One of the things that I’ve encountered over the years of being egalitarian is the reference to some man who said X or some marriage that works in some way the person speaking of it believes is wonderful and healthy and mutual. There is an idea perpetuated in Complementarian circles that Complementarian done right is beautiful and mutual and life affirming. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Complementarian, as a doctrine, is about wife only submission and hoping that the man is a benevolent dictator. I say hope because at the end of the day there is nothing referenced in Scripture that requires this of him. Women are told that if they would just submit more or the right way that their husbands would stop beating them, cheating, drinking, etc. Ultimately women are left with the hope that if they just pray enough and right God will change their husband and everything will be okay.

Except God doesn’t work that way and marriage doesn’t work that way and you can’t lay down your life to an abuser without expecting to get killed. Willingness to die doesn’t deter someone intent on killing you.

For many the idea that God doesn’t work that way is jarring. God doesn’t work that way, though. God doesn’t override our free will — free will is a gift and it is respected even when we are using it abusively. Trust me, there are times I wish God would override free will! But knowing that isn’t how God works is such a wonderful reminder that the person doing the abuse is completely responsible for the consequences of his actions. At the end of the day the person who is being prayed for has to want to be changed. In our humility when we turn things over to God and ask for help, that is when we’re changed.

So what about those marriages that seem great? They are complementation done WRONG! They involve a man elevating his wife and respecting her in a way that Complementarian doctrine opposes because he is always afforded the final say by the doctrine. If he chooses to go with her wishes occasionally because he sees the wisdom in them he is not mutually edifying her but merely being reasonable. If he gives her the final say he has failed completely to realize his position of power afforded by God. He has abdicated his control.

This is why my response to seeing marriage done right is to affirm it and point out that it is, in fact, Egalitarian. Because it’s not the people who are caught up in Complementarian doctrine who the enemy — we battle not against flesh and blood. It is the doctrine itself that is a power and principality of this present darkness. It is the inherent doctrine of Complemtnarian marriages and everything that it is built upon and leads to that is the enemy.

Healthy marriages are Egalitarian regardless of what doctrine they espouse
Healthy marriages are Egalitarian regardless of what doctrine they espouse

The idea that Complementarian can be done right is like saying that if you could learn how to drown right you would know how to swim. There are things drowning people can do that will move them away from danger and allow their body to start swimming. And if they were ending in swimming we wouldn’t need to worry about anyone dying when they find themselves drowning. Except drowning right is dying. Swimming is drowning wrong!

Complementation done right is oppression and Patriarchy. It is death. Complementarian done wrong sometimes stumbles into healthy Egalitarian land — pointing that out is often the very thing that gets people’s attention. If you see a healthy marriage they aren’t Complementarian. Healthy marriages always function as Egalitarian.