Alex Blaze

Religious Right responds to Bristol Palin's pregnancy

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 02, 2008 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, brisol, bristol palin, Democrats, family values, GOP, hypocritical motherfuckers, James Dobson, John McCain, Michelle Obama, Religious Right, Republicans, Sarah Palin, vice president

The American Family Association, Focus on the Family, the Traditional Values Coalition, the Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council have this to say about Sarah Palin's unwed, teenage, pregnant daughter and what they think of Palin's parenting skills as a result:

When it comes to judging someone's sexual morality, the judgment is never about the sexual act itself. Rather it's about the person who committed it. Sara Whitman yesterday asked us to imagine what the media reaction would be like if Bristol were in the same position but male, or if Sarah Palin were in the same position but male.

I'd like to ask another question as a thought-exercise: imagine the current, black Democratic candidate for president and his black wife announced that their black, 17-year-old daughter was unmarried, still in high school, and pregnant. (We'll adjust the age of the daughters for this exercise.)

We wouldn't be able to hear ourselves think over the media clamor, the racist stereotypes parading as analysis, and the calls from even Democrats to find away to replace Obama on the ticket.

Indeed, if McCain doesn't change the ticket (which he still can do), the silence will be deafening. The only statement I can find from a leader of the Religious Right on Bristol's pregnancy so far is this:

We weren't in the Excel Center at the RNC for more than five minutes when I ran into Senator Orrin Hatch. We talked about various issues and then wound up getting into it over Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy, which he said was "terrible" to bring up.

And it is, in certain respects. Bristol is someone who didn't choose to be in the national spotlight. In fact, her mother lied to her about why the whole family was going off to Ohio and she didn't find out that her mother was going to run for VP until the last minute. Considering how obsessed our culture is with "fault" and "blame," Bristol here should be forgiven and forgotten.

Of course, Dr. James Dobson wouldn't agree that the parents had nothing to do with this:

When that regular contact is combined with other shared activities between parents and kids, the most positive outcome is achieved. The researchers also observed that adolescents who felt a sense of connection with their parents (feelings of warmth, love and caring) were least likely to engage in harmful behavior.

You might be asking: "How can I be with my teenagers morning, noon and night? I have too much work to do." You simply have to decide what is most important to you at this time. It won't matter as much a few years down the road, but your availability right now could make the difference for your child between surviving or plunging off the cliff.

My father and mother were faced with the same difficult choice when I was 16 years old. Dad was an evangelist who was gone most of the time, while my mother was home with me. During the adolescent years, I began to get testy with my mother. I never went into total rebellion, but I was definitely flirting with the possibility. I'll never forget the night my mom called my dad on the phone. I was listening as she said, "I need you." To my surprise, my dad immediately cancelled a four-year slate of meetings, sold our home and moved 700 miles south to take a pastorate so he could be with me until I finished high school.

It was an enormous sacrifice for him to make. He never fully recovered professionally from it. But he and Mom felt my welfare was more important than their immediate responsibilities. Dad was home with me during those two volatile years when I could have gotten into serious trouble. When I speak with reverence about my parents today, as I often do, one of the reasons is because they gave priority to me when I was sliding close to the brink.

You may not be called upon to make such a radical change in your lifestyle. But if you are, the investment in your teen's life is worth it. We can't put a price tag on our child's life.

According to Dobson, any parent should give up his or her glamorous job and stay nearer the kids because teen pregnancy, drug use, poor grades, even homosexuality are moral failures and signs that the parents didn't try hard enough. He even holds his own parents to that standard. So discussing Sarah Palin's parenting, according to the Dobson, is fair game.

But here's what James Dobson thinks of Sarah Palin:

Minnery added that his boss, Dobson, has yearned for a conservative female leader like Margaret Thatcher to emerge on the American scene. And while Palin is no Thatcher, "she has not rejected the feminine side of who she is, so for that reason, she will be attractive to conservative voters."

