Fuck that noise.
One last thing - At times, we're going to be discussing the difference between the doctrinal beliefs and the culture that these beliefs (and the people behind them) have created.
The distinction is important as whenever the culture gets called out for being toxic, the teachers can claim that it's a perversion of the doctrine.This is a distraction and a responsibility dodge.
At its most basic, ECC teaches that men and women were created equal with complimentary natures and roles. ALL MEN have the same masculine soul and basic core traits, with the same calling; ALL WOMEN have the same feminine soul and basic core traits, with the same calling.
If you've noticed that this erases the existence of non-binary, trans, and other non-cis folk, then again, that's a feature, not a bug. It's also extremely heteronormative, so it erases and demonizes queer folk of all sorts.
This is a worldview, and I mean that in the weaponized sense of that term. It's a belief system meant to capture, hold, and subjugate those within its grasp, before turning them into weapons to attack others outside of itself.
As we'll see, it reinforces itself in a circular loop that is deceptively powerful. Most #Exvangelicals can attest to this fact.
Most of the time, whenever ECs talk about this belief system, they use very careful language. This is mostly to cloak the toxic pill in enough boring rice that you won't notice what you've swallowed.
For example, this is John Piper's definition of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood from his book, "What's the Difference?":
"At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships."
"At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman's differing relationships."
In case you think that those words are simple, Piper spends the next 70 pages unpacking each word. He, and those like him, choose these words with care. At the basic heart of it, though, is that men lead, provide, and protect, and women nurture, follow, and respond.
Note that these are all positive statements. It's rarely said outright, but there's a darker side to all of this.
Murray has given me a steady stream of EC articles basically saying that "toxic masculinity" is what you get when God's vision isn't obeyed. It's the worlds bad way of trying to poorly describe unChristian masculinity.
Remember from our statement above that "the Fall introduced distortions into the relationship between men and women" - in this case, one of the distortions is that each man and woman has a dark sinful nature.
To get some clear answers (not easy, btw), I turned to my copy of "Every Man's Battle", cause I knew they'd have some things to say about the inner man. If you ever want ECs to be clear about how gross they think humans are, just start talking to them about sex.
Purity culture is Rape culture. Samantha Field (@samanthapfield) writes about this more ably than I ever can, so head here (…) and then to her website for more:
Dianna Anderson (@DiannaAnderson0) also writes about this, and wrote an excellent book that I highly recommend, "Damaged Goods".…
But, Every Man's Battle! They say there are four flaws within men. 1) Men are rebellious by nature; 2) Men find the "straight life" dull and boring; 3) Men have a strong regular sex drive; 4) Men receive sexual gratification through the eyes.
Are your warning bells going off? Sirens that alert you to real problematic shit ahead? Good. Pay attention to those instincts, they'll serve you well.

I want to quote more extensively from the first point:

"Males are rebellious by nature.-
"-When Paul explained to Timothy that 'Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner' he was noting that Adam wasn't being tricked when he ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Adam knew it was wrong but he ate it anyway.-
"-In the millennia since then, all of Adam's sons tend to be just as rebellious.

Author George Gilder in "Sexual Suicide" reported that men commit more than 90% of major crimes of violence, 100% of the rapes, and 95% of the burglaries. Men comprise 94% of our drunken drivers, -
"-70% of suicides, 91% of offenders against family and children. Most often, the chief perpetrators are single men.

Our maleness brings a natural, uniquely male form of rebelliousness. This natural tendency gives us the arrogance needed to stop short of God's standards. -
"-As men, we'll often choose sin simply because we like our own way."

Okay, so. That was a lot. Sorry about that.
When they say "rebellious", they don't mean "prone to questioning and challenging authority". They mean "violent abusers who rape, pillage, and kill in a wanton gluttony of misery". #EvangelicalIntoEnglish
That book they quoted from, "Sexual Suicide" is one they found in Dr. James Dobson's book, "Straight Talk to Men and their Wives". Dobson says the "Sexual Suicide" is "the most important book written on the relationship between the sexes."
I'm going to quote Dobson from Straight Talk, and again, I'm sorry. Dobson is a Whole Thing. If you need support in dealing with Dobson, I can think of none better than @Sparkle_Heretic who unpacks Dobson in a very kind, empathetic way (to you; fuck Dobson).
Right. Dobson. This is continuing the quotation from "Sexual Suicide" where "Every Man's" left off, then into Dobson's discussion of the passage.
""Single men comprise between 80-90% of most of the categories of social pathology, and on the average they make less money than any other group in the society - yes, less than single women or working women. As any insurance actuary will tell you, single men are also less -
"-responsible about their bills, their driving, and other personal conduct. Together with the disintegration of the family, they constitute our leading social problem."
Dobson now: "Gilder's point is that the single male is often a threat to society. HIs aggressive tendencies are largely unbridled and potentially destructive. By contrast, a woman is naturally more motivated to achieve long-term stability. Her maternal inclination (they do exist-
"-and are evident in every culture throughout the world) influence her to desire a home and a steady source of income. Hse wants security for herself and her children.

