When I was a student at university, I saw the Stepford Wives (the original not the copy). It was so eerie I couldn’t get it out of my mind. A decade later I bought the VHS, and later the DVD, and I watched it over again every few years, both fascinated and repulsed.
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After university, I worked in London for three years. I became friends with a guy who loved horror movies. He took me to several, like Halloween (the original not the copy) and Friday the 13th, and I hated every one of them. I enjoyed the suspense of Hitchcock films, but the graphic terror of this new genre appalled me.
While the Stepford Wives isn’t horror, not exactly, it felt horrible to me. It’s the story of Joanna Eberhart who moves to the fictional city of Stepford Connecticut with her husband. She is amazed at all the compliant, non-confrontational wives. In their interactions with their husbands, it’s like they’re all chanting the same mantra over and over, “Yes dear. Yes dear.”
Joanna grows suspicious, especially after other friends move to Stepford and seem to undergo personality lobotomies, losing their souls while joining the chorus, “Yes dear. Yes dear.”
She discovers many of the husbands are scientists and engineers, capable of creating lifelike robots, and she begins to believe the Stepford wives have been replaces with compliant drones.
At the end of the movie, Joanna almost escapes but is captured, killed, and replaced by her own robotic clone, meandering down a supermarket aisle, no doubt humming, “Yes dear. Yes dear.”
Most of our marriage promises included the phrase, “For better or worse and in sickness and health.” But we didn’t mean it. The idea seemed romantic, but we really imagined a life of needs fulfilled and (perhaps) the heroic self-image of us dabbing cool washcloths to sooth our spouse’s fever. We were Prince Charming and Snow White, ready to live happily every after.
We certainly didn’t imagine our spouse challenging how fast we drive, criticizing us for spending thousands of dollars on the new eleven-foot plasma TV, and then grabbing the remote out of our hands (for the TV they hated) and switching from the Super Bowl to a Golden Girls rerun.
We imagined God creating spouses in our image, just like the husbands did in Stepford Wives.
And we completely ignored the reality that we humans benefit from people different than us. In one of the silliest episodes of Star Trek (the original not the copy), Harry Mudd is desperate to escape a planet he crash-landed on when escaping from prison. That planet is filled with thousands of human-like androids (the robot not the phone) willing to cater to his every whim.
Mudd even designs an android that looks like his wife, and whenever she begins to berate him, “Harcourt Fenton Mudd, is that alcohol I smell on your breath?” he shouts “Shut up,” punches a clicker, and she submissively shuts down murmuring, “you … you … you ….”
But Harcourt Fenton Mudd is desperate to escape the hell of this barren planet; because a robot controlled by a remote is transactional not relational, and frankly just boring.
We Need a God Who Can Challenge Us
If God is big enough and powerful enough that we pray to Him in times of trouble, then he also has to be wise enough to challenge our driving, criticize our spending, and to grab the remote out of our hands. We need Him to be a person not a robot. And we need Him to say, “No!”
If we were a little wiser ourselves, we’d beg him to challenge us. After all, most of our problems are the result of stupid (and rebellious) things we’ve decided, said, and done. Would we really want a clone crooning to us, “Yes dear. Yes dear,” as we strut like lemmings off a cliff?
Our God (the original not the copy) is not a Stepford Wife, and if He was, Christianity would be a nightmare that would terrify even Freddy Krueger.
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For several years, my friend Gary Barkalow has pushed me to turn my Hearing God conference into an online class, but I was reluctant. (Who really wants to see themselves on TV?) Last May, he claims out of exasperation, he told me he was flying out to my house with all his equipment to film me.
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You create very memorable parables that relate to our day-to-day lives. You made me laugh several times (love the parentheticals). We can’t make God in our own image or treat Him like a Yes Man. This reminds me of what we are told in Hebrews 12:11 about God’s correctional disciplining. Always good for us, if we can accept it.
Great reminder of Hebrew 12:1, which I’ll quote for all of us, and I’ll also include vs. 5 and 6, which begins the passage:
And thanks for liking my humor!
That was an interesting movie review. You and I were born in the same year and I remember my mom “sushing” me when James Garner was on TV. I have seen some of his westerns but never Stepford Wives. It’s in the queue now. Post-viewing I’ll read your post again 😉
You’ll have to tell me what you think of Stepford Wives, I really haven’t seen it for 20 years. My summary of the story is from memory (although I did google Joanna’s last name … my memory isn’t that good).
So let us know.
Hi Sam, love the article and totally agree. I’m still disturbed that in most churches and groups here in the UK God isn’t often welcomed in His entirety, but only the aspects of Him that fit with the groups theology. We do love our confirmation bias and loathe the discomfort of challenge, change and growth. I made it to 50 this year and I feel like my current journey is all about gentle, faithful rebellion. Thanks as always for your gentle, faithful (funny) challenges. God bless you.
I always appreciate you when you comment. Thank you.
I love your comment about churches participating in confirmation bias. I don’t think I need God (or friends) to affirm my bad traits. I affirm them too much already. What has happened to us?
I love your line, “I feel like my current journey is all about gentle, faithful rebellion.” Amen. Me too.
(And I really love it when you like my humor ?)