Shattering the glass ceiling of complementarianism: some thoughts on Sarah Palin, John Knox, and the difficult position of the Christian social conservative: UPDATED AGAIN

This was going to be an update to Friday’s post, but I’m bumping it into its own slot.

Didn’t take long to find our friends in the complementarian community bemoaning the Palin pick.

If you believe that women should submit to men, shouldn’t have teaching authority over men and so forth, then you are going to have a hard time accepting Sarah Palin as vice-president. To be a complementarian, after all, is to embrace the idea that men and women were created for distinct roles. Palin, who seems eager to court Hillary Clinton voters, sends a message with her life and her career that neither her sex nor her status as a mother of five should serve as a barrier to holding what could quickly become the most powerful post in the world.

Some conservative Christians have long suggested that public policy ought to reflect traditional biblical values. Many complementarians believe that the same rules that bar women from pastoral office bar them from high political office, though that position is not universally held. (The great Reformer John Knox famously made that point five centuries ago in his attacks on Bloody Mary and Elizabeth I.) As she made explicit in her pandering Friday tribute to Hillary Clinton, Palin wants to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all; social conservatives tend to believe that ceiling is God-ordained. Though the Obama-Biden ticket is far better on women’s issues than that offered by their GOP rivals, there’s no question that a Palin victory will, in some significant way, do violence to the antiquated notion of women’s submission to men. (Yes, I get that the veep is in some sense submissive to the person at the top of the ticket — but we all know the frailty of a single human life, particularly a septuagenarian one. From an actuarial standpoint, Palin has a not unreasonable chance of becoming the most powerful person in the world within the next four years.)

If you’re a social conservative, voting for Obama-Biden is almost unthinkable, given their views on abortion, gay rights, and so forth. McCain is hardly a darling of the religious right, though he has kow-towed to them with increasing vigor. Yet if one has qualms about the notion that women and men can do the same public work equally well, how can one vote for McCain-Palin? Trust me, as a progressive feminist evangelical, I don’t want Sarah Palin to win. But if she does, I know that her election will be celebrated as a historic milestone for women. And it will be a milestone on a road many of my most conservative friends — the “John Knox complementarians” — are reluctant to go down.

May I suggest that my complementarian friends stay home on November 4, or vote for a third party?

Kyso at Punkass made the same point earlier; I didn’t find the post until after making my own.

UPDATE: Check out “Ten Reasons I Don’t Want to be VP”. And yes, just wait a minute, and you’ll hear the chorus start that says “Sarah Palin’s daughter wouldn’t have ended up pregnant if Mama had been closer to home, able to monitor the family.”

UPDATE #2: From a Reformed (Calvinist) perspective, a post called Biblical Standard for Civil Magistrates.

16 thoughts on “Shattering the glass ceiling of complementarianism: some thoughts on Sarah Palin, John Knox, and the difficult position of the Christian social conservative: UPDATED AGAIN

  1. Hugo you can be so damn stupid sometimes. I mean really. She says she doesn’t know what the VP does, she is “pro-life” (anti-feminist), pro-gun, and her very nomination reeks of misogyny (blacks only vote for obama cuz he’s black, women only wanted hilary cuz she’s a woman, now they’ll vote for palin just cuz she’s a woman)… Everything about her says she’ll be totally subjugated by McCain in every way. Since she’s obviously pandered to their whims so well, they also expect her to be a good pick for VP, to be as useless to making decisions on her own as Pelosi. That’s the point. The kick out of voting for her is the same kick they get when they let a mayor’s wife think she’s making a difference.

    She’s about as much for shattering glass ceilings as Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin. Just like every other female anti-feminist, she believes she is the only exception to her hatred of women, and it’s exactly that delirium that will keep her from shattering any ceilings even for herself.

  2. I agree about Palin, Aerik; it’s the message that she sends, not who she is, that is important here. Look, I don’t support her or her policies. But her nomination moves us one step closer to a woman president, though it’s only one step. HRC took us a lot farther.

  3. I honestly don’t know who the radical complementarians could vote for (at least if they want to remain consistent). I mean, the direction that is generally considered more “conservative,” libertarianism, would hardly be agreeable to those who want to impose their biblical interpretation through politics. So maybe they don’t vote. Can’t say I’d be horribly upset by that.

