I’ve been listening to a sermon on gender roles by Joshua Harris, whom some readers may recognize as the author of the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He’s also the senior pastor of Covenant Life Church (CLC), the flagship church in SGM, a group of affiliated churches with deep roots and influence in the evangelical complementarian movement.
I’ll be blogging about Harris’s sermon over a series of posts. It’s a perfect illustration of how complementarian leaders require the subjugation of women in the name of God, all while spouting lies about how submission is a blessing from God for women, and lies about how they believe women are equal to men.
As part of his introduction to the sermon, Harris says the following:
We need to talk more about what this means to be submissive, because that’s a big concept, it can be a confusing concept, and it’s often misrepresented and misunderstood.
The thing is, complementarian leaders are quite aware that most people outside complementarian communities would respond to their beliefs with horror and indignation. So they often lead with a disclaimer that what they’re saying doesn’t actually mean what it obviously means. People who present complementarianism as a message of female subordination to men are either confused or, worse, have an agenda to deceive women and lure them away from having God’s best. This is the rhetoric I heard constantly growing up – submission doesn’t mean inequality, it doesn’t mean checking your brain at the door, don’t listen to the lies of the secular culture, blah blah blah.
Harris’s sermons hits all the same points: submission is a “confusing concept,” which is”misrepresented,” and “misunderstood.” Submission is “not a statement of male superiority, it’s God’s direction on the ordering of marriage.” Nope, actually women need to realize how wonderful and attractive submission is:
To be submissive involves winsome conduct . . . [so] that . . . husbands would be won without a word being spoken by the conduct of their wives.
Being submissive is, is, is, it’s not, um, it’s not degrading [doesn't he sound really convincing here?]. It’s not something that you see and you just oh, there’s this weak and kind of, subjugated person. No, it’s something that’s actually beautiful. It’s winsome, and it’s aim is to draw attention to Jesus Christ. The goal is to win the husband to, to the reality of the lordship of Christ. [Emphasis mine]
Once again we have a male complementarian patronizing women by telling them how wonderful it is to submit to a man. Charming, really. Unsurprisingly, he makes a number of comments in the rest of the sermon that completely undermine his claims about how great submission is – like that wives should be “good [followers],” that they should never criticize their husbands, and that the opposite of a submissive wife is an “insubordinate” one. Right. But take Josh’s word for it – having your husband treat you like an employee or a child is awesome! Really, its not like he has a conflict of interest, or anything.