John Piper and Complementarian Figure Skating

My well-meaning, Calvinist, complementarian friends seem determined to convince me that complementarianism is GOOD FOR ME.  Like holy nutritionists, or zealous lactation consultants, they come to me armed with plenty of facts, figures, and John Piper articles about how true complementarianism benefits both parties, how healthy it will make your marriage, and how it’s God’s beautiful Gospel Design to show Christ to the world.

One of Piper’s favorite analogies is figure skating. [Read Piper’s “Olympic Lessons for Husbands and Wives.”] Those beautiful, skillful figure skating pairs don’t jostle about, trying to decide who the leader is, Piper says.  They practice, learn their roles, trust each other, and then produce something that’s beautiful for the whole world to see.

The problem is, Piper later contradicts himself inside of the very analogy he’s provided: “….complementarians don’t think all the roles defined for us are based merely on competencies. So in a relationship you don’t just ask: Who is smarter? Or more articulate? Or physically stronger? Or faster? Or a better reader? Or neater? [emphasis mine] And so on. You ask, more significantly and more fundamentally: Is the man as man, created by God with a built-in deep sense — an inclination, a disposition, something deeper than cultural, deeper than societal, deeper than upbringing — a sense of responsibility deep in his soul to nurture and provide for and protect and take life-giving initiatives with the women in his life?” [John Piper’s Message to Ray Rice]

So, our roles are not defined for us based on competencies.  Who’s stronger? Smarter? Faster? A better reader? That’s not what defines our roles.

I’ve got to wonder, has Piper, (or any of my complementarian friends) ever seen what happens when a figure skater drops his partner?

Try the 52 second mark here:

Or the 7-8 second mark here:

This one, at the 2:09 mark is very interesting:

(See, even though *she* fully recovered, the male skater was so traumatized by dropping her, that he couldn’t perform properly for months, and had to see a sports therapist to get over the accident.)

You can watch a horrible drop play out in slow-motion, starting at the 10 second mark, right here:

John Piper uses a complicated, intricate, deadly sport, which takes thousands of hours of practice in order to master, to show us that leadership and submission shouldn’t be dependent upon competencies.

It doesn’t add up.  It doesn’t make sense.

Two common objections to Egalitarianism are: “Even Starfleet has rank.  Every military in history has a chain of command, and you can’t simply claim independence from that chain and do your own thing.” Yes, that’s true.  But Starfleet doesn’t give ranks based on race, species, gender, or any other biological or spiritual qualification.  Rank and authority in any military system are given based on proven competencies and hard work—with the corresponding knowledge that your authority means people’s lives are in your hands.  You’ve been given this rank because you’ve demonstrated that people can trust you with their lives.

Rank can also be taken away if you demonstrate that people *can’t* trust you with their lives.

Another objection is, “You’re showing extreme examples here.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of figure skating pairs that happen without accidents.” Yes, but these pairs have practiced for thousands upon thousands of hours.  You’re asking me, as a married woman, to engage in figure skating with a man, regardless of whether or not he has proven himself competent to do so.  You say the scripture tells me to do this.  I say no, it doesn’t.  I have been dropped enough times, and broken enough bones, to say out loud, “I’m not going to submit to any human being, in any area of life, who hasn’t proved by his actions that he is a trustworthy authority in this area.”

In the past two years, my husband has earned my respect.  By his actions.  By his repentance.  By his following through with genuine change.  He doesn’t get my respect, or my submission, for continually dropping me on the ice and making the same mistakes over and over again.  Like Zacchaeus of old, he demonstrated the change in his heart with change in his actions. That is a man that I can trust to lift me up over his shoulders, and not break my neck in the process.


The Advice My Church Gave to an Abused Woman, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

I arrived at the event, praying for wisdom, for Betty, and for her family. Amy, Cathy, and a couple of other friends were all there.

After we’d all gotten our kids into a reasonable holding pattern, I asked Betty about her new job.  It sounded great–like a really, really good job, especially for a woman that’s been out of the workforce for ten years!

I congratulated her, and she said, “Well, Amy told me that I just have to trust God for what’s happening in my life right now, that he has a reason for all of this stuff happening, and I need to figure out what He’s trying to teach me.”

