Wednesday, August 02, 2006

To Codepoke on Egalitarian/Complementarian

Update: Codepoke has replied here. And he comes awfully close to issuing a challenge: if complementarians aren't complacent about abuse of women (whatever form it may take), then why isn't it on their agenda? (Kind of implying: if it's not on your agenda, isn't that the working definition of complacent?) So: complementarians out there: What do you say? (For anyone curious, I'm still reading the arguments back and forth between the egalitarian and complementarian camps; I'm asking questions at this point with an aim to keep the conversation going at least until I've heard more of what everyone has to say.)

I was typing up a comment in response to Codepoke on egalitarian views and found that my comment was way too long for the comment box. In the same circumstances I'd have told someone else to use their own blog. So here goes. Please read Codepoke's piece; it's worth the time. I'm responding to Codepoke as "you" throughout this post because it's in response to the linked article; other readers please don't take a reference to "you" personally during the course of this post. And fair warning, if someone doesn't care for the topic of rape at all, maybe you'd rather skip this post.

Reader's digest version of the part of Codepoke's post that I'm responding to: he hits some very good points about how culture is complacent about mistreatment of women in comparison to, say, the recent public scandal in which young boys were abused in certain dioceses in the Roman Catholic church. He has some disturbing examples of church (congregation/leadership) complicity in husbands mistreating their wives. But by placing the topic of sexual abuse within his argument, there's an implied link between sexual abuse and complementarianism (the view that women and men have equal humanity but different roles), and a stated link between wanting less sexual abuse and egalitarianism (the view that women and men have equal humanity and therefore equal roles).

There is also some mention in his post about how abused women react to abuse; this portrayal does not correspond to what I've seen myself and even seems potentially unfair to the women themselves -- which is where I start my response.

I know this is a delicate topic, and I'm going to mention something the men in general may not know. Those of us who have been abused or raped -- you were tactful enough never to mention the "r" word but I'll put it on the table -- I've been in on a good number of those talks that we have when the men aren't around. We're a sisterhood. And in all the talks I've been in on, I've never heard any of us say "boys will be boys". I've heard stunned amazement that someone could be that violent, heartless, ruthless -- but never heard a reaction that was dismissive, never heard someone who was even marginally accepting of that kind of outrageous crime. We give each other our shoulders to cry on, even share an odd laugh at the ridiculous situations we find ourselves in. (How the blazes do you get fingerprint powder off your windowsill? That stuff is stubborn, but it's not like in the Better Housekeeping tip books, y'know, right next to getting out grape juice stains or whatever.) Is it possible that someone somewhere has said "boys will be boys"? Oh, no doubt, all kinds of people say all kinds of things. But in my experience that's not typical at all.

You said, "Where is the outrage for the abused girls?" I'd really love for there to be some outrage from the men's side. It's usually this squirmy guilt-by-association reaction, to which I can only roll my eyes and say: hey, most of us take it for granted that decent men chase thoughts like that back out of their heads when they occur rather than act on them. I bet my life on that every time I go to the grocery store, without thinking twice about it, so about the "guilt by association thing" I think the average man (one without a record of perpetrating sexual abuse) should lighten up already.

So "where is the outrage for the abused girls?" Bullseye. And what outrage there is tends to take the form of wanting to kill the perpetrator in slow and nasty ways, which I think, my own opinion here, approaches zero on the helpfulness scale. ("Great. And the person who cares the most is either wasting his time or will end up in jail, and is turning himself into a revenge-crazed co-victim and posing in his hero cape, meanwhile never having offered me a shoulder or a hand-up.")

But I have to say too: I'm very suspicious of the topic of sexual abuse being used for political ends or to score points in an argument. (Don't even get me started about how the pro-legalized-abortion folks exploit rape victims politically to shame their political opponents into silence for the benefit of abortion candidates who are, as a group, 99% of them pregnant from sexual irresponsibility rather than sexual abuse. I don't want the 1% pregnant by rape to be forgotten, but I don't want other people piggybacking on our trauma for their political ends. It really ticks me off.)

I know all abuse -- including sexual abuse -- has a legitimate place in a conversation on human rights. I also agree that the topic is sometimes swept under the rug (though at other times it's overdone to where people really can get sick of hearing about it), and that whatever else we've achieved as a culture on this topic, a healthy level of discussion isn't one of them.

Does sexual abuse really and legitimately flow from a complementarian viewpoint? Nope. Do the egalitarians manage outrage? Mostly over complementarians. As far as outrage over sexual abuse, I haven't seen it yet, though I've seen lots of pious moping about how the problem is generally someone else's fault. I smell a rat whenever a person (or camp) locates sinfulness outside itself. That goes for both sides. Would the world be better off, from the standpoint of reducing sexual abuse, if all men thought women were of equal value? No doubt. Would the world be better off, from the standpoint of reducing sexual abuse, if all men took up the roles of protectors in light of women's (typically) relative weakness and lesser aggressiveness? Probably so there too.

