When Sarah Palin was announced as McCain’s choice of Vice President many conservatives were excited. I hate to be a dissenting voice in a party that needs a bit of excitement but I am just not sure about the arrangement.
First I confess to a rather far-expanding complementarianism that leads me to be uncertain about the roles of men and women in political office. Scripture teaches that men are to be the leaders of homes and churches. People are right to point out that Scripture does not have much to say on the role of women in the political sphere (such as Mohler says here and several say here). I am only aware of one instance in Scripture where a woman was given any sort of authority over men. That woman, as you probably guessed, was Deborah. This post is not the place to do a long examination of Deborah so I would simply say that her example is exceptional, not normative, and the role she held was far more limited than most egalitarians would like us to believe.
On the other side, I am only aware of one passage that might say anything against women holding a leadership role. That passage comes in the midst of a list of judgments God has against Israel. Among their faults we find the following:
My people–infants are their oppressors,Â and women rule over them.Â O my people, your guides mislead youÂ and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.
Something about women ruling over the people contributed to God’s words against them. Was it the kind of rule the women provided, or that they allowed women to rule over them at all?
Here is what has caused me the struggle. Even though no Scripture directly addresses the political sphere, the case is pretty solid for the home and the church. Would God have us run our society in a way that is different from our homes and our churches? Keep in mind that the Bible says little about the political sphere but every example we have of God establishing a faithful political leader that leader is a man. In the New Testament the silence on the issue should not surprise us – the people had absolutely no say over who could be the leader. They had no influence in the political process so it never would have occurred to the writers to instruct the people to do anything more than pray for the leaders. They had no vote to cast, no Vice President to support. Whether or not women could rule was a non-issue for people who had no say in the whole process. This is one reason slavery is not directly opposed in the New Testament. What discussions we find show that slavery was not something affirmed and defended but we never find it outright spoken against. The people could not influence the political institution that enforced slavery.
Now I know we live in a secular society under a secular government. I do not believe the Bible should be our constitution – but I do believe in the free exercise of religion by the people and by politicians, meaning our decisions and actions can and should guide what we do in politics. The Bible is not our constitution, but our constitution should come out looking a lot like the Bible. As far as our leaders go, I will vote for those leaders who I feel best uphold biblical expectations for leadership and who will best promote a godly society. That includes characteristics that demonstrate a proper ordering of society. Is it the proper ordering of society for women to rule over men in politics but not in the home? So we find the unusual situation of Mrs. Palin having authority over Mr. Palin while also having to submit to him.
One other point of concern and that is their family itself. I am a strong advocate of women staying home when it is possible. There are circumstances where both the husband and wife simply must work, though this circumstance is not nearly so common in America as some might think. Children need their parents. Daycare is just no substitute. When necessary, it can work out by the grace of God. But I do not believe it is what God intends. Palin’s job as governor – and certainly as Vice President! – would keep her away from her children more than most working mothers and yet she has a family that needs a mother. Five children – one of whom suffers from a terrible disorder, another of whom is even now a young mother waiting to deliver her child. It sounds like her husband is spending a lot of time with the children so they do at least have one parent around but I am old fashioned enough to believe that the primary caregiver to children should be the mother. That is simply impossible in this case.
It also concerns me to hear how Palin has talked about her pregnant daughter. I agree that this is a private family matter and should be respected as such. Nonetheless, I have concerns with what Sarah Palin herself has said. Statements to the media are very affirming of their daughter (which is good) and express delight at being grandparents (which is good) but don’t even contain a hint that what has led to this is not good but is sinful. Not even the very weak phrase “our daughter made a mistake” was used. When Britney Spears’ sister announced she was pregnant and excited about being a mother there was quite a bit of concern that she was sending a message that unmarried teenage pregnancy is okay or even desirable. Palin’s statement essentially sends the same message but I have yet to see anyone express concerns over what was said (with some exception from leftist bloggers and journalists who say this shows the failure of conservative social idealism and abstinence only education). I’m not looking for an exposition on the sin of premarital sex but I would have liked for her to include some sort of comment that though they love and support their daughter and look forward to their grandchild, the actions that led to this situation were wrong.
None of this will change my support for McCain. Even if Palin herself were running I would probably vote for her, though my concerns would be even stronger. As I heard one person comment, I would rather have a woman in office with the pro-life record of Palin than have Obama in office with his strong support for abortion.
In the end none of these leaders will rule the day. God stands over it all and nothing will happen contrary to his plan and will for the world.