Archive for September, 2008

Striking the “S” Word: The Non-Problem of Bristol Palin

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

As the political drama of the 2008 presidential election unfolded, I was intrigued when McCain tapped Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. As the endorsements from Christian leaders and groups started rolling in, the campaign hit its first speed bump — the revelation that Palin’s 17-year-old unmarried daughter Bristol was pregnant. As conservative leaders made their statements in solidarity with the Palin family, I sensed that something was missing but couldn’t identify the source of my concern. Meanwhile commentators rolled over the speed bump, talking about the non-problem of Bristol Palin as something common in the American experience.The fact that the McCain campaign treated this as a non-issue was not surprising. McCain advisor Steve Schmidt said, “Life happens.” McCain speechwriter Mark Salter commented, “An American family.” I didn’t expect the conservative pundits to even blink at the revelation.

I anticipated the outpouring of support from conservative Christian leaders who praised the decision of Miss Bristol Palin to not commit prenatal murder (a.k.a. abortion) and to marry the father of the child. Albert Mohler’s comments are illustrative:

“Now there is another gift — this time in the form of a pregnant daughter and a child conceived outside of marriage. The Palins spoke of their pride in the fact that their daughter would keep her baby and marry the father. Once again, the Palin family chooses life over death, birth over abortion, when aborting the baby would be justified by many and considered the easy way out of an embarrassing situation. Yes, that baby is a gift, as is every single living human being, born and unborn.

But the entire nation felt the awkwardness of the situation, and even part of the embarrassment. Yes, as Steve Schmidt said, ‘Life happens,’ but not always like this. And Mark Salter is certainly correct in describing the situation as ‘an American family.’ Still, this is not the script many families would choose — especially evangelical families who had been most encouraged by Gov. Palin’s choice as Sen. McCain’s running mate.

Will this damage the McCain-Palin ticket in November? Time will tell, but there is good reason to doubt that it will. Teenage pregnancy is hardly unknown these days, and the very public decision to keep the baby will encourage pro-lifers all the more. The press is likely to leave this issue alone, at least as much as possible.”

John Ensign, a Christian leader and U.S. Senator, stood up for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her daughter in a brief interview Tuesday. “I’m a parent of a teenager and it’s one of our worst fears,” he said. “But you can do everything you can possibly do as parents and your kids are going to do things, just like we did, that our parents don’t approve of. They’re going to make mistakes. That doesn’t mean they did anything wrong as parents.”

Many of the usual suspects in the “Religious Right” treated the revelation of Bristol’s pregnancy with the rigor we’ve grown to expect in American politics. “I am disgusted by the outrageous attacks on Governor Sarah Palin and her daughter Bristol,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a press release. “The Palin family courageously embraces their pro-life values, and extremist bloggers are excoriating them for it. I strongly condemn the baseless attacks on Sarah’s fitness to lead as a mother and Vice President.”

In a press release Reverend Rob Schenck of the conservative National Clergy Council noted that he met Sarah Palin when he was a VIP guest at her first appearance with John McCain in Dayton last week. Schenck said that Bristol’s pregnancy is “none of our business,” and commended Barack Obama for saying so. “This is a private family matter. The Palins, especially their teenage daughter, are entitled to privacy on this matter. Anyone who cares about young people will back off and give this young woman the space she needs. Anyone who exploits her for political or commercial gain is disgraceful.”

Friends and acquaintances have been probing me for my reaction to these events. My response was that I’m still researching the matter. I have dear friends who have gone through what Todd and Sarah Palin are facing. I kept the matter in prayer and asked that God would give the Palins wisdom.

After mulling over what I heard repeated in the Christian media I finally realized the cause of my unease; the three-letter “S” word — sin — had been completely absent in the discussion! The non-problem of Bristol Palin expressed itself in the conservative Christian media with a complete lack of discussion by Christian leaders and ministers of the problem of fornication in America and the Gospel remedy!

