So this is what an “evangelical feminist” looks like.
During a week of speculation in the religion blogosphere about how Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann embodies the term, the GOP presidential candidate hinted at why that worldview may inform her politics and connect her to constituents.
At a South Carolina campaign event Wednesday night, she shared that she became certain of her antiabortion beliefs after having a miscarriage.
“Part of our faith is standing for the area of life. and we are completely committed,” Bachmann said of herself and her husband. “After our second child was born, we became pregnant with a third baby, and it was an unexpected baby, but of course we were delighted to have this child. And the child was coming along, and we ended up losing that child. And it was devastating for both of us, as you can imagine if any of you have lost a child.”
“At that moment we didn’t think of ourselves as overly career-minded or overly materialistic. When we lost that child, it changed us. And it changed us forever.”
“And so we made a commitment that no matter how many children were brought into our life we would receive them, because we’re committed to life. And we didn’t know it at that time that we’d be foster parents and that one day we’d be parents of 28 children, but we are extremely grateful for that opportunity because you can get money wrong, but you can’t get life wrong. And I am committed to life.”
Bachmann may be just the freshest face of a movement of evangelical women who hold socially conservative beliefs about gender roles while showing leadership beyond the domestic front.
“Evangelicals tend to follow traditional gender roles at home,” wrote D. Michael Lindsay, president-elect of Gordon College, in an essay for On Leadership. “So it is unusual that Bachmann, a woman of conservative Christian faith, is not only running for the White House but also receiving considerable evangelical support for it.”
Lindsay added, “The reality is that evangelicals today have crafted a notion of what feminist scholar Marie Griffith calls ‘practical Christian womanhood,’ whereby adherents hold seemingly contradictory notions regarding authority and gender ideals.”
Lisa Miller’s Newsweek cover story on Sarah Palin framed the conservative former Alaska governor similarly last summer:
Even if [Palin] never again seeks elected office, her pro-woman rallying cry, articulated in the evangelical vernacular, together with the potent pro-life example of her own family, puts Palin in a position to reshape and reinvigorate the religious right, one of the most powerful forces in American politics.
Palin has also spoken of her own problems during pregnancy, sharing intimate details of her surprise pregnancy with son Trig and the moment she considered abortion in light of the fetus’s Down Syndrome diagnosis. From Palin’s interview with Barbara Walters:
“I knew that the option was there. ... I thought again, for that split second, ‘Okay, now I know, too, why, when that fear strikes you, because of the unknown,’” she said. “I understood then, too, why a woman would consider [abortion] an easier path to perhaps, if you will, do away with the problem, instead of understanding that every child has purpose. There is destiny for every child. And it can be good, in our world. And that’s what I held onto.”
Ultimately, Palin said, she decided to rely on her faith in God’s providence for her son. Since that time, she has used the story to relate her anti-abortion values, telling the Associated Press that she and her husband now “understand that every innocent life has wonderful potential.”
“I’m looking at him right now, and I see perfection. Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?”
DISCUSSION: How is religion re-defining feminism?