Reactions to Sarah Palin’s Unwed, Underage Daughter’s Child

The Christianity Today Blog discussed conservative Evangelical Christian reactions to the news of Bristol Palin‘s pregnancy.

It seems all the Religious Right leaders are supporting Palin and her family. Here’s James Dobson, for instance:

“Being a Christian does not mean you’re perfect. Nor does it mean your children are perfect. But it does mean there is forgiveness and restoration when we confess our imperfections to the Lord. I’ve been the beneficiary of that forgiveness and restoration in my own life countless times, as I’m sure the Palins have.”

As one commenter notes, I don’t remember Dobson reacting the same way when Bill Clinton confessed his own imperfections.

Speaking of which, the comments on that site are well worth reading. I know you all don’t like reading 94209423 comments on any one post, but for that posting, you have a mix of Christians and non-Christians talking about the pregnancy and the hypocrisy.

I found the comments much more interesting than the post itself.

  • Rob

    “I don’t remember Dobson reacting the same way when Bill Clinton confessed his own imperfections”

    I’m not going to defend Dobson here (I despise FOTF), but that’s really unfair. Bristol Palin isn’t a politician, she didn’t put herself out there and you should respect that. Using this as an example of how teaching that abstinence is the only choice doesn’t work is fine, at least then you’re criticizing the right person. If she becomes VP, this would be incredible ammunition against her in the Senate on issues of sex education.

    At the very least, you have to give them credit for sticking to their guns and keeping the baby in a situation where a lot of young mothers would get an abortion.

  • Vincent

    It is totally not unfair.
    Why would a person’s occupation affect whether or not you forgive their personal failings regarding sexuality?

  • Lynn

    I have to agree with Rob. I’m no FOTF fan, either, but Dobson is right in this case.

    Clinton was an elected official who lied under oath about his particularly sleazy brand of wrongdoing.

    Bristol is a 17 year old girl who made a foolish choice and no one knows that better than Bristol Palin right now. I just feel sorry for her.

    To fault Sara Palin for this is unfair. Plenty of girls get pregnant in spite of all the sex ed in the world, and while using contraception. Her abstinence-only stance has very little to do with Bristol’s situation.

    Someday you may be the parent of a teenager who does something that goes against everything you believe in and everything you taught them — that’s what teenagers do.

    Seems like there’s real material to go after Sara Palin on just by sticking to her record as an elected official.

    You know, if this were Chelsea, and she was outed for having an abortion, the liberal feminist left would call for her canonization — and then would be outraged by any attempt by the right to use Chelsea’s situation to question the Clintons’ ability to parent, or to question their position on sex ed.

    Everyone’s a hypocrite sometime…

  • http://ptet.blogspot.com PTET

    Found you thru PlanetAtheism.

    Nice catch on that CT post… The comments are must-read stuff.

    And it really does look like anybody spent that much time vetting Palin before McCain’s announcement.

    Palin comes across like a bit of a nut to me, with her saying that she’d oppose abortion even if her own daughter had been raped. But hey, I’m a brit – what do I know?

  • Kate

    I think it says a lot about Sarah Palin…that she KNEW her daughter would be dragged through the mud. Yet she took the VP offer anyway. How, as a parent, can someone do that?

  • Tim Van Haitsma

    I think most of the comments are dogpiling everyone but Bristol. They fault Sarah, McCain and his staff, and Dobson. She is the one person that is not being blamed. This is right. It is her(and the BF) fault that she is pregant but it is a national issue b/c of her mother. If her mom wanted it to be private then she should have declined the VP offer. It’s that simple.

  • Axegrrl

    Lynn said:

    Her abstinence-only stance has very little to do with Bristol’s situation.

    Do you not think that if mommy had discussed condoms/other contraception with her, instead of offering “just say no” as her ONLY advice, Bristol would have probably NOT gotten pregnant in the first place?

