Miss Nancy Ellicott smoked
And danced all the modern dances;
And her aunts were not quite sure how they felt about it,
But they knew that it was modern.
— T.S. Eliot
Here’s a video of a 17-year-old girl praising God, palms up, in a snow-white dress, as she receives the crown and sash of Miss America. Teresa Scanlan, competing as Miss Nebraska, is a home-schooled aspiring President of the United States. Her blog is titled “A Royal Princess,” with the sub headline, “promoting positive body image and self-acceptance, one person at a time.” Before winning Miss Nebraska, she prayed:
Dear God, please help me to be a diligent servant not only today but from here on out. Give me the strength and wisdom to accurately handle your word of truth and the diligence and perseverance necessary to be a worker who is not ashamed. I wish to be a shining light for you, a glowing example of who you are, and a grain of salt in a tasteless world. Whether or not this is achieved through a position, crown, title, or job, please place me exactly where you need me to be an effective ambassador for you. I am clay in your hands, your humble servant, willing to do whatever you wish for me in your perfect plan. I love you so much and thank you for blessing me so tremendously and bestowing such outstanding opportunity on me. My greatest wish is to exemplify your love through my words and actions in order to bring others to you.
Your Loving Daughter, Teresa
Scanlan heads to Patrick Henry College in the fall, where she’ll start studying law. Click that link and read their mission statement. Perhaps already displaying a bit of the poise and restraint required of someone with her political ambitions, Scanlan neglected to mention the name of her college on her recent View appearance. Since she’s already getting attention for her age (she’s the youngest Miss America since 1937), why make faith the story just right yet?
But it is the story: Scanlan is walking the path blazoned by Sarah Palin. White, female, pretty, poised, with deep religion and a cursory knowledge of politics. And, importantly, supported by and educated under a “shadow” system of historical narrative, higher education, and political grooming which works to place Christian leaders in positions of power and influence to, quoting Patrick Henry College’s mission statement, “lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding.” Being a beauty queen doesn’t hurt either, some say. Remember that Palin was one herself. Suzi Parker at Politics Daily posited yesterday that Scanlan’s experience in pageants might help her political aspirations.
The new Miss America’s official issue, like the focus of her blog, is body image and eating disorders. But at the pageant, she gave the audience a taste of her no-notes political opining when asked a question about Wikileaks. Specifically, how should the people’s right to know be balanced with the need for government security? Her answer was as follows (or, just watch):
You know, when it came to that situation, it was actually based on espionage. And when it comes to the security of our nation we have to focus on security first, and then people’s right to know. Because it’s so important that everyone in our borders is safe, and so we can’t let things like that happen, and they must be handled properly, and I think that was the case.”
It’s no “You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska!” Actually, she probably gave an effective answer for those who are inclined to agree with her. And to be honest, I don’t like essentializing pretty women as shallow, nor do I like attacking 17-year-old girls as soon as they cross over into the realm of public figure just to make a point. (For instance, let’s not go ahead and because she’s pretty call this girl an idiot.) Her individual intelligence isn’t the story, and it isn’t the target; there’s a recent precedent. Here, before us, is the modern female, extracted from the work of feminism – its political context and original content – and injected into the grooming of the new American Evangelical Christian path to leadership.