What the American Church Can Learn From the 2020 Veepstakes
Updated: Aug 4
Because no matter who wins the job, representation isn’t equity. Private negotiations, public presence policing and labor capitalization on the way to representation certainly isn’t equity either.
As everyone everywhere knows by now, Biden is mere days/weeks from naming his running mate. The presumptive Democratic Party nominee promised to name a woman as his running mate. Since then, there is a growing amount of public pressure to name a black woman in particular. The reporting varies but it does appear that the Biden campaign has narrowed down the list to a small number of female and black female elected and former elected officials.
But the process for the historical pick has been a disgusting practice in misogyny. Biden has been the presumptive nominee since early April when the last strong competitor suspended his campaign. Despite how long it feels like the process is taking, nominees do typically name their running mates in the months of July or August. Secretary Clinton named Kaine on July 22, 2016. President Obama named Biden on August 23, 2008. Late Senator McCain named Sarah Palin on August 29, 2008. Romney named Paul Ryan on August 11, 2012. Gore named Lierberman on August 13, 2000. You get the drift.
However, it may feel longer because of the abnormal circumstances of the last few months. The urgency of this year’s election increases as U.S. death rates rise from the global pandemic of COVID-19 and the 44 days long (and continuing) global uprising against systemic racism. The need for a coherent front from the Democratic Party is a life and death matter with little exaggeration.
It is in this context that Biden's campaign seems be orchestrating his own version of The Bachelor: Vice President Edition. A series of virtual events, press appearances, and ZOOM fundraisers star your favorite eligible politicians- Senator Harris on the Reid-out and Representative Bass in the halls of the Capitol and former Candidate Warren on a computer screen near you! Every woman is working tirelessly because of the urgency and weight of the moment in which we find ourselves. In addition to that bright-eyed and bushy-tailed support, the women are faced with the agrressive unkindness of the hives of other possible candidates, mischaracterization by the press and the whispers and agendas of those in the nominee's inner circle. All of this on top of their "little" day jobs and the choiceless need to smile and nod when asked about the process or given the opportunity to provide public critique.
It’s embarrassing. It’s disappointing. And in that way, it feels a lot like church.
Women in Christian churches also await their final rose ceremony for church authority. Despite being more religious and the majority of church attendance, only 11 percent of American congregations are led by women. Anecdotally, we know women often play the same game of smile, nod and work tirelessly as the women on the VP short list. Some of the most engaged with Christians on social media are women: Beth Moore, the late Rachel Held Evans and Jen Hatmaker. Austin Channing Brown is a New York Times best selling author and Ekemini Uwan a widely published author and successful podcast host. Yet those same women face some of the harshest criticisms and strongest "cancel" campaigns.
The narrative remains that remarkably qualified women who want to speak on stages, lead people and/or pastor churches are somehow unequipped or not called or too ambitious for these specific roles of impact.
So as the world responds to similar leaked critiques of VP possible Senator Harris and recalls similar critiques of VP possible former gubernatorial nominee Stacy Abrams and this year’s former candidate Elizabeth Warren and last year’s nominee and and and, the church could learn a couple things:
We don’t live in a world where woman can be too ambitious: Men make more money than women, are more likely to own property or be in senior positions and are less likely to be in low-paying jobs.
Don’t pit women against one another: As shown by Representative Bass on Twitter and the recent #ShareTheMicNow campaign on Instagram, successful women are not interested in the dismissal of one another because we know our collective strength.
Put your money and your mouth where your value is: A doctrinal statement about gender equality is meaningless if your leadership is still all men just like Biden's promise will mean little if he continues to allow all the possible female VP candidates to be shamed and used and silenced on his way to fulfilling it.
There are no secrets in misogyny or misogynoir: Just like every think piece calling Harris or Abrams too ambitious is immediately ripped to shreds for the misogynoir it is, women know when we are being maligned for the comfort of misogynists. There is no fruit in trying to be sneaky with your sexism. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.
Words matter. Promises are great. But if Jesus chose to put actions behind his inclusive and radical belief that women are equal to men than the church, if not the presumptive Democratic nominee, can learn to put actions behind its doctrinal statements and nice gestures. Otherwise, it's just misogyny dressed in the ruse of a diversity hire.