    The “don’t think of the pink elephant” approach simply doesn’t work, especially with sex, something abstinence-only proponents obviously have no understanding of.

  • http://www.merryatheist.net/blog MerryAtheist

    This “controversy” is nothing more than throwing wet spaghetti noodles on a wall to see if something sticks. It’s a vile attempt at character assassination and has little to do with electing leaders for our nation.

    I think it’s appropriate to question Sarah Palin on her experience in order to determine if she is qualified for the second highest position in the land, just like I think it’s appropriate to ask Obama to explain his associations with a domestic terrorist and a racist preacher because it sheds light on his past decisions and potential future actions. I hear a lot about the former, but very little on the latter subject. I wonder why?

    On the other hand, it is highly inappropriate to single out the children of a candidate in order to make political points.

    The reason to be against Palin is because she is a conservative, just like the reason to oppose Obama is that he is liberal. Within those bounds, there is plenty to discuss, and much information upon which to base our votes. Let’s leave the kids out of it.

  • http://www.cvaas.org R.C. Moore

    There is a context to the Palin situation which must be considered:

    If a young woman is careful about her sex life, using condoms to prevent STD, birth control to prevent pregnancy, shows restraint in sexual activity, with support, education, and understanding from her parents, and still has an unplanned pregnancy, then compassion is due.

    If however, a young woman and her parents show callous disregard for STD prevention, birth control and the responsibility of bringing a human life into this complicated world, and in fact has a family that actively campaigns for the destruction of family planning and STD prevention, to the point of enshrining it in law, then my compassion level drops considerably.

    In regards to the Clinton affair, Monica Lewinsky is the correct Bristol counterpart, not Bill Clinton. I don’t remember anyone attempting to protect Lewinsky’s reputation other than Clinton himself.

    • The Other Weirdo

       “Some women are born great. Cleopatra, the Queen. Some become great, like Mother Teresa or Lady Gaga. Others have greatness THRUST upon them. Like Monica Lewinski.” St. Trinian’s 2.

  • http://www.parablesofaprodigalworld.com Raffi Shahinian

    Thought some of you guys might be interested in a “non-Christianity Today” Christian perspective on this issue.

    Grace and Peace.

  • Vincent

    You still don’t get it. Sure, using this as a point against the proposed VP candidate is inappropriate.
    The point I’m addressing is that Dobson said there is forgiveness and restoration when someone makes a mistake.
    But he was not willing to forgive or restore Clinton to the fold after his mistake.
    Is it because the person making the mistake now is a female? a minor? a Republican? a private citizen?
    Why does his version of Christianity so readily say forgive her but not forgive him?

  • Vincent

    MA,
    Who is this domestic terrorist of whom you speak? If you are talking about the Reverend Wright, then he’s said nothing worse than what McCain’s pastor has said and he’s not done any bombings that I’ve heard of so you’re stepping way out calling him a terrorist.
    If you mean someone else, who?

  • http://www.merryatheist.net/blog MerryAtheist

    Bill Ayers (see Weather Underground)

    Thank you for proving my point that little mention is ever made of this relationship.

  • http://www.merryatheist.net/blog MerryAtheist

    Oh, and Vincent, my point was not particularly directed at FOTF, but on the larger issue of using a candidate’s kids as a prop for political gain, though I think an argument can be made that all groups (both on the right and the left) exercise a fair amount of hypocrisy, especially during the silly season (by which I mean presidential elections).

  • http://www.cvaas.org R.C. Moore

    As long as comments about a candidate’s children are directed to the real issues this country faces (and Bristol’s pregnancy is definitely this) then I do not see hypocrisy or unfairness.

    If the comments are merely mean (for example, the comments made by certain right wingers about Chelsea Clinton’s looks during her awkward childhood years), then we have hypocrisy and unfairness.

  • Aj

    Lynn,

    To fault Sara Palin for this is unfair. Plenty of girls get pregnant in spite of all the sex ed in the world, and while using contraception. Her abstinence-only stance has very little to do with Bristol’s situation.

