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Some Humans Are More Equal Than Others: Joshua Harris on Male Authority and Female Submission

I’m doing a short series on some examples of the way that complementarians claim to promote equality for women….but don’t. You can read the introduction here. 

The first complementarian leader I’d like to discuss in this series is Joshua Harris. Like many ex-fundamentalists and evangelicals, I read one of his books in college (Boy Meets Girl) and still have some issues because of it.

And now, for research purposes, I am reading another Joshua Harris book (I Kissed Dating Goodbye) and thinking, “Well, no wonder this screwed me up so much!”

With phrases like, “At this point in her life, Mom has been a Christian for only a year. She’s still a bit headstrong and independent….”

Or, “The Bible clearly defines the importance of a man’s spiritual leadership in marriage, and I believe that leadership should begin in this season of the relationship [courtship].”

Or, with the passage where he talks about the righteous man being snared by the wicked woman (in the context of the story of David and Bathsheba)…

…It’s almost laughable when he asks readers not to accuse him of having a “chauvinist attitude.” Yet, he does dare to ask such a thing from his readers, because he wants his audience to believe that the gender roles he holds are not oppressive, but liberating.

“Being submissive is, is, is, it’s not, um, it’s not degrading,” Harris claims in a sermon  from 2010 (transcribed by Are Women Human?as Grace points out, the “um” is particularly convincing).  “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.”

Yes, Harris plays the game of benevolent sexism. Submission is actually good for women! It doesn’t mean that women aren’t equal to men!

However, another quote from I Kissed Dating Goodbye puts those claims of benevolency and equality to rest (and without a goodnight kiss!):

How does a potential mate respond to people in authority? Does this person respect the authority of a boss or pastor even if he or she disagrees with that authority figure? A guy who can’t follow legitimate orders will have difficulty holding a job…A girl who can’t respect a teacher’s or coach’s authority will have difficulty honoring her husband.

Note the difference between why men should submit and why women (he always calls them ‘girls,’ despite the fact that he’s clear that he’s talking to adults that are ready for marriage here) should submit.

Men must learn submission so they can submit to a future employer. Women must learn submission so they can submit to their husbands. 

The husband/wife relationship, according to complementarians, is not one of coworkers or fellow team members. It is a relationship of employer and employee.

The problem?

Ron_Livingston_With_Gary_Cole_in_Office_SpaceWorkers and their bosses are not equals. 

I work at Burger King and know a thing or two about the employee/employer relationship.

The employer has flexibility that the employee does not have. If my employers want to join me flipping burgers in the kitchen, they may. But I am not allowed to help them with many of their responsibilities (I am also not allowed to be a pastor in Joshua Harris‘ church).

The employer’s jobs are typically more valued by society and their pay reflects this. Is anyone doing to try to claim that “I dip fries in grease all day” and “I manage a restaurant” are equally valued jobs? (And, though many complementarian evangelicals would claim to value motherhood and housework, ask them their opinions about “wages for housework” or about welfare mothers)

Employers have the final say in how their store is run. Yes, employees can make suggestions to employers, but employers aren’t required to even consider these suggestions (and, in my experience, they don’t consider them). However, when an employer tells an employee how to do something, it is not a suggestion.

This is the kind of relationship Joshua Harris (and other complementarians) wants for men and women. Harris even encourages men to look specifically for women who are good at submitting to others, and suggests that they can expect to receive a similar kind of submission.

Of course, men have to submit too…to somebody, but not to women. This doesn’t disprove my point that Joshua Harris does NOT believe men and women are equal. It proves that any talk about equality coming from people who believe like Harris does is a sham.

In fact, men, who understand the average employer/employee relationship, should know better than to call submission “winsome” or “beautiful.” These men go home to subordinates, while women go home (if they are even allowed to hold jobs) to another employer.

The employee/employer relationship isn’t always abusive (though it often is). But it is not equal. 

All humans are equal.

But some humans are employees and some humans are employers.

Some humans are more equal than others. 

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