(Really? Amy said this?? My friend Amy??)

“The thing is,” she continued, “I’m concerned, because I’ll be working 30 hours a week, and my husband really expects everything to be perfect with the house.  He doesn’t think he should do any housework, and I don’t know how I’m going to live up to this standard.”

Now, Cathy then shared several comments that stood out in bias relief to me.  Since kids were coming up and interrupting, and I was feeding my baby, I’m not 100% sure everything is verbatim, or in it’s proper context.

“Well, God really showed me this past year that marriage isn’t supposed to make us happy, it’s supposed to make us holy.I mean, we can’t look to the world, and do marriage how the world wants us to do it.  God will show you a way.  Besides, I don’t know any man that wants to clean house.  They expect this of us.”

I THANK GOD for sunglasses, because I probably had a scream showing, even though it wasn’t coming through my vocal chords.  I had no idea what to say.  “Cathy, you’re full of ****?”  Or maybe, “I think you’re misapplying scripture here?” How on earth was I supposed to address the perverse mishandling of God’s word in this moment, in a party, with a bottle in my baby’s mouth?

My alter-ego,  at TaylorJoyRecovers (my pseudonym that came before the Parody Twitter account) has been blogging about certain “Theological Loose Screws”–misapplied, twisted doctrines– that come into play when certain churches deal with abuse.  Over our two encounters with Betty, I’d now watched ALL of these perverted beliefs spoken over this woman!

1) Abuse of authority: God set up an authority, so He intends for me to follow it, regardless of what the person in authority does.

2) Presuppositionalism: Christians have more knowledge than those “in the world,” because we have the Holy Spirit.

3) Predestination of Everything: God willed this to happen to me, and will somehow work it for my good.

(I haven’t finished these other posts yet, but let’s say I’m more motivated now.)

4) Sin-Leveling: I’m a sinner worthy of hell anyway.  Who am I to judge my abuser? Both of our sin nailed Christ to the cross.

5) Mountains out of Molehills: Are you serving your husband? Cooking for him? Is the house clean? Have you gained weight?  Are you going to church? This could directly impact your quality of life–or even your salvation.

6) The Sociopathic Concept of God: Hey, if God destroys whole cities to show His glory, what’s my life in the grand scheme of things?  I can suffer for God’s purposes.

I’m not saying that there’s no Scriptural authority, or that God doesn’t work all things together for our good–I’m saying that these doctrines are layered, one on top of the other, to keep a woman like Betty with her abuser.  They trap her into a circular mode of reasoning, where separation is unthinkable, but physical/emotional/financial/verbal/sexual abuse is forgivable.

On the way home, I called Amy.  We had a detailed, hour-long conversation about the things she and Cathy had said to Betty.   Did she actually imply that God willed it for Betty to be abused?  Did she understand that Cathy was not properly handling God’s word?

I’ll have to put that in a part 3.  I’m so exhausted right now that I can hardly think.  I also sent a letter to my pastor and one other elder, and will put their response in another post as well.

The Advice an Abused Woman Received At My Church. Part 1

Recently, I wondered if I was doing the right thing in blogging about Spiritual Abuse and gender roles in the church.

After all, don’t I need to keep my eyes on Jesus, not on the bad experiences? Isn’t this distracting from the real mission of the Church?  Is this distracting from my own calling as a worship leader, writer, wife, and mother?

Besides, was I really the victim of Spiritual Abuse myself, or was it simply a Big Misunderstanding (TM) caused by Theological Disagreements? Could I even be dishonoring my husband by talking about his bad behavior that I (admittedly) enabled?  Am I really, truly, making a big deal out of nothing?

Then I was knocked over the head –with a phaser–with the reality of what’s happening in our churches.

What I’m about to describe to you is real.  This is not a hypothetical scenario.  This ACTUALLY HAPPENED.  LAST THURSDAY. In MY CHURCH.  This is a church that’s not known for controlling, legalistic behavior at all.  A few minor details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved–but if you knew me well enough, you would probably know exactly who these people are.  I have spoken with my pastor about the situation, and will be reaching out to other authorities as I am able.

