My wife is not a rotisserie chicken or a leaky faucet

Complementarian megachurch pastors are like pitchers who only throw 40 mile an hour change-ups. It feels cheap and dirty to swing at their pitches, but I’m genuinely bothered by what I’ve been hearing lately from that strange foreign land where Christians believe that wives are supposed to submit to their husbands. First I learned that it’s trendy for pastors in that world to tweet out photos and commentary to their congregations about their “smoking hot wives.” And then Mark Driscoll busts out his latest gaffe (transcript here) about how nagging wives who refuse to submit to their husbands are like leaky faucets that keep you awake at night with their dripping. So I just needed to say that my wife is not a rotisserie chicken or a leaky faucet.

I. Rotisserie Chicken aka Smoking Hot Wife

It all started with the famous “Baby Jesus” prayer Will Ferrell busted out in Talladega Nights. Then Family Baptist Church pastor Joe Nelms used the phrase from the movie at the invocation for a NASCAR race in Nashville in 2011. And ever since then, complementarian (gender hierarchical) pastors have been tweeting out commentary and pictures of their dates with their “smoking hot wives.”

I don’t have a whole lot of first-hand experience with complementarian culture, but my brother Zach Hoag who used to live in that world wrote a very eloquent account of this phenomenon at Huffington Post.

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.

To give you a concrete example of what these “smoking hot wife” communiques actually look like, Zach shares the following:

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 took some, ahem, liberties with 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.

Now if you’re thinking why in the world would a pastor talk this way, my brother Derek Rishmawy sheds some light on the rationale:

Trying to gain credibility, sometimes they say things to put themselves in the normal guy category so people might think, “Hey, that guy thinks his wife is attractive naked and wants to have sex with her, just like I feel about my wife. Who knew? He’s a person and stuff.” After years of hearing that pastors need to talk more openly about sex, be more personal and human, they do, and it just so happens that it comes out clumsy.

I appreciate Derek playing devil’s advocate a little bit (he wasn’t defending the practice, just trying to add nuance). At the same time, I don’t think it’s that innocent and it reveals a lot about what’s problematic in the complementarian movement. Mark Driscoll and his buddies have said over and over again that their mission is to get guys back into church and that the reason the guys left is because the church “got feminine.”

But what I see going on here is just a different version of Joel Osteen. Instead of compromising the gospel by putting it in a self-help package like Osteen, the complementarian movement is allowing their tough guy target audience to determine how they read the Bible, what they preach sermon series on, etc. A tough guy audience likes to hear tough sermons about sin; they want to get smacked by a homiletical two-by-four so they can say, “Thank you sir!!! May I please have another?!!!” But preaching about mercy and gentleness and all that sissy crap that effeminate priests like Henri Nouwen write about? Meh…

The church didn’t “get feminine.” The church has been “feminine” for its entire existence if masculinity is defined as strutting around boasting about your wife’s leather pants. That’s the demonic fleshly hubris that we are supposed to unlearn by denying ourselves and taking up our crosses to follow Jesus. Complementarian megachurch culture has created a model of Christian leader that could be described as the badass who has everything you want. It certainly draws a crowd when a ripped, smoking hot man with a commanding stage presence is the preacher. Especially if he has a smoking hot wife.

And to be clear, I’m not saying God can’t work and create vital, kingdom-building ministries through egomaniacs (I hope He can or I’m screwed). At the same time I really think that despite the fact that the complementarians are vociferous in their denunciation of other pastors who sell out on their “Biblical” values to accommodate pop culture, complementarian “Biblical” values seem like they’re just tailored by a different flavor of pop culture.

II. The Leaky Faucet

So last Sunday, Mark Driscoll was preaching a sermon that covered the “Wives, submit to your husbands” passage in Ephesians 5:22-23 (I wonder how many times a year he goes back to that scripture as his sermon text). He said the following to his congregation amidst wild guffaws of laughter:

And some women – you’re a nag. You’re disrespectful. You’re quarrelsome. Being married to you is like a life sentence, and the guy’s just scratching on his wall every day, ‘One more day. Just one more day,’… Proverbs talks about certain women – they’re like a dripping faucet. You ever tried to sleep with a dripping faucet? Plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk. It’s what we use to torture people who are prisoners of war. A wife is like that. She just—boom, boom, boom, boom.

