Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Palin Debate Continues


Welcome back! In our last episode, I argued that conservatives should support McCain/Palin even if they are opposed to women holding public office (or even a public job). Stephen's response in the comments can be summed up as follows: 1. Governor Palin has not done a good job raising her children and 2. Women should not work outside the home, lest they undermine the institution of the home. In this post, I'll try to refute both of these points.

First, we consider the quality of the Palin family. Before even attempting to pass judgment, it might help to ponder the very subjective nature of the exercise itself. How do you know if your family is successful or if your children are being raised correctly? I can tell you that mine is and my children are, but I can't tell you at exactly what point that would no longer be the case. I know when my wife is being submissive and when I'm being sacrificial, and I know when those things aren't quite working out. What I can't do is make a sweeping judgment one way or the other. We know when our family is going right and when it's not, but sometimes it's hard to nail down. Now that's my own family.

Let's talk about your family. I can look at your family and make some judgments. If your only discussions with your wife happen via lawyer and your kids are on crack, I might be safe in pronouncing your family a complete failure. But what if your family is...well, normal? I might not prefer your family's decision to have taco night every Tuesday, but really, what business is it of mine? What if your wife only cooks 4 meals a week instead of all 7? Does that mean she is unsubmissive? It would certainly be inappropriate for me to make that call, particularly if you (as the husband) are supportive of it. What if your wife prefers to send her kids off to public school instead of nurturing them at home? Is she failing as a mother at this point? It sure doesn't seem like my place to say it. I might prefer my wife to do that, but that doesn't mean I need to be critical of your wife.

Family decisions are just that: Family decisions. The Mom and the Dad make decisions about how their family will work, and they live them out. We outsiders can make certain observations about the wisdom or foolishness of these choices, but, at the end of the day, how is it our business to tell someone else how to run their family? This is exponentially more true if the family under scrutiny happens to be happy with the choices they've made and are able to showcase a few well-adjusted, normal kids to boot.

This is case with Governor Palin's family. BTW, check out these great behind-the-scenes pictures from Friday's rally. You'll see a family that works. You'll see a mom that loves her kids and has made every provision for their education, comfort and well-being. Their decision to give birth to a child with Down's Syndrome surely indicates an intense amount of character and selfless love, as a selfish mother would do what many other selfish mothers do every day: have an abortion. Her oldest son is selfless enough to serve his country in Iraq. Her husband is happy with her role as wife and mother, despite the sacrifices they have had to make. Who are we to sit in judgment of this family and declare Mrs. Palin a bad mother, a judgment directly at odds with her own husband's. Clearly, this line of criticism is utterly and profoundly absurd.

Secondly, let us discuss the role of a virtuous woman. Proverbs 31 provides the clearest picture in all the Bible of a successful and productive wife and mother:

10: Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11: The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12: She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13: She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14: She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15: She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
16: She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17: She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18: She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19: She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
20: She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21: She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22: She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
23: Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24: She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25: Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26: She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27: She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28: Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

This woman is BUSY! She works hard for her family, both inside and outside the home. She runs a small business. She does not always remain in silent "submission" to her husband; rather she speaks wisdom. And her husband and children love her for it! I'll admit that not all women (or men) are capable of so much. Family is a complicated balancing act, and sometimes trade-offs have to be made. However, each family bears responsibility for its own decisions. Note also that all women are not called to be under subjection to all other men (Ephesians 5:22). I can't boss your wife around just as you can't boss mine. Rather each wife is to submit to her own husband. The husband, as head of the home, will ultimately answer to God for his family's success or failure. The wife, as heart of the home, will answer for how she followed his leadership. Both are responsible for providing for and serving the family. So long as a wife acts in accordance with her husband's leadership, she is being submissive. Whether or not she holds a position in a business or even in government has no bearing on this formula.

Sarah Palin seems to be doing her job as mother and wife. Her husband and children seem to think so. Who are we to argue with them?

3 comments:

HeroicLife said...

Whereas previously, a Down’s child could be born without the prior knowledge of the mother, going forward, a parent with a Down’s child will likely have made a conscious choice to have that child. As prenatal testing for trisomy 21 becomes ubiquitous, Down’s children (and eventually those with other genetic disorders) will increasingly become symbols of faith – a freak show meant to communicate the “family values” of their parents. The children will become public sacrifices made by their parents for their faith. They will be a symbol of religious reverence in the same way as the scarred backs of Catholics who flagellate themselves, or Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire, or Sunni Muslims who mutilate their girl’s genitals or Shiites who bloody their children’s heads with swords.

