I was out of the country in Peru last week on a fun spring break adventure with our twins, and when I got back and turned on my computer I saw a flurry of posts related to Vice President Mike Pence’s application of the “Billy Graham Rule.” Never being alone with a woman other than his wife. No lunch, no dinner, no coffee. No nothing alone. Ever.
I saw comments on Facebook that were all over the place. Ones that praised his “wisdom” and ones that talked about how much it harms women in different ways, perspectives from men and perspectives from women.
For me, as much as I strongly disagree with him, I really appreciate that he said it out loud instead of hiding it (which is often more of the case).
I’m also glad it’s getting a lot of press because we need to talk about it.
Because underneath it all is a story that women are not to be trusted, somehow “dangerous.” Women can’t be equal to men because they are some kind of threat. Women have a certain place in the world and it’s not at the same tables as men.
And most of all, women and men will never be able to be equal until these kinds of codes are broken and healed.
Oh, almost all my strong female Christian friends have a story of being accused of having a Jezebel spirit, of hearing about the curse of Eve, of being taught “biblical roles for womanhood” are God’s design, of being called self-focused if we have aspirations of leading, of being coached on modest dress and not causing our brothers to stumble, of trying to play nice because we didn’t want to be labeled bitchy or controlling, and most of all–of being more qualified, more educated, more pastoral, more ________ than many men and never getting the ministry position or job or equal pay or responsibility because we are women.
It makes me so sad.
But it is real. I’m just one woman, and oh, I can tell you some wing-dinger stories over the years, some I’ve shared here and a whole host of other ones in the pile of baggage I’d call “the realities of women in the church and world.”
Mike Pence’s position is pervasive in many of the ministry circles I used to be in.
The part I struggle with the most related to it is how fear and shame-based it is and how much it tilts towards the place that power always tilts–those with it! This rule isn’t somehow bad for men when it comes to their jobs and roles. It doesn’t keep them out of certain conversations or affect their footing or influence or ability to contribute or live into God’s calling or raise the money they need for ministry support. It doesn’t affect anything in that department, really, because they hold the power and keep on keeping on.
For women, however, it’s a whole different story.
We’re never in certain conversations. We never get the chance to be healthy friends. We never play in the same places. We never get to just be “us” because there’s an invisible fence we cannot cross.
I would add, too, that while it keeps power securely positioned in the place it’s always been, it is indeed very bad for men on the relational front and ultimately affects healthy power. It limits relationship skills. It limits community. It limits learning how to be friends, which in my opinion, is one of the most important skills we can possibly learn, especially as followers of Jesus.
All the way around, these kinds of hard and fast rules don’t help us grow.
They keep us stunted.
They keep us stuck.
They keep us immature.
They keep us separated.
In my opinion, the kingdom of God does not have men and women separated from each other out of fear. It does not have big tables behind closed doors with women never sitting at them. It does not have men in one room and women in another making the food. It does not have microphones that only half of the population gets to use while the other half has to listen. It does not have immaturity at its core cloaked as “wisdom.” It doesn’t tilt power in a way that consistently keeps another entire group underneath. And it sure doesn’t have a bunch of only men in a room making decisions about women and children.
Women have been carrying this baggage for a long time.
I am extremely grateful for the men in my life who are brave and do everything they can to create spaces for equality and friendship. Who pay a cost for it. Who are at least halfway awake to our realities and want to learn.
It does help lighten the load, and my life is better because of male friends and colleagues who text me and email me and call me and have lunch or coffee with me and partner on projects with me–because that’s what we do with friends and co-laborers and people we want to live, love, and learn alongside.
But oh, we’ve got a long way to go, my friends, and when we hear it from the second most important position in the United States of America, it definitely makes the baggage feel heavier.
We’re not Jezebels or Eves.
We’re women created in the image of God, worthy of dignity and respect and friendship and space at a dinner table with a colleague and friend.
And, yeah, we’re tired of carrying baggage that’s not ours.