One of the core strategies of complementarians is downplaying the importance of the feminist rebellion that defines our age, if not outright pretending that it isn’t happening. This is so common no one notices it, but once you spot the pattern it is truly striking.
For an example of this in practice see Pastor Tim Bayly’s post Revoice and faithful pastoral care (3): is it really about sex, or marriage… Bayly makes a forceful argument that Christian men and women with same sex attraction should nevertheless marry and focus their sexual desire within (heterosexual) marriage. After making this case, he asks why Christian leaders aren’t encouraging this:
Why are pastors and elders not regularly saying to gays and lesbians who burn what the Apostle Paul said to gays and lesbians who burned in his own time, that it is better to marry than to burn. In other words, why aren’t pastors and church officers commanding those men and women who talk about their homosexual lusts to marry and raise up a godly seed for the Lord?
His conclusion is that this isn’t happening because Christian leaders aren’t willing to hold anyone to account (emphasis original):
Why don’t we repeat the Apostle Paul’s command to them, telling them to marry?
Pastoral care is dead…
I’m not sure about this, but I suspect the reason we avoid these conversations is that we never have any conversations like this with anyone in the church. We never warn from house to house, day and night with tears as the Apostle Paul did. If we don’t probe into heterosexual softness and laziness and irresponsibility, why would we probe into, let alone admonish, homosexual softness and laziness and irresponsibility.
So far, Pastor Bayly’s argument is truly counter-cultural. But then he shifts gears into complementarian orthodoxy. The real problem he explains is we aren’t willing to call out Christian men (emphasis mine):
In the church today, it is allee-allee-in-free with every form of sin, but no sin as much as effeminacy. Guys refuse to work. Guys change jobs all the time. Guys play video games in their parents’ basement, refusing to court anyone or leave home. Guys who are married use condoms or get snipped. Guys buy toys they go off and play with on weekends. Guys don’t love their wives or children. Guys aren’t intimate with their wives and children. Guys look at strange flesh and masturbate. Guys primp in front of the mirror. Guys spend their wealth and time primping their hair. Guys work out in the gym, then parade their obviously artificial muscles. Guys are narcissists and avoid responsibility like the plague.
Guys are effeminate—we’re all gay.
This is the complementarian lie. It is pure nonsense. Aside from his complaints about men pumping iron to create “artificial” muscles, and men using contraception, everything on his list is boilerplate. These are the sins nearly every Christian movie focuses on, because criticizing these sins is an easy crowd pleaser.
Moreover, everyone but complementarians acknowledges that our society has been transformed to allow and encourage women to dress like and act like men, but we still have (relatively) tight restrictions on what is appropriate for a man. For women this transformation has been so complete it is truly difficult for a woman to cross the line. Even conservatives cheer on ball busting butch women. But thankfully we still discourage men from being effeminate, despite a concerted push to change the way we think about the topic.
Why are feminists honest about the topic while complementarians pretend the opposite has happened? The reason is complementarians are terrified of telling women no. Calling out a fellow man feels good, and is easy. Calling out women is hard and feels awful. It is human nature to shirk what is painful and difficult, and instead do what is easy and enjoyable.
The disturbing thing is Pastor Bayly knows what is going on here. Back in 2002 he was a principle author of a PCA statement on women in combat. The committee couldn’t bring itself to tell Christian women that they should not put on the garb of a warrior, nor could it bring itself to tell women there were any combat roles they should not seek. Instead, the committee declared that the real problem was men forcing women into combat:
AREAS OF AGREEMENT AND DISAGREEMENT
The dearth of men ready to serve their country in defense of their wives and children is a concern shared by our entire committee.
There is no other way to put this: The statement quoted above is a bald faced lie. What was really happening was feminists were pushing for all male fields to be opened to women, with a liberal application of affirmative action. This was entirely open, over the course of decades. The same thing was happening in the military that happened in NFL locker rooms and police and fire departments. Women weren’t reluctantly filling the slots men refused to fill. They were shoving their way into male spaces. No one but complementarians denies this, and all but the most rabid complementarians have to be ashamed to have uttered this lie. They may as well claim that the recent feminist movies Wonder Woman and Ghost Busters aren’t feminist propaganda, but proof that male actors are refusing to play lead roles.
But the lie is common, which is the whole point. When women sinned in an unavoidably public way complementarians responded by:
- Not calling it sin. Women who serve are after all heroic.
- Blaming men for the sin complementarians weren’t even willing to acknowledge was a sin!
The irony is that in his post on encouraging gays to marry, Pastor Bayly complained about Christians being too squeamish to confront sin; to prove the point he then followed the exact same pattern!
Pastor Bayly does not always shy away from calling out women who take on men’s roles. As I’ve noted previously he recognizes that women are trying to push their way into leadership in the church, and no one wants to tell them no. Likewise, in this post he encouraged women to wear headcoverings in church, and wrote of the problem of:
…masculinity in women (taking leadership and authority, working out, getting ripped, teaching men, playing soldier, playing cop, playing pastor, being brash).
Pastor Bayly is all but alone when he does this, and this is the problem with his claim that Christian leaders are (of all sins) most unwilling to confront Christian men becoming effeminate. It simply isn’t true. Christian leaders do this all the time, even when the charge is false. What Christian leaders are (as a group) unwilling to confront is the very spirit of our age, women coveting to become men.