This is the second in a series about my questions, fears, and experiences when coming out as egalitarian.
In my years of blogging, I’ve been developing a thicker skin. I’m a sensitive, thoughtful person dedicated to pursuing truth and expressing it clearly. Whenever someone questioned my beliefs, even if it was the same, old, worn out counterargument, I felt compelled to engage with their beliefs and reevaluate mine — all in the name of intellectual honesty. How could I expect my readers to consider my arguments and change their minds if I didn’t do the same?
This was exhausting. When I finally found something true, good, and beautiful to share, the critics forced me back to the drawing table, back to the confusion, doubt, and discouragement. I never felt like I could live my beliefs. I was always being asked to reconsider.
The egalitarian/complementarian controversy caused the most angst. Such conversations were always framed as the Biblical, black-and-white, literal interpretation vs. womanmade, squishy, hermeneutical gymnastics. There could be only one valid, sensible interpretation of passages on gender, and it wasn’t egalitarianism.
Those terms for conversation kills all interest in talking right there for me, but I felt guilty closing the conversation. I was 99.999% sure egalitarianism was the way to go, but what if I failed to consider that 0.001% — and what if that 0.001% was crucial to know the truth?
I’ve tried to find the balance between confidently living my beliefs without second thoughts but also being willing to admit when an opposing belief is right — and then I realized that I already knew how to do that.
For the majority of my life, I researched, believed, and promoted complementarian theology without hearing the egalitarian side. And then, after years of thinking complementarianism explained everything, it started making no sense within itself, with the nature of God, and with the women I knew. When I first Googled egalitarianism, I feared falling into false teaching, but I Googled it out of desperation, and I considered it out of intellectual honesty. Its interpretation of Scripture, understanding of the gospel, and affirmation of women seemed more good, true, and beautiful than complementarianism, so I switched allegiances — in a painful, messy, but good way.
Even in my close-minded ignorance, I could see holes in an argument. I started investigating those holes. I realized the argument was inadequate. I looked for another argument that satisfied the questions and emptiness in the first argument. And that led me to greater truth.
I’m comfortable not reconsidering complementarianism because I’ve asked hard questions before. I’ve walked hard paths alone for the sake of truth. If egalitarianism has holes (and I’m sure it does), I’ll find them and question them with the same intensity I questioned complementarianism, the belief system I initially didn’t want to give up.
I’m comfortable not reconsidering complementarianism because I took more than enough time to understand it. Check the archives of my old blog if you don’t believe me: I swallowed complementarianism hook, line, and sinker. From the ages of 11-19, I studied it, implemented it, and saw the world through it. I can still argue from the complementarian position just fine. That was my childhood, as a nerdy, theologically-inclined kid desperate to live a pleasing Christian life. Not only did I study complementarianism, I lived it and observed it and found it wanting.
I’m comfortable not reconsidering complementarianism because I haven’t been convinced by any of its arguments since coming out as egalitarian. I’m a pretty fair-minded, tolerant person who doesn’t mind conceding a good point, but complementarian arguments coming from someone else don’t look any more convincing to me than they did coming from my own mouth.
But most of all, I’m comfortable not reconsidering complementarianism because I find egalitarianism to be more true, good, and beautiful. Why would I reconsider something I found inadequate when I’ve found something fulfilling?
It seems pretty straightforward, but there were mental blocks that held me back. With my passion for egalitarianism, I didn’t want people to say, “I’ll never become egalitarian” with the same fervor I said, “I’ll never go back to complementarianism.” (I recently encountered somebody who was allegedly egalitarian and then switched to complementarianism. Awkward.)
Then I realized that I couldn’t change people’s minds, and that when I was a complementarian, I swore up and down I would never join the dark side too. Sometimes, life, time, other people, and the Holy Spirit are better persuaders than I. Currently, I have no problem telling content complementarians, “I’m not interested in arguing, but I’m happy to explain my viewpoint.” I like conversations and discussions, not debates and accusations.
Then there’s this other thing, so sneaky and subtle that it took me several years to uncover: Complementarians tend to assert that theirs is the default position, and egalitarianism is the aberration; that complementarianism is as old as the gospel, and egalitarianism is as new as third-wave feminism; that complementarianism is rooted in obvious gender differences, and egalitarianism is rooted in overreaction and rebellion.
To be honest, deep down, I still believed complementarianism was the default position too. It’s hard to think otherwise. My church supported it. My family practiced it. Newlyweds, older women, best friends, random Christian people all believed it. I let their assertions that complementarianism was the Biblical, natural, sensible position get to me. I was told I was throwing the baby out with the bathwater and swinging the pendulum the opposite direction (classic metaphors people love to use on anybody who questions their beliefs). I absorbed this insinuation that I was the outlier, the rebel, and the liberal for going against the complementarian interpretation of Scripture.
But actually, I’m not any of those things. I simply disagree with complementarianism. I’m carrying out the gospel to its logical conclusion in reference to women. I’m interpreting Scripture in its historical and literary context. I didn’t need to feel on the defensive, bowing down to an “older,” “less emotional” teaching. My view was valid, Biblical, and sensible too — even moreso.
All of this freed me to say, “I’m an egalitarian, and I’m not reconsidering or apologizing. I’ve found something good, and I’m holding onto it.” I’m not saying I won’t listen to alternative viewpoints. (I still follow complementarian personalities I respect on social media and RSS feed.)
I’m not even saying I’m right. I’m merely saying, I don’t see a need to reconsider right now, and until I have a reason to reconsider, I’m not reconsidering. I will write about and advocate for the full inclusion and equality of women in the home, church, and society without reserve; I will live out my marriage and womanhood with confidence; I will convince those who will be convinced and not be upset by those who aren’t; I will stay friends with complementarians and be frank and gracious about our differences; I will concede good points and ignore bad ones.
There’s a time to consider, and there’s a time to live a life already. And now I’m living.
As an egalitarian, would you or have you reconsidered complementarianism? I would love to hear your thoughts!
// The first article in this series, on getting out of awkward, unhelpful conversations, and why I submit in my egalitarian marriage