A Slow-Moving Pharaoh

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Just a quick note to (again) clarify what I am doing with regard to Sarah Palin. As I am thinking through the whole business, some have jumped to conclusions about what I am doing, or where I must be going, or they have otherwise missed the point. Stated positively, I have wanted to clear away the debris that this veep choice has created so that I (we) could make a decision about it that was not a knee-jerk kind of thing. For example, does the simple fact that she is a woman exclude her from consideration? I have shown, I believe, that the example of Deborah means no. But of course the fact that Sarah Palin and Deborah are both women does not require us to hold that Palin is a Deborah. That has to be decided on other grounds — the sole point being made is that she could be and that it is worth considering.

There are two basic points I need to clarify. First, some of those who have interacted with me here have assumed that I have given up on my previous commitment not to go for the “lesser of two evils.” No, not at all. Many years ago, I decided that I was not going to play along anymore with a bogus choice between slow destruction and fast destruction. I was already not going to vote for McCain even though his election (regardless of veep pick) would mean slower cultural apostasy than under Obama. So a veep pick would not alter that decision unless I believed that it quite represented a potential turnaround. If a party is coming away from the abyss slower than I would like, I am still happy to vote for that change of direction. A “change of direction” is different than “slow same direction.”

What I am not happy to support is slow destruction being equated with deliverance — which is the perennial mistake made by evangelicals in national elections. The standards for cultural savior are really pretty low — just kill us slowly and we will hail you as the new Moses, even though you are actually just a slow-moving Pharaoh.

These issues surrounding intention and direction are not properly understood. One commenter asked if I would support a Jeroboamite worshipper of golden calves at Dan and Bethel just so long as he was opposed to the child-sacrifices of the Baal-worshippers. Well, no, I wouldn’t, but it is worth mentioning that it was a prophet of God who set Jeroboam up in the first place (1 Kings 11:30-33). Talk about Lucy and the football. And I would support kings whose heart was with the Lord their God, but who were nevertheless negligent in removing the high places (1 Kings 15:14).

The second point to make is the concern that I am waffling on the whole role model issue. In other words, the argument goes, Sarah Palin will make baby-friendly feminism palatable to the evangelical church, provided it is in fact baby-friendly. Palin will destroy the old-guard feminism, only to replace it with a version that will be more attractive (and therefore more seductive) to evangelicals. And this is a legitimate point, and I have argued that it needs to be taken into account. The concern is a real one. The fact that I am balancing one thing over against another does not mean that I believe that the only weight is on one side. This is a reasonable point.

But it is my conviction that abortion is the bloody sacrament that sustains the whole wretched mess on the Left. The idolatries of the secular Right are sustained in other ways, which I have also addressed. If the sacrament of aboriton goes, the whole edifice will tumble. Now, would I be willing to have the instrument of that destruction be someone who did not understand the true nature of feminism, but who was a better Christian than she was logician? Sure. The question in my mind is not whether such a trade-off would be worth it, but rather whether it is likely that there will in fact be such a trade-off. If I knew that Palin would result in one or two pro-life judges on the Supreme Court, I wouldn’t even be discussing this, and would be putting bumperstickers on my truck instead. (And, in case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t mind litmus tests for judicial appointments. Litmus tests are the way to go.) I am discussing it because it is an open and fair question. The same thing is true for McCain without Palin. If I knew he would give us pro-life judges, I would vote for him. I wasn’t going to because I was convinced that he would double-cross us. But given how this race has played out, I am beginning to believe that he couldn’t effectively double-cross us on this point.

One other point on the feminism thing. I am no feminist, as anyone who has read my stuff on marriage and family knows. I despise egalitarianism in all its forms. But I am also no perfectionist, and I am willing to work with Christians who have been compromised by feminism, depending on the circumstance and issue. No, wait . . . hear me out.

I am not talking about the trendy urban feminism that has taken root in Reformed and evangelical colleges, for example. That kind of feminism makes it possible for evangelicals to contemplate the prospect of voting for Obama, the kind of move that takes Christian cultural engagement into High Farce.

So what kind of feminism am I willing to work with? Well, the answer would be the kind that permeates the outlook of many folks throughout the Christian homeschool movement. Anyone who knows the history of feminism in America should understand that there were two wings of feminism from the beginning. Read Ann Douglas on The Feminization of American Culture and tell me that you don’t immediately recognize a large portion of the homeschooling landscape. There is Gloria Steinem feminism and there is Elsie Dinsmore feminism. Evangelical Christians gravitate to the latter, and have done so for a long time. Sarah Palin didn’t come from nowhere.

But because we live in an ideological age, I hasten to add that I am not talking about homeschooling as a method of education. There are all kinds of circumstances where I am an enthusiastic proponent and abettor of such homeschooling, including the education of some of my grandkids while they are in the UK. My concern is with ideological homeschooling, the kind of thinking that produces what I have elsewhere called homers. I am talking about a view of the home that grew out of a wing of 19th century feminism. What many conservative Christians today call “traditional values” is simply a version of 19th century home-centeredness, driven by a particular brand of feminism.

And so, the idea that Sarah Palin might propagate in our ranks, the idea that “you can have it all,” is a real concern. I recognize it, and am concerned about it. But how is it any worse than the ideological insistance, common among homers, that the woman of the house “can do it all”? In the circles we travel in, I have seen many more pastoral meltdowns in families of homers than I have among families where mom took a job after the kids were in school. I am concerned about both, and try to give pastoral direction whenever it is possible. But if the folks are committed to following Jesus, and are not in high revolt against the Ten Commandments, I work with them. If a Sarah Palin were in our congregation, and she had a demanding job outside the home, along with her sky-diving lessons, I would be really concerned for her and her household. But honestly, it would be no greater than the concern I have had over the years for a number of families I have known, families melting down under the heat and pressure from the high expectations of domestic feminism.

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