Now, on with the story…….

I was simply enjoying some shore leave with some friends. It’s not often that we get away from the demands of life, parenthood, and running a starship.

Five women from my church were socializing, eating food, drinking tea, and letting our kids run around in the rare Northern Sunshine. In the interest of keeping friendships, allow me to give them random pseudonyms. The group leader, “Amy,” had brought a friend, “Betty,” and this was probably the fifth or sixth time Betty had joined us.

Obviously, Betty was having a bad day.

She was holding back tears. She wasn’t making eye contact. She was trying really hard to put on a happy face, because she “didn’t want to ruin our day.”

Now, this type of behavior, from anyone, gets under my skin. If you have a bad day, *that’s what friendships are for.* You should be allowed to be grumpy, or aching, or sad, or lonely, and reach out to a friend for companionship and comfort. If we keep a plastic smile on over our pain, what’s the point of fellowship?

After about an hour of this awkwardness, I started passing out cupcakes: “Look, we all have cupcakes! Mmmm…” I took a bite. ” What yummy cupcakes….they’re chocolate, they’re awesome! See, we’ve had such a good day eating cupcakes! Which means—” and I turned to Betty “—it’s impossible for you to ruin OUR day now. We’ve had chocolate. What’s going on with you, and what do you need?”

She broke down into tears.

Her husband had just told her to “get off her fat ass and get a job.”
She has six kids. One of them is autistic.
She runs two businesses from her home.
She homeschools.

She told us her husband spends whatever he likes, without telling her anything, and expects her to be frugal and make up the difference.
She told us her husband expects everything to be neat and clean all the time. So she keeps it that way.
He calls her bitch, whore, and c*nt every day, because something always doesn’t go according to plan.
He was in complete control of the money–including her income–and all of their assets were in his name. House, car, cellphone, everything.
She had no family to turn to.

So, she was trying to get a job.

Now Betty was in a bind: where could she work that would make enough money to cover childcare for six kids?  Who would watch her children?

I told Betty that I’d been where she is, if only financially.  I’d had to make some hard choices, and eventually had to realize that it wasn’t ONLY my problem. “Just three summers ago,” I told her, “I had to ask my husband to either start looking for a job, or move into his parents’ house until he was willing to.”

[Yes, my blogging and Twitter friends.  Your very own Captain Calvinist Janeway not only supported her husband through graduate school, but continued to work to support his spending addiction.  And support our family when he felt he “deserved” summers off.  You know, because he “worked hard,” and it was my job to “submit.”  But that’s another story.]

“Once I started setting some boundaries, he realized what his own problems were, and voluntarily got some help.  But my husband never treated me the way you’ve been treated.  This is above and beyond anything I’ve experienced, and I’m worried that he could escalate.”

That’s when another friend of ours, “Cathy,” broke in.

“We need to decide right now, as a group, that we’re not going to say anything bad about her husband, and that divorce is not an option.”


Cathy started talking about how God made marriage to be permanent, how Betty could turn her problems over to God, and trust that He would take care of them.  Cathy started talking about Betty developing a habit of praying for her husband, and serving him the way God wanted a wife to serve and submit to a husband. She mentioned that we were all sinners, and Christ transformed us, so Christ could transform her husband too.

I said that I didn’t think “submission” was what we needed to be talking about right now. Cathy said, “Well, I used to be a feminist like [CalvinistJaneway] but God really showed me…..”

I honestly don’t remember what she said after that, or what I said, because the gravity of what was happening pulled me under: Betty’s needs and safety were somehow secondary to whether or not Betty submitted to her husband and prayed hard enough.  I now carried the label of “feminist” because I didn’t believe submission was what we needed to be talking about right now.  I did know it was NOT appropriate to get into a theological discussion in front of an abused woman.

I sat there, like I’d taken a phaser on stun, unsure of what to do next.

Another friend touched Betty’s arm and asked, “What do you want to do?”

Betty said she’d get a job.

We all gave her our phone numbers, and checked up with her regularly via text and phone.  I kept in regular contact w/ Amy about her, and it seemed that she was safe, for now.

About a month later (which is last Thursday) Betty invited us all for a gathering, “right before I go back to work!”

