I May Be a Knuckle-Dragging Neanderthal—Are You?

Former Senator Rick Santorum doesn’t make many headlines these days. But he ensured himself some exposure when he discussed the former governor of Alaska, who can’t stay out of them. Even Governor Sarah Palin’s absence from the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month made news. Asked about Palin’s decision not to attend, Santorum said:

I have a feeling she has some demands on her time. And a lot of them have financial benefits attached to them. So I’m sure that she’s doing what’s best for her and her family.

Always eager to pounce on Washington squabbles, Politico publicized Santorum’s comment, which seemed to charge Palin with caring more for lining her pockets than promoting the conservative cause. That’s a serious allegation among the devoted conservatives who attend CPAC and size up potential president contenders.

Shortly thereafter, Palin appeared on Sean Hannity’s primetime Fox News show. She has often appeared with friendly media to counter the vitriol directed her way by political opponents, including potential rivals for the 2012 Republican nomination for president. Hannity showed Palin a clip of these comments by Santorum. She said this is the first time she heard them. Yet she seemed to single out for response a different comment Santorum said in the same CPAC interview. He explained that he would not turn down an invitation to speak at the conference. But he cited still another reason why Palin might have:

I’m not the mother to all these kids. And I don’t have other responsibilities, like she has, other opportunities that she has. Other business opportunities that may be in conflict with what she’s been asked to do.

Santorum has seven children. His wife is a homemaker. Whether intended or not, he struck a nerve with Palin. She told Hannity:

I think some things maybe were maybe taken out of context. So I will not call him the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal that perhaps others would want to call him—I’ll let his wife call him that instead.

This is not the first time Palin has expressed such views. Last November on election night, when a number of conservative women won Congressional seats, Palin appeared on a panel with former Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, once the Democratic nominee for vice president. Palin discussed her appreciation of pioneering female leaders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Ferraro, the first woman nominated on a major party’s presidential ticket. Palin said of the women’s movement:

It’s been great for our nation. . . . There are still the Neanderthals out there who pick on the petty little superficial meaningless things like looks, like whether you can or can’t work outside of the home if you have small children. . . . I would so hope that at some point those Neanderthals will evolve into something a bit more with it, a bit more modern, and a bit more understanding that, yeah, women can accomplish much.

You probably know that Palin is the mother of young children. Indeed, when she was 44 years old in 2008, Palin inspired many of us pro-life advocates by giving birth to her son, Trig, who was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. She testified to God’s good handiwork through her son and gave thanks for this unexpected blessing. She has stood by Trig, the rest of her family, and her pro-life convictions during the most cruel attacks her opponents can muster.

That’s why these comments on Fox News were surprising. Palin, so mercilessly criticized for how she’s handled her own family, lashed out against others. She associates those who encourage women to stay home with their children with the belief that women cannot accomplish much. Nothing could be further from reality. But in making this association, Palin indirectly disparages the women who make this choice, as if the false charge is true: the women who stay home cannot succeed in the professional or political world. Was that her intent? Hopefully not, because the Bible commends women for their work in the home.

The apostle Paul wrote in Titus 2:3-5 (ESV):

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

The inspired apostle tells older women it is good to show the younger women how to work in the home. Translators variously render 2:5 as exhorting young women to “be busy at home” (NIV), “work in their homes” (NLT), be “workers at home” (NASB), and be “good homemakers” (HCSB). Any way you put it, the Bible says such work is a worthy calling. Even the industrious woman of Proverbs 31, who buys fields and plants vineyards (Prov. 31:16), who trades profitable merchandise (Prov 31:18), “looks well to the ways of her household” (Prov. 31:27). Indeed, “her children rise up and call her blessed” (Prov. 31:28). She honors God by capably handling the varied and vital tasks entrusted to her care, including housework and child rearing.

Whatever you might think of Palin’s personal decisions—indeed, however you choose to live in light of these Bible passages—we should not demean the women who devote their chief energies to laboring in the home. If commending our wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters who decide not to work outside the home makes me a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, so be it.

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