A couple days ago, Her.meneutics ran a great piece by Mary DeMuth on the current obsession among evangelical pastors/leaders with talking/tweeting endlessly about their “smokin’ hot wives” – an obsession that has spread throughout American Christian culture.
The post resonated with me.
It resonated because, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I was once a part of the segment of evangelicalism that fosters this kind of attitude – the kind that makes leaders go on and on about their wives’ hotness as if it’s some kind of requisite modern virtue. And, full disclosure, I bought into the smokin’ hot talk for a while, if only to be one of the guys, part of the team. Of course, underlying all that rhetoric is a strong complementarian view of gender roles in the church and home, where men are the heads and women submit, where men are the shepherds and women…submit, where men need lots of sex because that’s how God created them and women………submit. You get the idea.
That last part is especially dicey these days – because Christian culture is now totally hyped about sex.
Recently, I saw one megachurch pastor post a photo of his wife on Instagram with a caption from Proverbs 31 (I know, surprise surprise). Part of it made a slight addition the text: “her leather pants are like water to her husband’s soul.” This particular fellow is known for free and frequent hot wife posts, including one photo of the couple with a room full of new church members where he commented that despite his joy at meeting such great new people, he was really just staring at his wife’s (no doubt leather-clad) butt. And my friend Stephanie Drury from Stuff Christian Culture Likes can unearth literally hundreds of posts like these at any given moment from evangelicals and pastors tweeting about their hot wives this and body parts that as a matter of pious online course.
It’s all a bit disturbing, really.
And honestly, this kind of jibber-jabber is just a place setting for the more atrocious meal of Song of Solomon-themed sex sermons and books, not least those coming from Mark Driscoll or prosperity preachers like Ed Young, Jr.
All this, of course, is the way to show the world that Christians have the best sex ever and it’s holy because we’re married! And that we’re not legalists or fundamentalists or scared of sex or whatever! And that we have so much of the fun when we are doing the sex in all of the sexy ways one may do it (even anal is ok, Pastor Mark said so)!
But here’s what’s really going on, most of the time. Mostly, guys blabbing about this stuff are just posturing. They are publicly asserting that they are in fact one of the (Christian) guys, the ones with the power, the ones with the penii (is that the correct plural form?). They are showing that they have a dominant gender role in the home and church, given to them by God, and by golly they are going to tweet compliments about their wives, using the words of drunk 19 year old fraternity brothers. And mostly, they are overcompensating because this Christian culture obsession with sex has got them thinking lustfully and, probably, not always about their wives of x years but other women more appealing to them in the teenage kneejerk visual stimulation sense.
In other words, mostly, they are projecting.
And worse, even as they go on and on about the hotness of their spouse, they are demeaning her.
When I asked my wife how that kind of thing made her feel when I was half-heartedly trying to be one of the guys, that’s the word she used.
At the Missio Alliance Gathering a couple weeks ago, we heard from unbelievable women preachers, teachers, and theologians. And the context for their speaking was not, “Hey, it’s time to hear from some ladies, wives of so and so pastor/author/professor!” They were not a sideshow. They were not speaking mainly “to women, as women.” They were not playing off their gender as some kind of schtick. No, they were on the main stage. They were speaking to all and proclaiming the Word over all. They were speaking with authority – authority over men in the audience (who were all gladly submitting, btw, much to John Piper’s dismay). Fact is, these women were responsible for some of the most powerful moments in the entire week, and put some of the other bros to shame (just saying!).
It occurred to me that not once in the entire week did I hear any male leader talk about his smokin’ hot wife. Nor even an Obama-esque gaffe about being “cute” or “good-looking.” And that’s because this obsessive male Christian mentality can’t exist where women are speaking and preaching and leading in the same roles as men, mutually submitted to Christ and each other. Such an environment literally chokes out these misogynistic habits or at least exposes them for exactly what they are – objectifying and dehumanizing to women. And make no mistake, that’s what this is, because as soon as a woman is thought of as a thing – a thing like a “smokin’ hot Christian wife” – she becomes less of a person.
And, interestingly, a person is exactly what a woman is first and foremost to God, a person made in God’s image, filled with God’s Spirit, and gifted to serve God as a member of the Body of Christ.
That’s the perspective we should be talking and tweeting about.
Now, brothers, I know what you may be thinking. I can feel you winding up for the pushback. And I understand that you might think you’re an exception and your compliments are sincere and well-meaning and your wife really likes it when you call her smokin’ hot on twitter and stuff. But I want you to consider that maybe, deep down, both you and she are not being totally honest. Maybe something beautiful is being cheapened here for both of you.
And maybe, just maybe, the sacredness of sexy compliments shared in secret would be like water to both of your souls.
What do y’all think? Am I on to something or not?!
[Image by The Urban Vogue, CC via Flickr]