ROLES AND COMPLEMENTARITY
Complementarity is not ONLY about women being primarily nurturers and men being primarily providers, although most Christians agree those are accurate facts. To be complementary means forming a complement, completing each other. The concept and word was born in 1590-1600. Although I believe that when Paul said for husband to view wife as “body of” and for wife to view husband as “head of”, he was mirroring the two being complementary to each other and together forming a complete whole. The meaning of complementary is not directed at any specific particulars.
So, ”complementarity without hierarchy” is in fact staying within the correct realm of the actual meaning of complementary. As such there is no requirement for hierarchy in being complementary. If pressed I believe that egals are perhaps being more complementatry than those Christian who coined the term complementarian some 10 or so years ago. While Complementarian evolved in meaning to limit the women to roles in which they complemented men in certain ways and freed men to be everything else (thus complentarity is achieved by restricting one group to promote the freedoms of the other group), I don’t really see that as real complementarity.
Some non-egals argue that egals say there are no differences in how men and women are to relate to each other. They claim the goal is to be symmetric. They then conclude that If there aren’t any differences in gender roles or in how men and women are to relate to each other, then egals are assuming no differences between genders.
Egals don’t say that there are no differences in how men and women relate to each other. There are no required differences in addition to natural differences. Because individuals are so different it is not displaying God’s unconditional love toward others to require them to fit your picture of acceptable roles for men and women in life. All men are not lovers of blue ‘things’. All women are not lovers of ‘pink’ things. This should give you some small clue that we do not in any way preach symmetry. To tell all women to be the same and all men to be the same as is preached by some hierarchalists is far more symmetric.
There are many activities associated with gender. But there are few inherent activities associated with gender. Childbirth is an activity that is inherently a woman’s activity, in the same way that inseminating a woman is inherently a man’s activity. An inherent activity is one that the opposite gender is not capable of performing at all.
Roles of many sorts are not an issue of inherent abilities but are man made organization of activities that groups of people decide that certain groups of people should do. The concept of ‘roles’ came in about 1600 in France and referred to an actors part in a play. It is not a Biblical concept that I have found.
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