Almost immediately after I heard that John McCain’s running mate was the largely unknown Sarah Palin I caught one of the brewing controversies surrounding that choice: that her 17 year old daughter is 5 months pregnant. Now, here’s the thing: I knew this was a story the Obama campaign should not pursue, and thankfully, he did not. It’s a personal matter, but more importantly – from a strategic perspective – attacking it could and would backfire. Already it’s being turned into some kind of precious pro-life moment of glory (praising her for making a choice they don’t believe she should legally have), and I’d want no part of it if I were running a campaign.
At face value, it’s nothing. Teenagers get pregnant all the time, for a lot of reasons. Usually lack of sex education and/or a gross lapse in judgment. I’ll ignore the obvious, if amusing, “Abstinence only education succeeds again!” line of discussion, but I do need to address an important side-issue to all of this. Wrapped up in Palin’s response is a lump of hypocrisy typical of the aggressively religious.
“Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents.
“Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family,” the parents said.
Heartwarming, yes? Maybe, if these weren’t the same kind of people that give teenagers paper hearts and tell them every time they engage in sexual activity outside of wedlock they’re tearing off a piece of their heart and losing it forever, then finish by asking “What kind of heart do you want to want to give to your future husband or wife?” When it’s your daughter who’s doing the evil sin thing, suddenly compassion and forgiveness come into play. Yet, for all those nasty public school kids, the act of premarital sex is a sign of the declining state of our civilization. I respect Sarah and Bristol Palin’s right to manage their families as they see fit. But that respect needs to go both ways, and it doesn’t.
Elected officials can’t defy the court when it comes to how rights are applied, she said, but she would support a ballot question that would deny benefits to homosexual couples.
“I believe that honoring the family structure is that important,” Palin said. She said she doesn’t know if people choose to be gay.
Look, here’s the thing. I have a lot of Christian friends, and I know a lot of Christians who are not my friends but end up in groups I hang with because of above mentioned compatriots. And the vast majority of them, at some point or another, say things that make it very clear that I am inferior to them in some way. It’s subtle and it probably isn’t conscious, but it’s unmistakable. It comes up on all sorts of small things, and it never lasts long, so I deal with it. I do not, however, like it. I don’t like it at all.
In fact, I’m extremely resentful of the fact that, one way or another, I’m less because I don’t believe in the ascendancy of Christ. Most of the time it isn’t even because of any specific action. It’s just because I don’t believe. That’s all. Behind the eyes of nearly every Christian I meet for any length of time is the solemn desire that I come around and save my soul from eternal damnation, and the sense that I’d be more trustworthy/more likely to understand their problems/more worthy of responsibility. The unspoken attitude behind it all is that my lack of belief makes me, somehow, a less qualified human being. More inclined to bad behavior, less likely to do things for the right reasons. This feeling isn’t just in my head, and I’d be willing to bet that any non-Christian with Christian friends could attest to the same, exact thing.
Yet, when a prominent, political Christian has a daughter that does the exact same thing a heretical dude like myself might do – have unwedded sex – it suddenly becomes a badge of honor. I’ve had people defend not even letting homosexual Christians into their church as members, but as long as you decide to get married after the consequences of your fornication have caught up with you, it’s all cool. What if Bristol Palin had not gotten pregnant? Do you seriously think she’d be getting married right now? And what does getting married after mean anyway? It’s suggesting it’s acceptable to forgive her only because she did after what she was supposed to do before, like getting acquitted because you paid for the iPod in your pocket after you got arrested for shoplifting. What if she chose to keep the baby and not get married? Is that still ok?
My point is this: while every Scriptural argument I’ve ever heard comes down to “acceptable behavior is clearly defined and must be followed to the letter,” in practice it’s handled just as subjectively as it is in the secular world. Which would be fine if I didn’t have to endure the silent derision of people for my own views. It’s not the belief in a personal code of conduct I abhor. It’s the cold, self righteous and often inconsistent application of it to others that bothers me. Bristol Palin should be left alone and allowed to live her life. But the second her mother starts telling other non-traditional families how they should live their lives, she should be torn to shreds for her hypocrisy. Such are the wages of telling others what is sinful.