Suddenly, we see the beauty of the divine plan. When a man falls in love with a woman, dedicating himself to -
"-care for her and protect her and support her, he suddenly becomes the mainstay of social order. Instead of using his energies to pursue his own lusts and desires, he sweats to build a home and save for the future and seek the best job available. His selfish impulses are -
"-inhibited. His sexual passions are channeled. He discovers a sense of pride-yes, masculine pride- because he is needed by his wife and children. Everyone benefits from the relationship.-
"-When a society is composed of millions of individual families that are established on this plan, then the nation is strong and stable. It is the great contribution marriage makes to a civilization. But in its absence, ruination is inevitable. When men have no reason to harness-
"- their energies in support of the home, then drug abuse, alcoholism, sexual intrigue, job instability, and aggressive behavior can be expected to run unchecked throughout the culture. And that is the beginning of the end."
Yup. Dobson doesn't believe in the family's importance because it creates loving, fulfilled humans; he believes in it because it's the best way to control humans. And, without it, there'll be nothing to control men.
This is the Core of Complementarianism:

"Baby, look at what you made me do."

"Why do you make me hurt you?"

"I'm sorry, but if you'd just what I asked, I wouldn't get so angry."
It paints men as fallen primal creatures who rape, kill, and dominate. Only the saving grace of God AND the obedient submission of a woman can tame him.
WHICH IS A THREAT. It gives all of the responsibility to tame him to women without giving them any of the power to do so. And if they step out of line and the man does something awful, what did they expect? He's a man; it's his nature.
This is worth dwelling on. All of these guys are mainstream Evangelicals who are respected by their peers and those within the system. While Dobson is rare in that he actually put it all into words, he accurately said what they all believe.
And this creates the culture of Complementarianism. Because while they preach from the pulpit that Godly Men aren't bullies, that they'll protect and serve women and children, it's not true.
I know it's not true because I've listened to the stories and voices of so many people who grew up in the Evangelical church. They knew - the women knew - that the men weren't safe.
#ChurchToo tells us that the men aren't safe. All of the sexual abuse scandals that are coming to light AREN'T NEW. It's always been going on.
Because this culture and system create and enable men who believe themselves to be monsters, and who, when they lose the inner battle, satiate their need for dominion and power on those vulnerable around them.
Let me talk about men a little bit longer.

When I was growing up, I read all of the marriage, family, and parenting books I could get my hands on. The most important decision I'd ever make was to be a Christian - and I'd made it!
The second most important decision would be my marriage, and my third would be children, and fourth, my profession.

So, I researched marriage. A lot.
And I became terrified because of how they talked about men. "Every Man's Battle" taught me that I was an out-of-control monster who had to work to repress and starve my inner sex-beast, constantly guarding those around me lest I get tempted and snap.
When I was reading, I kept on hearing, "don't make her ask you to understand, take leadership and ask her!" And I thought it was good advice, so I also read all the advice books directed at women. Why not get all the playbooks?
And in these books, I heard them talking about how to manipulate and maneuver men through submission and service because it was the only way to get him to… be a good fucking human.
I became convinced that, trapped within me, was a beast that was going to unlock and turn me into this… thing. I would be out of control, a danger to myself and others. People would have to be protected from me. And it broke my heart and I lived in terror for years.
It took me a long time to accept that I wasn't going to suddenly transform into a monster. I didn't have Elemental Evil living inside of me. I was just a human.
Boys are taught that their minds and instincts are weapons. Our gaze devalues and defiles women. We're taught that we have a responsibility to lead, but that we are utterly untrustworthy. I have several many threads on this topic here:…
Turning to women, ECC teaches them that their bodies are weapons, and their minds and instincts are unworthy of attention.
In Piper's book, he says, "I focus on mature femininity as a disposition rather than a set of behaviors or roles because mature femininity will express itself in so many different ways depending on the situation…. "
Piper: "This can be seen best if we define submission not in terms of specific behaviors, but as a disposition to yield to the husband’s authority and an inclination to follow his leadership…. "
Piper: "But even where a Christian wife may have to stand with Christ against the sinful will of her husband, she can still have a spirit of submission—a disposition to yield. She can show by her attitude and behavior that she does not like resisting his will and that she -
"-longs for him to forsake sin and lead in righteousness so that her disposition to honor him as head can again produce harmony."
If this seems pretty fuckin' vague, again, that's a feature, not a bug. Whenever there's vagueness, there's room for men to enforce their interpretation of the rule.
Again, women are only allowed the ability to respond to men. And while they may be allowed to push back, she can be criticized for the tone of her complaint, which leeches power from her justified stance.

