June 15, 2010

Posner Weighs In on Palin, Feminism and the Christian Right

I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
-- Apostle/St. Paul, 1 Timothy 2:12

The teabaggers are bound to wax themselves into a corner around gender. With working mom Sarah Palin on the one hand and the ascent of Sharron Angle as the challenger for Senate majority leader Harry Reid on the other, The Sarah is once again going to be challenged to crap or get off the pot when it comes to the tea party. Sharron doesn't approve of households where both parents work. I suppose she intends to get small government to impose this on America's families, somehow. Along with getting the fluoride out of the water, and Alex Jones onto the basic package of every ISP and cable company in America.

Vague sentimentalism like the bumper-sticker sloganeering Palin uttered during that ridiculous Fox Business "summit" are going to wear thin for her if she doesn't make a decision about the whackodoodle direction of the tea party, soon. The same is true for her Christian beliefs. She's going to have to fish or cut bait, to keep them reigned in by (and of course voting for) the GOP or cut them loose.

And yep, it's true: Sarah's got people talkin', and thinkin' (and you thought that wasn't possible. Well, it is.) Regarding her political aspirations, there are a lot of people besides traditional feminists and the general left who feel they have a stake.

If it's one thing I've learned, it's when people ask "Is Sarah Palin __________?" the answer is usually "no", or "probably not", at best. Sarah Posner asked at Religion Dispatches today if Is Sarah Palin The New Leader Of The Christian Right?, in response to Lisa Miller's Newsweek cover article. I concur with her conclusion, "no", but for somewhat different reasons than Posner gave.

Along with the now-conventional wisdom that Sarah is not permitted to use the "f" word to describe herself and her sisterhood of female bigots, Posner takes up the idea that Palin could be considered the leader of the religious right. At issue is the age-old question of gender roles, Biblical interpretation, and the future of both the feminist and religious right movements.

Cutting to the chase,

Palin will no more become a leader of the religious right than [Marjorie] Dannenfelser will, because Dannenfelser, like Phyllis Schlafly before her, will be lauded but still marginalized by the religious right men.

That may be true, but it's only part of the story. Firstly, Sarah Palin has the religious right discussing the issue like no one else before her, not even Aimee Semple MacPherson, mentioned occasionally on these pages, and in Posner's article. The main reason Palin will not become head of the religious right is primarily theological. Her lack of a strong, clearly-stated personal theology -- including one that grounds gender roles as interpreted through the Bible -- may be working for her now, but it will work against her in the future.

This is a recurring theme at OCIHACOSP. From 10-20-08:

This just in from the Day Late/Dollar Short Department: "YouTube Videos Draw Attention to Palin’s Faith".

Ms. Palin responded by speaking generally, but extensively, about how she counts on God for strength, guidance and wisdom. “My faith has always been pretty personal,” she said. But she did not talk more specifically about her church affiliation or her beliefs.

She's not likely to. As covered earlier by this site, Sarah Palin keeps her theological views under wraps and is not likely to disclose them.

Appearances to the contrary, she is actually something of a cipher when it comes to "religion" and just what she believes.

Fact is, we don't know what she personally believes about much of anything because she never says, and seems content to just let people wonder and/or presume. Evangelicals and Fundamentalists prefer certitude to ambiguity, and do not trust the latter. Add to this that Palin employs weasel-language like the more neutral "pro-family" as opposed to yesteryear's "traditional family values"; outside some weasally ramblings on supporting a federal marriage amendment and that crank/dogwhistle comment about her gay best friend, rarely says much against homosexuality.

Expect theological litmus tests to be ramped up against Mrs. Palin as she rises in the political arena. At the rate she is going, she'll never pass very many of them.

Posner continues,

Miller talks about how the religious right base sees Palin as an Esther figure -- or, as I wrote during the campaign, an anointed figure. But that's not the same as being a religious right leader. When the religious right talks about an Esther figure, or an "Esther moment," it's a means of motivating the base to believe that anyone, like Queen Esther, can step up and save the world from evil. (Sure, Esther was anointed to save the Jews from genocide, and that's pretty much the same as saving America from socialism, eh?)

When the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land tells Miller that Palin "is going to be able to raise a lot of money for people she wants to support, and she will make a big difference in the primaries," he's referring to her Esther-mobilizing capabilities. And the religious right, and the Republican Party, are undoubtedly grateful for her ability to rally the shock troops and bring in some cash. But it's hard to imagine that any of the big guns would willingly let Palin compete for a leadership role. She may be leading a movement comprised of women, but that's not the same as a women's movement.

Esther is one Biblical figure; Deborah is another. Writing for his blog and as editor of Charisma magazine, J. Lee Grady covered this topic, a couple weeks after McCain's VP announcement.

When McCain announced that he had chosen Palin as his running mate, I was reminded of the biblical story of Deborah, the Old Testament prophet who rallied God’s people to victory at a time when ancient Israel was being terrorized by foreign invaders. Deborah’s gender didn’t stop her from amassing an army; she inspired the people in a way no man could. She and her defense minister, Barak, headed to the front lines and watched God do a miracle on the battlefield.

In her song in Judges 5:7, Deborah declares: “The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel” (NASB).

Sometimes it takes a true mother to rally the troops. I hope that Palin, a woman who believes in prayer and is filled with the Holy Ghost, will take her hockey stick and smash the glass ceiling in American politics once and for all.

Leave it to a Neo-Pentecostal/Charismatic man to detect this potential in Palin (though there is no evidence whatsoever she is "filled with the Holy Ghost".) That shameless, brazen gender card is what Miller chronicled in Newsweek. So far, it's worked very well for Palin.

Contrast Grady with what Brian Abshire of ├╝ber-Reformed/Christian Reconstructionist Institute for Christian Culture wrote, the following week:

Sarah Palin, who affirms so much that is good, true and praiseworthy, may well be another Deborah in that she is living proof that the Republican Party is gutless, effeminate and cannot find godly men willing to take a stand on pivotal moral issues or that the ones who do will not be allowed to run for the highest office. Literally, she is the BEST that the Republicans can put forward and that ought to make Christian men in America hang their collective head in shame as they realize just how badly we are being judged.

I do not fault Mrs. Palin for having the wisdom, courage and ability to rise to the governorship of her state, or aspire to the office of Vice-President; but I criticize the party and the men who have rejected God and now face His judgment because they will not step up to the plate and be MEN.

Though Christian Reconstructionism, the more big-tent "Evangelical", and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are often opposed theologically, depending on the issue, socially, they share many of the same goals, and some of the same personnel. This Palin ≠ Deborah sentiment is echoed by James Dobson cohort Gary DeMar, one of the primary Christian Reconstructionist authors of this generation.

It was big news within rightwing Christendom when, as Pozner wrote about, the Council for National Policy vetted Palin, with the blessing of Dobson himself, one reason being that though Focus on the Family and James Dobson are associated with Evangelicalism as opposed to Christian Reconstruction, FoTF promotes and sells DeMar's books. Land, for his part, was taken to task by the CRs for endorsing a person with the wrong body parts for potential head of state, to impose his conservative-religious bigotry on the populace, even as he would deny Sarah Palin a pastorship even the smallest SBC church.

Palin’s candidacy took a bright yellow highlighter to that contradiction. This is good for us. The more she keeps them squabbling over Bible verses, the more we can get done.

To be continued...