Thoughts on Palin, Feminism, and Working Moms
The following article first appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of SALT Magazine.
THOUGHTS ON PALIN, FEMINISM, AND WORKING MOMS
By James McDermott
This not meant to be an article about politics. I know, however, that John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate has caused people to question whether a woman should be president and whether a mother with 5 children - 4 of them still at home - should be president, vice president, governor of a state, or anything else outside the home.
Very few families will ever be confronted with the issue of whether Mom should be president, but many, many Christian families will seriously consider whether Mom should work outside the home. And nearly all Christians deal with the issue of male and female roles, since it is so basic to marriage and family life.
The feminists’ view, which is the most influential view of our age, is that there should be no differences in the roles of men and women. Women can be president and they can be engineers, astronauts, basketball players, soldiers, lawyers and anything else a man can be. They co-head families with their husbands (or significant others), they can and should find fulfillment in work outside the home, and they shouldn’t have to watch the children any more than the men do. And speaking of children, feminists believe bearing and raising children are a major stumbling block to a woman’s success and fulfillment, so they advocate small families. They also believe the insensibilities of male chauvenism still reside in the culture at large, which is why they allude to “glass ceilings” that prevent women from achieving the highest levels of success in certain fields, such as politics. Feminism also has taught that women should not wear gender specific dress or cosmetics.
And feminist thinking has found its way into the church as well. We see women bishops, pastors, elders, preachers, and teachers in our church fellowships. Some Christian women are running corporations, joining the military, or winning seats in Congress. And one Christian woman is running for vice president. Christian men often don’t act as the head of their households and many women have filled the power vacuum and taken over their families. Christians have also generally adopted the belief that large families are not conducive to a family’s success and fulfillment, which is why birth control and two children are the norm amongst Christian families. And while girls still do dress differently than boys, one look at a typical youth group will tell you that the differences are not nearly as obvious as they were a couple generations ago.
Of course, all this is totally contrary to the clear teaching of God’s Word. The Bible does make many clear distinctions between men and women that feminists would find offensive, to say the least.
WHERE DID GENDER DISTINCTIONS COME FROM?
The first thing to be said is that gender distinction is from God. The Scriptures simply say, “God made them male and female.” God was the one who made men bigger, stronger, more violent, more hairy, and better at math. It was God who designed women smaller, weaker, smoother, more nurturing, more able to multi-task, and more detail oriented. And it was God who designed women to bear and nurse children. God even enforced gender distinctions in the Law, by prohibiting men to shave the edges of their beards and by not allowing men to dress like women or women to dress like men.
MADE FOR A PURPOSE
The Scriptures say, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable helper for him.’ … So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (Gen. 2:18, 20-22) Paul writes, “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” The stated purpose of the woman, then, was to give the man companionship and to be a suitable helper for him.
HEADSHIP AND SUBMISSION
If woman was created for the man as a helper, it just makes sense that he should be the head and that she should submit to his leadership. Paul writes, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.” (Eph. 5:22-26) Peter also says, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands … For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” (1 Peter 3:1, 5-6)
Clearly, God gave the man the headship in the family, but He gave him headship in the church as well. Paul writes, “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (1 Cor. 14:33-35) Paul adds, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (1 Tim. 2:11-12) “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife.” (Tim. 3:2)
The life of a godly woman is one of submission and service. Paul states, “Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-5) “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.” (1 Timothy 5:9-10)
Service and submission do not make the woman inferior. Service and submission are just as necessary and just as important as headship. Indeed, the life of Christ could be characterized by service and submission. Submission didn’t make Christ inferior to the Father - they are both God. A woman may very well be more competent and more able to lead than her husband and most other men. But that doesn’t give her the right to be the head. God assigned headship to the man. A super-gifted woman is called to be a super-gifted helpmeet.
Anyone, whether man or woman, who chafes at the role God assigns him is lacking in humility. The man is called by God to sacrificial headship and the woman is called to service and submission to the man. (Both are called to serve and submit to their God.) I believe many women who pursue positions of great authority - even Christian women - feel constricted by God’s Word and are in rebellion against the role God assigned them.
Women have been able to achieve positions of great authority in large part because of birth control. I understand that there are biblical examples of godly women who were unable to have large families, such as Sarah, Elizabeth, Rebekah, and Rachel. But the difference between these women and the women of today is that they wanted children. Godly women considered children a blessing, but more importantly the Scriptures consider children a blessing. The Bible says, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Ps. 127:4-5) “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord.” (Ps. 128:1-4)
Have the very successful career women you know been open to being a fruitful vine in their homes or have they taken steps to limit their fertility? I don’t think it a coincidence that a great rise in women with children working outside the home coincided with the birth control pill. If women were open to the purpose God so obviously designed their bodies for and if women wanted to raise the children God was willing to bless them with, I suspect there would be a whole lot less women out there trying to break the glass ceiling.
I am not one who believes that a woman working outside the home is biblically forbidden. I believe the Bible verse that commands women to be busy at home is aimed primarily at women who are tempted to leave their homes to be busy-bodies. Women should be busy and productive at home, but obviously it is OK at times for women to spend time not being busy at home. Mothers certainly deserve some time to sleep and relax. And it is also OK at times for women to be busy outside the home. Even housewives go to the grocery store and take their children to the doctor - work which takes them away from their home. And it is also OK for a woman to earn money. The lauded Proverbs 31 woman earned enough money to “consider a field and buy it.”
That being said, I believe it is more difficult for a woman to manage her household from a job outside the home than it is to manage her household from home. A woman should want to be home with her children full time if she can be. What it comes down to, then, is why a mother is working outside the home. If a woman works because she puts nice things, travel, fun, a big house, property, a good job, personal fulfillment, breaking glass ceilings, or anything else ahead of her children’s physical and spiritual best, she is foolish and wrong. However, if a woman works outside the home so that basic needs are met - if her husband is dead, incapacitated, if he has abandoned her, or if her husband’s best efforts leave the family short of income - she may be prudent to work outside the home. Some women are working to give their husbands a chance to train for a different career that pays significantly better. But I think the goal of every family with a working mother should be to bring her home, so she can most effectively fulfill her calling. And I think we need to stop judging working moms and their husbands unless we truly know their hearts and their circumstances.
To be honest, I think Sarah Palin has the best views on the issues, the best experience for the job, and the best character of the four major party presidential and vice presidential candidates. She also seems to be competent and well spoken. Nevertheless, I don’t believe a woman should be president when she can’t be head over her family. Is Sarah Palin her husband’s helpmeet or has he become her helpmeet?
I believe the rise of feminism, which made possible women presidents, is destroying our families. Men need to heed the call to headship - the kind of headship that would cause one to lay his life down for the people under his authority. And women need to heed the call to serve and to submit to their husbands, to bear children, and to manage their homes.
©2008 SALT Magazine, 2131 W. Republic Rd. #177, Springfield, MO 65807, www. saltmagazine.com