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.