'Women in politics': more than a talking point

A Christian Science perspective.

In a refreshingly apolitical twist – in the midst of an overtly political event – former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords bravely took the stage at the US Democratic National Convention last month. She was there simply to lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. But there was something far more significant about her appearance – something almost of a miracle – that momentarily hushed any political partisanship. Her presence wasn’t about politics. It was about the courage and strength to walk and talk.

Ever since she was the victim of an assassination attempt in January 2011, Ms. Giffords’s story has transcended the bitter blame and hateful rhetoric that has consumed so much of the political arena today. After being critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head, she has been making a remarkable recovery. Hers is a tale of hope and inspiration, optimism, and perseverance. And her courage, grace, and humility have probably brought out the best in many of her fellow political leaders.

It’s been said by people on both sides of the aisle that if women had a greater presence in politics, our leaders would be better equipped to work together in a spirit of compromise and sisterly love, instead of dwelling on division and gridlock.

Why is this so? Maybe one reason is that having more women in leadership positions would force politicians to act like the family they really are.

Of course, there are some polarizing women politicians in both major US parties, and it would be naive and unrealistic to expect the solution to be as simple as voting in more female members of Congress. But while the answer may not be found simply in more gender balance, there is quite possibly an answer in more of a spiritual gender balance. In other words, the notion that more female politicians are needed in politics points to a deeper issue: that perhaps politicians are neglecting qualities traditionally thought of as feminine – in themselves.

If all politicians – male and female – nurtured more of a spiritual femininity, we would naturally see more love, patience, compassion, purity, and generosity expressed. What a difference that would make!

Members of Congress must work together, at least to some degree, if they are going to accomplish anything. This means they must function as a family. And if traditionally masculine qualities are all that rule a family, then there’s bound to be something missing. That family might express deep intelligence, determination, and resolve, but if resolve is not balanced with love, it risks dissolving into bullying.

In her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness. The masculine mind reaches a higher tone through certain elements of the feminine, while the feminine mind gains courage and strength through masculine qualities. These different elements conjoin naturally with each other, and their true harmony is in spiritual oneness” (p. 57).

Isn’t that what “true harmony” is all about? It is both manhood and womanhood expressed. It is strength united with tenderness, wisdom with love, might with grace. Strength, wisdom, and might are all undoubtedly good qualities for leaders to express; but add tenderness, love, and grace to the mix and you have a government that functions with ease and joy.

In other words, government is not just the metaphorical “father” of the nation; it must also be the “mother.” And we can see “mothering” qualities reflected by politicians in greater willingness to solve even the most intractable problems.

Mrs. Eddy – herself a strong example of female leadership – wrote, “[M]aternal affection lives on under whatever difficulties” (Science and Health, p. 60). So no matter how daunting the difficulties ahead, if politicians cherish a maternal affection for the country, that affection will live on no matter what. It is bound to guide them to solutions that unite a family, that reconcile the bitter in heart, that inspire the hopeless, and that bring us all back to sit around the same table.

Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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