To be continued…..

Robin Williams, Suicide Prevention, and How We Can Help

It’s nauseating to believe that Robin Williams took his own life. His family is left with the questions: What was he struggling with? What lies did he believe?  Why didn’t he reach out for help?  Did he have any idea how this act would devastate those around him?


Ten years ago, I very nearly took my own life.  I had a two year old daughter.  I worked night shift.  I had recently suffered my very first miscarriage.  (With twins.)  We’d moved into a new home. Then, during a trip to see my husband’s parents, I was falsely accused of child abuse.


See, my daughter had a horrible, horrible diaper rash.  She had bleeding, oozing, silver-dollars-sized blisters on her buttocks.  Every time I changed her, she would kick, thrash, scream, and fight to keep me from wiping her where it hurt so badly.

However, when my mother-in-law changed her, my daughter was calm.

I’d only been married for two years at this point.  My in-laws barely knew me.  We lived a thousand miles away, and only visited twice a year.  What my in laws *did* know was that I came from a background of abuse and alcoholism. (I was not physically abused.  However, my sibling was. I grew up in a home with violence, addiction, and domestic/spousal abuse.) Sure, I was saved, and sure, they thought well enough of me at the time of the marriage—but this is their *granddaughter*, bleeding, screaming, and upset.  Surely something was wrong.

My mother-in-law pulled my husband aside and told him that she suspected me of child abuse.  Why else would my daughter be so calm with grandma and so vicious with her own mom?


Looking back with ten years of perspective, I think my in-laws did the RIGHT THING with the information they had.

However, at the time, I was grieving the loss of my twins, reeling from finding out that my parents were addicted and mentally ill, struggling to cope with my daughter’s health problems, sleep-deprived from working the night shift, and caught up in the throes of the Christian Patriarchy Movement.  (Which basically told me to submit to everything my husband said, or I wasn’t really saved.)

I didn’t want to live.

I honestly thought I *shouldn’t* live.

I thought my daughter would likely be better off without me.

Heck, my own mother was abusive. How could I be any better?  How could I know the difference between abusive parenting and good parenting?

I had an insurance policy. She’d be okay.

Maybe she wouldn’t even remember me.  Maybe that would be a good thing.

In the middle of the night, unable to sleep, I reached out to some people on a message board I’d been actively involved in. I told some people I’d never met that I was accused of child abuse, and that I was considering suicide.  My daughter deserved better.

The response was instantaneous and intense.  “Call the suicide hotline NOW! Here’s the number!”

“Your in-laws are wrong on this–there could be plenty of other reasons for her condition.”

“If you want to kill yourself, GO AHEAD! Your kid will be JUST FINE as she grows up knowing that mommy offed herself because she screamed too loud during diaper changes.  She’ll never wonder if it was her fault.  She’ll never consider doing the same thing.” (This was from a pastor.  Who knew me well.)

“Did you ever consider that, if you die, your in-laws will have a lot to do with how your child was raised?  How much influence do you want them to have in your daughter’s life?”

Twenty-four responses kept me alive long enough to reach out to friends.  To my husband.  To a counselor.


The best part was talking to my daughter’s babysitter: “She screams like that with me too.  She’s kicked me in the face during diaper changes.  She gave me a bloody nose!  I have to put one knee on each of her legs just to wipe her down.  Do you think *I’m* abusing her?”

None of us knew that my daughter had an undiagnosed food allergy.  We ran out of her favorite foods before we went on a trip–and her rash vanished.  We re-introduced them one at a time, and sure enough, the rash consistently returned with one food group: citrus.

I almost killed myself over a citrus allergy?

What my in-laws *didn’t* know, what they *couldn’t* have known, was that I’d spent the last six months holding my daughter down for various invasive tests.  Kidney reflux (a cathederization), Celiac disease (a blood draw), X-rays (a big scary machine hovering above you) and the bloody raw diaper changes 5+ times a day.  My daughter couldn’t gain weight, couldn’t have a bowel movement without pain, and had big scary doctors working her up the wazoo trying to figure out why she’d dropped off the weight percentile charts.  She was terrified of me for a good reason.  Mommy holding me=pain. Grandma holding me=ice cream.