    Sex ed works, it does make a difference, if she didn’t educate her children then the criticism is absolutely fair. Abstinence-only ignorance propagating has plenty to do with teenage pregnancy. Stating the fact that sex ed and contraception isn’t 100% effective doesn’t favour your argument in the slightest. No one is saying this certainly is the reason she got pregnant, that’s not the point at all. The point is that sex ed works, contraception works, parents and teachers should educate children.

    That’s like saying that because people get the flu despite having vaccinations, it doesn’t matter whether people have vaccinations or not. The ignorance, wish-thinking, and lack of logic ceases to amaze me. You’re not right-wing and religious by chance? Ha ha.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    I see Rob’s and Lynn’s points and think maybe Hemant could have referenced the many younger celebs and non-elected officials that Dobson Co. have trashed in the name of “family values” in this post.

    Regardless of the Bill Clinton reference, Hemant’s post is right on the money about the fairness. Because of who Bristol is, she gets a pass because she repents. But yet someone like JamieLynn Spears doesn’t because she’s not tied to a Republican politician that is running for VP? Shame on Dobson.

  • sam

    They’re against teen sex UNTIL they’re pregnant, then they welcome it.

  • http://www.thoughtcounts.net/ thoughtcounts Z

    I think we should be happy to hear Christian conservatives talking about how it’s really okay that this girl got pregnant before she was married. Let them say it now all they want. Record every time James Dobson or whoever says that we should realize that no two families are the same, that nobody’s perfect and God loves us anyway, and that there are lots of different life paths that may be followed. Save it up for the next time they claim a liberal politician can’t be trusted because they haven’t exhibited ideal “family values” in one way or another.

  • Jen

    Do you not think that if mommy had discussed condoms/other contraception with her, instead of offering “just say no” as her ONLY advice, Bristol would have probably NOT gotten pregnant in the first place?

    The “don’t think of the pink elephant” approach simply doesn’t work, especially with sex, something abstinence-only proponents obviously have no understanding of.

    I am all for comprehensive sex ed, but can I point out that we have no idea if the kid used birth control or not? There are several possibilities: 1. She did not use birth control 2. She did use birth control, but there was failure 3. She got pregnant on purpose. At this point, we don’t know what the circumstances were, and we should all know that one person doesn’t prove a damn thing about the effectiveness of the whatever type of sex ed she might have had. Is it really unbelievable that a woman who received comprehensive sex ed could get pregnant?

  • SarahH

    I can’t believe how many commenters are chiming in just to say “Stop bickering!” and “You aren’t real Christians!” and “These comments are all from Obama supporters!” and so-on. Some of them even amount to: “Everybody stop posting here!” which seems meta levels of silly.

    The interesting part of the conversation, IMO, isn’t about the extremist abstinence-only policies SP supports or the Roe v. Wade opposition – it’s the argument that a mother of five (one an infant with a serious medical condition and another who’s getting ready to be a mother at a very young age) should not be adding even more to her already ambitious workload. As one commenter pointed out, the Vice Presidency isn’t exactly your average 9-5 job and her husband seems like a very busy man as well (champion sled-dog racer, commercial fisherman, etc.).

    Additionally, it seems that either (a) SP wasn’t thoroughly vetted by the GOP and they’re just rolling with the punches or (b) SP *was* thoroughly vetted by the GOP and McCain thinks that this will somehow help his campaign. Either way, it was massively irresponsible, and I’m certainly glad I’m not a Palin kid right now.

  • http://www.thoughtcounts.net/ thoughtcounts Z

    Is it really unbelievable that a woman who received comprehensive sex ed could get pregnant?

