Hillary Clinton, Tammy Wynette, and the Bride of Christ

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Tammy Wynette and Hillary Rodham Clinton could not be more different. One was an oft-married country music singer, whose life ended in tragedy. The other is a successful attorney, former First Lady, and United States Senator from New York. Their public lives collided after a Sunday evening television news interview in 1992. Mrs. Clinton, defending her husband’s presidential campaign declared to CBS’ 60 Minutes that she was not like Tammy Wynette, “standing by my man.” Wynette was outraged, and demanded an apology. She got it, but Mrs. Clinton’s point was made. And the next January, the Clintons were in the Oval Office.

Now the paths of these two women have crossed again.

Last week Country Music Television (CMT) announced a list of the 100 best country music songs of all time. To the surprise of many, Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” topped the list at number one. As the Associated Press noted, “Stand By Your Man” was a controversial song, when Wynette recorded it in 1968. The feminist movement was on the rise, along with its insistence that “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”
Wynette, though, urged the American woman to forgive her philandering spouse, “’cause, after all, he’s just a man.”

And, now, Hillary Clinton is back on the airwaves on a Sunday evening news program. She’s a U. S. Senator now. She’s promoting a new book, complete with an $8 million advance. But she’s still explaining her husband’s adulterous liaisons. And she’s still explaining how it is that she could, with a straight face, assure the nation that her husband, in his words, “did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” Sen. Clinton explains in her new book that she stayed with President Clinton for the same reasons she married him in the first place-no one can make her laugh the way he does. What Sen. Clinton leaves to history is her charge, in the midst of the 1998 scandal, that the Lewinsky scandal was the result of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to destroy her husband. She’s still standing by her man.

Hillary Clinton is an easy target for conservatives like us. And there is much to criticize about her public life, her leftist ideology, and her complicity in her husband’s shameful behavior. And yet, evangelicals should also have compassion for her. Contemporary feminism assures brilliant women like Mrs. Clinton that all they need is a high-powered career-a drive to reach the top in spite of all the patriarchy holding them down. Mrs. Clinton parrots the party line, but, deep in her heart, does she really believe it?

The Creator did not design the kind of marriage Tammy Wynette sings about on country radio, or that Hillary Clinton spins about on her national book tour. He created a one-flesh relationship that could never be broken (Gen 3:24). He created Man to guard and protect the Woman, to love her as his own flesh. The first Man failed to do so-by failing to protect his bride from the deceits of the Serpent (1 Tim 2:13-14).

But deep within humanity, there is a yearning still for that kind of trust, that kind of intimacy, that kind of love. In Christian marriage, a man stands before his bride, pledging before God that he will forsake all others, loving her and her only, just as the ultimate Man, the last Adam, has loved His church  (Eph 5:22-33).

That kind of marriage probably won’t make it to the top of the country music charts, and it probably won’t garner enough juicy stories for a fat book contract. It certainly doesn’t fit the prescription for success offered by contemporary feminism. And yet, it is a glorious and wonderful mystery-one that far surpasses the fleeting glories of the White House, the United States Senate, or the Grand Old Opry. It is the picture far different from the nameless loves of Tammy Wynette, or the world-famous husband of Hillary Rodham. It is the picture of something beyond what human words can express-the picture of a Christ who stands by His bride.

Only when we see how lost we are, we can find our way again. Only when we bury what’s dead can we experience life again. Only when we lose our religion can we be amazed by grace again.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Editor in Chief of Christianity Today and is the author of the forthcoming book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America (Penguin Random House).