You know, I might tell my wife that she’s a nag when I’m in a bad mood and I’m not being Christlike. But to justify that attitude by appealing to the Bible? Sheesh… I need my wife to communicate her needs and concerns to me. It’s often the case that I’m grouchy when she reminds me to do things that I promised I would do. And when I’m grouchy enough times, she stops asking and does whatever I was supposed to do herself and gets stressed out and then has a meltdown when the pile builds up too high, while all the while I’m happily plinking away on my laptop keyboard writing blogs about what a great man-feminist I am (the first step is recognizing you have a problem).

I just can’t imagine having a marriage in which either one of us were officially in charge of other. It’s so foreign to the way that I understand Jesus’ teachings about servanthood. Why would I not want to work with my wife on ways of communicating and dividing our chores that will keep us both healthy? Why would I want to walk through life oblivious to the ways that I’m stepping on her toes? Why would I not want to encourage her to teach and correct me when I’m being sinful? I just can’t understand how a relationship as intimate as a marriage could ever be psychologically healthy under a hierarchical structure.

But I guess the complementarians will keep on getting the guys back in church. We’ve got a lot of women that come to our church without their husbands who are out golfing or fishing or whatever it is they do on Sundays. Their churches will keep growing, and ours will keep shrinking because they’re giving the men what they want and if the men are on board with Jesus then the whole family is on board. Women throughout the church’s history have never had too much trouble getting on board (just take a look at who was standing at the foot of the cross and who got up at the crack of dawn to head over to Jesus’ tomb).

Our church has a men’s retreat next weekend. 13 out of 20 slots have been filled. It’s hard not to read that as a straw poll on my effectiveness as a pastor. But even if I could get 100 guys to go on a retreat with me, I’m not going to make my wife into a rotisserie chicken or a leaky faucet.

32 thoughts on “My wife is not a rotisserie chicken or a leaky faucet

  1. Pingback: what’s next? ‘biblical hot womanhood’? |

  2. Wow, I really appreciate how you communicated all of this, and especially this thought: “I just can’t understand how a relationship as intimate as a marriage could ever be psychologically healthy under a hierarchical structure.”
    I appreciate both your humor and insight into this conversation. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hasn’t Driscoll run out his 15 minutes yet? Honestly, if the good guys weren’t blogging about him, I never would have heard of him. I read you about “others like him,” — I just don’t happen to have ever heard of any, nobody but Driscoll.

    Life is short, is this really worth the time? Because I have a long list of things that prompt my outrage. This is a very small corner of a very small world, me thinks.

    • Where are you coming from with this, Tracy? I’m the husband of a woman who is called to the ministry so for me this is a very important issue. I’m also an evangelical who feels called to evangelize the evangelicals. The way I was liberated from bad theology was to see the blatant absurdities that resulted from living it out. The smoking hot wife pastors offer an important witness that illuminated their true nature.

  4. nothing like turning your wife into a piece of meat for all men to lust after. way to go pastors…. i was in a church like that for a number of years….. glad God moved me out and on with Him.

  5. “…. then has a meltdown when the pile builds up too high, while all the while I’m happily plinking away on my laptop keyboard writing blogs about what a great man-feminist I am (the first step is recognizing you have a problem).”

    Tee hee. I just love your writing.