The members of the Council for National Policy are the hidden hand behind McCain's Palin pick. With her selection, the Republican nominee is suddenly -- and unexpectedly -- assured of the support of a movement that once opposed his candidacy with all its might. Case in point: while Dobson once said he could "never" vote for McCain, he issued a statement last week hailing Palin as an "outstanding" choice. If Dobson's enthusiasm for Palin is any indication, he may soon emerge from his bunker in Colorado Springs to endorse McCain, providing the Republican nominee with the grassroots support of the Christian right's single most influential figure.

But, of course, the only way that Dobson's actually contradicting himself is if we read his parenting advice as at the very least sincere, which would be a failure on our part as critical readers. The first, second, third, second-to-last, and last reason the Religious Right exists is to get money into the hands of the rich and powerful by pushing for tax cuts, getting Republican votes so that the rich can loot the Federal Treasury, and cutting funding for social programming by making every social problem - crime, violence, value changes that make some people uncomfortable - seem like the result of regular people not trying hard enough. (It's much harder to mount a movement to real solutions to real problems if people think that those problems are around mainly because they, and their fellow citizens, failed the Republic, not the other way around.)

I'm not saying here that the Religious Right won't have anything to say about Palin. They will. But they'll react more slowly than they did with Bill Clinton or John Edwards. They'll be more sensitive to Palin's privacy and family. And we'll hear lots of "It must be very hard for her"s, "She's a wonderful parent and they're doing the right thing"s, and "It's a difficult situation that Sarah's handling beautifully"s. Most likely, quite a few will react like Orrin Hatch did above and completely avoid the subject.

Judging sexual morality has little to do with actually maintaining standards for proper behavior and a lot more to do with pushing through a specific political agenda. It's a subjective political tool used to demonize people who conservatives just plain don't like (racial minorities, women who believe they should have rights, LGBT people). And when not wielding it, as in the case of Bristol Palin, achieves its real goals better than wielding it would, then the Religious Right restrains itself.

Barack has to present his family as the Huxtables or the Winslows of the 21st century, while a conservative, and white, politician has no such burden and gets far more latitude. We should remember that the Religious Right's moral standards are empty and cynically-used, and that there's nothing wrong with pointing that out.

On another note, Sarah Palin used to be a member of the Alaska Independence Party, a group that is working to get Alaska to secede from the union (seriously). Will she be tarred and feathered as a traitor?

Update: Thanks to Keith for sending me this link to Dobson's reaction:

We have always encouraged the parents to love and support their children and always advised the girls to see their pregnancies through, even though there will of course be challenges along the way.

That is what the Palins are doing, and they should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances.

Being a Christian does not mean you're perfect. Nor does it mean your children are perfect. But it does mean there is forgiveness and restoration when we confess our imperfections to the Lord. I've been the beneficiary of that forgiveness and restoration in my own life countless times, as I'm sure the Palins have.

The media are already trying to spin this as evidence Gov. Palin is a 'hypocrite,' but all it really means is that she and her family are human. They are in my prayers and those of millions of Americans.

They're only human. Please don't judge.

Everyone else isn't human, so it's OK to judge them.

Update II: This is the last I'll put up in this post, but here's the Family Research Council. When I wrote it they hadn't made a statement yet, but they're coming out slowly, and they're all so supportive.

Unfortunately, teenage pregnancy has become all too common in today's society regardless of a family's economic or social status. It is a problem that we remain committed to reducing through encouraging young people to practice abstinence.

Fortunately, Bristol is following her mother and father's example of choosing life in the midst of a difficult situation. We are committed to praying for Bristol and her husband-to-be and the entire Palin family as they walk through a very private matter in the eyes of the public.

Yes, yes, very private matter. FRC is a serious organization that respects the privacy of public figures and would never judge. Unless it's a Democrat, of course.

