A False Dichotomy
In the face of the extreme patriarchy (aka male supremacism, aka complementarianism) movement, many are trying to establish places of dialogue in order to find common or middle ground between that group and Christian Egalitarianism (frequently called by what has become the pejorative “feminism”).
Question: Where is the middle point between extreme and equal? In the picture here, M.F.S. stands for “matriarchy/female supremacism”, EGAL stands for “egalitarian”, and P.M.S. stands for “patriarchy/male supremacism”.
Egalitarianism IS the middle. The opposite extreme to male supremacism or patriarchy would be female supremacism or matriarchy. What part of equal means not equal? What part of “nobody is superior” means either men are superior or women are superior?
So when people say they want to find common ground between comps and egals, they are looking for a point that doesn’t exist. It would be like trying to find balance between the fulcrum of a teeter-totter and one end. They are chasing a phantom.
Likewise with the common description of egal as “extreme egal”; it’s an oxymoron. By definition, equality is the lack of extremity; it is a balance point. There is either equality or there is not. And this egal position is no attempt to compromise the gospel or find dialogue with evil; instead, it simply acknowledges the equality of male and female, between any one believer and any other believer, in the church, home, or society at large.
We are all equally human. Our differences are between personalities, abilities, talents, and experiences. The obvious biological differences are exactly that: biological; it’s the way to tell male from female. There are really more differences among males or females than between males and females. To tell whether or not something is likely to be a universal and ingrained trait, you would have to prove that it cuts across the boundaries of culture, time, language, etc. Such proof is in the realm of “always” and “never”, not “averages” or “majorities”.
And such a view of equality hardly means we egals don’t appreciate the differences in biology! We are not teaching or advocating androgyny in any form. What we are teaching is that it is wrong to try to homogenize all men to have the same personalities and talents and experiences; likewise for all women. Should all men be considered clones? Are they all identical? Neither are all women clones or all identical. Equal is not identical!
PMSers will take that last statement and say “See? Women can be equal with men but still play a subservient role to them.” That’s obvious doublespeak; it tries to equate equality with permanent hierarchy. If one man is a slave owner over another man, are they equal? No. Are they identical? No. If two men are equal business partners, are they equal? Yes. Are they identical? No.
Equality is found in a relationship where neither bosses the other on a permanent basis by virtue of an intrinsic quality of being. Temporary voluntary hierarchies do not violate ontological equality, but permanent involuntary hierarchies do. When one will is permanently and involuntarily subservient to another, that is a hierarchy and the servant is unequal to the master. Conversely, when one will is temporarily and voluntarily subjected to another, that does not violate the meaning of equality, because it is not based upon one’s intrinsic qualities (inherited, biological) but on a temporary agreement-- an agreement made by equals.
This understanding not only negates the permanent and involuntary subordination of one believer to another on the basis of race, class, or sex, but also the modern attempt to make Jesus a permanent sub-God to the Father, and the Spirit a permanent sub-God to both the Father and the Son. And since all three members of the Trinity share a common will, hierarchy is impossible.