Christian-turned-atheist Patheos blogger Libby Anne wrote an eye-opening blog post this week on why evangelicals don’t do opposite-sex friendships.
The inspiration came from the following tweet:
A whole bunch of folks in the church got married before they ever learned how to have healthy friendships with the opposite sex and boy oh boy does it show!
— DeVon Wade (@devon__notdevin) September 20, 2020
Says Libby Anne:
In evangelical churches, any cross-gender relationship is always, always, always portrayed as dangerous. The moment a teenage girl and boy get friendly, adults in the congregation start watching them like a hawk—in their view, the only end point such relationships can possibly have is either marriage, or premarital sex. And that, of courses, would be bad.
Once someone is married, opposite-gender friendships the perfect opportunity for affairs, so they’re not exactly smiled on there, either! Someone who maintained a close opposite-gender friendship after marriage would be viewed as asking for trouble. And potentially worse — they might be taken aside by an elder, or even experience church discipline.
This rings true of my seminary years when I lived on campus. Men and women who weren’t married would often not walk up the stairs to their apartments at the same time, lest anyone think they were going up together (why the school didn’t just have separate male and female apartment buildings, I’m not sure). The funny thing was, I never gave nearly as much thought to other people’s dating decisions as this logic seems to imply. I was too concerned about my own dating decisions at the time.
This mentality of never being alone with the opposite gender, even in a public space, has come to be known as the “Billy Graham rule” — or, more recently, the “Mike Pence rule” — because both men are known for their adherence to it.
While on the surface this seems like a wise way to avoid a hint of scandal, it also assumes that everyone of the opposite sex is inherently attracted to you and wants to sleep with you — which is pretty damn arrogant. But more importantly, it makes it much harder for men who abide by it to work in spaces with women. A male who abides by this rule is much more likely to not hire women, furthering any sort of gender gap in the workplace. In order to avoid scandal, it exacerbates sexism.
In the case of the vice president, if a woman were in the position (which could very well happen after November), it’s absurd to think she could adhere to this practice. The people who admire Pence for that standard would likely criticize Kamala Harris for choosing to work primarily with other women. Which means that this rule, meant to protect women, is actually hurting them, both personally and professionally, because they are reduced to nothing but sexual temptations.
(Featured image via Shutterstock)