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Religion and the 2012 presidential election

September 15, 2011 - Andrea Johnson
I'm not paying serious attention yet to the 2012 presidential election, but I do notice that the leftwing news site Alternet has been paying an inordinate amount of attention to the religious beliefs of followers of the Tea Party movement and of prospective candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin, all of whom are conservative Christians who lean towards the evangelical side of the aisle. They're accused of being Christian Dominionists who want the government to operate according to Biblical principles.

One recent Alternet article speculated whether Bachmann or her husband would be president, since Bachmann, a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota, has said her husband Marcus is head of the family. This teaching comes straight from the Bible: Eph. 5:22-24 – "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head of the church, His Body, and is himself its savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands."

This is a teaching so fundamental to Christianity that I've heard that verse read aloud at more than one wedding. Different churches interpret it differently and Bachmann's understanding of what the Apostle Paul means here is probably a bit different from the teaching in, say, a liberal Episcopalian or Lutheran church. Bachmann herself said that the teaching applies to her home life, but it wouldn't mean her husband would be making major policy decisions for the government.

Today's guest article at Alternet is titled "My Life as a Daughter in the Christian Patriarchy Movement: How I was Taught to Obey Men, Birth 8 Kids and Do Battle Against Secular America." The guest columnist is Libby Anne, a graduate student now living somewhere in the United States with her husband and child. Her upbringing sounds pretty similar to that of the older daughters in the Duggar family, who have 19 children and counting and their own reality show.

Libby Anne, like the Duggar daughters, wore only dresses, learned how to cook and clean and sew and care for her younger siblings and expected her father to choose her husband for her. They also were strong supporters of conservative politics. Libby Anne changed her own views when she went away to college and, horror of horrors, embraced feminism and started making friends with secular college students. I wonder if her parents sent any of their other children away to college after Libby Anne's metamorphosis.

I've certainly met and interviewed families like Libby Anne's, most often at state homeschooling conventions, but their way of life is still pretty unusual. I doubt they're representative of most Palin, Perry or Bachmann supporters.

I also have my doubts that Bachmann's husband Marcus would be making all the decisions if she were elected to office, though he'd probably make his opinions known. But either way we're bound to hear a lot more discussion on this topic before the 2012 elections roll around.


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