Refrigerator Magnet Theology

WARNING: THIS IS A RANT. It is not often that I use this space for rants, but last week I saw something that incensed me so much that I could not hold my tongue. This post has sat in my queue all weekend, waiting for me to come back to it and confirm that it is something I should share, and since you are reading it, I did feel compelled to publish it. Please feel free to leave any intelligent comments you would like after reading this entry in its entirety.

Last week our student ministry prepared and served dinner for our church’s weekly Wednesday Night Live dinner. While preparing, a magnet that I don’t remember seeing before caught my eye. As I read it, I found myself feeling offended, disgusted and saddened all in the span of about 6 seconds. If you can’t make out what the magnet says, it reads:

“Three Wise WOMEN would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made casserole, brought practical gifts, and there would be peace on earth.” (emphasis mine)

I know that to many, this magnet is innocuous, and light-hearted, but in a time when our churches are filled to capacity with Biblically illiterate Christians who spend more time memorizing sports statistics and watching TV and movies than they do in the words of their Creator, it is also ridiculously dangerous.

To imply that women would have done a better job is insulting to men now, to the Magi then, and to God Himself. It screams of ego and vanity, claiming that the men who were there did not do what they were supposed to. This magnet claims that women are better than men not just in those areas, but in all areas (since they would have been the ones to institute peace on earth, not the Magi or God Himself, you know). God created men and women at the same level. We were equals before the Fall, and since sin entered the world we have been battling for superiority. This magnet is one more salvo in that battle, whether the creators realize it or not. Our churches should be celebrating the good qualities that God endowed us with because He gave us those gifts, not comparing our blessings against others’ shortcomings. (And speaking as a man who did a lot of work in delivering my own children, I am especially insulted). This magnet is one more dagger in the side of the church, reinforcing the idea that we should be at war with the opposing gender. Yes, over the centuries the church has silenced and put down women, and we still have a long way to go. But since when has it been acceptable to God to fight back by insulting the opponent, and claiming your own superiority?

I think what upsets (and saddens) me the most about this magnet is that it implies that God’s plan was not good enough. God set up the Magi to visit because of who they were. Their gifts were symbolic and were fit for a real King. They arrived when they were supposed to. God set everything in place for their visit. How could His plan not have been good enough? Peace on earth started that day. Just because it has not been fully realized does not mean that the plan did not work! It means that God’s time is more patient than ours, infinitely more patient than the creator of this magnet. Would women have behaved differently? Very likely. Would God have used women? It is possible. Luke’s Gospel makes it a point to put women at the forefront in a time when they were treated as second class citizens.

I realize that to many readers, I could be flying off the handle over nothing, or at least over something that is insignificant. But there are enough destructive forces at work in our world for me to keep silent about something that teaches poor theology. Our churches are already filled with people who water down their faith by following what the world says and then what God says. There is a place and a time for humor. It is possible to laugh within our faith and at ourselves. In the right context, this might even be a funny sentence to think over. But by itself, it is nothing more than the sloppy theology of a small, angry person. If you have this magnet (or any other “Spiritual” knick knacks that encourage poor theology) laying around, please burn them. Throw them away. Flush them down the toilet. Eat them. Do whatever it takes to get them out of your sight, so that they do not encourage you to create your own weak understanding of who God is, and how He works in His world through His people.