Paging Mark Harris; it’s the 21st century

Republican Mark Harris's views on women are out of step in what might be the year of the woman.
Republican Mark Harris's views on women are out of step in what might be the year of the woman. Observer photo

Some have said 2018 will be the year of the woman in national politics. First there was the Women’s March in Washington and around the world in 2017. Then came the #MeToo movement. Then a record number of women filed to run for Congress. Now polls show that women, unlike men, are leaning heavily toward backing Democratic congressional candidates this fall.

Into this thicket steps Charlotte’s Mark Harris, a former Baptist minister whose views about women might seem, to some, a bit outdated. Harris, a Republican, faces Democrat Dan McCready in North Carolina’s congressional district, which runs from south Charlotte eastward to Fayetteville. If women are going to flex their political muscle this year, North Carolina’s 9th might be a place to do it.

In a May 19, 2013, sermon at First Baptist Church, Harris spoke for nearly an hour about the “timeless principles” of “biblical womanhood.”

Among his insights:

“Even basic things, like how to prepare a meal, how to sew on a button, how to keep a home, how to respond to a husbands, just basic things; we’ve lost them!”

“You say, ‘Why if I don’t teach (my daughters) to love their children will they kill them?’ I’ll tell you why: Because they’ll see them as an inconvenience to the real goal, and the real goal is what? To stand alone, not needing a man, not needing anybody!”

He lauded a passage from Titus saying older women should teach younger women to be “homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands.”

“What is at the core of what you were created to be? A supporter, a nurturer, a caregiver. Ladies, listen, that’s your essential calling by God.”

He said none of this means women can’t work. “But what it does mean is, who you are ma’am, you must understand your core calling, and as long as you understand your core calling and who you are and that that guides everything you do, and that guides all the decisions you make, so that your core calling stays intact, well, you can be and do anything that you want to do.”

Harris adviser Andy Yates said the sermon was for Mother’s Day, though it was actually delivered the following Sunday. Yates told Observer reporter Jim Morrill, “Almost to a person every mom in the 9th District … would agree that there is no higher calling than being a mother and a wife … (or) a husband and a father.”

Let’s be clear: There is no shame in being a stay-at-home mom – or dad. For many of us, there truly is no higher calling than being a loving spouse and parent, and society would be better off with more of them. Political observers remember how it rightly backfired in 2012 when Democrats went after Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, for not working. “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys,” Ann Romney responded. “Believe me, it was hard work.”

It is hard work, and it should be valued. But Harris didn’t just praise motherhood; he demonized women (but not men) who put great value on a career. Voters in the 9th should consider whether those views are in step with their own.