At the web site of the Palmetto Family Council, the South Carolina arm of Focus on the Family, is an undated recording of an interview Governor Mark Sanford did on families and fatherhood. He serves up the usual platitudes about families being the bedrock of society, and then launches into the particular responsibilities of fathers.

To wit (or witless): When asked about the best way to keep families strong, Sanford advised spending more time with one's family (ahem) and praying together. "I don’t want to be old-fashioned here," he added, "but I think the father has the responsibility of being the spiritual leader of the house, and there are some lessons on a daily, nightly, morning basis that need to go from the father to the little ones in talking about how shall we then live. And I think that particular responsibility is on the backs of fathers."

Sanford is exploiting a Christian fundamentalist fixation on "male headship," a claim that the Bible requires men to exercise "spiritual authority" over their wives and children. (Kathryn Joyce explores this theology in greater depth in her book, Quiverfull). Perhaps Sanford is Exhibit A for an uprising by fundamentalist women whose husbands demand spiritual submission? Jenny Sanford, you have a calling.

--Sarah Posner

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