Ephesians 5:22-27, the bedrock of complementarian theology.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (NIV)
So much to say, but today I’m not interested in looking at the passage itself. I’m interested in the response to the passage. A comment I’ve heard many times from complementarian men runs along the lines of “You’re lucky–men have it much harder than women. Women are only compared to the church. Men are compared to Christ on the cross, an unachievable standard!”
This comment is always presented casually: the officiant at a wedding turning from the bride to the groom during the homily and saying “And now for the harder part.” Generally it seems to be an attempt to gloss over the obvious implication that women are fundamentally inferior than men; no one is going to suggest that Christ and the church are equals.
Yet it is an argument. In essence, it is the argument that women shouldn’t want the man’s role because it’s so much more difficult.
Trying to convince women that they shouldn’t want what they aren’t allowed: social engineering. This argument has been presented, in the most casual, soothing tones, to women since the beginning of suffrage. You don’t really want a job, trust me. You’re happier at home than men are, out there working. G.K. Chesterton presents it in What’s Wrong with the World, as he argues that women should not vote:
When, therefore, it is said that the tradition against Female Suffrage
keeps women out of activity, social influence and citizenship, let us
a little more soberly and strictly ask ourselves what it actually does
keep her out of. It does definitely keep her out of the collective act
of coercion; the act of punishment by a mob. The human tradition does
say that, if twenty men hang a man from a tree or lamp-post, they
shall be twenty men and not women. Now I do not think any reasonable
Suffragist will deny that exclusion from this function, to say the least
of it, might be maintained to be a protection as well as a veto. (p. 54)
It is reminiscent of the endless barrage of warnings against alcohol that pervade high schools: You aren’t allowed to have it, but you wouldn’t like it anyway. You’re better off without it. But most of all, it reminds me of this:
‘Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m really awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard.’
‘And that,’ put in the Director sententiously, ‘that is the secret of happiness and virtue–liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.’ (Brave New World, pp. 27, 15)
Perhaps complementarians should try hypnopædia?