And it's exhausting. It's supposed to be.
Even if humans WERE created to be this kind of binary within (more on that in a second), this kind of system needs constant supervision, maintenance, and control.
Remember, ECC teaches that we have a fallen sinful nature that never truly goes away. We have to die to self DAILY - which really means CONSTANTLY.
And while we struggle to find room to breathe within this system, we're encouraged to look around us. Check with those in our lives for critiques on our own examples. And, while we invite them to interfere in our own lives, we are also invited to pass judgment on them.
Remember - all of this brings back the Vital Importance of your Witness. You're always being watched and judged. People will look to you for your example, your witness, your proof that God has redeemed you and transformed you.
And since no one can quite agree on the details of how men and women should act and behave, it gives local leaders (and men) plenty of room to enforce their particular view of proper behavior.
This large umbrella spans over the Pipers, Dobsons, Duggars, and Pearls equally. While they may polite disagree over the details, they won't condemn anyone for these differences.
Even when these differences are abusive and deadly.

This is all assuming that they're right, that this is the way humans are created. The way that humans are.
But they're not right - they're wrong. Humans are more complex than male and female. We're more complicated than a single nature spanning across the planet. Our brains are more malleable and plastic than we know, and we learn and adapt in incredible ways.
Our internal nature also pushes back. When you try and force a human into a narrow box that's ill-suited for the shape, it'll hold for a time, but it'll always break.
The system counts on that, too. It uses these breaks to re-enforce control, and use the unfortunates who break wrong as examples to threaten the submission of the whole.
Never forget that James Dobson isn't above using a serial killer to preach and enforce Complementarianism. What do you think he, and others of his ilk, will do when people break form in other ways?
You don't need to wonder. Just look to the news. The stories you see there are just the tip of the iceberg.
It would be one thing if this worldview was merely descriptive, an attempt to describe what they saw within the world. Instead, they insist that it's prescriptive - this is the universal truth that MUST be true for EVERYONE.
No matter what your life, your heart, your experiences, your instincts tell you, if they disagree with this truth, they're wrong and must be cut out of your life. Be brutal; your eternal soul hangs in the balance.

And if you have children, they'll threaten their souls, also.
This is the enforcement mechanism. They've made this toxic bullshit CORE, which means if you fight or reject it, you're not arguing with men, but God. And when you fight against God, you risk getting thrown down from heaven, and tossed out of the garden.
You'll lose your friends, family, church, children; you'll lose the identity and value as a human that you've had your entire life. You'll lose everything, all because you thought you knew something about yourself, and wanted to live authentically.
That, friends, leads us back to where we started. This complicated toxic culture that was birthed from these misguided views have created confusion, misery, and heartbreak. It's literally killed so many people, and crushed the dreams and souls of others.
I used to think that those who taught it believed it, but I don't believe that anymore. I think the higher up the ladder you go, the fewer True Believers you find. They've realized this system for what it is: a means of control and consolidating power.
When you're so busy policing yourself, and watching others least they stumble, and arguing over minor points of interpretation, you're less likely to look up and realize you're in a cage.
And look out, and see that there are others, outside of cages, who put you there.

And once you learn to see the cages, you start to ask yourself dangerous questions, like why they wanted to put you in a cage to begin with.
The cage door isn't locked, my friend. Open it, be free to walk out into the light of who you truly are.
You are beautiful, with innate dignity, and a right to be loved and welcomed and accepted. I'm so fucking proud of you. Now, make your own meaning and home, define what family means to you, and find a place to rest.
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