Sarah Palin Calls Biblical Patriarchs “Neanderthals”

The Reconstructionist biblical patriarchs, who already don’t like Sarah Palin because they think she should be home with her kids, got served last week when Palin was on Fox News with Geraldine Ferraro.

Palin gushed over Ferarro, who was the first female vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket, for all she did for “those of us who came after her.” One has to wonder what Ferraro was thinking as Palin carried on, placing Ferraro smack in the middle of Palin’s own reading of feminist history dating to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Palin noted some things that had not changed in the years between Ferraro’s campaign and her own: the “neanderthals out there” picking on “petty little meaningless things” like what she looks like or whether she should be home with her children. Creationist Palin suggested they ought to “evolve,” though it wasn’t clear in the clip that that irony was intended.

The biblical patriarchs didn’t like being called neanderthals and took the opportunity to repeat their views about the biblically required roles for women. In Doug’s Blog, for example, biblical patriarchy leader (and Tea Party activist) Doug Phillips reminds readers of Vision Forum’s position that Palin was biblically ineligible to run for vice-president because she is a woman, highlighting crucial fault lines in conservative Protestant, even fundamentalist, gender theology, part of a longstanding debate.

The primary division is between egalitarians and complementarians. (You can read an earlier post I wrote on egalitarians and evangelical feminism here.) Egalitarians argue for mutual submission in marriage and gender equality in church and society. They do so, however, in terms of very traditional methods of biblical interpretation and while maintaining biblical inerrancy.  Complementarians, on the other hand, assert that God created men and women as distinctly different yet complementary beings with distinct roles and responsibilities. They argue that the Bible requires women’s submission in marriage and prohibits women from leadership in the church but, recently have said that the Bible does not prohibit women’s leadership in secular society.

But the biblical patriarchs are critical of complementarians for what they see as compromising on women’s roles in secular society. According to Phillips, their compromise leads to an inevitable inconsistency in which “a wife and mother of five children who is called by God to be a keeper at home (Titus 2:5), and who, in their view, is not qualified to be the head of her home or to be the elder of a local church (simply because she is a woman), is qualified and free, they believe, to seek the vice presidency of the United States of America.”

In another Reconstructionist response to Palin’s comments, John Lofton posted comments on his website The American View, and went on to decry that “even The ‘Conservative’ Women—Most Of Whom Claim To Be ‘Christians’—Are Feminists! Not A Good Sign…” with a link to Concerned Women for America’s press release celebrating the 90th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote.

This is one part of the Tea Party Palin is unlikely to win over.

jingerso@unf.edu'

Julie Ingersoll is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Florida. She is the author of Evangelical Christian Women: War Stories in the Gender Battles and is currently writing a book on the influence of Christian Reconstructionism.