Christian preacher John Piper has built his career on the idea of complementarianism, a long, fancy word that represents a “separate but equal” philosophy when it comes to men and women in marriage. In a nutshell, men are the leaders who make all the decisions. Women are called to submit to them, no matter what.
If this sounds like an unhealthy structure, you’re right. But Piper, who once said that abused women must endure being smacked around, doesn’t think so. In fact, he’s downright baffled as to why anyone would think that complementarianism is a recipe for enabling spousal abuse.
Complementarianism is being taken to task as feeding abuse. I think that is dead wrong… Egalitarianism can only say to husbands who tend to be abusive, “Christians shouldn’t do that. You don’t treat other people that way.”But egalitarians can’t say there is a unique call upon manhood to be protective… I think complementarians have the higher ground here when it comes to opposing abuse… [because we can say] “Men don’t treat women that way.”
It’s telling whenever someone like Piper suggests the only reason men shouldn’t abuse women is because God tells them not to do it.
Contrary to what he’s saying, there are indeed plenty of stories about women whose abusive husbands justified their behavior with complementarian teachings. The theory is centered on men having all the power and authority in a relationship, and experts on abuse know that abuse is fundamentally about power dynamics. It’s much harder for two people in an equal partnership to take advantage of each other, compared to a marriage in which a man has God on his side to boss his wife around (or worse).
Most Christians would tell you the call to love others is not unique to men — it’s for everyone. Somehow, Piper missed that.