Imagine it’s the beginning of August. You're hanging out with a group of friends following service and talking about the usual stuff. Someone brings up an issue for which he would like some advice. A friend of his is considering taking a very demanding position at a major Fortune 50 company. The promotion would make her the vice-president of the company. Initially the group has few reservations about this although there’s slight concern with the general trend of women holding positions of authority over men. However no one has any real objections since this isn’t a ministry setting.
Having established that for the most part it’s alright to have a female v.p. in a high powered, demanding position you then get into a few details of your friend’s life. You reveal that she’s in her mid forties and is already the head of the one of the companies smaller divisions. She also recently had a child who is now about five months old. Along with that she has a thirteen and seven year old. After a pause someone asks for more information about the new position. You respond by saying that it is a very demanding position which involves a good deal of travel. Now your friends begin to question why she would accept a position that would take her way from her young children so much. A couple of them grab bibles and after turning to the second chapter of Titus remind you (as if you didn’t know) that the scriptures command mothers of small children to remain at home to raise their children and support their husbands. While this doesn’t mean that a mother can’t work outside the home her priority should be to remain their to raise her children if at all possible. Some even begin wondering why she stayed on as head of the small division following the birth of her last child especially in light of the fact that she has a child entering teen-age years and one in the first years of elementary school.
Finally, you drop the bomb. Your friend also has a teenager who has become pregnant out of wedlock. Blank looks accompanied by incredulous gasps tell the tale of the group reaction. After assuring you that they don’t condemn this sister for her child’s choice nor question her parenting skills they do wonder out loud why she would in any way even consider taking a more demanding position knowing that her teenage daughter will soon be a mother who will need all the help and support she can get. The discussion seems to be over when you launch one last volley.
You mention that this is a historic opportunity and that due to her age and the timing of the offer it’s very unlikely that it will come around for her again. Furthermore, if things go well this position could lead to becoming the CEO of the company where she could do a great deal of good for families just like theirs and be a strong witness for the gospel of Christ. One of the group, a stay at home mother with a similar family situation looks you straight in the eye and with strong conviction declares that God has already told the church how mothers are to make a difference in this world. They do so by staying home, loving their husbands and raising the next generation of believers who will be salt and light in our country. With that the discussion ends and you prepare to tell your friend that the vast majority of those he’s asked about this have counseled that her primary calling is to remain at home raising her children. And in light of her present family situation it would be unwise and perhaps even unbiblical to make an unnecessary career move that would mandate her spending an even greater amount of time away from them.
Now brothers and sisters let’s be straight with each another. How many of us would have actually encouraged a woman with a newborn infant, a budding teenager, an elementary aged child and a daughter who will give birth within the next few months to take a promotion that would actually mean much more responsibility and time away from her family? You might say ‘but no one asks how Barack Obama will care for his two small children should he become president’. True they have not and probably still won’t. But it’s been conservative evangelicals who’ve declared with relish that mothers with small children must remain at home with those children if at all possible. We’ve used this as one of the arrows in our quiver in the ongoing culture war with the ‘Liberal elite’. We’ve chided and yes judged those women who put career over family for the sake of pride and position. And that’s what’s made Sarah Palin’s acceptance to be John McCain’s running mate so troublesome.
The world knows how we feel about the importance of the home and the mother’s role within it. In many ways conservative evangelicals have been the lone voice extolling the virtues of stay at home motherhood. For instance, in a 2006 article by Mary K. Mohler the following statement was one of many used to support the importance and value of stay at home mothers; “We firmly believe that the finest daycare, the sharpest nanny, or even my mom or his mom would not pass our qualifications for one reason: they are not me. Do we have an inflated opinion here? No, not at all. We believe there is no one on this earth who can love, nurture, and care for our children like I can. God made me the mother of Katie and Christopher. No one else has that distinction.” You can find the entire article here.
Over the past thirty years or so there can be no doubt that most evangelicals accepted as gospel that a mother’s place was in the home and not the high powered and high pressured environment of the corporate world. That’s not to say that evangelicals condemned any and all employment outside the home. But to act as if we've championed the rights of moms to climb the corporate ladder armed with a blackberry in one hand and baby bottle in the other is just not true and we know it. But what’s more damaging the world knows it.
While I have nothing against Governor Palin personally and think she could make a very good vice president I just don’t believe many evangelicals have thoroughly thought through what a Palin vice-presidency and possible presidency might mean for them. In accepting with great zeal her historic choice evangelicals have once again doubled back on what they themselves declared was an unmovable, authoritative scriptural mandate. A generation ago evangelicals claimed that ethnic segregation was the clear will of the living God. When asked about becoming involved in politics they made it equally clear that politics have nothing to do with the gospel and thus should have no place in the church. Now they’re willing to accept a woman who if things work they way many of them hope could end up spending the next four to sixteen years away from her young family. Look folks, we can only cry wolf so many times. If scripture mandates that mothers with young children remain home to raise those children and support their husbands than that goes for vice-presidential candidate Palin just as much as it does for the liberal mom who leaves her infant in daycare so she can continue the climb up the corporate ladder.
And if we’re willing to accept with little question and no real dissent Governor Palin’s nomination what happens the next time we decide to lecture the country on the biblical view of ’just war’, ’small government’, ’strong defense’ or the right to pack our pistols?
To Him Who Loves Us…