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The Proverbs 31 politician

By Margaret Feinberg,

Feinberg writes as part of our roundtable on Christian women’s leadership, an expert discussion featured in parallel with On Faith’s Lisa Miller’s debut column, “Evangelical women rise as new ‘feminists.’” On Faith asks, “How do modern evangelicals understand biblical teachings on women’s roles? How would a President Bachmann balance biblical submission and political leadership?”Read scholar of American religion and gender politics, Marie Griffith, who writes, Michele Bachmann reflects a changing conservative Christianity, and the Conerned Women for America’s Janice Shaw Crouse on Biblical submission and servant leadership.

A thought experiment:

My girlfriend, Noble, lives up to her first name. She is one of the most remarkable women I know and a personal hero. Noble and her husband are madly in love, and she is passionate about her children. She’s the mom who brings the jaw-droppingly gorgeous cupcakes to activities, and you’ll always find her in the front row during her kid’s sporting events. Noble has an impeccable taste for food and fashion, is a blast to shop with, and can sniff out rare deals on must-have items.

But don’t be fooled by her fun, girlfriend-y demeanor, and all-American mom persona. Noble is also a savvy businesswoman. In fact, she’s a noted leader in the textile industry who trades high quality products around the globe. She was recently celebrated as an up-and-coming entrepreneur in manufacturing in part because of her passion for the double bottom line --not just profitability but using profits to care for the poor. Noble cares about social justice issues, and I’m grateful for having known her.

Should Noble run for president? Yes! Should Christians consider voting for her? Absolutely! After all, Noble is based on the noble woman, often known as ‘the wife of noble character,'described in Proverbs 31. The description of her in the Bible --rising before dawn, leading in business, embracing her family with one hand and reaching out to the poor in the other --is an inspirational, biblical reminder that women can be successful wives, moms, businesswomen and thought-leaders.

As we approach the 2012 election, the question of biblical teachings on women’s roles is being raised once again, this time with a new target: Michele Bachmann. Should evangelical Christians support Bachmann’s run for president? Is her run a violation of what the Bible actually teaches about women?

The role of women in the church is hotly debated with scriptural interpretations anchoring the positions on both sides, but the Bible remains nearly silent on the issue of women in the workplace, political or otherwise. In fact, the only two times we encounter stories of women engaging in politics--the Jewish ruler Deborah and Queen Esther--the Scripture seems to whisper affirmation.

Most American Christians are not educated about the Bible’s teachings on politics, and they know even less about what their political leaders believe. One slightly disturbing survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service illustrates that slightly less than four-in ten (38 percent) of Americans can correctly identify President Barack Obama’s religion. The same survey found that 18 percent still wrongly believe Obama is Muslim. American Christians and non-Christians alike need to begin thinking more rigorously about the intersection of faith and politics.

Once Christians realize that the Bible in no way restricts women from serving in politics, we’re left to wrestle with a different question. Not can Michele Bachmann run for president, but should she? Is she truly the best candidate? Does she have the experience and know-how to lead our nation through challenging times?

The average voter is looking for a leader who is capable, experienced, and proven --qualifications that seem increasingly hard to find if you examine the list of presidential hopefuls. The big issue for the 2012 election won’t be and shouldn’t be a question of gender. Rather, we need to ask who the best person is to turn around our economy, bring home our troops, and clean up Washington. And on that, the vote is still out.

Margaret Feinberg is a popular Christian writer, international speaker and author of “Scouting the Divine” and “The Organic God.” She blogs at margaretfeinberg.com.

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