True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island… to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing. -Baltasar Gracian link
What is the Billy Graham rule?
Let me start off by saying something. The first time I ever heard that I was loved by God was during a crusade by Graham televised on my local station. I grew up in a non religious home in Salem, Massachusetts. My dad was Russian Orthodox but I think most of his devotional life revolved around pierogis and the polka.
For some reason, my parents liked Billy Graham. He was the only religious leaders to whom they would listen. No matter what you may feel about his theology, crusades, etc., please understand I will always be grateful to him for his messages that touched the heart of a lonely and confused teenage girl.
I learned of the Billy Graham rule many years ago when I read his autobiography, Just As I Am. Like many people of my generation, I thought it sounded like a good idea. However, I think it has limited practical application in today's world. I will explain why shortly.
TGC posted WHERE DID THE “BILLY GRAHAM RULE” COME FROM? The author quotes from Grahams autobiography.
One afternoon during the Modesto meetings, I called the team together to discuss the problem. Then I asked them to go to their rooms for an hour and list all the problems they could think of that evangelists and evangelism encountered.
When they returned, the lists were remarkably similar, and in a short amount of time, we made a series of resolutions or commitment among ourselves that would guide us in our future evangelistic work. In reality, it was more of an informal understanding among ourselves—a shared commitment to do all we could do to uphold the Bible’s standard of absolute integrity and purity for evangelists.
[2. Sexual Immorality]
The second item on the list was the danger of sexual immorality. We all knew of evangelists who had fallen into immorality while separated from their families by travel. We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, I did not travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than my wife. We determined that the Apostle Paul’s mandate to the young pastor Timothy would be ours as well: “Flee . . . youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 1:22, KJV).
Why did it come up now?
According to Inside Edition
"In 2002, Mike Pence told The Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either," The Washington Post reported.
Why did this generate so much attention?
According to The Washington Post
The reaction was swift and extremely polarized.
Many on the right quickly interpreted the tweet as the media somehow being shocked — shocked! — that a conservative Christian couple would establish such boundaries. Yet again, it seemed, here was the East Coast liberal media just not understanding the values of middle America.
On the left, meanwhile, the Pences' arrangement was one that reeked of sexism and a bygone era — an impractical code in the modern age of men and women working alongside one another. And how could the vice president of the United States not be trusted to dine alone or attend parties with women without it venturing into unholy territory? Some even wondered (perhaps seriously?) whether this would prevent him from meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May or German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
I believe that it is a rule that has limited application in the world of today.
A century ago, few women worked outside of the home. They were not allowed to vote. In England, estates would go to the closest living male relative. Secretaries in many companies were men.
My mother is 88 years old. When I told her I had put together something that came in the mail, she was surprised. She said that men were supposed to do that sort of thing and I asked her why. She calmly responded by saying "Men are born tto do those things better than women."She is a product of her generation.
Today, women serve in all capacities in every profession one can imagine, including the Armed Services. As such, they must interact with men in all professions.
The problem is that many of today's Christian leaders do not encourage friendship between men and women.
Earlier this week, we discussed this problem in a post looking at Desiring God's take on friendships. It is my opinion that some pastors who work in the rarefied atmosphere of the church don't get the realities and the changing views on relationships in the wider culture. Take, for example, this post on In Defense of the Billy Graham Rule.
In writing of his pastor father, the author said:
My father practiced, to my knowledge, the “Billy Graham rule” his entire ministry. It was not out of a desire to mute the women in the church or showcase his own godliness. It was instead a personal principle that safeguarded Dad and the people he ministered to. If a woman needed counsel, Mom would come along. Oftentimes it would be my mother who was able to speak most powerfully into another woman’s life. Those situations reinforced Dad’s belief that his marriage was indeed part of his ministry, not merely an accessory to it. And it was helpful: Again, to my knowledge, my father was never once accused, falsely or truthfully, of an inappropriate sexual relationship.
(Side observation: But these types of churches believe that only male pastors can preach into a woman's life.)
He claims that Tullian Tchividjian should have followed the Billy Graham rule.
Olasky, pivoting off the recent confession of marital infidelity and consequent resignation from ministry of Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, wonders whether the recent upshot of ministerial sin (particularly sexual sin) could have been thwarted if more ministers had emulated Graham’s famous personal dictum to never meet with or travel alone with a woman other than his wife.
Here are some problems with his assumptions.
When I worked for a pharmaceutical company, I both traveled with men and took men out to lunch/ dinner as part of my job responsibilities. I could not have said "Gee, can I take my husband along" or "Can you send another woman with me?" One can get away with that in the church but not in outside of it.
I was never attacked by a man who was inflamed with desire while sharing dinner. If I had been, I would have been surrounded by other diners wielding steak knives. Believe it or not, that sort of thing is frowned on by professionals because it can lead to lawsuits, etc. so it doesn't usually happen with people who want to keep their jobs. Also, most men, like most women, are anxious to get the work done and get home or get back to the hotel and relax.
I have met with several pastors alone in their offices. These were pastors who knew me and knew my character. I also knew them. In today's church culture, with talking heads instead of pastors, many pastors don't even know the people in their congregation. So they don't trust women nor will they be friends with them. The church is poorer for it.
