Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Christian Egalitarian Marriage

I recently saw an article that I believe gives a good run-down of what an egalitarian marriage looks like. The article lists five principles aspects of a practically egalitarian marriage. While I disagree with the author as to gender essentialism, in most other respects it's a very good representation. Here's the gist:

1 – Flexible Roles – The husband and the wife value their respective roles.  These roles for the husband and wife follow from their gifts and abilities, not from their gender. How do we determine roles? These are derived from assessing the gifts we bring to our partnership and finding mutual agreement for the good of each other.  Sometimes our gender will reveals our gifts: for a woman this may mean childbearing and for a man it may mean upper body strength.  But our gender alone will not curtail or privilege our calling to any one role if we lack the ability for that role.  A woman’s ability to bear children is unlike a man’s, and so she may play that role in the marriage. But the role of a parent is open to both father and mother.  In a CEM marriage, both partners could agree for the wife to stay home full-time and for the husband to work full time.  Or they could both agree to work part-time so they can co-parent their children.   Or they could both agree for the wife to work full time and the husband to stay at home full-time.  Each marriage is different, with different personalities and different goals.  The CEM allows flexibility, because neither spouse will be gifted to lead in every area of marriage.  Each leads where they are strong and able and, like instruments in a duet, they each defer to the leadership of the stronger in their gifted area.

2 – Complementary –  In a CEM, both sexes, the husband and wife, complement one another, from sex to making final decisions. Since each man differs from other men and since each woman differs from other women, the CEM will complement each other in a unique unassigned way.  Because we believe in differences, each partner wants input from the other sex to inform and round-out decisions.  The husband doesn’t consult with the wife as an advisor, but as an equal partner, a human more similar to him than different (Hebrew “ezer kenegdo” a helper corresponding to him).  The wife can and often will make final decisions for the good of the family just as the husband will. All CEM live out a complementary partnership.
3 – Two Spiritual Leaders – In a CEM, each spouse is responsible of taking care of their own growth and well-being, both before marriage and during marriage.  As each is gifted, leadership is a responsibility for both genders.  The husband and wife are both leaders in the home, including spiritual leaders.  This is distinct from even soft complementarians, as Tim Keller reveals when he preaches from Ephesians 5, “Paul says, first of all, if two Spirit-filled people get married, the wife should grant the husband leadership in the marriage.” Keller qualifies this by saying the husband MUST have submitted his ego to God if he is to be the leader in the marriage and that the way this leadership is played out is up to each couple (read full transcript of his “Hope for the Family” sermon).  However, this leadership, if it means anything, puts some final responsibility on the husband to ensure everyone is as spiritually mature as he thinks they should be. Egalitarians say that this kind of husbandly leadership
  1. debilitates the wife from being an equal in her spiritual responsibility and leadership
  2. and shoulders the husband with Adam’s burden of being “alone” in his responsibility (a situation Eve was made to change).
For a CEM marriage, Jesus is the spiritual leader, not the husband or wife.  A CEM that walks daily with Jesus will find each partner leading, liberating each other with new insight. CEM believes that only by being responsible of taking care of ourselves are we better able to reach out and love our spouse.  The husband and wife are to challenge one another in spiritual growth equally and both lead their children equally. The CEM is concerned not only that each spouse have equal worth but that each spouse be treated as equally human. CEM believe permanent leadership or subordination of one spouse over the other is dehumanizing and spiritually insulting.
4 – No Tie-Breakers - Disagreements in an CEM do not require a tie-breaking vote from the man because both spouses hold 50% of the vote.  If an impasse is reached, and a final decision is necessary, what does a CEM do?  When a decision affects one spouse more than another, then the spouse most affected makes the decision.  The same is true of the spouse who knows more about a situation.  A CEM agrees to these protocols well in advance of the decision because they have practiced it in the day-to-day.  But when both spouses are equally affected and have equal knowledge, then counsel is required.  For a CEM, it is irresponsible to surrender a genuine concern about a final decision because we care about each other’s growth. Proverbs says that in a multitude of counselors there is safety.  A marriage that cannot come to agreement regularly is a weak marriage.  A marriage that refuses outside counsel is a failing one.  None of this means that each spouse must seek approval from the other for every decision, for in most areas we have already decided the freedoms each has to make decisions on their own, from budgeting for charity to planned vacation days to the best way to mow the lawn.
I may be moved to help a homeless man. I have the freedom to donate my time, money and a meal to him if I so choose.  I do not need Dale’s permission or blessing to give out of my or our funds.  If we want to purchase something beyond $500 we talk about the idea with each other, not to get permission, but to see if the other spouse has some helpful input. We decide together to purchase or move forward.  However, if the  item (a snow blower) will affect Dale more than me, I cede the final decision to him.
Recently I received an invitation to speak for a three day event. I wanted to go, but not if I would need to get a sitter for our son. Dale volunteered to watch our son so I could attend the three day event.  All things being equal, full-time child-care is not my or my husband’s ideal way to spend a weekend. We prefer co-parenting so we each get time to ourselves and together with our son.  However, since this event was more important to me, I chose the best way to make it happen. Dale agreed. If we had disagreed, we would have engaged in more discussion, prayer and if still no clarity, eventually seeking counsel (we recommend a professional, licensed marriage therapist for impasse situations).  Decision-making where
  1. both parties have equal say 
  2. and can choose to submit if the issue means more to other person 
takes a lot more time at the beginning, but it prevents one spouse muscling out the other’s perspective in an effort to “take charge” or “man-up” or “be the leader.” It also prevents my resentment, passive aggression or manipulation. I am never the victim of my husband’s final decision-making.
5 – Love, Respect and Headship -  The husband is the head of the wife.  This is a position of honor, not of authority.  Adam had this honorable place with Eve, since Eve was created out of man (the same reason, symbolically, children are to honor their parents).  If the wife cannot respect her husband, this position alone of modeling the First Man is to evoke the respect.  In the same way, all men after Eve come from women (1 Cor 11:12 “For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God).   If the husband cannot respect his wife, this position alone of modeling The Mother of All Living (the meaning of “Eve”) is to evoke his respect.  In the same way, even lousy parents are to be honored by children simply because all children come from parents (that is not to say that all children must obey bad parents).  The other metaphor Paul uses is Messiah and his church, for it is upon the Messiah that the church is built, just as Adam became the first life upon which Eve was made and marriage was built.  Much has been made about the wife submitting and the husband loving in marriage.  CEM believes this and vice versa, too. Both the husband and wife are called to submit to one another (Eph 5:21) and Jesus tells all Christians to “love one another” (John 13:34) and to “lay down your life for your friends” (John 15:13). Both love (Titus 2:4) and submission (CEM believe submitting means cooperation not obedience: see Strong’s note on Greek non-military uses of “submit”) apply to both spouses in marriage.

I would add, for my own marriage, that the key to functioning without rigid gender roles, especially if you were raised with them, is honesty, openness, vulnerability, and a thick skin. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment