One of the more striking aspects of complementarianism is the over the top cartoonish chivalry. This in turn derives from a caricature of masculinity which is hyper violent (to men) but simultaneously non threatening to feminist sensibilities. It is a chivalry devoid of male leadership with a kind of vicarious blood lust for men and even little boys to be killed or injured in the service of women. In this cartoonish chivalry it is better for a man to be killed in the service of women than for him to successfully guide a woman to safety. There is also an over the top feigned bravado.
As an example I’ll offer a segment from the same Pastor Chandler sermon I referenced in my last post. In the sermon Chandler is defining manhood, and he is careful to clarify that leadership isn’t a defining quality of manhood:
When I was trying to draw up a sentence on the unique responsibility of men, I wanted to, as best I could, stay away from the word lead. I’ll tell you why. I think men do lead, and they do lead in a unique way. I also know women who can lead and who do lead. In fact, I’ve come across some women who are bosses. Do you know what I’m saying? I mean, they get stuff done. They lead. They put together teams. They help those teams function rightly, and they lead out.So saying that a man leads as a kind of attribute of manhood that is not true about women would be incorrect. I want to introduce the word and maybe redeem the word headship. Doesn’t that sound old school right there? Headship.
In doing this Chandler is taking complementarianism full circle, because complementarians originally moved away from the term headship to servant leader because the latter was less offensive to feminists. Chandler objects to the word leader and therefore is trying to redefine, to redeem headship as a non threatening servant/protector who minds his own business. He ties this back to Genesis, explaining that Adam’s sin was not that he listened to his wife when he should have rebuked her, but that he didn’t protect her from the influence of the serpent:
What happens is the Serpent deceives Eve with Adam standing right there. Eve takes the apple, believing the lie of the Serpent, takes a bite of the fruit, and then hands it to her passive idiot husband, who also takes a bite.
Do you know who God blames for sin introducing itself into the cosmos? Adam. Because he had the role of spiritual headship, of covering and protection. He didn’t step up. He did the spiritual equivalency of, “Go check it out, baby.” He did the spiritual equivalency of, “You head to the front line and get dismembered, raped, and slaughtered, and I’ll be back here.” The boy goes down, and the girl goes free.
Chandler then switches to address unmarried men in the congregation and their obligation to protect and serve (but never lead) Christian women:
What if you are a single man? How are we to think about this as single men? If you’re a single man, you’re going, “Well, I don’t have a wife. Well, I’m not an elder, so how would I practice your definition of manhood if I don’t have a wife and aren’t an elder at the church?” Okay. A single man images headship. He doesn’t have it as much as he images headship with a borrowed authority. Single men have no authority over any woman in this congregation unless they are your young daughter or you are an elder in this church.
To illustrate men’s generic obligation to protect and serve women without corresponding authority, Chandler offers an odd anecdote from his childhood:
Let me unpack that. I have an older sister and a younger sister. Here was a frequent conversation my daddy had with me. “Buddy, at school, you look out for your sisters. If some other guy is messing with your sisters, I want you to tell a teacher. If that teacher will not listen, I want you to punch them in their face and keep punching and keep punching and keep punching until an adult drags you off of that little boy. When they drag you off, what I want you to do is be like, ‘Get off me! Get off me!’ You go back at them until they… There needs to be a healthy kind of fear of you when it comes to your sisters. You protect them.”
Let me say this. I had zero authority over my sisters. Zero! I could not come home and go, “Stephanie, clean my room.”
He uses a straw man here, because the authority which would naturally go with an obligation of protection would be to direct his sisters on how to behave so they didn’t create risks to their safety. But aside from the obvious straw man, I find the story as presented very hard to believe.
I can imagine a school environment so rough that a young boy’s father might repeatedly remind him to be prepared to protect his sisters, but the specifics of the story are off. I felt it was off just reading the transcript, but seeing the sermon made it all the more incongruent. Someone like Pastor Driscoll could sell this kind of hyper-violent-yet-non-threatening (to women) masculinity. But coming from Pastor Chandler it seems like a pure boyhood fantasy. It isn’t just his inflection, but the way he swishes his hips while he tells the story:
This is the oddest only real man in the room sermon I’ve ever seen. He is saying the right words, calling the men in the congregation boys who can shave, etc, but his voice and gestures don’t match the tough guy message. At the same time he is telling men to be men like him, he is also telling them to marry a woman who can teach them how to be men, just like he did.
It’s like logs that continually get thrown on a fire as you watch your wife love and serve the Lord, as you watch her mature, as you watch her grow, as she becomes the type of iron that sharpens your life. This is where we should be pushing into. Single men, you should be pursuing godly… I grieve for some of our godly single women here, just ferociously godly women stuck around a bunch of boys.
Here is the same sermon, but starting further back (you can also drag the cursor to the beginning). If you let it play through you will see the cartoonish chivalry story of the boy in the wagon (the boy goes down so the girl goes free):