I find it interesting and often amusing when the inner contradictions of our thought and worldview create a social space in which those once thought to be opponents become allies.
The BBC reported yesterday on the difficulty that Michele Bachmann is having with so-called “evangelical” Christians. You can listen to it between minutes 30:40 and 37:50 at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/p00hj6t8. Although Bachmann defines herself as an “evangelical,” many of her fellow evangelicals do not support her candidacy for president of the United States simply because she is a woman. The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, a Christian feminist, however, does support Bachmann’s candidacy – although she probably does not support Bachmann’s political agenda.
The Rev. William Einwechter of a Free Reformed Baptist Church gave voice to many “evangelicals” who do not believe that women should be in positions of authority in their family, in their church, or in civil society. The basis for Einwechter’s belief is his particular interpretation of the Bible, which subordinates women to men because man was created first, because they interpret women as being portrayed as submissive and in a domestic context in Proverbs 31 and Titus 2, and because female leadership is depicted negatively in Isaiah 3:12. This is a particular interpretation as it does not identify the wife’s leadership in Proverbs 31, does not note positive examples of women in authority over men as in Judges 5, and struggles to reconcile to their proposal Paul’s statement “for just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God” (1 Corinthians 11:12). Moreover, Einwechter’s appeal to the Bible for models of civil leadership is weak because he does not consider the historical context as a limitation and contribution to God’s particular act or word for that time, person and setting. Also, God’s commandments concerning government are given within the context of the covenanted people ofIsrael; other forms of government, of which women sometimes led, are accepted as God-ordained (Romans 13).
Evangelicals, like Einwechter, support their position by appealing to the authority of Scripture as God’s definitive and infallible word. Einwechter believes that God’s word is not always understood, as in the case at hand, but should be obeyed even if it contradicts reason or experience. What Einwechter fails to see is that “God’s word” is always interpreted. And, on the basis of God’s word, I would interpret Einwechter’s interpretation as wrong. I do not find God doing anything in Scripture that is not explicable, and it seems that the appeal to a supra-rationality or a non-rationality ultimately leads to an anti-intellectual God and “stupid” and easily-manipulated Christians. I think that on the basis of their interpretive strategies they are unable to simultaneously subject women to men while viewing the killing one’s enemy (Joshua 8 ) or slavery (Titus 2) as being wrong. While I appreciate that Einwechter doesn’t think that political expediency should drive Christian faith, I actually think that he would be hard-pressed to support democracy and other American values with his biblical theology. What Michele Bachmann does for politics, Einwechter does for theology, causing me to distance myself from their brands of “evangelical.”
The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell affirms Bachmann’s candidacy as a woman because she finds gender mutuality in Scripture. Brown Campbell filters Scripture through God’s love and directs all action toward the Last Judgment in which each will give an account for how they treated the least of “God’s children.” While I would agree with Brown Campbell’s egalitarian view of women in church and society, I would also question her Biblical interpretation, which seems to presuppose much of liberal humanism. But, if I had to choose between Brown Campbell and Einwechter, I would find myself much closer to Brown Campbell, and, to my surprise, allies, in this instance, with Bachmann – and other female leaders in society.