There’s a group of conservative evangelicals staying home from G.O.P. campaign headquarters and quietly planning to pull levers for third party candidates this November. This time it’s not McCain that bothers them; it’s the vice-presidential candidate he chose just for them. It’s not that Sarah Palin isn’t conservative and pro-life and it’s not that she doesn’t look and talk a lot like they do. It’s that she’s a woman.
Christians like Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Ministries say that Christians are sacrificing Biblical standards to embrace John McCain (an “unacceptable candidate” with a “horrific… left-wing, anti-family, track record") and Sarah Palin, who apparently “calls for some of the more radical feminist reforms advanced by a vice presidential candidate in history." Voddie Baucham asks, “Are we saying that pro-family means one thing when we’re in church, but something else when we’re trying to beat the Democrats?"
They’re a fringe of one of Christianity’s fringes, but since major news sources find it fascinating and other Christians might find themselves muddled if they tried to articulate an answer, it’s time to address the problem.
They actually bring up a valid point: Can she handle the jobs of vice-presidency and mom? It’s a legitimate question for any voter—Christian or non-Christian, feminist or not —and it’s one I hope both McCain and Palin considered carefully. Not only is it unfair to her kids if she’s too busy running the country to raise them, it’s also unfair to the country if she’s too busy raising her kids.
While the question is valid, the theology prompting it is flawed. It’s the perennial problem of creating sharp dichotomies where none exist and twisting proof texts from ancient times to apply to modern times.
Vision Forum Ministries draws the dichotomy in its intro to “the most thoroughly-researched and best-reasoned article on the subject in our lifetime.” Either “the Bible alone establishes the complete and authoritative ethical standards for selecting civil magistrates,” or “American Christian voters must look to some man-divined standard other than the Bible.”
Vision Forum sides with the first of course, and they say that the “ethical standard” is male leadership in all spheres of life—not just church and home but also politics and the civil sphere. Since any New Testament scriptures about male leadership apply only to the church or the home, they go back to Exodus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 1:13, both of which, they note, use the word “men” when describing the kind of character civil magistrates should have.
First, these verses don’t prohibit women from being civil magistrates. They simply assume that the civil magistrates will be men. They don’t expressly, explicitly exclude women. They simply neglect to include them, which makes sense for the patriarchal culture thousands of years ago and far less sense today, since Christianity itself has promoted women’s worth and equality.
Second, these verses apply to an Old Testament theocracy, and (fervently, sincerely thank God) we’re no longer living in one. It’s helpful to classify Old Testament law according to three categories: moral law (don’t sleep with your sister), ecclesiastical law (sacrifice animals to atone for your sin) and civil law (stone rebellious children). Moral law lasts. Ecclesiastical and civil law passed away. Neither of these verses even rise to the level of civil law. In Exodus, it’s not God talking but Moses’ father-in-law giving some paternal advice. In Deuteronomy, it’s Moses recounting the instance in Exodus—not claiming to speak for God but reminding Israel of what he advised them earlier.
While there may be other reasons not to vote for Sarah Palin, Exodus and Deuteronomy aren’t one of them. A vote for Palin is not (as stated in the most thoroughly-researched and best-reasoned article on the subject in our lifetime) a vote to “undermine the authority of God’s law" and "corrupt the Word of God.”
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