Evangelical Stepford Wives
OCTOBER 23, 2018
In The Stepford Wives (first a 1972 Novel and later a movie—twice), a society of men find a way to transform their wives into the women they always thought they wanted:
beautiful and thin, finely dressed, domestic goddesses, and tigers in the bedroom. These wives have no opinions, and they answer “yes, dear” to whatever their husbands ask. The men love it…for a while. But what they discover over time is the dissatisfaction of fake relationships based only on externals. In the story, husbands turn their wives into robots. In the church, women do it to each other.
As a new Christian, I could not get enough Bible teaching. I listened to sermons every day on my way to and from work. At home, I plopped down on my roommate’s bed, and we would talk about all we were learning. Scripture poured into me and out of me. Then a girl from our church asked us to join her for a Bible study. On the first morning, she gave us our assignments, a schedule, and a strict order to be on time. She put herself in authority and made sure we complied with the rules. She rebuked us when we didn’t follow through “excellently.” My roommate and I started feeling trapped. The motivation shifted from joyful conversation, to reports on how well we were disciplining ourselves to please her. That study lasted about three weeks.
Titus 2:3-5 calls upon older women to teach younger women what is good. It goes on to give a list of good things to teach. But in that list of six things, only one is an activity—“to be busy at home.” Even that is vague and differs in practicality for each individual. The other five are heart issues that cannot be measured through activity.
You can be busy at home with lots of good things: homeschooling, crafts, nutrition, home decorating, sewing, housekeeping, couponing, and so on. Are these what the apostle Paul had in mind when he said, “teach what is good”? These things can all be good—unless they become the standard for what every godly woman does. We fall short in our calling to teach each other when we only define good in domestic and external terms. None of these activities make a woman godly.
We don’t like messy people we can’t fix. Our solution is to come up with a code of behavior we can live by and enforce on others. Our motivation is guilt and the fear of man’s (or woman’s) disapproval. We give them rules to follow and schedules to keep. The one who will not (or cannot) follow the code is met with disapproval when she fails. She may be told to do better and sent on her way. This unfortunate disciple may then merely pretend to follow the code, hiding her failure—thus, a hypocrite is born. This is how the church loses her first love. No one is motivated long-term by guilt. Guilt may reach the behavior, but it will never reach the heart.
The religious leaders in Jesus’s day were guilty of an extreme form of this type of rulemaking. They added more laws to God’s law in order to appear more holy to people. Jesus said to them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites…(who) appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28). Their self-righteousness blinded them to their need for a Savior. Jesus asked them, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44). Here we are two thousand years later doing the very same thing.
Depending on Christ’s righteousness is the joyful alternative to human achievement. The beauty of the gospel is realized when we humbly admit we have nothing to offer—no righteousness to bring. Christian women know this but don’t usually live with this kind of vulnerability in front of each other. Instead, we try to prove the opposite. Covering our weakness and wearing a mask of external righteousness, we fool others into thinking we are godly because of what we do.
We were not called to be robots. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give to you that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I cannot truly love someone if I am enslaved to her opinion of me. Being fake is not love.
This is an excerpt from Marci’s book, Grace is Free