  6. My husband actually commented on a photo of us together with that phrase, including the obligatory, “Dear 8 lb 6 oz Lord Baby Jesus…” beginning. However, I was not the least bit offended, because it was viewable to friends and family, and intended to be humorous. Morgan, I have to honestly agree with your assessment about the kind of submission theology that is being passed off as Biblical these days. It is misogyny-lite for the “faithful”. My own marriage is much different. There is no hierarchy. I assume he is the expert in matters of mathematics, engineering, cars, planes and music (his areas of interest and training), and he does the same for me in matters of chemistry, theology, horses, literature and finances. We collaborate on everything else, including chores and children. It’s really quite fabulous. And freeing. I can be myself, all of myself, strengths and weaknesses. And he is free to be the same. And full disclosure: I’m the pastor in our particular pastor/spouse arrangement, so I suppose I’ll have to watch the inappropriate comments about how he looks in a flight suit 🙂

      • He’s an F-16 guy enduring an assignment in the RPA world (drones). It definitely has positive aspects though. When we lose a plane, I don’t have to ask if the pilot got out safely. What base are you near?

        • A fighter pilot! 🙂 We’re just outside of DC so most of the Air Force folks come here to fly a desk at the Pentagon. Yeah I’ve kind of held myself back with regarding to ranting about the whole drone thing. Of course I hate it on a macro level but good people who I care about have to do it as their job and I know they do the best that they can with what’s been put in front of them. And I’m of course glad that your husband is safe.

  7. The Church does need to update how it Presents it’s message but the message itself shouldn’t be compromised. People who talk about this head-of-household stuff are just as guilty of faddish theology as those they might be inclined to criticize. Increasing participation will require an accurate picture of Christianity that counters the bad behavior too many have heard about and a presentation that meets the spiritual needs Of the people closest within reach (that varies). The choice of “contemporary” vs. “traditional” services is one of those things where different answers work for different people.;

  8. It really seems like you have an issue with Mark Driscoll. Perhaps you should have a discussion with him instead of publically opposing him. Just saying, this is a public forum and is counter-productive to the mission we are all on together. I disagree with you on this issue but I know that you are trying to be on mission with Christ like many other pastors and teachers including Mark Driscoll.

    ~”Just one broken person trying to help other broken people find their way.”

    • When you’re a public figure who speaks in public, you invite public criticism. If someone said something in a private context and I made it public instead of addressing it privately with that person, then that would be a different matter.

      • Your article comes across as a personal vendetta against another pastor or group of people and not really presenting a different view point. I consider myself part of the group of people you have demonized and the way you describe my supposed point of view is not what I believe at all. So, I don’t know how exactly to respond other than to say that some men may be in sin if they truly believe the view you have described and I do not think this is anywhere near the majority of people who hold this view. I do pray that your ministry is successful and is fruitful. Have a great Sunday.

  9. If Driscoll’s misogynistic approach in attracting men to the church is wrong how do we preach a mesaage or cultivate a culture that attracts men back to church?

    • Don’t ask me. I can’t get them to come to my freaking men’s retreat. I’m at a loss. I tried to preach a man sermon today about Peter. I wish that I could figure this out. We do need to have things framed differently for us than women it seems.

  10. Followed a pastor once in a mainline denom who publicly said things inappropriately “appreciative” of his wife’s attributts, uh, *attributes*, and did so in front of me as well. Divorce proceedings shortly thereafter revealed that someone else appreciated them also. Married 35 years, we have been equals in our marriage from the beginning, and any compliments I make of her deals with her amazing professional accomplishments and interpersonal wisdom that has manifested itself in many ways as a spouse and a parent.

      • Morgan, it depends on what “that way” means and the cultural setting in which it takes place. From the comments on my post about it (even by Egalitarian Pastor’s wives, for example), there is a tendency to mirror-read into comments things that aren’t there. Balance is needed and there are times and ways in which praising the physical attributes of one’s spouse can serve to not only encourage them, but also to lift up the sacred gift of sexuality among a Christian culture that is used to it being denied, avoided, or downplayed. I’m not defending any post or comment by anyone in particular. But there’s a strong tendency toward reactionary thinking that I sense whenever I read such criticisms of the latest Driscoll/Complementarian point of outrage in the blogosphere by my fellow non-Complementarians.

        • Of course I compliment my wife’s physical looks *in private,* but if I’m complimenting them in public, it just seems like I’m really complimenting myself on having a nice trophy.

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