In a response to my post Social Media Speaks, a therapist (Scott) made a comment that I’d like to draw out a bit. (I will refer to him as commenter because I’d like to make sure folks don’t confuse us. Not all people perceive the difference between Scot and Scott. Ha.)
He begins with his own training in the field in order to draw our attention away from the theological battle into the relational world.
Hi Scot, Thank you so much for this. "Where are the critiques of substance..."? Oh my Lord, yes. I've been a marriage counselor for 30 years, specializing in sexual betrayal recovery for the past 13, and I can say this: sexual trauma, addiction and abuse in Christian marriage is still, somehow, denied in our churches.
He’s right when he turns then to the TGC excerpt that drew so much fire. But his turn may surprise many. We think it is insightful, wise, brief, and deserving of full consideration. In essence, the comment provokes us to consider this ideological debate as co-opting “spiritual and sexual abuse.” I have re-formatted the comment to expose the logic and categories at work.
I would like to submit, however, that framing this issue in categories of competing theologies (Comp versus Egal), while accurate and needed, can sideswipe the deeper issue which is the insidious co-opting of spiritual and sexual abuse.
(1) Twisting theology to justify male sexual dominance over women is not poor theology; it is spiritual abuse masking itself as a theological debate.
(2) People who write this stuff actually want to be challenged in intellectual terms so that they can continue their theological gaslighting.
Our commenter does not leave it with those two observations. He proposes therapy. If the diagnosis is accurate, and in many cases I’m sure it is, the solution and path to healing are not a better theology but deeper self-perceptions, and it would be wonderful for all of us if the complementarian world would pause long enough to recognize some contributing factors to their viewpoint (more below). I’m not saying all complementarians are alike but, again, there are other factors (again, more below).
(3) What they need to be invited to is a 6-12 month leave of absence in recovery, personal accountability, and good Christian therapy and spiritual direction.
(4) They need to see their broken theology, not in theological debate, but through the lens of their personal sexual brokenness - and there, in that place, to meet Christ.
There is a growing number of therapists who are theologically alert who integrate theology and Bible with psychology. We need to be reading them and discussing them.
(5) Lastly, we need seasoned trauma therapists who also think deeply theologically - Langberg, Allender - to come to the table with people like you and Hutton. It's time those silos crash down hard.
You may mention other names we could be reading.
Now for contributing factors that need consideration.
The theology that legitimates the TGC excerpt can also be dipped into social history by social historians.
First. One should not see the TGC excerpt’s ideas unrelated to the masculinism and complementarianism that have been examined and exposed by Kristin Kobes Du Mez and Beth Allison Barr.
Second. It is not a discovery of unexposed biblical texts that led to the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood under John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Rather, they were reacting strongly to the rise of feminism, the political agitation for the ERA, and the rise of Ronald Reagan.
Third. Inside one month, a book will be published by Isaac B. Sharp called The Other Evangelicals, which will gain traction because of its historical work but also because it takes on the sharp edges of liberal, black, progressive, feminist and gay Christians, and how those with power pushed them off the evangelical platform. Sharp will complement (see that word!) Du Mez and Barr with providing a wider and deeper social context for what’s at work.
I have had Sharp’s book on my reading table as an advanced reading copy and doing all I can to hold back for its publication date. But, along with another new book by Dan Hummel from Eerdmans, we’ve got some challenging and provocative books to look forward to on this Substack.
Thank God for theologians like you and for Scott. I discern sexual and spiritual abuse are co-opted in many environments in the body of Christ. I am currently faced with the co-opting of both abuses in our ministry helping vulnerable people. I realise after reading this, that some in the ministry have been subjecting people to abusive teachings but had not directly linked the two. There are men, and also some women under the influence of these men, who have pushed this 'complementary' agenda. Yes, that word is important and relevant on many levels. Some men who have been or are in powerful positions, and some women under the influence of the use of these abusive powers have been supporting this coercion. Standing for truth has caused a considerable amount of pain in the developing organisation. As change to expose unhealthy practices and teaching develops there is a lot of pain. I have suffered personally. As these abusive powers are challenged there is scapegoating and the pain of the resulting personal trauma is awful for women and those supporting women in leadership. May God help us all through this and I pray the coercive powers will be brought down.
The idea that sexual and spiritual abuse are often co-opted, especially within evangelical circles, is accurate and profound. So profound that I need to take a few days to wrap my brain around this article. This is much deeper than theology, to be sure. Thank you for recognizing the value of 'Scott's' comment, expounding on it, and sharing it with us.