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))
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”.