    Of course not. I think the real issue is that proponents of abstinence-only sex ed say that teaching about safe sex basically puts the idea of having sex into kids’ heads, and they wouldn’t do it otherwise. Proponents of the comprehensive approach argue that some kids are going to have sex no matter what, and given that, they should know how to do it safely. This incident underscores the fact that kids who receive an abstinence-only education don’t need to hear about condoms and diaphragms in order to get the idea that sex might be fun, and the only result of their limited sex ed is that they do it with less information.

  • Pingback: It’s the Thought that Counts » Blog Archive » Palin, take 2

  • Epistaxis

    MerryAtheist:

    I think it’s appropriate to ask Obama to explain his associations with a domestic terrorist and a racist preacher because it sheds light on his past decisions and potential future actions. I hear a lot about the former, but very little on the latter subject. I wonder why?

    Google is your friend.

  • Jen

    Has anyone actually found out what kind of sex ed the daughter received at school?

  • Gullwatcher

    It’s the usual Christian double standard. If a Christian does something bad, it’s because they are only human and just need some forgiveness, and if they do something good, it’s because they are a Christian and therefore it’s natural to them. If a non-Christian does something bad, it’s because they are a non-Christian and by nature evil, and if they do something good – well, accidents happen.

    Anti-abortion Christians frequently get abortions, and justify it by saying that it’s Different for them – they really need to have one because of their Special Circustances, unlike the other women in the clinic, who are just immoral sluts refusing to take any responsibility for their actions.

    If you are expecting an end to their hypocrisy anytime soon, I have a bridge to sell you.

  • Karen

    The interesting part of the conversation, IMO, isn’t about the extremist abstinence-only policies SP supports or the Roe v. Wade opposition – it’s the argument that a mother of five (one an infant with a serious medical condition and another who’s getting ready to be a mother at a very young age) should not be adding even more to her already ambitious workload.

    I agree. While we keep hearing how “fired up” the religious right is about Palin, and how they’re flocking to McCain and donating because of her, the flip side of that is that conservative religious women are likely to be most critical of working mothers.

    Seeing how many posters there were aghast at Palin’s decision to run for VP with a special-needs newborn and a pregnant teen really makes me wonder whether Christian women are going to be so all fired up for McCain/Palin in the long run. I can literally hear them cringing in those posts.

    Dr. Dobson, above anyone, has criticized women who take high-powered, all-consuming jobs while their children are young. He has long advocated that women stay home with their children at least part time in the early years, if they can swing it economically.

  • Julie Marie

    conservative religious women are likely to be most critical of working mothers.

    I’m no longer a conservative evangelical, but I was really surprised to hear she was back in office 3 days after giving birth. The explanation was something along the lines of “men expand their families while in office, its fine for women too”

    I think at some point we have to realistically assess what the expectations are and what we can do. Every woman is different, of course – just because I couldn’t have taken that responsibility on after discharge from the hospital doesn’t mean no woman can…but still. There’s a ton of physiological processes going on in the postpartum period. But then, maybe after the 5th child, you’ve got a handle on that sort of thing. I only had one child, and I was very glad I had 12 weeks before I had to get back to work. (although I admit, at times, I’d rather have faced work frustrations than baby frustrations — at least with work there are professional boundaries you can be fairly certain people won’t cross. No such luck with babies! They have no boundary awareness and its not their problem that you haven’t slept a whole night in 6 weeks…if they need to melt down, then melt down they will – and mommies level of coping power is irrelevant!)

  • cipher

    For those defending Dobson: Please; if it had been one of Obama’s daughters, there would have been a feeding frenzy that would have sickened and appalled you.

    And it’s a public issue not merely because she’s running for office, but because it speaks to the larger issue of the (in)efficacy of abstinence-only programs. She’s been the nominee for five minutes, is already trumpeting her conservative Christian values, and we’re immediately confronted with the image of her pregnant, unwed teenage daughter. Give me a friggin’ break.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    cipher: “Please; if it had been one of Obama’s daughters, there would have been a feeding frenzy that would have sickened and appalled you.”