Apparently quoting Jesus, New York Governor Elliot Spitzer resigned yesterday. He resigned over allegations of sexual immorality and other illegal activities, pointing to the absolute truthfulness of Jesus' words in Luke 12:48. Jesus Himself declares, "the Scripture cannot be broken," (John 10:35). Our culture can deny God, the Bible, moral truth and personal consequences, but we cannot escape them. The Scriptures teach us "the godly learn from watching ruin overtake the wicked," (Proverbs 21:12, LB). What can we learn from watching yet another sad spectacle of failed public leadership? First, "a man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls," (Prov. 25:28, ESV). Without self-control, we are defenseless against temptation. John Maxwell writes regarding self-discipline, "the first person you lead is you." If we cannot control and lead ourselves, we surely cannot lead others. Maxwell goes on, "remember, only in the moment of discipline do you have the power to achieve your dream." The Apostle Paul admitted that he disciplined his body (literally "beat it black and blue," making it his conquered slave) lest after preaching to others he should be disqualified, (1 Corinthians 9:27). Sexual immorality disqualifies from leadership. Second, "do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap," (Gal. 6:7). It is not possible to live in moral compromise without consequences. There are those in leadership who have fallen into the deception that says, "God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see," (Psalm 10:11). Maggie Gallagher, writing in defense of Silda Spitzer, reminds us that "adultery has been redefined as a 'private matter,' and that we no longer have any public punishments for adultery. God, however, simply pays no attention whatsoever to man's redefinition schemes. The governor's tragic fall is yet another example. More than ever, we need the voices of America's pastors serving without restriction as the conscience of the nation.

So are they for privacy after they were against it?


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I guess I could have titled my post this morning "The Emerging Church Responds to Bristol's Pregnancy." Thought you might be interested.

Grace and Peace,
Raffi Shahinian
Parables of a Prodigal World

Let the right wing self-destruct over this, including Dobson (Yes! Dobson! Self-destruct!) if they are so inclined.

As for people in the Obama camp, the Left camp, the pro-GLBT camp, the less we say about this, the better.

I hope that the Palin daughter is strong psychologically and weathers all this intense scrutiny well. She is going to hear terrible things that she does not deserve to have to hear.

Imagine the current, black Democratic candidate for president and his black wife announced that their black, 17-year-old daughter was unmarried, still in high school, and pregnant.

I encourage folks to consider parallel version: Imagine the response if it became well-known that the same 17-y/o had full access to, and information about, birth control and STD prevention?

Frankly, I look forward to the day, not that private details are revealed about any teens, but that parents in the public eye share how they learned to speak simply, directly, and often about these things with their teens.

That's the conversation that is needed, and hopefully grows -- eventually -- out of the stories of all families. It needs to be inclusive and affirming of abstinence, but comprehensive. How have effective parents navigated these tricky waters? Healthy families are not able to prevent all surprises, but they can learn from each other.

The rules of the game of politics are that there are no rules, that everything is fair game.

If McCain knew about the firing scandal and the knocked-up daughter, it shows me that he had poor judgment in choosing Palin with those liabilities. If he didn't know, it shows poor judgment that he didn't vet her properly. So, McCain used poor judgment regardless, just the kind of poor judgment he's exhibited many times before. I don't want him calling the shots in the White House, if he can't choose a decent VP. Palin, regardless of her family issues, isn't close to being qualified to be President, which makes her a bad choice for VP. It shows that McCain does not have the judgment to be President.

If there was anything wrong with Obama's or Biden's family, you'd have heard it by now. And, based on this rough campaign, I'd say Obama's judgment has been pretty good. Much better than McCain's.

Poor kid.

Sarah is against sex-ed classes... and lack of sex-ed led to her teen kid to get pregnant and be force to marry another kid she doesn't even know.

Sad. Very sad.

I'd like to ask another question as a thought-exercise: imagine the current, black Democratic Republican candidate for president and his black wife announced that their black, 17-year-old daughter was unmarried, still in high school, and pregnant.
Given the vitriol thrown Condi Rice and Michelle Malkin's way by segments of the Left, I think that whatever Bristol Palin is receiving would pale (pardon the pun) by comparison.

What most people on the Right don't realise is that most on the Left really believe their own propaganda, about Social Justice and all. Now here at Bilerico, even Righties like me know it, it's proven every day.

What most on the Left - including people here - don't realise is that the same holds true in reverse. Many here actually assume all those on the Right are Evil Hypocrites. Some are, but some on the Left are as well, are they not? Mostly, those on the Right actually believe their own propaganda too.