When we look at our own culture's past, or other cultures around the globe now, it's really easy to cry "oppression" when looking at rules like "women stay home or else be accompanied in public" ... but the parts of the world that are so safe that even a woman with small children can go out safely are few and rare. It takes a remarkably well-ordered society for women to be safe alone outside the home; most of human history has simply not achieved that level of safety. If you lived in a place that dangerous, would you keep your daughter home or tell her to go out only with a male relative? If you picked "with a male relative", would it be oppressive? I think we should grant our forefathers the benefit of the doubt as to whether they were intending to oppress or to protect with some of these rules.

You know I'm still listening in the egalitarian/complementarian debate. I also know you never explicitly connected complementarians and a culture that fails to be outraged over sexual abuse of girls in the same way as sexual abuse of boys, though you did fairly directly connect egalitarianism to trying to do things better. I have no objections to trying to do things better! I have no objections to trying to make people more fully awake towards justice. But I don't think it's justified for the egalitarians to mark the "culture of sexual abuse" tally against the complementarians. I take it for granted that decent people everywhere are against sexual abuse. I also suspect that the original intent of some of the "oppressive" rules of the past was to protect from all kinds of harm including sexual abuse. If law and order ever collapse again in our lifetimes, I think the "oppressive" statutes of the past will make a whole lot of sense. It's still a fair question what makes sense here and now.

Take care & God bless


codepoke said...

This is the first time anyone has ever commented on one of my posts on a separate blog and linked me back. That's cool in and of itself. :-) But what's the etiquette here?

Well, not being sure, I will post back from my site here. Thanks again for your reply and balance.

Danny Kaye said...

Speaking of etiquette...I find myself as a commenter trying to figure out on whose blog I should comment.

Solution = cut and paste into both. ;-)

I must say that WF stole a bit of my thunder. (Though she expressed it much better than I could anyway.) It was the word "most" that got to me. It assumed that either most of the men are abusing most of the women, or that a few men are abusing most of the women and most of the men are keeping quiet about it.

I have not sat in on very many meetings about abusive situations. But the ones in which I have sat in on have never ended with the "poo-pooing" by a male leader. There has always been corrective action taken. The authorities have even been notified when necessary.

I will not pretend to be naive and say that the situations you (Codepoke) talked about don't exist. But to say that most women are abused seems a bit of a stretch.

Having said all that, let me jump onto the other side of the fence for a sec.

I will say that if a brother or sister knows of abuses in the church, then it is his or her responsibility before God to report it and make sure the perp is dealt with. This responsibility surely falls into the catagory of sheparding God's people (and non-Christians, too, for that matter). back to the other, other side of the fence again...

I know we will eventually get to the "women in leadership" issue. But for now I just want to say that simply because there are abuses within and without the church, doesn't mean the roles should be changed to "make up for the slights and plights against women." I believe that would be in line with paying today's minorities for what happened over a hundred and fifty years ago.

I like the heart of what you are saying. It is compassionate, passionate, and honest. I just haven't been convinced, yet, that it is biblical grounds for women's roles in leadership over men.

Let me add one more thing...
Weekend fisher said:
"And what outrage there is tends to take the form of wanting to kill the perpetrator in slow and nasty ways, which I think, my own opinion here, approaches zero on the helpfulness scale. ("Great. And the person who cares the most is either wasting his time or will end up in jail, and is turning himself into a revenge-crazed co-victim and posing in his hero cape, meanwhile never having offered me a shoulder or a hand-up.")"

BINGO!!! I don't know how many times I have heard about a situation in the news (or in life close to home) and found myself instantly steeped in sin with thoughts of cruel and unusual punishments that should be issued to men and women who do such vicious things to innocents.

God forgive my obviously evil tendencies and grant me the heart of love...even toward those who, by even the world's standards, don't deserve a speck of it.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey Danny

About the revenge thing. The topic of *justice* is so difficult when it comes to rape. You start with "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" -- and while that's justice, it's also one of the things Christ singled out for corrective comment.

"Make the punishment fit the crime" but is there a threshhold at which the crime itself is so horrible that to repay in kind lessens your own humanity? If we went with the "eye for an eye" etc. you'd hand over a rapist to Bruno the Enforcer for his just returns -- but that would be multiplying evil in a hideous way.

I've asked myself for a long time about the difference between justice and revenge, and I still don't have a complete answer. But I'm fairly sure that, if the black mark on someone else's soul is transferred to your own in the process, it was revenge, not justice.

And God aims for higher: that the black spot be removed from the *other* person's soul in the process, and he's restored to a freer state. Though it still makes me queasy to think about.

Take care & God bless

DugALug said...


Okay this is interesting. I think I may do exactly what DK is doing.

I wish I would have read this before my comments. (Actually your comments too DK).

I can't help but fall back to the point that injustice is just that. Abuse, is an act of injustice perpertrated on another individual. It is not gender-based: it is sin before God and man. When we turn our heads away from injustice, or rationalize it, we are compromising the word of God: the last time I checked, our God is not a God of compromise.

It comes exactly down to the issue of the good-samaritan. As religios and political leaders past by the victim, espousing the reasons why they wouldn't help, a less-than-likely individual rose to the occasion to address the need. When we walk by blatant and wontan injustice, we are no different than the examples in Jesus' parable.

Thanks for the articulation.

God Bless