Friday, March 31, 2017

Clarifying the Billy Graham Rule

A recent piece in the Washington Post had some questions and comments about the “Billy Graham Rule,” now that it’s been brought back to the public eye by its use by Vice President Mike Pence.

Recently, a Washington Post article about second lady Karen Pence has brought the Billy Graham Rule back into the public eye. The article cites a 2002 interview with Vice President Pence — who has called himself an “evangelical Catholic” — saying that he “never eats alone with a woman other than his wife,” and that he doesn’t attend events serving alcohol unless she is with him as well.

I’ll answer the question and comments as best I can.

In this case, the Billy Graham Rule risks reducing women to sexual temptations, objects, things to be avoided.

Women should not be objectified. However, if there was an official list of Top Things That Dehumanize Women That Should Be Challenged, the Billy Graham Rule wouldn’t even make it into the first one hundred. What about the rampant pornography on the internet and sex appeal in the media? If anything, the continued practice of the Billy Graham rule is a reaction to our increasingly pornified culture. It really can’t be blamed for perpetuating it. 

If a woman at work cannot meet one-on-one with her boss or colleague, her options for advancement (or even being taken seriously as a colleague) are extremely limited.

Do these career-necessary meetings have to be one-on-one, behind closed opaque doors and completely unaccountable, even to the rest of the business?

In this conversation, we also have to keep in mind the fact that Pence is the vice president of the United States. He is not a pastor and does not act in that capacity. How on earth can he be expected to represent half the country if he won’t eat at the same table as us? Not to mention that his ideological purity is called into question by his support of our current president, who has bragged about committing sexual assault.

Again, the Billy Graham Rule is about private, individual and completely unaccountable meetings, which are not necessary for any affirmation of human dignity or career advancement. The Billy Graham Rule is not just for pastors avoiding scandals for the good of their jobs. It’s for maintaining integrity within marriages and institutions. I think it’s a good thing that one of our elected leaders is practicing it.

However, if we look not to Graham for an example of how to treat women but to Jesus, we will find a different path to follow. Jesus consistently elevated the dignity of women and met with them regularly, including his meeting with a Samaritan woman in the middle of the day.

While Jesus elevated the dignity of women in many more examples in Scripture, one could make the argument that Jesus followed the Billy Graham Rule, as he never had a one-on-one and completely unaccountable meeting with someone of either gender. 

As for Billy Graham, he has always been a non-partisan, non-denominational, scandal-free, charitable man of prayer and integrity. He’s been a friend to all sorts of presidents for decades. Billy Graham always released his ministry tax returns to the newspapers so he could be held financially accountable, and the Billy Graham Rule is another simple way he (and now our Vice President) keep themselves accountable to the public.


What’s really wrong with that?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Church Sign of the Week (3/24/17)

Now I'm stuck imagining a mosquito singing.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Life As A Moderate

I’ll just announce it to the world without shame. I am moderate. Extremely moderate. Viciously moderate. When it comes to political and cultural issues, I strive to be a mediator and peacemaker. And it isn’t easy. It’s always complicated.

Will McAvoy, for example, claimed to be moderate in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series The Newsroom. (Sorkin has at least twice written about LGBTQ-friendly Catholic geniuses who were abused by their jealous Protestant fathers). But while McAvoy was a good team leader who empowered and sacrificially loved his staff, his supposed and self-dubbed centrist journalism seemed to be mostly left-leaning snark that did not strive for unity and helpful reform.

