In the early days after the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the Republican ticket, the mainstream media ran quite a few stories wondering whether a female candidate with children should really be in such a position of authority and responsibility. Now they've decided to try really hard to get religious adherents to carry their water. The Associated Press chose one denomination -- out of the many and various Christian groups that retain the traditional male-only clergy -- to frame a story about whether females should be in secular power:
Within the nation's largest Protestant denomination, a woman may not lead a church or a home. But prominent Southern Baptists see nothing wrong with Sarah Palin serving as vice president - or perhaps even commander-in-chief someday.
In other words: A woman can run the White House, just not her own house.
Did you know that Joe Biden's priest can forgive parishioners' sins but can't keep them out of jail if they commit a crime? No, really, it's crazy! It's almost like we're talking about two completely different things!
Did you know that churches can preach against gossip but they can't make it a capital offense? Did you know that churches can witness to non-believers but they can't force them to believe? It makes no sense since, like the Associated Press, we should view church and state as one big realm where the same rules apply to both groups, right? Oh wait.
Again, though, why not ask Roman Catholics how they can support Rep. Nancy Pelosi not just as a Member of Congress but the Speaker of the very House of Representatives? I seem to have missed those AP stories about how Catholics limit the priesthood to males but haven't condemned Nancy Pelosi to eternal hellfire.
The headline the Dallas Morning News chose for this piece was "Palin a challenge to Southern Baptist view of women," which sort of tells you what they want you to take from the article. Is that born out in the piece? Not exactly:
Interpreted from Scripture, the teachings on women are held close in thousands of Southern Baptist Convention churches where millions worship. Among them: "The office of pastor is limited to men," and a wife should "submit herself graciously" to her husband. Earlier this month, more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstores -- a retail chain affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention -- pulled from the shelves a magazine featuring five female pastors on the cover.
Yet many in the denomination say the nation's second-highest leadership post is an apple to the pulpit's orange. Palin's potential work in a McCain administration - or even as president in the event of McCain's death - would be separate from her family life with her husband, Todd, and their children.
"There's no disconnect or inconsistency whatsoever," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. "We don't go beyond where the New Testament goes. Public office is neither a church nor a marriage."
In fact, other than one critic of the denomination's conservative leadership, no one seems to think that Palin's candidacy is a challenge to the Southern Baptist view of women. And even he doesn't explain how it's a challenge. So, um, good work with the story, Associated Press. Hope you accomplished whatever it was you wanted to accomplish.
There was a similar story in the Los Angeles Times, the hometown paper of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team I'm rooting for in the postseason! The piece argues, as the headline says:
To some evangelicals, Palin's career violates biblical teachings.
Now, keep in mind that prior to Sen. John McCain picking Gov. Palin as his running mate, he was widely considered to be suffering in polls due to lack of white evangelical enthusiasm. Since he picked Gov. Palin, his numbers have shot up to the levels George Bush enjoyed in 2000 and 2004.
So what is the story? Is the story that -- contrary to the obvious stereotypes of the mainstream media -- evangelical Christians aren't a bunch of fire-breathing, misogynistic women-loathers? Is the story that white evangelicals are enthused by Palin? No, it's that "some" evangelicals aren't happy. The vast majority of the story doesn't support the headline. It quotes evangelical after evangelical saying that there is no theological problem with women in secular leadership positions. But the reporter does find two (two!) people who disagree. Here's one:
"The Palin selection is the single most dangerous event in the conscience of the Christian community in the last 10 years at least," said Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum, a Texas-based ministry. "The unabashed, unquestioning support of Sarah Palin and all she represents marks a fundamental departure from our historic position of family priorities -- of moms being at home with young children, of moms being helpers to their husbands, the priority of being keepers of the home."
See, he agrees with the Washington Post's Sally Quinn!
The story is actually interesting and includes actual Biblical support for why evangelicals don't oppose women in leadership positions. With such a vague defining term as "evangelical," it would be silly to expect anything other than a diversity of viewpoints about any number of things. It's just that, with a horrible assist from the headline-writing team, it has this "on the one hand . . . on the other hand" quality that is not fitting for a situation where you have statistically widespread evangelical support for Palin versus two obscure pastors who oppose Palin's candidacy.
A much better story was published by the Religious News Service. Rather than focusing on some microcosm of evangelicals who oppose Palin's candidacy, it used that candidacy as a hook to discuss evangelical attitudes about women in positions of church leadership. It featured a variety of evangelicals who support female clergy and was much more informative. I'm sure this is because it focuses on religion more than politics.