Newsweek’s Lisa Miller has an interesting article on how Sarah Palin is reshaping the Religious Right in her image:
The religious right has always had female leaders, of course—Phyllis Schlafly and Beverly LaHaye, to name two—but since the Supreme Court upheld Roe v. Wade in 1973, its most visible political brokers have been men. Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson used their media megaphones to preach a “family values” agenda—and then supported candidates who upheld their pro-marriage, antigay, and pro-life views. Their great triumph, the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, was followed by decades of acrimonious public debate about abortion, and political operatives soon discovered that no issue motivated voters more. “Pro-life folks on the ground are the most loyal; they’re worth their weight in gold,” says Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. In 2004 Karl Rove called in 4 million evangelical Christian votes to help George W. Bush narrowly win a second term. And while women have long been active, even zealous, foot soldiers in family-values causes, they have not until now been passionate about their representatives on the national stage. Christian women may have given money to Schlafly, but they didn’t want to be like her.
But the culture was changing, and by 2006 the religious right was in disarray. Falwell would die the following year, and Dobson and Robertson were widely regarded as dinosaurs. Even evangelical Christians, for whom abortion remained a priority, said they didn’t like being yelled at … With her new faith-based message, Palin gathers up the Christian women that traditional feminism has left behind.
I don’t know that I completely buy all of Miller’s arguments, but her article does contains lots of interesting information, especially about the Evangelical women and mothers who are flocking to Palin and who see her as a modern-day Esther:
When asked why she loves Sarah Palin, a conservative Christian woman will point you to Proverbs 31. There, you’ll find a wife and mother who adores her husband, works the fields, rises before dawn, “makes her arms strong,” feeds the poor, helps the needy, has a head for business, and wears beautiful clothes. No exhausted careerist is she: the Proverbs 31 woman laughs easily; her children are happy. Christian women have long puzzled in their Bible study groups over how she does it, and in Palin they finally have an example—not just for themselves, but for their daughters.
“God gives us gifts and talents and abilities, and [Palin] is kind of modeling that it’s OK to use those,” says Lynette Kittle, 52, a mother of four grown daughters, who recently traveled more than a thousand miles from her home in Colorado Springs, Colo., to hear Palin speak. “I know there’s a saying, ‘You can’t have it all,’ but in some ways you can.”
Like many evangelicals, [Vicki] Garza believes a great cosmic battle is underway for the soul of America and that Palin has been singled out by God for leadership: “The anointing on her is so strong,” she says. Assaults on Palin by the press only strengthen Garza’s conviction, for as any Christian knows, martyrs most deserve to gain God’s kingdom. “She’s just fearless,” Garza says. “Jesus said, ‘They persecuted me; they’ll persecute you.’ ”
To her Christian audiences, Palin talks about her own life in terms of mission and destiny. She was the keynote speaker at a Women of Joy conference in April, a convention of 16,000 Christian women who traveled from three dozen states to Louisville, Ky., and paid at least $79 per ticket for a weekend of praise, song, and prayer. Upon mounting the stage, Palin immediately thanked her “prayer warriors” for the “prayer shield” they built around her. She quoted from Proverbs 3—“Trust in the Lord with all your heart…and he will make straight your paths.” And then she connected herself with Esther. She was explaining the meaning of the Jewish queen’s heroism to her 9-year-old daughter Piper, she said. “[Esther] was out there on the stage, wondering if she’d have the opportunity to be chosen to really help change the world.”