    And if we would find the behavior sickening and appalling when others do it, shouldn’t we avoid it in ourselves?

  • Lynn

    Do you not think that if mommy had discussed condoms/other contraception with her, instead of offering “just say no” as her ONLY advice, Bristol would have probably NOT gotten pregnant in the first place?

    Who knows? 17 year old girls in luuvv aren’t exactly the clearest-thinking people on the planet. She might well have used birth control, or her boyfriend might have, or perhaps they didn’t care if they got pregnant or not. As I said, even teens who have comprehensive sex ed and who have confidential access to BC get pregnant, so I don’t think Bristol’s pregnancy means much here — well, except to poor Bristol, but maybe she’s completely cool with it — you never know.

    Teenagers will be teenagers, and there is some truth to the notion that children of extremely rigid, conservative parents are more likely to act out than those from more relaxed homes (I think someone recently published a study in which the results supported this notion). So…is it the abstinence-only, or the uber-religiosity (has anyone actually read/heard some of Sarah Palin’s speeches — oy!), or the hormones, or the loooong winters and the boredom, or all of the above that contributed to Bristol’s situation? Only Bristol and her babydaddy know for sure.

  • SarahH

    And if we would find the behavior sickening and appalling when others do it, shouldn’t we avoid it in ourselves?

    Yes. Unfortunately, no matter what Obama, Biden and other leading Democrats say on the subject there will be plenty of people in the media and online who will keep up the “feeding frenzy” for awhile. I don’t think everyone should ignore the situation, but the speculation and slurs directed at Bristol and the rumor-mongering are exactly what we’d like to think is limited to the GOP.

    And there will be conservatives who’ll gleefully point this out ad nauseam.

    There are mean, stupid people out there, and they come in all political flavors.

  • cipher

    And if we would find the behavior sickening and appalling when others do it, shouldn’t we avoid it in ourselves?

    My point is that Christians love to pull out the “Forgiven, Not Perfect” card when it suits them.

  • http://intj-mom.livejournal.com INTJ Mom

    I agree with Lynn. We have no idea what all the factors are in regards to Bristol’s pregnancy. If her parents are both so busy all the time, maybe she did it to get attention. Maybe she had no decent BC knowledge. And so on. We just don’t know.

    As for Palin only taking 3 days off after the birth of her last child, my husband is a small business owner and is out of necessity a workaholic and even he took a week off when our 2 3/4 year old was born. And she was perfectly normal and healthy. So it does strike me as odd for a woman to only take 3 days off especially when the child has problems.

    Maybe SP was feeling fine, but in my mind it’s more about her child’s needs & that he would’ve benefited from the bonding time. Right now it seems more like maybe she talks out both sides of her mouth. I did the demanding career thing for 15 years and I know how hard it is to give enough attention to both the career and the family. However, I don’t think I know enough details about the Palin family to make any kind of definitive decision on whether she practices what she preaches or if she’s hypocritical.

    I do think however that there is a clear double standard in regards to the religious right when dealing with these kinds of things.

  • Maria

    “I don’t remember Dobson reacting the same way when Bill Clinton confessed his own imperfections”

    I’m not going to defend Dobson here (I despise FOTF), but that’s really unfair. Bristol Palin isn’t a politician, she didn’t put herself out there and you should respect that. Using this as an example of how teaching that abstinence is the only choice doesn’t work is fine, at least then you’re criticizing the right person. If she becomes VP, this would be incredible ammunition against her in the Senate on issues of sex education.

    At the very least, you have to give them credit for sticking to their guns and keeping the baby in a situation where a lot of young mothers would get an abortion.

    She’s being criticized, and rightly so, b/c while she’s off preaching about “abstinence” she’s not paying attention to her own kids. I bet her daughter was told it’s a “sin” to use birth control. Maybe if she hadn’t been told that, she wouldn’t be pregnant at 17. Sarah Palin’s hypocrisy is astounding.


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