Some of the comments defending the Pence Rule under the link I shared are emotionally charged and hurtful, resorting to the conversation-closer of name-calling. This is what Alan Jacobs calls commitment to non-thinking. In them, Beaty is called brain dead and her article is referred to as a moronic idea, full of lies, which like the New York Times, should be ignored. Those who defend the Pence Rule imagine that those who critique it are either extremely naïve or don’t value faithfulness in marriage. I would like to suggest that those who viscerally defend the Pence Rule are falling under what Dietrich von Hildebrand, in his book In Defense of Purity, calls the spell of negative sexuality and are falling short of apprehending purity.
Yesterday I shared an excellent article Katelyn Beaty wrote for the New York Times entitled A Christian Case Against the Pence Rule. And whenever the Pence Rule, which is associated with the Billy Graham Rule of not eating or meeting alone with a woman, is discussed on social media you can see its polarizing effect. It has regained traction as numerous Hollywood sex scandals are exposed. For example, Beaty quotes conservative radio host and blogger Erick Erikson, saying, “The very same left-wing activists and Hollywood stars now running away from Harvey Weinstein were assailing Mike Pence for having a rule of not dining alone or taking meetings alone with women,” insinuating that if everyone would just follow the Pence Rule none of this will happen.
While Beaty gives a nod to the motives of many who promote and adhere to the Pence Rule in one form or another, she denies it’s effectiveness: “The Pence rule is inadequate to stop Weinstein-ian behavior. In fact, it might be its sanctified cousin. It’s time for men in power to believe their female peers when they say that the rule hurts more than helps.” Abusers are always going to find ways to abuse, but Christians are called to something higher than these extra-biblical rules. We are called to uphold godly behavior and promotion of holiness with everyone we interact with. We are called to a holy communion with God that also overflows into a holy communion with one another. We do this as sexual beings, but our sexuality doesn’t merely express itself in the physical love making that a wedded couple exclusively shares. Our sexuality also expresses itself in brother and sisterhood as we relate to everyone.
So, imagine how reductive it is for a woman to see a Tweet from a popular pastor such as this one, with other popular pastors retweeting in approval.
What does this say about a woman such as myself? It insinuates that I’m such a threat to a man’s faithfulness and a pastor’s reputation that I’m barely worth the risk of a ride to the hospital. I am in need of some good Samaritans! This parable particularly comes to mind because the religious people in it didn’t want to get polluted by the dying man. Comments like this tweet insinuate this same kind of pollution in association with women. As pastor Sam Powell put it, such harsh boundaries pretend like “fornication is like the flu, and you accidently catch it if you happen to be close to a woman.” Or maybe it is a Christian’s reputation that is polluted. (Sam also has a great article debunking the “appearance of evil” here.)
Either way, Jesus calls us to be like the Samaritan, whom had nothing to lose because he was already considered polluted, or ceremonially defiled, so he was free to properly care for another human being in need. This is how Christ loved us. This is how we should love one another. Powell bids us, “Take up your cross with him; despise the shame. Make yourself of no reputation. ‘Let this mind be in you, that was also in Christ Jesus.’
“Perhaps it is time that we start thinking about love, rather than reputation.”