“My wife is so HOT.”
If you’ve grown up in the charismatic church, you’ve probably heard these words from the pulpit many, many times. Everyone laughs and rolls their eyes and allows the statement to be tucked away into the forgettable parts of their brain. But it isn’t forgotten. It sticks around.
The speaker is typically seen as wise, respectable, humorous, and spirit-filled (as he probably is); but his wife is simply seen as “hot” or as an okay cook or whatever other shallow descriptor the speaker has mentioned. We may not think much of these statements, but we can easily neglect the impact they have on our Christian perspective.
Language is an incredibly powerful tool God gives us to model and glorify Him. He didn’t snap, zap, or think the earth into motion. He spoke it. He spoke life itself into existence, and He created us in such a way that we can speak realities into the lives of those around us. But it’s not just the obvious statements or the big idea of a sermon that changes the way we see things. It’s the little repeated comments that catch the attention of our brain before unintentionally shaping our perspectives.
Subtle language and small jokes are exactly the language that is the most dangerous to us.
If a preacher were to plainly say, “My wife is great to look at, but doesn’t have any other noteworthy qualities,” just about everyone from the church would be rightfully upset and disagree entirely. But when we primarily hear the preacher comment on his wife’s looks rather than her personality, we perpetuate objectification of women and an image-based culture. This causes soft-spoken women to be seen as two-dimensional, and outspoken women to be seen as intimidating. I’ve often wondered how could this change if phrases were made about a woman’s ambition, compassion or intelligence. I pray that these are the phrases my sons and daughters will become accustomed to when discussing women.
The “hot wife” scenario is only a piece of the problem. Ignorant rhetoric gives us unhealthy or incorrect perspectives on many issues, and I find that women are frequently the most affected groups in the church. Because the voices we hear from the pulpit are predominantly male, the voices we hear have a strong male bias.
Male bias is everywhere- from common phrases to little nuances that affect our world. The repeated phrase, “boys will be boys,” allows boys to grow up with a sense of entitlement and a way to excuse their own behavior. The more we introduce women in relationship to men (the pastor’s daughter, Jim’s wife, etc.) while we let men stand alone (This is Pastor Bob, this is Jim, etc.), the more we see women as inferior or put her identity in her relationships- not herself.
Small language clearly has huge implications on our culture, and it is so easy to just let the small things go for the sake of putting the speaker in a positive light. While it is so, so important to not let our views of people change because of the misguided statements they make, it is even more important not to allow these same respectable people to unintentionally shape our perspective on women.
The answer to our problem is this: think analytically and speak kindly. Once we learn how to balance these two ideas, we can identify the way the Church sees women and mend the culture we’ve created.