Deconstruction & Complementarianism

The topic of deconstruction has been coming up a lot lately with prominent figures speaking about their personal deconstruction and loss of faith.

Deconstruction is a stage of faith that many go through when they stop accepting the faith they’ve been told they must have by their peers, families, and church communities. They begin to ask hard questions and wrestle with hard concepts. They allow their doubts to speak to them and begin to entertain other narratives about themselves, their faith community, and even God. They begin to consider whether there are better ways to approach their faith that might be healthier.

I do want it noted that deconstruction does not have to mean a loss of faith in God. While that is the case for some, it is often nothing more than pulling apart the threads in your own faith that no longer serve your relationship with God.

Today, I specifically want to discuss the deconstruction of beliefs surrounding relationship dynamics between men and women.

This is a hard topic, particularly for those of us who grew up in families and communities where complementarianism is a central part of how we understand the gospel and faith.

  • Men lead, women submit.
  • Men preach the Word, women quietly receive the teaching.
  • Men exist as the heads of their households, women are the keepers of the home.

All of these things have massive implications as to how we view ourselves as individuals, how we view ourselves in light of importance to God, how we view our worthiness to our families and communities, and how we view our own bodies.

When you’re taught your whole life that you’re merely a tool to be used by men in order to further God’s kingdom, there is a dehumanizing effect. We become used to seeing ourselves as the thing that can help or hinder our men in their ministry efforts.

Here are just a few examples I’ve heard recently about how women are being affected by this system of belief:

  • Women and girls are taught that we exist for the sexual pleasure of the men around us. Our bodies are inherently sexual. We must always ensure that we are dressing modestly enough so that we do not cause the men around us to stumble. When they sin in thought or in action against us, we must be prepared to accept that we failed to be their helpers and repent for our own part in their failing.
  • Women are taught that even if we have a gift for teaching, it is harmful to preach to men. We are taught that we have nothing of value to teach to men, even worse: we are untrustworthy in matters of spiritual importance. We may be allowed to teach to other women and to children but we can never be entrusted with the responsibility of educating a human being with a penis. Anything that a man has to say will be more important than anything we have to say, and more trustworthy.
  • We are taught that our value is in our actions: How well we keep our house. How well we keep up with the laundry or create nutritious meals. Our worth is in our ability to create and raise babies, and in how we make our men feel important, valued, and needed.

Should we dare step outside of these boxes that we were, supposedly, created to live in, there will be consequences. We will be called sinners. We will be reprimanded by our husbands, our families, our communities, and our churches. It is not unheard of for women to be put into church discipline for not conforming submissively to expectations. It is not unheard of for women to be ostracized (or handed over to Satan) for being rebellious. Whatever form it may come in, we will feel the sting of judgment for going our own way.

Men aren’t off the hook here either. Men have high standards that they must live up to, or they too could feel the discomfort of being labeled a sinner. There is a lot of pressure for men to have all the answers and to understand all the things perfectly.

There is not a lot of room for men to understand or experience their emotions in healthy ways. A good Christian leader is allowed only two emotions: contentment and righteous anger. There’s no room for depression, sadness, fear, or shame. And there’s no space or support for any man who does acknowledge feeling these things. Women are supposed to be the emotional creatures, after all. Not men. If a man could feel these big feelings, his ability to be a leader will come into question.

Men must always have the answers. They must know how to lead in every situation. There is immense pressure for a man to be more Godly and more righteous than others, particularly his wife and children. Men are often put in positions of leadership even when their natural giftings do not lend themselves to leading others. The pressure to be the mediator between God and others can be overwhelming.

And thats for the good guys. Complementarianism also opens up opportunities for predators and abusive men to harm others. If you tell a malignant narcissist that God has ordained him to have control over the spiritual lives of those who have been disempowered by the community (women and children)… well that’s just Christmas all year ’round for that person.

There is a lot of toxicity and legalism inherent to Complementarianism. There is a lot to unravel and unlearn. So much about complementarianism is adding to Biblical precepts and putting pressures & responsibilities onto both genders that God never intended.

And as we lean into the process of deconstruction, there are bound to be a lot of feelings.

Feelings that you may encounter in this journey: Anger, shame, fear, sadness, depression, happiness, freedom, safety. You may feel them one at a time. You may feel an onslaught of all of the emotions at once. You need to make self-care a priority as you try to sift through the doctrine you’ve been taught is gospel truth and try to figure out what is healthy for you.

It’s important to understand that deconstruction is not an overnight process. It’s not something that you can rush through. This is something that involves time, work, and self-care.

Next week, I will discuss various self-care techniques that you can incorporate into your daily routines as you walk through the process of deconstruction.

Be well, friends ❤

2 thoughts on “Deconstruction & Complementarianism

  1. I like how you exposed the harm of complementarian teachings not just to women, but also to men. I think that’s important because one of the (annoying) myths of feminism is that it puts down myth. Instead, Christian feminism recognizes the equal value and role of men and women and honors all contributions to the Kingdom.

    Like

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