Every election season this questions returns to the forefront with people asking the question in different ways. In 2007, I covered the whole “Can a Woman be President of the United States?” and looking at that post I had quite the discussion in the comments for an introductory post.
The answer was less provocative than the title suggested. The Constitution and Amendments to the Constitution definitely permit the Presidency to be held by a man or a woman that gets the majority of the Electoral College.
This time around, the post on this topic that grabbed my attention was 5 clear reasons Christians should oppose female heads of state. I would say that this article attempts to use Biblical passages that tangentially speak on the topic of the relationship between men and women and extrapolate to the governing bodies. I’d like to take a look at these 5 “clear reasons” and see if they warrant the conclusion.
Man was Formed First
This first item is taken from 1 Timothy 2’s conversation regarding what should be done in the church– specifically that women should be silent and not exercise authority over a man. The rationale given by the Apostle appeals to the created order– that man was formed first, and then the woman, and that the woman was deceived.
The text clearly states women’s silence and submission in the family and the church. Before we get to fighting over whether this is the correct interpretation of the text, please be aware that even liberals used this exact logic against Presidential candidate Michelle Bachman during her unsuccessful bid at the Presidency, for there was much hand wringing that if she were elected President she would have to submit to her husband.
And let’s not get started on the number of times that we’ve heard this verse quoted when a woman gives a pro-feminine/anti-feminist comment on social media. Let’s just say that there’s a general consensus that this passage, in clear reading, dictates a woman’s place in the family (because she is always listed as having submission to her own husband, not to all men in general) and in the church (as she’s not to be the primary teacher/preacher).
So can we make the jump from that to the government?
Color me unconvinced.The chapter in question starts out discussing the relationship between the church and state. Paul’s comments on the relationship between the believer and the government talk about praying for the king and those in high positions in order that the church may live a peaceable life. There’s no concept of a democratic republic at the time, like America has, but there were Queens and a Roman Senate. Paul could have mentioned what one thought of these things, but he didn’t.
And the part of the passage that the author uses to justify his conclusion is quote-mining, for it misses the whole sentence:
For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.1 Timothy 2:13-14 ESV
So it seems that there are two reasons that the woman was to be silent and not take authority in the church– that Adam was form first and Eve was deceived.
This explains full well why Paul believed that women should not be teaching doctrine in the church and should learn quietly and in submission, but doesn’t lead itself to the jump the author wishes to make to apply to government, unless your government is also supposed to be teaching doctrine. Which Paul says all he hopes from government is to be left to worship God without hindrance.
If Not One Household, How Then Many Households?
The second item that the author offers up is the idea that if a woman is not to be the authority of one household (see the previous point, 1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, etc), then why should she be the authority over many households?
The English system of coverture was based on an understanding of Biblical Marriage. In that system, a single woman could own property and make contracts, but when she was married the two became one and the rights and authority were the man’s domain. Obviously, it’s not the same as the Jewish customs at the time, but it’s useful to explain that the woman had rights, and could make decisions, and therefore, the concept that she should not be in authority because God wants her to be submissive to her own husband inside marriage does not preclude being a position of authority inside a “tribe” or group of other households.
Rulership of Women Over a Country As a Curse
This is probably one of the stronger arguments, as we’re actually talking about countries, but in the follow up post to this one, But what about Deborah?!, the author gets wrong that Israel only had one female leader (there was a queen of Israel (2 Kings 11)) and, I believe, inadvertently proves that there are good reasons to have a woman in authority.
Deborah is never talked about like she did not want to be a judge. She does tell Barack that he should go to war and let her be and that if he insists that she comes that he will not get the glory, but she goes anyway.
It is also true that there are verses saying “women” or “children” will rule over them as a pejorative, but you cannot gain from context whether this is simply something that contemporaries would take as an insult (women had no stature in Old Testament days, so the men would take this as a grave insult) or something innate.
If Not Over a Church, then Not Over a Country
The goals of a church are different than the goals of a country. God has charged countries/leaders of countries to enforce justice, to protect their people, etc.. In historic times the leader would be expected to be on the battlefield, but we have not had a leader that follows his troops into battle ever in the history of the United States.
While many famous generals that did lead their country and then went to the White House, and while the U.S. President is “Commander-in-Chief”, he never goes into battle and no one judges whether the POTUS is able to do his job based on whether he can physically go off to war. The question that is asked is whether he inspires the troops and whether he has good judgement.
The church’s goals in the world is to make disciples and teach doctrine. The government’s role is different. We have no further to look than our current President to realize that while we may agree with his policies, we would not let him Pastor a church.
Role Model To the World
This last argument is that the Great Commission requires the believers to teach all people the truths of God’s Word. Therefore, we should be teaching all people that… women can’t be political leaders? I guess, if he’d have made his point in the earlier topics then this would be the one that would make all believers have to spread this truth, and thereby make his case that Christians should not support women leaders.
Unfortunately, while each argument has some degree of plausibility, I do not believe he has made his case, therefore there’s nothing to this last point.
Should Women Be Leaders?
You can certainly argue either way about whether women should be political leaders or representatives, but I do not believe that you will find conclusive evidence that women should not be political leaders from the Bible.