Participation Trophy

“Most women can’t be trophy wives, but you know … maybe you’re a participation trophy.” Steward Allen Clark, Baptist Pastor… of course it was a Baptist Pastor.

On Sunday I was pulled aside, “I have a sermon topic for you… tell all the women to quit wearing sweatpants and lose weight!” The absurdity of it makes it laughable. But the reality of it makes me cringe. How could a pastor say this? Not as a dumb off handed comment, but as a planned, hopefully prayed over, sermon?

Being this uncouth is simply sexist. But these ideas have roots in conservative church culture. The patriarchy — men hold power — has been reframed as complementarianism. Complimentarianism states that men and women are created differently and therefore have different roles. This smoothes the rough edges of patriarchy, but notice the men still hold the power.

There are certainly differences between male and female. But roles should be defined by God’s calling. As God called women leaders in the scriptures, we should expect God to continue to call those leaders today. And we should be wary of ANY theology that attempts to hold onto power.

Reading the pastor’s words, he thanked God for weight watchers helping his wife. But I could only stare at his plump figure and wonder why God did not use weight watchers on him. I suspect his wife would have appreciated that!

What is a wife’s role in marriage? What is a husband’s? Is a husband to dominate and a wife to serve? Toss out any ideas of patriarchy or complementarianism. Even toss out egalitarianism. Too often these are all about who holds the power. Instead insert the gospel. Whoever wants to be first, will be last. Whoever wants to lead, will be a servant. Jesus, incarnate God, submitted.

My wife is not a trophy for me. Nor I for her. The prize of marriage is not the other person. If we slip into the idea that our spouse should please us. If we measure them on scales. Both of us will be frustrated. Instead we let go of selfishness. I serve my wife. She serves me. Mutual submission. Just as we both submit first to God. In this way marriage love is compared to Christ’s love for the church. And this love is the trophy — a blessing beyond anything I deserve.

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