Before I was converted to Christ in the late 1980′s, I was a bit of a political zealot. After a monotonous succession of dull and disastrous male leaders, Margaret Thatcher, the daughter of a small shopkeeper, burst on to the UK scene with clarity, confidence, and courage. She took on the Unions and won. She took on Argentina and won. She took on the media and won. She took on the Labor party and won, and won, and won again. Many powerful men tried to take her on, and lost. Home ownership soared. Multiple privatizations formed a new army of shareholders. The stock market boomed and many made small fortunes.
These were good days to be a young man in the UK, especially if you worked in the financial services industry as I did. Inspired by Mrs Thatcher’s renewal of the UK, I joined the local Conservative party and campaigned for Winston Churchill’s grandson in a lost-cause of a seat in the socialist republic of Glasgow. We spent part of our time running from vicious dogs, and the rest of the time from violent people who didn’t take too kindly to an upper-class Englishman on their territory. The Conservatives seemed to think it was a valuable rite of passage for their rising stars to be battle-scarred while fighting unwinnable seats in the most socialist areas of the country.
The “Tea-Party” women
Anyway, not long after, I was converted to Christ and my life, thankfully, took another direction as my passion for a cross on a ballot was replaced by a passion for the cross of Christ. But I often think back to Margaret Thatcher and the condescending and cruel way the political and media elites treated her, when I see the way that some of the Republican women are being treated in the USA. Although Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have suffered to some degree, it’s especially the “Tea-Party” women that are under all-out assault. Like Mrs Thatcher, Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle, Michelle Bachmann and others come from humble backgrounds. None of them come from big money or famous families. Like Mrs Thatcher (and most “ordinary” people), they have some pretty obvious character flaws and rough edges. Like Mrs Thatcher their “straight-talk” sounds abrasive in a world full of polished spin. Like Mrs Thatcher, they do not cower before power or hide unpopular views. Like Mrs Thatcher, their past life and family connections are often used to embarrass or shame them. Like Mrs Thatcher, they are mockingly impersonated and caricatured. (Yes, we had a Saturday Night Live in the UK then. It was called Spitting Image).
Without approving all that they say and do, I cannot but admire the tremendous courage and tenacity of these women. And I cannot but daily pray for them and their families. Can you imagine what it must feel like for these “ordinary” people and their families to be daily torn asunder and to have their past raked over and over and over. It must be terrifying at times to face the media in interview after interview knowing that every interviewer is out to kill you with questions.
Yet, I’ve noticed that some Christians feel very strongly that none of these women should be in politics in the first place, and that these “Jezebels” are getting what they deserve for “deserting their families.”
Some of this is motivated by a commendable desire to uphold male headship. They say that women should not take leadership positions over men. I agree that this principle is unquestionable in the Church and in the family sphere. However, is it also true in the civil sphere? Always? Even if it may be the norm, the ideal, for men to lead in the civil sphere, might exceptional times sometimes call for exceptional measures?
For example, think of the time of the Judges. These were anarchic and leaderless times. Israel was hanging on to existence by the skin of its teeth. And just when everything seemed hopeless, God would raise up a Judge, a special temporary leader to deliver Israel from her enemies. These Judges were not so much judicial figures, but rather military deliverers with some limited civil leadership roles. They usually came from humble backgrounds, and had few resources and flawed characters. And one of them, and it was only one, was a woman – Deborah (Judges 4-5). She was a believing woman, and she was a brave woman. In fact her courage is in stark contrast to the cowardly men of the time, like Barak, who were too afraid to take on Israel’s enemies. And to emphasize this contrast, the story concludes with another brave women, Jael, driving a tent-peg through the head of Israel’s arch-enemy. As I said, these were exceptional times!
Deborah was the only female judge. She was not the norm, but the exception. She was a special Judge whom God, in His mighty grace, raised up to rebuke “the establishment” and to expose the cowardly failure of Israel’s male leadership.
Maybe we are living in similar times. And maybe God, in His grace, is raising up more exceptionally courageous “Deborahs” for such a time as this” and for similar purposes. If so, we should pray for these women and their families. And we should also pray that men in politics would hear the divine rebuke and bravely step up to the plate with some straight-talking and some straight-dealing.
Tent-pegs not required.