Since the Republican Party suffered widespread defeat on Election
Day, the GOP faithful have been debating whether the party should move
to the proverbial political center or embrace the conservatism of
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. What has gone unnoticed is that support for
Palin is a repudiation of the Bible.
Palin, while lauded as a draw for conservative evangelical voters,
actually fits uneasily into the theological worldview of the Christian
Right. To be sure, Palin’s politics are a close, if not exact match for
social conservatives. She is strongly against a woman’s right to choose
abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. She is against same-sex
marriage and for an expansive reading of the Second Amendment. She is a
perfect candidate — so long as evangelicals are able to look past her
But supporting Palin’s vice-presidential bid — and her possible
ambitions for 2012 — requires evangelical voters to overlook the
“complementarian” conception of the roles of men and women that holds
sway among Southern Baptists and other evangelicals. Based on their
reading of Scripture, they believe that men and women have distinctly
different roles assigned to them by God. Women, in this perspective,
are divinely mandated to serve as wives, mothers and keepers of the
home. They are not allowed to serve as pastors, and they are obliged to
submit to their husband in their own homes and in public.
The power of the belief that women are not eligible to lead came
crashing into religious living rooms in September when more than 100
Christian bookstores, run by the Southern Baptist Convention, refused to publicly display
an edition of Gospel Today magazine that featured five female pastors
on the cover. The magazine had to be withdrawn from public display,
said a spokesman, because the story “clearly advocates a position
contrary to our denomination’s statement of faith.” Christians could
only get the magazine by asking for it from behind the counter, a la
Penthouse or Playboy.
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How could it be that a female in the White House was acceptable at the same time that females at the pulpit posed a problem?
Albert Mohler, president of the Baptist Convention, offered an
answer on his blog: Scripture is vague on the question of whether women
can have public responsibilities and besides, Palin has fulfilled her
wifely and motherly duties, he argued.
“The New Testament clearly speaks to the complementary
roles of men and women in the home and in the church,” he wrote, “but
not in roles of public responsibility. I believe that women as CEOs in
the business world and as officials in government are no affront to
Scripture. Then again, that presupposes that women — and men — have
first fulfilled their responsibilities within the little commonwealth
of the family.”
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood argued that:
The Bible calls women to specific roles in the church
and home, but does not prohibit them from exercising leadership in
secular political fields. Rather, the Queen of Sheba is presented in 1 Kings 10:1-13
in a positive light in her interaction with King Solomon. Queen Esther
offers an even better example of a woman who appropriately exerted
influence for the good of her people without holding the highest
position of national authority (Esther 2:17).
In this light, we cannot categorically say that it was sinful for Queen
Victoria to lead England as a single woman strictly because of her
gender, nor can we condemn Governor Palin or any other woman for
seeking the office of Vice President.
But, as any reader of the Bible knows, these are selective readings.
Mohler and the council ignore politically inconvenient passages from
the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy that make clear that men, not
women, should rule.
“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able
men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place
such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds,
rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” ~ Exodux 18:21
“Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.” ~Dueteronomy 1:13
In the the book of Timothy in the New Testament, a woman’s path in life is outlined as follows:
“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up
holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women
adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety;
not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
The charitable Christian will leave aside the implications of this
injunction for Palin’s notorious $150,000 clothes shopping spree, and
ask how biblical fundamentalists can accept Timothy’s teachings and
still celebrate a female politician skilled in forthright rhetoric.
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But
I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but
to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not
deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in
faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” ~ 1 Timothy 2:8-15
The answer is: Not very easily.
For those who believe that there is an all-encompassing plan by God
as delivered in the Scripture, the complementarian view is fundamental.
The belief in specific gender roles with men being in leadership
positions over women cannot be separated from the order that the Bible
says God created:
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man
is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ
is God.” ~ I Corinthians 11:3
Yet many evangelicals, excited by the worldview expressed by Palin,
twist the otherwise inflexible words of the Bible to justify their
Not all have managed to make the leap.
“Those of us who seek a biblical reformation of the family and the
defeat of feminism’s vision for women look at the matter in a very
different light,” said Pennsylvania pastor William Einwechter, who
wrote of the “Feminization of the Family” in 2005.
“Sarah Palin identifies herself with the anti-Christian
philosophy of feminism. She uses feminist terminology, identifies with
feminist political objectives, publicly praises liberal icons of the
feminist movement, and has built her lifestyle around the feminist
ideal of motherhood and careerism. … She establishes the feminist
principle that if a woman can do something, and she wants to do it, she
ought to do it; there should be no constraints placed on her by her
family, her church, or her society. She validates the feminist notion
that it is fine for a mother to leave the care and training of her
children in the hands of others while she seeks her own version of
success in the world. Sarah Palin has brought to light the degree to
which feminist ideology has triumphed in American culture and in the
Even on the religious right.