  4. It’s an interesting observation, given early reports seem to indicate that McCain’s pick of Palin may have been far more about a shout-out and an olive branch to Evangelical voters than any play for the feminist vote, and has quickly generated some definite enthusiasm from that quarter. I’ll qualify my perspective by pointing out that I am not a complimentarian, an Evangelical, a Protestant, nor all that much of a Christian, but frankly I’ve never heard of these people to whom you linked, and I question their relative influence and political relevance.

  5. May I suggest that my complementarian friends stay home on November 4, or vote for a third party?

    Uh, stay home, please. The only third party particularly friendly to complementarians (that I’m aware of) is the Constitution Party, and they’re theocratic lunatics that need to go away as fast as possible, not more votes.

  6. Oh, there’s a line I just have to add.

    You have not confirmed a right or an accomplishment of freedom until the disapproved viewpoint can be expressed without punishment, and for it to enjoy all the attention, free discussion, rejection and acceptance as the approved.

    Shattered glass ceilings my ass.

    If that’s the kind of shallow in-name-only “victory” you like to settle for, Hugo, then you don’t understand progress, and you just cannot be a feminist.


  7. Good grief – Aerik, you totally illustrate why I don’t tell people I’m a feminist sometimes. Calling someone stupid and telling them they can’t be on your team is NOT the sort of feminism I follow.

  8. The complementarian viewpoint is interesting to ponder and not something I’d immediately thought of … but do you really think that it’s strong enough to cancel out the wingnut “oh the widdel babeez” attitude?

    I’ve listened a lot to Republican talk radio in the past couple of days and find myself struck by Rush’s remarks that he’s part of the party “with the babe on the ticket” (and no, that’s not the 4-month-old) and how Palin’s personal attractiveness attracts the straight male swing vote–something that’s as demeaning to men as the assumption that women will vote for Palin only because she’s a Vagina American (*snort* NOT!).

  9. Since when did you start get more snarky than thoughtful about this? I’m knee-deep in the evangelical movement and know not one — not a soul — who would oppose Palin as VP on theological grounds. Yes, there are some but they don’t characterize the norm. You’re creating a caricature to heckle.

  10. Stephen, I didn’t make up the quotes or the links, my brother!

    You go to Fuller, an evangelical institution which in its very great wisdom has embraced egalitarianism, which is why David Scholer is on faculty and Wayne Grudem isn’t. But Fuller speaks for only one wing of the evangelical movement, as you know. Ask your friends who go to Grace Community Church, or to the Master’s.

  11. Yea, I know, sometimes I get a little squirmy with my bed-fellows.

    Still, if Fuller represents the mainstream and Grace the vestiges of fundamentalism, wouldn’t it be more accurate to offer Fuller as normative for the movement and, in that light, there is no kerfuffle re: Palin as VP?

  12. Would that that were true, my brother. But the complementarian fundies, as discredited as they are by evangelical intellectuals at places like Fuller and Wheaton, are still out there. Bob Jones University and the Master’s have not experienced dramatic enrollment declines, alas!

  13. Complementarianism rules the roost in evangelicalism’s “public intellectual” forum. John Piper, Al Mohler, Joshua Harris, James Dobson, Wayne Grudem, John MacArther, CJ Mahaney, and others too many to mention are all complementarians. I haven’t heard any of them come out against the McCain-Palin ticket though. Abortion still probably trumps “biblical” gender roles among that crowd.

  14. DMD:

    I’m an evangelical and I wouldn’t consider John Piper, James Dobson or John MacArthur a public intellectual for evangelicalism. The largest evangelical seminary in the world, Fuller, requires that professors sign off on ordination of women.

    Those orgs and individuals you and Hugo have cited are certainly within the evangelical camp (it’s a BIG tent) but are simply the figureheads liberals like to hate. It’s easy. Big, fat targets.


  15. Hugo:

    The NYT does not call Bob Jones’ president to comment on the Pope’s visit to the United States. They call Rich Mouw. We could go round and round about what represents evangelicalism I suppose. I would argue that the neo-fundamentalism of MacArthur and Bob Jones are not within the “tent” that Carl Henry tried to reform when Fuller was founded. Their conscience is not, yet, uneasy. (You get the reference, right?)

    ’nuff said. I’m a wee bit grumpy from what appears to be a colossal oops by McCain. I mean, c’mon, is he gonna trip on a cord or sneeze during a speech?


  16. Well, James Dobson and John Macarthur have millions of followers. Let’s just say that our dear mutual friend and leader, Dr. Mouw, doesn’t. Would that he did!

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