What happens when we reduce the gospel to a “Disney princess” story? Take for example the version of the gospel DesiringGod.org staff writer Greg Morse likes to imagine in his “review” of the movie Captain Marvel. In his piece, Morse promotes “God’s story for all eternity [which] consists of a Son who slew a Dragon to save a Bride. Jesus did not put his woman forward, and neither should we.”
Morse laments the disappearance of his feminine ideal: the heroine of 1950’s Disney films like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty—a passive woman with little discernible agency of her own, waiting for Prince Charming to rescue her from the wiles of a wicked stepmother or to wake her from sleep with a magical kiss.
Here’s the cry of a man who fantasizes of the days of “Sleeping-Beauty” women: where a Real Male™ prince plants a kiss—without consent—on an unconscious woman to “save her”… And these become the stories that men who follow DesiringGod pine for!
Their heroines are powerless and defenseless. They can’t give consent. They are perpetually in need of a dragon-slaying man to grunt and pummel his way through the door and rescue her.
To men like Morse, the idea of a fully autonomous woman with the ability to rescue a man is unconscionable, like some sort of twisted gospel reversal. In their gospel, the woman represents helpless, sinful humanity; and men represent Jesus, the Savior/Rescuer, or the Dragon Slayer.
And herein lies the male cognitive dissonance—a willful blindness to the truth that women continually risk their lives for the sake of humanity’s existence.
DesiringGod would tell you:
“We ought to lament that feminist lust cannot be appeased, even with blood. It takes its daughters and now, calling men’s bluff, advocates for sending its mothers into the flames…. Yet the feminist agenda does not condone this exclusion. It will not be patronized by any messages of ‘you can’t,’ ‘you won’t,’ or ‘you shouldn’t.’ Even when we say, ‘You can’t go into the lion’s den for us’; ‘You won’t risk a brutal death to protect us’; ‘You shouldn’t expose yourself to the bullets bearing our name’ — even then, the deprivation still causes offense. But our God, our nature, our love must firmly say, ‘You are too precious, my mother, my daughter, my beloved. It is my glory to die that you may live.’”
This article pretends the ultimate expression of love that men have for women is going off to war and ‘risking a brutal death to protect us.’
Yet most men will not be going off to war. This heroine sacrificing her life is much more of a female reality throughout history. However, to acknowledge that every man has entered into this world by a mom risking her own life to bear a child and bring them into the world is to recognize that women have always played this powerful, sacrificing, life-risking role. This takes them out of the dainty, glass-slipper nostalgia of female helplessness and puts them into the boots of badass dragon slayers.
Quick sidenote from Nate: Lest you come to the conclusion that women’s badassery in childbirth should absolve them of the desire to kick ass in every other environment, allow me to stop you before you go down that path. If anything, this should be the key that unlocks the door to women doing whatever the hell they choose to do. If they can sacrifice their lives and bodies for the sake of perpetuating humanity, they can certainly sacrifice their lives in whatever venue they choose for the sake of protecting humanity, educating humanity (and yes, this includes teaching and preaching), and securing a bright and abundant future for humanity. Women’s badassery is not limited to childbirth and child-rearing.
All of this frightens the followers of John Piper (like Morse and the rest of the staff at DesiringGod), who see male headship and dominance over women as critical. The mere thought of men and women (and every gender in between) having any semblance of equality scares the hell out of a crew that clings to patriarchal authority structures as the best representation of God.
Am I exaggerating? It’s just a few misogynists’ opinion, after all. I wish it were. Instead of engaging these ideas as the ramblings of a small subset of extremists in the most conservative corners of the world’s largest religion, we have allowed them to become the dominant set of beliefs in many of the most popular megachurches in America. Along with DesiringGod we abandon God’s ideals of true egalitarianism and seek to suppress Her dream of a world where men, women, and non-binary people can equip themselves and use their skills, gifts, and creativity to fully realize God’s creative vision. Captain Marvel trades in her photonic blasts for sleep interruptible only by a kiss from Prince Charming; Wonder Woman, her bulletproof bracers for fragile glass slippers. Does the insanity bother us anymore?
*** Editorial Note: A previous version of this post linked directly to the Desiring God webpage that hosted the referenced piece by Greg Morse. We noticed that the Desiring God staff removed a reference to the Disney films Snow White and Sleeping Beauty without providing notice of the change. We replaced the direct link with a link to the archived post as it was originally published.