Sunday, September 21, 2008

Head of State, Not of Church

In an opinion piece posted on the “About Faith” forum, a group managed by Newsweek and the Washington Post, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, an influential seminary in the Southern Baptist Convention, defends the position that it is not hypocritical to believe that “a woman could lead a nation, and not a congregation”. This question was raised by the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention asserts:

"A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation".

Additionally, the SBC asserts that only “qualified men” are called to serve as church pastors: “This conviction was not invented by Southern Baptists. It was, and now remains, the honest conviction held by most Christians around the world, and for good reason.”

Which begs the question: if SBC members believe that it is not a woman’s place to lead a church or to be head of a household, why then would they support a woman in a bid for the (Vice) Presidency? Is an exception being made for Gov. Sarah Palin because her politics are in line with theirs, or could they wholeheartedly endorse any woman’s decision to run for office?

Mohler defends the SBC statements on wifely submission, and on women’s inability to serve as church leaders, by stating that they are drawn from the Bible and are widely accepted among Christians. Because the Bible gives explicit teachings on the issues of women’s roles in the home and church, evangelicals support these positions. However, according to Mohler:

“Our confession of faith does not speak to the appropriateness of women serving in political office. The reason for this is simple -- the New Testament does not speak to this question in any direct sense.”

This line of reasoning seems to make sense within the framework of the SBC assertions, but I don’t believe that it is strong enough to hold up against outside arguments. There are too many logical gaps and questions which remain unaddressed for Mohler’s statement to be accepted at face value. For example, if Palin were to become the President, and thus the head of the nation, under the SBC guidelines, wouldn’t she be ultimately accountable to her husband, and under his leadership? Isn’t the office of President a post with moral and ethical dimensions, similar to a pastor, on a much larger scale?

Additionally, drawing such a distinct line between the role of women in church and in politics seems a bit crass given the religious right’s fervent interest in policy and the national moral agenda; they rally voters around hot-button moral issues with religious implications (and thus are attempting to violate church/state separation). It is opportunistic to embrace Palin because she can (a) further their agenda, and (b) put a compassionate face on a movement which is frequently viewed as patriarchal and in favor of strict gender roles. If there is a public showing of support for Palin, it makes the right seem progressive and stereotype-shattering for embracing a woman in power.

While Mohler’s arguments for supporting a female candidate for the White House are logical within his framework, I do not believe that the support for Palin is motivated by any larger purpose or great desire to see a woman in office. It still seems very hypocritical to deny so much power to women in other aspects of their lives, and then to make a public show of rallying around one particular female candidate who can help to further their interests.


eduardol said...

The blog post brings up some very important points, such as the underlying motives the writer would have by presenting this argument. I found interesting how the article pays special interest on Sarah Palin’s family. Rev. Albert Mohler Jr. talks about Palin’s family and the effect that holding office would have on it. Some may argue that she is prepared to hold a high political position and also focus on her family because she has been doing it throughout her political career, and others argue that she has not done a good job of balancing family and job. Nonetheless, this is a private matter that I think Americans should set aside in the election. We are not here to look out for the welfare of her family, but of our country.

Becca W said...

The ultimate hypocrisy doesn’t lie in the belief that a woman can run a country but not a church, it lies in the support a woman in a political pursuit that you believe should be her role of secondary importance. If you believe she should be focused on her “more important” role of wife and mother, how can you make the claim that she is the best candidate? In past elections, has the question of family priority ever been voiced for a single male candidate? She’s running for a political position, not nanny of the year.
As for the argument that the church does not find the “question directly addressed in the Bible,” one could make the argument that abortion isn’t directly mentioned either. The Bible mainly stipulates murder as being amoral, not abortion. There are many insistences where the principles taught in the bible are manifested into applicable morals, I don’t think the “the bible didn’t say I couldn’t” principle applies.

Tyler C said...

In the post, “Head of State, Not of Church,” by Dana G. a very important point is made. Why do Christians trust Sarah Palin to potentially run the country, but not allow women to lead a church? The issue of the game of politics is discussed, but I want to elaborate on the points of women submitting themselves to men and whom Palin would be held accountable to in the possibility she becomes president.

First, women’s submitting themselves to men is what I consider to be skewed logic. It is apparent that some religions still believe this is the way society is supposed to operate, but I disagree. Although the United States does not have an equal rights amendment guaranteeing everyone equality, I believe the fourteenth amendment to the federal constitution guarantees this already. That is because every is guaranteed “equal protection of the laws.” Even though this is view of mine is not widely held, I believe it is a great place to begin our
progress toward non-discrimination.

Second, Dana G. discusses the idea that Palin could easily become president one day. This is an interesting question, as some of Palin’s religious supporters believe women do not belong in places of power and are subject to the final decisions of their husband. I would hope it would not be true, but it is possible that Palin, depending on the depth of her religious beliefs, would listen to her husband as the ultimate voice of reason during executive decisions.

Most likely, Palin and the religious right are bouncing the charisma off each other. The right wants a conservative in office, and Sarah Palin is interested in furthering her political career. It is the concept of self-interest in action.

Tyler C said...
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