“In this season we shifted into ministry-and-family mode, neglecting our intimacy and failing to work through our issues. This became apparent to me when my pregnant wife came home from a hair appointment with her previously long hair (which I loved) chopped off and replaced with a short, mommish haircut. She asked what I thought, and could tell from the look on my face. She had put a mom’s need for convenience before being a wife. She wept.”
I haven’t read the entire book, just the introduction and first chapter. Honestly the chapter as a whole was disappointingly tame, although I didn’t skip ahead to any of the particularly lascivious chapters. As a soon-to-be-married this passage struck me as mildly sick. But I present this quote for two reasons: 1) It’s always fun to point out the weird and morbidly curious things Mark Driscoll writes/says and 2) Books like these are why the egalitarian movement is losing the battle for evangelical hearts and minds.
The first reason is self-evident and needs no commentary. The second point can be clarified: Complementarians can write bizarre, offensive, mind-blowingly tone-deaf books on gender, marriage and family…but they’re writing them.
My fiancee and I, despite having all the foibles of being young dumb and in love, have been trying to be responsible about this whole getting hitched business. Most of our friends suggested books to read to prepare us for marriage. Most of our friends are complementarian; wonderful, kind and generous Christians, but complementarian all the same. My fiancee and I are more of the egalitarian strain, so we took the general advice of reading marriage books and pursued some that would fit more in line with our beliefs concerning gender and marriage. We immediately ran into a problem. Namely, they don’t exist.
Well, at least as far as we can tell. Compare the bookstores of the leading evangelical organizations committed to views on gender: Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), egalitarian, and the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), complementarian. For couples committed to the latter view of gender there are numerous resources available in what would be considered the “Christian living” genre that detail marriage and family ideologies from a complementarian perspective. Similar books from an egalitarian perspective are thin on the ground. Simply put, egalitarian resources for marriages and families are vastly outnumbered by the resources published by complementarians.
My impression is that egalitarian literature tends to be more academic or rhetorical in nature. These resources are valuable, and necessary to meet comparable literature from the complementarian party. The problem is that this is not where the real battle for evangelical gender ideology is being fought.
Stanford sociologist Cecilia Ridgeway, in her book “Framed by Gender”, argues persuasively (and I think correctly) that gender ideology is learned in and perpetuated at the level of the family. Children learn about gender statuses and roles from what they observe in the house. Who earns the money, how the power hierarchy is established, how domestic responsibilities are divided among the parents…the gender ideology of individuals are largely shaped by what they observe as children growing up in a household where gender is a salient concept in the role dynamics of their parents. The implication of this line of reasoning is simple: win the family, win the gender ideology debate.
Egalitarians have not made inroads on winning the family. They’re not even showing up on the battlefield where these conflicts of ideology are fought. The egalitarian offensive is made in books that may change minds, sometimes, but efforts are not being made in explicating the egalitarian vision of gender relations in marriages and families. Complementarians, whether consciously or unconsciously, direct their resources where it counts. Its no surprise that the side of the debate that has made a thriving market on Christian living resources for marriages and families is by and large giving up no ground despite a consistent loosening of gender ideology within evangelicalism over the past several decades.
The message here for egalitarians is simple, and like any good point can be expressed as a sports cliche: you lose 100% of the games you don’t show up for. Mark Driscoll and company can write books and we can mock them in a neverending, self-satisfying dance of moral and intellectual superiority, but the books we mock are the books that are winning the war.