Ignorance is something we are all wise to guard against, and in writing this I sincerely pray for the wisdom required with which to do these topics justice. This article is not really about the theologies of complementarianism versus egalitarianism, but it does contrast the two in a general sort of way.
First of all, I need to say as an egalitarian, I believe that men and women have vital aspects to contribute to society, and both are equally important in giving society the diversity that society requires.
If society is to become safe and ecumenical for all, it needs representation and voice from the common mind and the minority alike. And this is distinctly biblical, because Jesus issued the sharpest challenge around the concept of how we treat the least-of-these (see Matthew 25). Jesus, of course, was drawing on an abundance of Old Testament tradition, where the Law spoke of the favour-of-provision to the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner or alien. It is implicit and explicit in the Bible that we care for those who need help; to do this well, they need a voice. I know that there is a negative connotation to the phrase ‘social gospel’, but the fact is we cannot separate the gospel from God’s love of people—after all, God is inherently a social God (think, the Trinity).
The reason why egalitarianism is faith for the future is because it’s a fairer and safer way of leadership in a social construct that forms cohesive society. I believe egalitarianism removes unnecessary power structures, where under other constructs of leadership there are power rules that are implied that divide people’s rights at a level beyond merit. In other words, wherever we have to accept what we have to accept because those are the rules, without there being obvious reasons for the rules to all, those rules are a tyranny.
I believe that with leadership comes responsibility. Nobody would dispute that. But when you give one gender a particular kind of leadership, just because they are that gender, it can seem nonsensical to the other gender, and it puts too much pressure on many within the gender set that has been given the leadership.
There are many men who think they are great leaders, but their philosophies don’t always meet with their behaviours. I know mine don’t. Sure, there are men who are exemplary in terms of virtue, just as there are women whose characters seem unequivocally good. But the vast majority of us have our flaws, and so many couples and teams would be better served to lead together, to collaborate, and to work out solutions to problems in a way where everyone has an equal voice, not unlike the words of the council at Jerusalem in Acts 15:28, where those leaders said, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” because consensus had been achieved, even after vigorous debate. There has to be unity in reaching decisions for the decisions to be godly decisions.
Of course, decisions must be made, but does it need to be a man who makes such decisions? Surely the person we need in the decision-making role is someone who is capable of weighing the input, discerning the voice, and good at making decisions.
The more obvious issue I contend with, in terms of the need of a more egalitarian faith for the future, is the simple matter of respect for the sexes.
Both men and women have opportunities to exemplify respect for the other, within the overall realm of the concept of respectfulness. Respectfulness is simply a godly attribute, whereby we actively go about our lives not offending people.
Yes, I know there is this thing called freedom of speech, but freedom of speech is not an invitation to be lazy, and to say what we darn well feel like. Everything we say needs to be kind and considered, just as an adult behaviour is reasonable, reliable, logical, realistic, and rational. God is calling us to a respect that meets the divine standard, where we treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12), which is just as much about treating others by the same standard that they apply, and not by our own standard.
I think the biggest thing that is missing in our social media world from a faith perspective is that sweet reasonableness of empathy for the other person in our midst; the person who, as Paul would say, we are to die for, so that they may live (2 Corinthians 4:10). This is why the gospel is so captivating! We cannot help but convince people as to the goodness of God when we ourselves are prepared to go to our own crosses in becoming like Jesus in our social situations—for the other person.
Can you see how inimitable the example of Jesus is when we portray his example in sacrificing ourselves and our own wants for others and theirs? Others go first. That’s leadership!
We desperately need a leadership construct for faith that oozes respect for all, and one that especially gives priory and voice to those who have no (or less) priory and voice.