Later, my daughter was treated for chronic constipation, and we eliminated the citrus from her diet. Her bottom healed, she gained weight, she sees a GI occasionally, she lives a normal life, and I am no longer a child abuser in my in-laws’ mind.

I still have the two-page apology/support letter that my mother-in-law sent me.  I sent her flowers in return.

That doesn’t change the fact that I almost killed myself over poop and citrus.


If I’d taken my own life that night, I never would have seen my daughter heal.  I never would have gone on to have three other daughters.  I never would have the restored (friendly) relationship that I now have with my mother-in-law.

I owe my life to Christ, and to the people who were on a message board in the middle of the night.

I’m just a parody Twitter account.  I pretend that my words about spiritual abuse and gender roles in the church are coming through in Captain Janeway’s voice. For whatever reason, people listen.  But in these few months, I’ve seen the power of connecting with Twitter–how people all over the world can share, in a moment, a similar experience or feeling or bit of news. I can even legally stalk my favorite celebrities.  I can listen in as William Shatner or Patrick Stewart or Nathan Fillion fill us in on their daily lives.

But I found out about Robin Williams’ death because I follow Robert Picardo on Twitter.


In that moment, I wondered, “What if Robin Williams could have reached out to all of us?  What if he’d had an online community, even an anonymous one, where he could have said, ‘I’m thinking about ending it all?’ Maybe, like me, he’d still be here.”

Maybe he would have been afraid to admit weakness.  Maybe he would have disparaged himself as a washed-up actor.  But at least he would have  been a LIVING washed-up actor, who could go on to live another day, and maybe get better.

If Robert Downey Jr. can go from inmate to Iron Man, then surely things can get better for you. DownyJr1


Let me plea with you, as a survivor, as someone who did *not* follow through with her plan to end her life, please talk to someone.  If you’re having these thoughts, please tell someone, immediately, even if it’s on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, or whatever social media network I haven’t heard of yet.


Let me tell you, life does get better. Life is a gift from God, and is worth living.   If you are alive right now, there is a REASON for it, and I want to see that reason be fulfilled.  Please reach out for help.





From Complementarian to Captain Janeway

As a young, late-teens, early-twenty-something Christian, I heard sermons on gender roles over and over again. I read several books on gender, on marriage, and on Godly womanhood. I read the Joshua Harris “courtship” books, and my future husband and I used them as a model for our own relationship.


One thread was woven throughout many teachings I received: women tend to take control away from men. We reach outside our God-ordained roles as followers, and snatch leadership out of the hands of men–who love us (or fear us) too much to take it back. In effect, we emasculate our men. We deprive them of their God-ordained leadership role.


If we truly loved our (future) husbands, I was told, we would let them lead. We would actively practice letting them lead—and the teacher or writer would always give a few simple examples:

–Don’t be the first one to speak when asked, “Where should we go to dinner?” Let him pick.
–Don’t interrupt him; that’s just rude.
–Let him offer his opinions first in any discussion.
–Let him win a few arguments. I mean, you ladies are typically really good with words, so we’re just asking for a handicap here. (laughter from the crowd)
–Let him decide where to spend his money. After all, he earns it. Honor his work ethic.
–Follow your highest calling as a wife and mother. Understand that you’re obeying Jesus here, and if you suffer for it, God will sustain you through the suffering. After all,” 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” If the great followers of the Bible suffered, you may suffer too—but God will bring good out of all suffering.
–Your husband will adore you for building him up. In letting him lead, you will be making the best investment possible for a Godly marriage, and your children will be sanctified for it.

As an unmarried, madly-in-love, Bible-believing young woman, I had reason to be concerned. I was marrying a quiet man.


The comments were already starting: “We know who will wear the pants in THAT marriage.” “Well, I’m sure he just does whatever you tell him to do, wink-wink.” “Do you think you’ll ever let him get a word in edgewise?” I. Was. Terrified. I loved this man. I saw how some family members had already squelched his opinions, sat on his desires, and undermined his every attempt at showing an opinion. What if he was just marrying me because I was comfortable? Because I was what he was used to?

I refused to be one of those women.

