It's January. That means that once again, it's time for K-Love's 30-Day Challenge – something I have some concerns about. In response to my concerns, today I'm continuing to critically evaluate some of the songs that K-Love regularly plays. Today's focus is Lead Me by Sanctus Real.
In this song, the lyricist looks at his family and sees, first what his wife wants, and then what his children want for him. What everyone wants is for him to lead them with “strong hands”.
As a female Christian, I am well-acquainted with both the complementarian and egalitarian viewpoints. The former is a theological viewpoint that suggests men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. Typically, those who hold a complementarian view believe that the man is the head of the house, that women are called to submit, and that women should not be in leadership roles, in particular at home or in the church. It's definitely the viewpoint found in this song.
In contrast, those with egalitarian views believe that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. According to author Rachel Held Evans, "Christians who identify as egalitarian usually believe that Christian women enjoy equal status and responsibility with men in the home, church, and society, and that teaching and leading God’s people should be based on giftedness rather than gender." As a female youth pastor this is without a doubt the position I hold.
Interestingly, people cite Scripture passages to support both positions. Those who are complementarian typically quote Paul's teachings about women while those who are egalitarian usually refer back to the creation story and the fact that God not only creates men and women but calls both good.
Knowing this, you might be wondering, what's my problem with this song?
First, the notion that all women want or need men to lead them is harmful.
In life, marriage, work, and church, men don't just know what's best because they're men. Encouraging people to blindly follow anyone can be harmful – to them, their families, and their communities.
Rather than blindly follow anyone, including men I trust, I want to question them and wrestle with and through things together. In short, I want to partner with men and in particular, with my husband.
This means that as a married woman, there are times when I want my husband to “lead me”. But there are also times when he wants and needs me to lead him.
Likewise, there are times, like this past weekend when I was suddenly hospitalized for a pregnancy scare, that I want and need my husband to “stand up when I can't.” But there are also times when he needs me to do the same.
Ours is a marriage of mutual submission and for that, I am exceedingly thankful.
For me, though, the real problem with these lyrics occurs when the idea that men must lead women gets applied not only to marriages, but to life outside the home. For too long, Paul's words about women have been taken out of context and used by people (including those in the church) to oppress women and to keep us out of leadership roles.
When that happens, everyone – the greater church and the world around us – loses.
We miss the perspective women bring to conversations.
We miss the gifts women have to share with the church and the world around them.
We also miss the deeper reality of God. After all, if both males and females are created in God's image, then when we exclude women, we miss what they – simply because of who God has created them to be – teach us about God.
What's more, when Christians perpetuate the idea that males are leaders and women aren't, what kind of witness are we sending to the world?
Recently, one of my student leaders led a conversation in my high school ministry about gender equality. As part of this, she had the teens in our ministry explore Paul's words about wives submitting to their husbands, dressing certain ways, and remaining quiet. In response to these passages, one female student exclaimed, “Honestly, if this is what the Bible says about women, I'm out.”
I understand this student's point. Our world is changing and it often seems as though the leadership gifts of women are recognized, honed, and developed in every place BUT the church.
To say this is disheartening is an understatement.
I'd say it actually runs counter to how Jesus treated and affirmed women.
As if that's not bad enough, my other issue with this song comes at it's conclusion, when suddenly the lyricist realizes that in order to lead his family, God must lead him.
“Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won't you lead me?”
“Father, lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone.”
As a female youth pastor, it's these two lines that are perhaps most frustrating to me about this entire song.
I mean, first of all, perhaps if this guy recognized his wife as his partner, he wouldn't feel quite so alone.
Beyond that, however, every time I've heard this song played, I can't help but think it sets us back 500 years, to the time in which people believed that only priests could talk to God.
To me, what it feels like these lyrics are saying is that as a female, I can't talk to God and depend on him to lead me; That my experience of God somehow depends on my husband's experience of him.
I'm pretty sure Jesus solved that problem. Through his death and resurrection, I, too, have complete and unfettered access to God, independent of my pastor or husband.
In fact, because of Jesus, I can pray this lyricist's prayer for myself:
“Father, give me the strength to be everything I'm called to be. Won't you lead me?”
After all, isn't that the desire of every follower of Christ? To be led by him? And to discover the gifts he's instilled in us so that we can, male and female, be everything we're called to be?
Read the other posts in this series here:
Concerns about "Where I Belong"
Concerns about "Beautiful Day"
Concerns about "All You've Ever Wanted"