Christianity Today‘s Her.meneutics blog recently interviewed theologian Russell Moore about “Bachmann, the divorce culture, and why a feminist reading of Scripture would often be easier than a complementarian one.” As usual, I agree with Moore on just about everything, but I especially agree with how he answers this question:
Many evangelicals who would elect Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann for President wouldn’t attend a church with a female pastor. Is there a contradiction here?
On the face of it, there is no contradiction since Scripture teaches that the church, not the world, is presently the outpost of the new creation. The state in this age doesn’t — and can’t — reflect God’s kingdom purposes in the way that the church or a family can.
I would gladly vote for someone to be my president who disagrees with me on whether or not infants can be baptized. I wouldn’t want that same person to be my pastor, because we will have to decide together who and how to baptize. The Kuyperian principle of “sphere sovereignty” is helpful here.
On the other hand, that’s the ideal and, very often, not the reality. Unfortunately, American evangelicals have too often longed for a secular authority to serve as a spiritual leader, and political professionals have been all too willing to exploit this by teaching candidates to parrot evangelical-sounding phrases and “testimonies.” In such cases, political leaders become totem-like for evangelicals. An attack on a candidate who identifies with “us” is an attack on “us” or, worse, on Jesus. That’s unhealthy, regardless of whether the politician is male or female.
In the case of evangelical over-identification with political partisanship, though, there can be a subtle shifting in what it means to define a woman’s life, or a man’s, as a “success.” There is quite a bit of inconsistency in evangelical complementarians talking about a “gentle and quiet spirit” while cheering Ann Coulter’s latest sarcastic barbs.