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Presbyterian pastor preaches on a proverbial prototype

The Rev. Dr. Anita Wright speaks about Wonder Woman

May 14, 2024

Photo by Dale de Vera via Unsplash

From childhood, the Rev. Dr. Anita Wright, the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montclair, New Jersey, has thought Wonder Woman — especially Linda Carter’s version — was wonderful.

“She is beloved because she is strong and capable, always fighting for justice and freedom for others and for herself,” Wright said during a recent chapel service sermon, which can be viewed here, with Wright entering at the 12:03 mark. Wright’s written resources were at the center of the PC(USA)’s Celebrate the Gifts of Women observation and are available here.

Preaching via Zoom, Wright used Proverbs 31:10–31 — “Ode to a Woman of Strength” — as her text.

Wonder Woman’s theme song attests to her attributes, Wright said: “Make a hawk a dove/Stop a war with love/Make a liar tell the truth.”

“All our hopes are pinned on you,” people in need tell this superhero. “You’re a wonder, Wonder Woman.”

“The theme song celebrates all the powers she possesses, but it also puts a lot of pressure on her,” Wright noted. “It’s wonderful, and we’re excited about it, but it’s exhausting. It would take supernatural power to do all she does.”

The same may be said of the “capable wife” described in Proverbs 31, which Wright called “the prototype that every woman should be.” She’s celebrated for the way she cares for her children, guides her servants, purchases the best clothes, prepares for a rainy day, trades with the merchants, sets up a business — “oh, and supports her husband,” Wright said, calling it “exhausting” just to list some of the things that this more-than-capable woman does.

“I mean, who can do all of this?” Wright said. “Yes, she’s lovely as a concept, but she weighs heavy on women as someone to emulate.”

The reality is, “She’s a combination of a lot of women that were known to the author,” Wright said. While she’s an amalgam, “these verses have often been highlighted as some type of attainable, desirable woman for whom all women should aspire.” But “this woman is fictional. She did not exist as a single person.”

The Rev. Dr. Anita Wright

The question becomes, “Is there anything we can learn from this mythical Wonder Woman in Proverbs 31 in the celebration of living, breathing real women?” Wright said. “Absolutely there is.”

The first thing is to celebrate the gift of caring. This woman worked both in her house and in her community. She was “active in the local economy while using her resources to care for those who were less fortunate” than she was. While she cared for the poor, “she did not neglect herself in order to do it,” Wright said.

The next thing to celebrate is her creativity. She “perceives her merchandise is good, and she trades it with the merchants. She uses the profit to buy a field, clothes, and provisions, and to hire servants,” Wright said. “She uses her energy, intelligence, creativity, imagination and love to sustain herself, her family and her community.”

“Was this woman Presbyterian?” Wright asked with a smile.

“My ancestors knew how to stretch a dollar, to take a few items from the cupboard to feed their family and oftentimes those in the community as well,” Wright said. “In the same way, we look inward to discover the gifts we have and celebrate how we can use them to create something wonderful.”

“You rejoice in the fact that you took a seed of an idea and grew it into something marvelous.”

The third gift we celebrate from this amalgam of a woman is collaboration. “She collaborated and coordinated so she could achieve more,” Wright said. “She was the best of a whole bunch of women with a whole lot of great qualities.”

It’s through collaboration “we are freed from this idea we have to do it all ourselves” and released “from this notion you have to be a superwoman. No, you don’t have to do all of that. You are a wonder all on your own,” Wright said.

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Rev. Dr. Anita Wright speaks about Wonder Woman

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Crystal Heath, Administrator, Plan Operations, Board of Pensions  
Kaeli Hedges, Administrative Assistant, Operations, Presbyterian Foundation 

Let us pray

Gracious God, thank you for the blessings in abundance that allow for your gifts to overflow to those in need. Empower us, your servants, to share your good gifts, and in so doing, know the abundant love you have for all your children. In Christ’s service we pray. Amen.