The Pain Wrought by Complementarian Theology by Elesha Coffman
Yes, complementarian theology has real-life, usually negative, consequences upon the lives of girls and women, but do complementarians care? Nope.
Defending their particular interpretation of the Bible – which entails complementarianism – takes precedence over the welfare of actual people.
First off, let me say that I agree with everything Emily Hunter McGowin wrote about the gas-lighting of evangelical women long before, and far beyond, what has recently been exposed about Paige Patterson and the Southern Baptist Convention.
I heard all of the same messages she did as I grew up in evangelical churches, conditioning me to believe that it was my constant responsibility to manage men’s sexual temptation while deferring to their authority.
The specific contours of evangelical gender ideology, especially as defined by the Religious Right from the 1970s onward, place crushing burdens on women. I ultimately had to leave evangelicalism in order not to lose my faith and my sanity.
But it’s not just evangelicalism.
As the Patterson abuses were coming to light, I couldn’t help but think back to the devastating revelations about a sexual predator from a very different theological tradition, John Howard Yoder.
In early 2015 (how long ago that feels, in scandal-years!) the Mennonite Quarterly Review laid out the case against the revered pacifist theologian, who had violated more than 100 women over the course of several decades. Every part of the story was awful—the violations, the years of cover-ups, victims not heard or believed, powerful men excusing each other’s worst behavior.
As with Patterson, Yoder’s egregious acts were already known (though not to their full extent) by insiders, but the urge to protect a hero, an institution, and theological insights deemed true and critically important drowned out the cries for justice. Until the cries broke through—and even then, the defensive urges rose up.
[Approaches to tackling patriarchy in Christianity]
….2. Assume that the problem is systemic and the damage widespread.
Emily Hunter McGowin articulated this position vis-à-vis Patterson, and she’s not alone.
Other men and women are similarly calling for broader and deeper investigation, believing that Patterson’s abuses of women are inseparably connected to complementarian theology and the power plays that he and his proteges used to take over their denomination.
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