Please read an account of what the GOP delegates are actually saying in public and private.

When the day’s business was over, I drifted around the Colorado and Ohio delegations — two critical swing states — to get a feel for the delegates’ reaction. In the Colorado section, I ran into Sue Sharkey, from Windsor. When I asked what she thought, her reaction was not about Palin but herself.

“For me personally, it hit my heart this morning,” Sharkey told me, “because I was a 17 year-old girl, just like Sarah Palin’s daughter, and I had — I was in those shoes. And my son is with me, who will be 35 years old next week, and so I know what a difficult road there is for her.”

“I chose to have my son, and from that point I realized that I was a very strong right-to-life advocate,” Sharkey continued, her voice wavering ever so slightly. Roe v. Wade had been passed just the year before, and I already knew girls who were going through abortions. It wasn’t a choice for me; it wasn’t in my heart to do that. So when I heard the news this morning, it struck close to home for me.”

A few feet away, members of the Ohio delegation were finishing up business, and I asked Patricia Murray, a delegate from Cincinnati, what she thought. “I don’t even think this is an issue,” she told me. “It’s a family issue. It’s a personal issue. The only reason it was made public was because of her mother.” Nearby, Ben Rose, a delegate from Lima, said that, “In every case where I heard delegates talk about this, the first thought was to the human nature of it.”

Earlier in the day, just after I heard the news, I called Marlys Popma, the well-known Iowa evangelical leader who is now the head of evangelical outreach for the McCain campaign. Like Sue Sharkey from Colorado, Popma had a story to tell. It turns out she had had a child out of wedlock nearly 30 years ago, and it changed her life. “It was my crisis pregnancy that brought me into the movement,” Popma told me. “My reaction is that this shows that the governor’s family is just like so many families. That’s how my first child came into the world, and I’m just thrilled that [Bristol Palin] is choosing to give this child life.”

I asked Popma what she thought the larger reaction among evangelicals will be. “Their reaction is going to be exactly as mine,” she told me. “There hasn’t been one evangelical family that hasn’t gone through some sort of situation. Many of us are in this movement because of something that has happened in our lives.”Left, Right, Red, Blue, Nigerian-American, Irish-American, or not-even-remotely-American-but-British-Australian like me, we are all human.

That is the greatest weapon we have in campaigning for GLBT rights, is it not? That we're all human? If blinded by partisanship, we forget our humanity at our peril.

What most on the Left - including people here - don't realise is that the same holds true in reverse. Many here actually assume all those on the Right are Evil Hypocrites. Some are, but some on the Left are as well, are they not? Mostly, those on the Right actually believe their own propaganda too.

I don't think that we can still pretend, nearly 30 years after Reagan took office, that values don't matter, and what has value is having values. Some values are better than others, straight up.

That is the greatest weapon we have in campaigning for GLBT rights, is it not? That we're all human? If blinded by partisanship, we forget our humanity at our peril.

I completely disagree with this. Lots of people think LGBT people are human and deserve compassion. So much compassion that we should all be sent off to therapists and then forced to lead traditional lives following whatever religion they believe in.

Even the Phelpses believe that what they do is compassionate. But that doesn't mean that they're right.

I just hope people leave the kid alone.
es the mother and father are nuts and it shows the problems with just teaching abstinence rather then protection to our children, but the fact is the kid isn't running for an office.

I was glad to hear Obama say families and children especially should be off limits.

I do wonder why this woman was picked as a V.P. running mate since she won't bring in the typical woman's vote because of her views.

And dam that voice.

Obama has to say that, just like McCain said that he's oh so offended by the email campaigns that say Obama's Muslim. He doesn't do jack taco to make them stop, though.

He can't get his hands dirty, so he has to distance himself.

It's the religious right. They don't have to make sense - you just have to have faith in their Godliness. :)

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 3, 2008 9:18 AM

What is important is that she is a fundy hypocrite who is saving McCain's ass with the bogers in the nose "believers."

Her concept of human sexuality is the proper manner of field dressing a moose.