Genuine moral virtues – such as integrity, honesty, and productivity are not useful as evidence of religious virtue. To the extent that their practical benefit is visible to everyone, they do not represent the special domain of religion. To demonstrate religious virtue, it is necessary to sacrifice authentic moral values in favor of “religious” values. The particular object of the sacrifice is not important – there is nothing particularly “biblical” about being prolife (the Christian bible just as easily supports the opposite position.) If Christian fundamentalists decided that cutting of one’s hand sufficed as proof of moral virtue, they would be wrong to do so, but not much more so than the numerous other ways that people find to be self-destructive.

What is really vicious about fundamentalists in America is that the prey on the most vulnerable –poor pregnant young girls and women, those dying from painful terminal illnesses, the loved ones of brain-dead patients, — and children afflicted with terrible genetic illnesses. One can at least grasp the moral indifference with which a fundamentalist can force a single young mother to abandon her goals and dreams and condemn her and her child to poverty. But what can we say about a parent that chooses a life of suffering upon their child? If we are morally outraged by child rapists, how should we judge a parent who chooses a lifetime of suffering on their own child?

Stephen said...

Since I will be traveling, I unfortunately won't be able to hold up my side of the debate this week. I may post a more comprehensive response some time next week. I will leave you with a few words on Proverbs 31.

I definitely agree that Proverbs 31 is the most detailed description in the Bible of what a woman should be. This passage must be an integral part of any discussion on the role of women.

However, we can't use Proverbs 31 to prove that it's right and good for a woman to work outside of the home, because these verses show us that the work of a virtuous woman is inside the home. Her work may take her outside the house, but it should be very clear that all her work is domestic in nature.

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

The virtuous woman works to acquire the raw materials necessary for the production of clothes.

She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

She cooks for her household.

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

She procures land for and plants a vineyard. Her gardening is instrumental in providing food for her family.

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

You said it right--she is busy! The virtuous woman is very diligent in all her work.

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

She spins thread, producing the necessary materials to sew clothing.

She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

She is involved in benevolent work.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

She is a skilled seamstress. She makes all the family's clothes--her children's, her own, and her husband's. Her work is renowned in the community.

She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

She even operates a home-based business, but don't imagine that this is some full-time career outside the home.

This view of the ideal woman fully comports with Paul's admonition to Titus:

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:3-5).

Paul says women should be "keepers at home", a translation of the Greek word "oikourgos", meaning the keeper of the house, keeping at home and taking care of household affairs, domestic, etc.

Women are to be homemakers. We shouldn't run away from this clear biblical teaching. It does not relegate women to some imaginary lower class--that idea was invented by socialists. The role of women is different from that of men, but each role is equally vital. If men refuse to be men, or if women refuse to be women, the home is destroyed, and society descends into utter confusion.

This is precisely what happened in the West over the course of the twentieth century. Socialist feminists (both men and women) succeeded in overturning the institution of the home under the banner of "liberating" women. Making history by electing a woman to the vice presidency is simply one more step in the same direction.

Philip said...

So what does this virtuous woman do in 2008? No more countless hours in the field gathering flax or planting vineyards by hand (unless she happens to live on a farm or something). No need to spend hours making her family's clothes. The truth of the matter is that a modern-day virtuous woman can "keep house" in about an hour a day, (with enough money) if she taps into such modern wonders as McDonald's, Old Navy and Super Wal-Mart. What is she supposed to do with the rest of that time? Just sit around? Take up knitting?

If the Proverbs 31 woman lived today, she would continue to be industrious. She would be running Old Navy. How many hours does it take to be a virtuous woman? Whatever the answer is, I bet it's a LOT LESS than back in ancient Jerusalem. Even the most virtuous and family-oriented women of today have time to pursue just about anything they choose.

hero - You are absolutely correct as long as the Bible is not really the Word of God. Your values would be just an noble as mine. However, if the Bible really is the revelation of the Creator of the Universe, your position falls apart. Suddenly, we have absolute truth to contend with. If you want to argue over the interpretation of God's revelation, we can do that, but I sense that you would reject all notions of the very concept of God.

How do you know what is good? How do you know what is evil? The fact that we are having this exchange betrays the existence of a Moral Law. If there is a Moral Law, there is a Lawgiver.

There is a God. He gave us the Bible. It teaches that life is sacred. Suffering and death come from sin. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of our sin. If you place your faith in this sacrifice, you will one day go the Heaven, a place where sin and suffering and death no longer exist.

True Christians don't do religious things to get to Heaven. We do them because Jesus has already paid for our sins and we owe him everything.