Liberals and the media seem baffled.
They especially don’t know what to make of the reaction by conservative, and more specifically evangelical, Christians to the news that the 17-year-old daughter of the Republican vice presidential nominee is pregnant out of wedlock.
The left-wing bloggers who peddled cruel and unwarranted rumors about Palin and her daughter undoubtedly hoped that accusations of a sex scandal and cover-up would destroy her political career. They succeeded only in forcing immediate revelation of a simpler truth — that Bristol Palin, 17, is five months pregnant, and intends to keep the child and marry the father.
Liberals must have hoped that the obviously not-abstinent teen daughter of a “family values” politician would be too much for conservatives to stomach. However, the conservative base did not abandon Palin. Instead, they reacted enthusiastically to her pro-life, pro-marriage positions and rallied around her.
How can this be? Aren’t evangelicals harsh and judgmental, ready to brand anyone who violates their legalistic standards regarding sex with a scarlet A? Shouldn’t they be writing off Sarah Palin as a bad mother who has raised promiscuous children?
The unfulfilled liberal expectation that Republicans would throw Sarah Palin under the bus is based on three profound misunderstandings of how social conservatives in general, and evangelical Christians in particular, think.
The first of these has to do with “moral values.” Yes, we believe that having sex before marriage is morally wrong (and dangerous — conservative values are pragmatic, not just moralistic). So Bristol’s choice to engage in that behavior was wrong as well.
But while having sex outside of marriage is bad, deliberately destroying an innocent human life through abortion (no matter how that child was conceived) is far, far worse. That is why conservative celebration of Bristol’s decision to carry her child to term — under circumstances where many would choose abortion — outweighed disappointment over her sexual behavior. (Her announced intention to marry the father is also a plus, despite the unfortunate circumstances.)
This situation only underscores the sincerity of the Palin family’s pro-life convictions. Earlier this year, Gov. Palin gave birth to her son Trig — despite knowing that he had Down syndrome, a diagnosis that leads to abortion in eighty percent of the time. Now, the Palins have again chosen life. When pro-abortion zealots say, “You don’t understand the agonizing personal circumstances that lead to abortion,” Sarah Palin can answer, “Yes, I do — but I chose life.”
The second misunderstanding is about the role of women. The liberal stereotype of social conservatives, especially evangelicals, is that we think women should be perpetually barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, rather than pursuing careers and assuming leadership roles in the political realm. So shouldn’t a mother of five (including a pregnant teen and a special-needs infant) be a homemaker, instead of trying to govern Alaska or run for vice president?
Well, yes — if she chooses to. Many intelligent, well-educated, accomplished women do choose to stay home with their children — and they should not be accused of “wasting” their talents or their education, as they often are by liberal feminists.
But those women who feel that they are able to balance career and family, with the help of a supportive husband, have every right to do so. Some of the most distinguished leaders in the social conservative movement, such as Beverly LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Charmaine Yoest, and Connie Mackey, are women and mothers.
The final misunderstanding is theological. Contrary to stereotype, Christianity is not a religion of condemnation, but of grace. The good news, the gospel, the “evangel” (from which the word “evangelical” comes) is that even though every one of us is a sinner, every one of us can also be forgiven our sins, because Christ took the punishment for them on the cross. “Grace” is God’s unmerited favor — the love he pours out on his children, not because we deserve it, but despite the fact that we don’t.
So is Bristol Palin a sinner? Yes — as are we all. And Christians are embracing her with God’s grace and love. Each year they do the same for thousands of other young women — who are unknown but in similar circumstances — through pregnancy resource centers. Has Sarah Palin made mistakes as a parent, and suffered heartache because of her children? Undoubtedly she has — which only makes it easier for every parent in the country to identify with her.
It’s clear that the Palins understand grace. They are displaying one kind — and receiving another. Such grace is amazing — but not surprising.