Fornication is the sin that fuels the abortion industry, so it is connected to the pro-life discussion. The Gospel of Jesus Christ stands alone in effectively and holistically healing the individual, familial, and cultural decay caused by fornication. But to date I have not heard one national Christian commentator bring up the subject. Not one politically active conservative Christian leader that I know of framed the non-problem from a Biblical worldview. No one interviewed by the mainstream media admitted that Bristol and Levi committed fornication and that God’s Word clearly condemns premarital sex. I haven’t heard one minister with an open mike on a nationwide talk show say that as loving Christian parents Todd and Sarah Palin’s primary responsibility in the matter is to help their daughter Bristol apply the Gospel – restore the relationship between Bristol and God through confession of the sin of fornication and repentance. It is my hope that this happens. It is my prayer that the Palin family receives wise Biblical counsel in the months ahead because the parents must redemptively help Bristol work through the consequences of her choices.

It is clear that conservative Christian leaders and organizations are publicly dealing with Bristol’s pregnancy from the American “conservative” political framework. Sadly, I am convinced that a redemptive discussion on fornication has been trumped by a desire to say nothing that would expose the McCain-Palin campaign to any criticism during the Republican National Convention. In the press releases and commentary I’ve seen, read, and heard from these leaders to date the message has been that the Palins’ pro-life decisions validate Sarah’s fitness as a vice presidential candidate. Whether the treatment of Bristol’s fornication is due to a prior loyalty to the GOP or agreement with Senator Obama, our Christian leaders have missed a rare opportunity to deal with the national sins of fornication and prenatal murder with a clear Gospel message. I’ve seen firsthand through volunteer work at crisis pregnancy centers and counseling in front of an abortion center that fornication and abortion are problems in this American culture and in the Christian community! Scoffers who mock Christian morality will hammer away at the hypocrisy of those Christian leaders’ unwillingness to deal with Bristol’s fornication. Alan Wolfe writing for The New Republic makes the following observation:

“Sarah Palin’s nomination is a public service. No longer will we hear lectures from the likes of Newt Gingrich telling poor women on welfare how to conduct their sex lives. Focus on the Family will have to focus on a different kind of family. William Bennett has no virtues left to write about. At long last our national nightmare over sexual hypocrisy has come to an end, and we can all thank John McCain for that.

And that is not all. In rushing to Sarah Palin’s defense, the leaders of the Christian right have made it abundantly clear how they define a Christian. We don’t care if you sin. We are not bothered if you put your ambition ahead of the needs of your children. If you have lied or broken the law, we will look the other way. It all comes down to your stand on guns and fetuses. Vote the right way, and you have our blessing. If any proof were needed that James Dobson is a political operative rather than a spiritual leader, his jumping on the Palin bandwagon offers it.”

Rev. Flip Benham rightly called offense-free, consensus-building, politically partisan, worldly-wise conservatism “pretend salt.” That Sarah Palin is supporting Senator McCain should give thinking Christians pause regarding Palin’s pro-life convictions. McCain has voted to confirm three pro-abortion U.S. Supreme Court justices (Breyer, Souter, and Ginsburg), is endorsed by Republicans for Choice, and has consistently voted for legislation funding surgical and chemical abortions, embryonic stem cell research, and licentious sex education that promotes fornication. Yet she will be promoting this man, his record, and his policy agenda. To date she has been very effective in using her influence to convince conservative Christian leaders and the grassroots pro-life activists to vote for McCain. And for that very reason Christian voters should turn off the TV, stop reading the McCain-Palin “rally the troops” emails, and open their Bibles. We need to search the Scriptures to glean the principles by which we are to choose civil rulers, then do our duty and leave the results to God.

Ricardo Davis is a grateful husband who has been blessed with his beautiful wife and three children age 17, 15 and 4. He lives in the Atlanta, Georgia area and is active in advancing the pro-life cause. He can be reached at rcdavis@georgia4life.org.

Copyright 2008 Ricardo Davis
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