Over an eight year period, I practiced letting him lead:


–“Where do you want to go to dinner?” Nine times out of ten? “Oh, wherever you want to go. I’m fine.”
–“What do you think of this political issue?” Well, I haven’t studied it in-depth. What do you think?
–I know we disagree about this marital problem, but since you’re the head of the family, I’m going with what you say. God set this system up for a reason, right?
–We need to make this budget change for your new camping equipment? Okay. Oh—this will require me to work more hours? Oh…okay….
–You don’t think I should buy red delicious apples? I really like them. Oh—you don’t. Ok…
–Well, it will be hard to work night shift so I can care for the babies during the day, but…if that’s what you really want…
–I really am suffering here. I wonder what God is trying to teach me?
–I can’t understand why you don’t respect me. Haven’t I been letting you lead?

It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen over a year, or even five years. However, at one point, I woke up and realized I was working every day to be an entirely different person that who I was, all in the name of “letting him lead.” I was censoring and analyzing every word that came out of my mouth. I was making sure I didn’t “emasculate” him.

Now, one could say, “You were taking this whole complementarian teaching waaaaaaay too far. Headship and submission doesn’t mean that! You’re supposed to have your own thoughts, your own life, and your own red delicious apples!” That’s easy to say, but very hard to quantify. No one tells you where submission should stop. No one says, “The line is drawn here! This far—no further!”


In practice, every time I asked a pastor, teacher, or older sister-in-Christ for advice on a particular individual issue, I was pointed back to the submission passages of the Bible, told that God would lead my husband—and was reminded that I had a really strong personality.


Since I was vocal outside of the home, no one would guess that I had no voice inside of the home. No one could see that, on family issues, I was practically mute.

I couldn’t decide how many children to have.
I couldn’t decide where money was spent.
I couldn’t decide where—or even if—I was supposed to work.
I couldn’t question his decisions.
I couldn’t decide what to wear.
I couldn’t even decide whether or not to buy red delicious apples.

The worst part was, since I’d based our entire marriage on “respecting and submitting to my husband”—he just thought I had no opinions, little intelligence, and no voice. His respect for me slowly leaked out of his heart, like helium from a neglected birthday balloon. But what else could he think? What evidence did he have to the contrary? Therefore, the promised “he’ll love and adore you for respecting him so much” never materialized.

Even worse, our children were not “sanctified” at all by this arrangement. I’ll never forget the first time my oldest daughter watched “Beauty and the Beast.” She was so excited! She jumped up and down and said, “Mommy! Isn’t it nice of the beast that he doesn’t lock her in the tower any more? She was good, so he let her out of the tower!”

It wasn’t a “final straw,” but it was a lightbulb moment: I was training my daughters to be abused.

Thankfully, I finally re-discovered my voice.

I told him “no” on several decisions he’d made that were outright exploitations of me as his wife.
I set boundaries. “If I’m earning the money to support us, I get a say in how it’s spent. I also get a say in childcare, work schedules, and what we eat.”
I studied the Bible for myself.

Then I got MAD.


“If a slave-wife is allowed food and a change of clothing, why the heck have I been wearing threadbare clothes that don’t fit while you go buy camping gear?”

Oddly enough, he started respecting me.
Oddly enough, he woke up to several areas of sin in his own life.
Oddly enough, my speaking up made him more confident in his own decisions.
Oddly enough, iron-sharpening-iron wasn’t meant for MEN alone, but applies to married couples too.

I’ll never forget the first red delicious apples I bought after that season. I savored every bite, weeping over its red skin. So often women are blamed for taking the apple, eating the apple, causing the downfall of humanity, and poor old Adam was just too weak to stand up to Eve. Yet, in Christ we are both redeemed.

It’s been two years since I first woke up. It’s been difficult, re-discovering each other, exploring our hearts and our Bibles, and a good Christian counselor has helped. (So have a few other things, which I’ll touch on later.) But just the other night, my husband and I made love, and in the sweet afterglow, I realized I had not censored anything that day based solely on, “Will this hurt his masculinity somehow?” I was free to respectfully speak my heart and mind, and his “masculinity” was actually stronger for it.


I’d never felt so free.