Jackie Kennedy Onassis as an Example of a Good Complementarian Wife?

Courtney Reissig at TGC asks, Can Jackie O teach us to be good complementarians?

There are three issues with the article that I wish to highlight:

1. This is a rather muddled article, with Reissig on the one hand suggesting that we should not go back to past eras’ understandings of gender roles, but on the other hand, suggesting that we should look to Jackie O as a great example of what gender roles in marriage should look like today. She argues that all cultures are flawed, and that our understanding of gender has been flawed since the Fall, but then doesn’t interact with the idea that her understanding of ‘biblical womanhood’ might be just as flawed, and just as ‘cultural’. She argues that submission is good and right, but then suggests that submission in marriage that doesn’t point to Christ is meaningless.

2. I really shouldn’t comment on her use of John Piper’s definition of submission, but what always gets me is that it’s only a definition for a woman. What does submission look like for all Christians? (Since we all are called to submit to each other (Ephesians 5:21), to submit to Christ (James 4:7), and to submit to governing authorities (Romans 13:1))

Reissig writes,

While we are not defined by changing cultural norms, we can see some elements of truth in how women like Jacqueline Kennedy support their husbands. Her devotion to President Kennedy is one that, as Christian women, we can admire and desire to emulate. This unswerving commitment to his success and good is reminiscent of the biblical command given to women by God in Genesis. God made woman to be a suitable helper for her husband, to submit to him and honor him. John Piper defines submission as “the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.” Kennedy’s support of her husband and desire to make her home a haven of rest for him is a picture of what God intended when he created men and women.

3. And the biggest struggle I have with this article is that it completely falls for the magical facade of Camelot. What about John’s indiscretions? It’s easy to gloss over them for the sake of the fairy tale, but by buying into the facade it can be implied in Reissig’s presentation that Jackie’s devotion in light of John’s indiscretions is a good thing. What kind of message is that sending to women? “Submit to your husbands, even when he defiles your marriage vows and chooses to dishonour you.” But then again, if she’s following Piper’s definition, it wouldn’t be surprising if this is the message, since Piper has also suggested that a woman who is being abused by her husband should “endure for a season”.

  • http://politicaljesus.com/ Rod of Alexandria

    Don’t get me started with JFK’s Camelot.

  • http://amandabeattie.wordpress.com/ Amanda Beattie

    Reissig seems to be pretty good at glossing over important arguments in her articles, from what I’ve read of hers. I don’t understand how, “This is not what complementarianism teaches” translates into “Hey, we can learn how to be good complementarians from this!”

  • http://www.theruthlessmonk.blogspot.com Leslie

    When I read this article, I was a little confused as well. I think “muddled” is a good word because I’m not sure what point she was trying to make.

    One of the things I question is what she means when she says that “God gets glory” when women submit to their husbands. If she means that simply doing what (complementarians think) the Bible says is intrinsically glorifying to God, then I can see the point (again, in a vague sort of way). But if she means that when others see a women submitting to her husband, they therefore give God the glory, I think that’s a pretty HUGE assumption.

    Anyway, I love Camelot. I can hear Richard Harris is my head right now…

  • Kristen

    I commented over there several times as “KR Wordgazer.” You’ve made very good points here; but the link doesn’t seem to work for me. Not sure why.

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