American Vice-President Mike Pence set commentators across the cultural spectrum all a-twitter this past week as it emerged that he had observed for years what quickly became known as the “Billy Graham Rule”: he refused to dine or otherwise be alone with a woman in any context in which the relationship could be misinterpreted.
The young preacher Billy Graham had adopted this rule (alongside strict financial accountability) under the shadow of “Elmer Gantry,” the Sinclair Lewis novel (later made into a sensational 1960 film) about a cynical and predatory travelling evangelist. The rule kept Graham out of trouble for decades even as journalists watched him like hawks.
Mike Pence has been married for over thirty years in a profession that, like Graham’s, is peculiarly fraught with opportunity for misbehaviour. Yet critics exploded over this marriage-protecting guideline.
The more preposterous tried to damn it as “rape culture.” Moderates shook their heads about how such a rule would continue to marginalize women professionally, sexualized what should be just day-to-day routines, etc., etc.
(Happily, at least a few commentators kept their heads.)
What was also interesting about this furore, however, was the complete lack of moral relativism exhibited on every side.
And the complete invisibility of Mr. Pence’s wife, Karen.
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