November 5, 2015

Going Off-Script

The other day I was thinking about the 'tunnel under the world' concept. Basically, the idea is that our mundane world is under the direct influence or control of another reality in which all possible futures or destinies are already written. It's agents exist to see to it that we don't deviate from 'the plan' or 'the script' that their people have written for each and every one of us. Their agents can be invisible to us, but they're responsible for unlikely series of events that alter the decisions we make. In such scenarios, humanity has limited free will.  

Christianity is much the same way - it's own 'plan' or 'script' is Complementarianism. It's advertised as God's holy plan for perfect marriages and happy families - so it's a tall order to fill. Churches try to 'adjust' or 'nudge' it's outliers to get with the plan by delivering sermon after sermon to spouses and families, and often excludes it's singles. After all, they don't want to encourage them to be single. Everybody has their role to play, limits they cannot surpass, and work they must do.

Reality, however, isn't a respecter or roles. There are times when accidents, disease, age, or work likes to flip the script. The men and women who have lived in retirement facilities are all walking examples of this: elderly men who never learned to cook and so they eat nothing but t.v. dinners and elderly women who never learned to manage finances and so they burn through their money. Each knew their role, but they were unprepared to take up their spouses' responsibilities when they died or were incapable of carrying out their role. It happens just the same way with younger people, a wife might have an opportunity to get a job that pays better than her husband's. A husband might be unsatisfied with his work schedule because he'd rather be there for his family. Complementarianism would tell the lot of them that the roles are non-negotiable and to deviate from that would doom their families to a less than ideal existence.

The script of complementarianism only works so long as it works - I remember one man writing into an authority on complementarianism asking what to do about his specific situation; his wife was now experiencing health issues and no longer had the energy to get up early to cook meals, do the laundry, or keep the house clean. Was it acceptable for him to pick up the slack by doing her chores even though he was a man? The less than helpful advice was to accept the reality that his wife's death was immanent, divorce her, and marry another woman who could cook meals, do laundry, and keep the house clean. To that authority, 'gender roles' were far more important than fulfilling the vows to cherish one another in sickness and health and only parting at death.

So what it really boils down to is playing on fear. Making us afraid that two people cannot make their relationship work without a strict set of rules about their individual roles. Making is afraid that a husband and a wife cannot mutually make a marriage work without a Biblical basis. Making us afraid that deviation from the script is the quickest way to a failed marriage and a broken family. There's just one thing - there's really no proof that complementarianism keeps it's promises.

I've done enough of my own genealogy to know that gender role teachings always have their exceptions. For centuries, women in poorer areas of the country have always taken to generating income by any means necessary - whether it's as a waitress, nurse, teacher, or factory worker, or as someone who makes and sells various crafts. They've been doing business for a very long time - usually having to work harder for less money and they usually have family responsibilities on top of the demands from work. For them, Complementarianism is a burden that doesn't offer them relief or lighten the load.

Fortunately, there's a lot of complementarian families that recognize that their life is so much easier when they're functionally egalitarianism - as complementarians in name only, they gain the approval of the church but often are happier as a result of being able to help each other. They went off of the script and went their own way and are better for it. Who knows, perhaps one day they'll gladly be openly known as egalitarians when the church stops treating egalitarians as heretics.

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