Thursday, September 18, 2008

Three's Company? Palin, Mohler, and I

The following is a post I wrote for Complegalitarian. The issue surrounds the debate about how Sarah Palin should be viewed as a Christian woman in politics, running for the Vice Presidency of the United States. Although the debate over women in positions of authority is not new, the subject of Sarah Palin has catapulted the issue to the forefront of Christian circles. For Christians with a Complementarian point of view (that is, women have limited roles with respect to men) that also have a great interest in politics, this is the ultimate test of how their views apply. Some, like Al Mohler and David Kotter, both contributors to the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, make way for Sarah Palin to lead in the highest executive position in the country. Others, like Doug Phillips of the Vision Forum, say that consistency is key, and no woman should ever occupy any civic position of authority.

As you can tell from the title of this post, I side with Mohler's approval of Gov. Palin. However, the reasons underlying my agreement differ quite a bit from the majority of Complementarians who have put their views in print, as CBMW has. This post, as well as the next one, expound on my particular views on the issue. As the following is in repsonse to comments made on the Palin-Mohler issue, please feel free to read Complegalitarian for the full context.

This is hardly a cheering endorsement from Mohler, though it certainly is an acknowledgement that not all wives and mothers are called to stay at home. It is, however, a clear admonition to not view her as a normal women. She is an exception, like Esther or Deborah, period. She is not so much an example to be followed as she is an exception to the general rule. (molly).
Mohler has a consistency problem with this one because Palin professes to be a Christian. Mohler/CBMW teach that Christian women have a 'role'and all that entails that we have discussed here ad nauseum. :o) However, they are also saying that we can separate the civil and spiritual realms for women in leadership. That does not seem to be a problem except that Palin is a Christian woman. Is anyone else not seeing this conumdrum for CBMW? How can they separate the civil and spiritual realm with a Christian woman? You can't. Christians don't have 'realms'. (lin)
It is clear that the non-egals want to have their cake and eat it too. (don)

Is CBMW being inconsistent, many ask?

I think it depends on the person speaking. Doug Phillips seems to believe he is more consistent than Al Mohler, but I don't think that matters in light of his views. When you believe that a woman is created for no other purpose than to be a babymama-housekeeper, you've effectively dropped out of reasonable conversation altogether.

Is complementarianism in trouble because of Sarah Palin?

That's funny, and the answer is no. Let me point out that Richard Land (complementarian) was one of the first people to propose naming Sarah Palin for McCain's VP early on in the campaign.

Do I have a problem with consistency as a complementarian?

Well, if I make the kind of errors I've read so far from both egals and patriocentrists, yes. But I haven't. In this previous post, I argued that it is perfectly consistent with my views on Complementarianism that a woman could be a leader in any civil realm she chooses.

To the issue raised that Christians (and certainly complementarians) don't have separate realms, vis a vis a Christian/spiritual realm to a secular realm (and the accusation that complementarians are trying to split life into these two realms): I would contend that this is an incorrect framing of the issue, which is then, incorrectly trying to expose inconsistency in complementarianism.

The idea, 'There is no separate spiritual realm and secular realm for the Christian,' is a theological proposition about how we should conduct ourselves with Christlike integrity wherever we are (not an existential proposition). Al Mohler is not making a contrary theological claim to that. Instead, he is making a simple modal distinction brought up by the case of Sarah Palin. In short, she can wear that hat (whether governor or VP or whatever). As to whether or not there exist separate realms, of course there are--we don't live under a theocracy afterall, and we don't demand that our government be ruled by the Church. This is an argument against a position like Doug Phillips'. That anyone can construe this to be a problem of complementarian proportions is ridiculous.

Is Gov. Palin the exception? Yes, in the sense that I think most women don't have the ability to do what she is doing, including myself. I can hardly find time to read a book much less occupy a public office. But also no, in the sense that she is an exeption because she is exceptional, not because she's bending some rule somewhere to get where she is (which is otherwise closed to women). There is no such rule that prohibits women from exercising public office. Any woman who has the skills to govern effectively and still regard her husband and family properly should be afforded the opportunity to exercise those skills, regardless of whether she is a Christian or not. (I would add, especially if she is a conservative Christian, but that is my bias that we don't need any more liberal pro-abortion politicians hostile to Christianity here in this country). Marilyn did make this point in the combox (much better than I, I think).

For those of you who are salivating at the idea that the issue of Sarah Palin proves that complementarianism as a system of thought is wrong need to aim your guns elsewhere, because you've really missed the point. Some hard complementarians/patriocentrists, like Doug Phillips, are certainly wrong in their views, but their problem isn't complementarianism. It's the refusal in their own hearts to see the full humanity of women.

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