Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton often says more than she means to say. Such was the case in India the other day.
She said something to the effect that women who vote Republican are in the thrall of the men in their lives, implying that her politics, naturally, serves their interests better. If only men would stop pushing these women around they’d vote for her and people like her.
That’s deplorable, many conservative women have been saying since, and stating in so many words, “My husband has nothing to do with the way I vote! I am a strong and independent woman!”
What does someone on the sideline say to this? How about: wait. Or, stop. Or, please, think about what you’ve just said.
Because, conservative ladies, you have agreed with Mrs. Clinton on the most important point. You agree that women and men either do not, or cannot, share common interests: you are an Individual and you are not in bed with any man.
The fact that you vote for the same candidates as the men in your life is the result of a fully independent process of reasoning. It is a coincidence that you vote for the same people–or perhaps you’d say, “It is because I married an intelligent man that he sees things the same way I do.”
If this is the way you feel, you’ve missed that point with the “one flesh” business in the Bible. Yes, that refers to the conjugal union of a man and a woman. (Believe it or not, I’ve come across some “Christians” who can’t even affirm that much.) But this union points to more. To begin with, it is because the union can issue in children that a father and mother share a common future.
But this common future works backward into the present–they not only share a bed, and children, they hold all things in common–or should. They have a common life, a commonwealth, and a common interest. And this is the real reason they should cast a common vote.
Traditionally a household was more than an aggregate of individuals sharing a house. It was a political union–a body even. This is why the Apostle Paul speaks of the church as both a household and a body. The two things go together and really are the same thing, just viewed from different perspectives. And what is true for the church is true for the house. Perhaps it is better to reverse that: what is true for the house is true for the church.
Today people prepare for divorce before they marry. That’s what prenuptial agreements are for. (Pardon me for saying that they can’t mean “’til death do us part” when the back door has been left open.) But at a deeper level, these people have bought into the libertarian illusion of the impenetrable-self. We are social atoms that bounce about and sometimes cling. For the libertarian, individuals are real and social institutions, like marriage, are not real. I’ve actually heard these people put it just that baldly.
Christian belief is more realistic. We believe in the permeable-self: it is what makes traditional marriage possible. And as Paul implies in Ephesians chapter five, it makes salvation possible. And we believe that certain institutions were there before we showed up, and, hopefully for the sake of the children, will be there when we’re gone.
This is so basic it is astonishing to me that it must be explained. But such is the day in which we live. It is a day in which conservative women undermine the ontological basis of family life and salvation itself.
Those of us who believe in traditional households have a long and difficult road ahead of us. And to our chagrin we are discovering that many of the people we have considered fellow-travelers are actually on a different road. It is just that our roads have been running parallel for a while. But the roads are beginning to diverge.