So what is a true moderate? Not a revolutionary, but a reformist. As I look through the narrative of the Bible, the life of Jesus, the socio-cultural strives of the early Church of the Roman Empire, and God’s work in my life and the lives of people in my church, I can’t help but endeavor to be a true moderate. Would you be interested in joining me on my journey? Here’s what true moderates all should strive to do:
  1. Listen first, talk later (if at all). Be a soundboard for people as they tell their stories of felt abuse, abandonment, pain and/or fear. (How “slow to anger” can we be?). A moderate has the ability to feel another’s pain. May our hearts bleed for victims of all forms of suffering, no matter how much your worldview may think such suffering is deserved. Life can be tough for a moderate because it is one that helps carry a lot of others’ burdens.
  2. Be teachable and wise. Things are always more complicated. Know and understand the depth of the issues at hand, as well as the credible arguments of the other side of the ideological spectrum. Reform is very difficult (nigh impossible) when conversations are cycling through the same kitschy cliches that have little research (e.g. in history, science, statistics, religious study) or compassion.
  3. Strive for unity, despite differences. What’s a moderate’s goal in reform? Holistic peace by the sanctity of human life, from conception to the deathbed. (That may be my “religious views” coming into play here). I believe that us country-mates can strive for that within our communities and nation despite the divisions that are more eye-grabbing, emotionally-satisfying and maybe even individually-profitable for some. Do you believe that, too? Or are you checking my profile now to guess where I “really stand” on some issues so you can maybe write me off?
  4. Just serve. We live in a pathetic world of virtue-signaling and slacktivism. A status (or even an argument!) on your social media account does nothing for the true victims of socio-cultural and political change. So you’re against police brutality and urban poverty? What have you done to serve the charities and organizations working to build bridges in broken city communities? So you’re for or against President Trump’s proposed travel bans. What have you done to help the persecuted refugees and American-born Muslims within your community? For every single issue, there’s a type of healthful activity to engage the problem (regardless of where you even stand on it, in some cases) rather than just angrily talk about it. I, personally, abstain from partisanship and look at each issue individually with the attitude of a Chick-fil-A employee: “How can I serve you?”
It’d be easier if I just picked a side. That way I could read a lot more subjective news and editorials that make me feel more justified in my views, and I’d get a lot more post likes on Facebook. But, in becoming a moderate, I’ve “listened” and heard too many heartbreaking stories from people on both sides of the ideological spectrum add to the growing and unnecessary division.

Life as a moderate isn’t easy, but it’s what I feel called to be: not a revolutionary, but a reformer. Anyone interested in joining me?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Church Sign of the Week (3/3/17)

The Golden Rule of Twitter, as stated by Elmer Fudd.

A real Fwiday tweet.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Shack and the Problem of Pain



The Shack movie releases in theaters this weekend, as this year marks the tenth anniversary of Paul Young’s self-published novel of the same title. The book appeared in 2007, and traveled through the wider Christian market to become a global phenomenon. By early summer, 2008, more than one million sales were reported, and by the end of 2009, more than ten million.

Young grew up as a missionary kid and was sexually abused (not by family) on the mission field. The Shack, he says, was birthed in his own wrestling with his trauma and his existential “problem of pain” — how God can be sovereign and good, and not just allow such evil in the world at large, but such evil toward me personally.

The Shack is fiction, but don’t think for a minute that Young isn’t clearly and intentionally writing theology. He’s the first to say so. Theology isn’t merely conveyed in abstract propositions. Dozens of literary genres make up the Christian Scriptures. It’s not only the apostle Paul who speaks for God, but also the Psalms and Proverbs and the apocalyptic writings. Jesus himself spoke in stories, called parables. Story is a powerful tool for teaching someone about God and his world. The fact that Young writes a novel doesn’t mean that he’s indifferent to how his readers think about God and their pain. In fact, the key to understanding why so many love his novel is it speaks so vividly about God and pain.


You can read the rest.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Spoken Word: The Poetic Beauty of the Gospel Message

HT: Melissa Kruger

Whether it’s through story, song, or artwork, I’m thankful for the variety of creative ways God’s people reflect the beauty of our Creator. Today I’m sharing an interview with Quina Aragon. She’s a spoken-word artist and poet with a deep love for God and a desire to reach others with the gospel message. And, when you hear her, you’ll understand the beauty of the gift the Lord’s given her—I could listen to her all day!