Humanity loves a good binary. Right/wrong, Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative, Jew/Gentile… the list could go on infinitely. These (false) binaries help to give us a story that we tell ourselves to make us feel in control, to feel like we have the answer. The problem is, the binaries that we create often don’t tell the whole story, and they only serve to allow the system being challenged by one side or the other to continue to exist in a constant shifting of power. The gap between the two choices in the binary can be described as a “minimal difference, or a parallax gap.”
Parallax is defined as follows: the apparent displacement of an observed object due to a change in the position of the observer. In other words, parallax refers to the fact that, while the object being observed may seem to move when the observer(s) change position, it is really only the observers’ position itself that changes. The object’s placement stays the same. Further, this means that the binaries we create so often are nothing but minimally different, and may actually end up referring to and affirming the same “truth.”
For example, right now, in western Christianity, a “major” discussion is taking place between those who identify as egalitarians and complementarians. If you don’t know about complementarianism, this is generally a term used by some in Evangelical culture that believe while men and women are created by God to be ontologically equal (i.e., they are not inherently inferior to men), they are functionally different (i.e., inherently created for similar roles). Complementarians generally find their foundation for their beliefs in biblical texts like 1 Timothy 2:11-14, where Paul writes:
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
Contextual issues notwithstanding, the practice of and belief in complementarianism is rampant within many areas in Evangelicalism. Egalitarianism, on the other hand, is the belief that men and women are created by God to be neither ontologically nor functionally different. That is, men and women are inherently equal in their very existence, and this equality bleeds into all other areas of life (e.g., women can hold the same authoritative roles that men can, there is no such thing as the husband being the natural “leader” of the household, etc.). Typically, this comes from biblical texts like Galatians 3:28 or other texts that seem to indicate female leaders in the early Christian movement.
The problem, in most instances, is that the Evangelical version of egalitarianism only exists at this point as a response to the complementarian notion of separate, but equal roles. What many of the purveyors of Evangelical egalitarianism do not realize is that their position is hardly different than the complementarian one. To put it another way, a God who creates males and females to be functionally different and a God who creates males and females to be funtionally equal is the same God.
Similar to what Drew Sumrall writes, the egalitarian notion is simply a reaction to the complementarian one – one side preaches a God who favors total equality while the other preaches a God who does not.The difference between the two positions is only minimal, or a parallax gap. When egalitarians negate, or resist, the complementarian position, their resistance only ends up ensuring that the system continues to function. Further, one cannot assume that complementarianism exists in response to the egalitarian position that is too radical, but because the egalitarian position is not radical enough.
If egalitarians wanted true change, they would need to abandon the simple notion of male/female equality, and the focus on gender/identity politics in general. Rather, the focus would need to change and allow radical equality for all, regardless of gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and so forth. Instead of focusing on the male/female divide in Galatians 3:28, they would need to accept the radical notion that equality extends to all of our (false) identities.
In our participation (regardless of what we call it) in Christ crucified, we participate in the Event that strips us of identity. No longer do we pursue authoritative roles over “the other,” or wonder who is equal with whom. Equality is automatically inherent to all. In this way, the parallax gap is overcome, extended beyond a minimal difference, and the previously functioning system is obliterated.