Ah, Tullian Tchividjian… if only he never met alone with women. The problem is that Tullian had an agenda and he wanted to meet alone with women. He wouldn't have followed the rule because he didn't want to follow it. Men and women who want to have affairs will have them, regardless of rules.
Thoughts for debate
I am going to state a number of observations and thoughts and look forward to you chiming in, pro and con.
- Mike Pence is part of an older generation and feels more comfortable with his rules. That is fine for him. However, it is not proscriptive for the rest of us. I am part of the older generation and think his rules would have been quite stifling for me as a nurse in the past and as a blogger now. It would have ruined some friendships with pastors along the way as well.
- Christians who are having affairs are trying to cover them up, not advertise them to the world. Why would they broadcast their relationships at the local Olive Garden? People tend to meet in hotel rooms in private.
- Why do we assume that only opposite sex dinners are a problem? Couldn't there be a problem with same sex dinners?
- Last night, my husband stayed late at work reading tests. The charge nurse also stayed late to work on the schedule. Should he have called me on the phone and told me to get down to the office, stat?
- There are few, if any, corporations today that would allow a man to turn down an assignment in which he had to travel with a female coworker, take a female client to dinner, or meet alone with a female client in an office with the door shut, etc.
- It is strange to think that at any moment all men might fall into sin because they are eating lunch with a client. Are men that weak? Are women? Do pastors think that men and women are having sex all the time in the world that doesn't follow the rules?
- Today, many offices, restaurants, elevators, hallways in public buildings, etc. have video cameras.
- I was a visiting nurse and I visited many men in their homes by myself. Should I have refused?
Let me be frank. I sometimes meet with people from this blog and that means men. My husband encourages me to do so. His knows that I trust him to be alone in the office with women and he trusts me to be alone with men at dinner, lunch, etc. In fact, I do not think it has occurred to either one of us to question these sorts of things.
Meeting over a meal is a relaxing way to get to know one another. Many women and men have told me stories over food and I am grateful for the trust that they put in me.
Times have changed and I think it is for the better. Women are now accepted in all levels of professions. If the Billy Graham rule was proscriptive, it would be impossible for women to advance in society. Today, women can reach for all positions in our culture. Unfortunately, women are often sidelined in the church due to antiquated rules that say women should not be trusted by pastors.
Women cannot be pastors in the Calvinista world. In some churches women are not allowed to even read Scriptures out loud in the service. It is sad to think that pastors are afraid of meeting with women because they women might cause him to stumble. That's right. 60% of the church is under suspicion of being a stumbling block to the pastor. Can we say Jezebels?
Are pastors that weak? How would they survive in corporate America? Are women just waiting for an opportunity to bring a pastor down? It sounds to me that men and women are being trained to distrust one another and, in so doing, miss out on some fabulous relationships.
How can cross gender relationships enrich the church?
In a post at Christianity Today We've Been Duped By Freud on Cross-Gender Friendship: A Response, Dan Brenna makes some excellent points.
Freud's theories, absorbed by pop culture, have put sex at the center of everything in the West—infiltrating evangelical views of relationships between men and women.
…Alienation is the term I use to describe the brokenness that prevents oneness between men and women both within and beyond marriage. Alienation between men and women has existed since Genesis 3 and manifests in many ways: sexism, suspicion, and sexual objectification.
…Alienation shames us into believing we can't deeply love our spouses while also deeply and chastely loving friends of the opposite sex.
…The greatest way to guard one's marriage is to intentionally nurture trust, transparency, commitment, and intimacy as a couple. But through that marital oneness, freedom can be navigated between the spouses to nurture relational oneness with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of these relationships may develop into deep friendships, in turn bearing witness of the unseen triune God to a fragmented, alienated, Freudian world (John 17).
Anna Broadway, writing for Christianity Today, looks at Brotherly Love: Christians and Male-Female Friendships.
At a recent Southern Baptist conference on sexuality, pastor Kie Bowman suggested men not "get in a car (alone) with woman who is not your wife unless she's your mother's age."
…What do we mean when we talk about male-female or cross-sex friendships? In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis says that friendship has to be about something — that it's a posture of two or more people standing side by side, discussing a truth they see in common. Lovers, by contrast, stand face to face and focus more on each other.
…But a side-by-side friendship easily expands from two to several people. In fact, small groups of friends often share richer conversations than only two could.
Each person plays a key role in the larger whole, Lewis says. "In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity… Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him 'to myself' now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald."
…Fincher says both male-female friendship (of the mainly one-on-one sort, it seems) and marriage entail risks. Since the riskiness of marriage doesn't stop us getting married, she argues risk shouldn't stop us from forming somewhat intimate male-female friendships either.
…And in the church God gives us not just sibling-type male-female relationships, but spiritual uncles, nephews, grandfathers and sons, too — in fact, the whole universe of male-female relationships. What could be better than that?
I have been deeply blessed by friendships with members of the opposite sex. My husband also enjoys hearing what I like about them, what they teach me, etc. These friendships bless both of us. I cannot imagine my world without male friends. Billy Graham's rule worked for him but it would not work for me for many reasons.
I look forward to hearing what you all have to say about this controversial topic.