Mitt Romney has “binders full of women” that he’ll need to open in a couple of weeks - because it’s likely American women who are deciding this presidential election. The gender pay gap, abortion, access to contraceptives: these are only a handful of the issues that the candidates are talking about in their efforts to win women voters.
But the issues I care about aren’t limited to those I’ve cited, largely because my faith as well as my gender influences my vote.
This is why I chose to read Her.meneutics new eBook, What Christian Want This Election Season - and why I recommend it to you. First, I appreciated that the book captures the real tension of voting “Christianly.” In the essay entitled, “What Do Evangelical Women Want This Election Season,” author Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra explores the ongoing political tension for Christian voters. Is fighting poverty and other social ills more important than standing against abortion and gay marriage? Appreciating the Christian convictions that undergirds both Democratic and Republican political commitment challenges us not just to tolerate one another, but deeply honor each other despite our political differences.
And Rachel Held Evans implores women to follow a honor code this election season in her essay, “Why We Can All Opt Out of the War on Women.” “The decisions we make – for ourselves, for our families, for our churches, for society – rarely fall into neat and tidy categories of liberal or conservative.” Evans argues that politicians want to divide women, exploiting us as “spoils in a political war.” “While we should certainly speak up for what we think is right, as followers of Jesus, war is not an option.” This is a message that resonates with me, a woman embattled by the Mommy Wars. I’m grateful for her reminder.
What I may have gained most, though, from What Christian Women Want This Election Season is historical perspective. Elesha Coffman writes, “A Brief History of the Evangelical Woman’s Vote,” which explains the historical trends of both the female and evangelical vote. (Did you know Billy Graham was a registered Democrat?) Historical evidence confirms that we as voters are products of our era, regional culture, and race, and that is properly sobering when we’re ready to go to blows over political “principles.”
Anna Broadway’s essay, “Health-Care Reform and the God of Salvation” was of particular interest to me, especially now that I live in Canada, where government-funded health care is available to everyone. If there is a political issue that is driving me this election, health care is it. Broadway provides theological perspective for a very complicated issue and reminds us more broadly that, “Orthodoxy is not defined by what positions we or others take on the law, but by the creeds. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” I might have wished, however, that Broadway considered the real failures of our current system, rather than simply identifying the weaknesses of the Affordable Care Act.
Another essay of interest was Trillia Newbell’s piece, “Why This Black Christian No Longer Toes the Democratic Party Line.” She challenges us to consider how race often trumps our Christian identity when we vote, and she cites her reasons for breaking with the Democratic party. Alongside Newbell, the editors may have done well to include a similar story of demographic breaking with the Republican party. (Maybe that’s the essay I should have written.)
Sarah Pulliam Bailey ends the book with her interviews with Condoleeza Rice, Nikki Haley, and Michele Bachmann. I don’t know that you’d hear these speak so candidly about their faith elsewhere, which is another reason for acknowleding What Christian Woman Want This Election Season as a unique and important resource.
I found Her.meneutics first eBook helpful and even-handed, and I’ll look forward to more like it in the future. While it can do only as much as a short eBook can do, it manages to succeed in framing some of the bigger political complexities facing Christian women as they vote. For women like me who are eager to dig further into the details, they may be think in future eBooks to include a list of additional resources. Overall, What Christian Women Want This Election Season is a book I recommend, as it is well worth $4.99 and a couple of hours on the couch.
And if you're interested in knowing how I'll vote this election, catch me at Her.meneutics Monday, October 22.