Trevin Wax subscribes to complementarianism—the belief that men and women have distinct but complementary roles in society and church—but thinks its culture prone to certain excesses:
- a reticence or hesitance to affirm and celebrate women’s contributions in local church ministry, particularly contributions that are more up-front and visible.
- a warped vision of manhood that focuses on calloused hands and physical labor and ignores other kinds of work.
- the assumption that marriage is always better than singleness, so that singles feel like their identity is wrapped up in not having a spouse.
- unwillingness to celebrate any evidence of gospel ministry or fruit among those with a more egalitarian viewpoint.
- an unexpressed expectation that the godliest women have quiet and introverted personality types, and cannot be assertive and outgoing.
- a competitive tendency that leads to unhealthy individual comparisons and rushed judgments, rather than extending grace to one another.
- a spectrum of “holy” and “holier” choices with regard to a child’s education (from public school all the way to homeschooling).
As a side note, in the Romanian villages I served in, the idea of women seeing their role as either inside or outside the home didn’t make sense. Families did whatever it took to put food on the table, which meant the women were just as active outside in the garden and fields as the men were. The kitchen duties were split, depending on whatever item was going to be cooked. The man was the head of the household, but the roles were not as specific or limiting; neither were these activities extrapolated as timeless specifics for everyone everywhere.
The danger, Wax says, is that subtle definitions of complementarianism advanced by its leading thinkers end up translated into blunt cultural expectations on the ground. Ideas of manhood and womanhood that are external to the faith are presented as essential to it.