Why the Mike Pence Rule is as Christian as it is Wise

Christianity Today editor Katelyn Beaty missed the point of the Pence Rule in her New York Times op-ed.

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2017 file photo, Vice President Mike Pence speaks in Floresville, Texas.

By Michael Brown Published on November 20, 2017

In a New York Times op-ed piece titled “A Christian Case Against the Pence Rule,” Katelyn Beaty argued that, “It’s time for men in power to believe their female peers when they say that the rule hurts more than helps.” Based on my own experience, scriptural principles, human nature, and the unanimous testimony of all my female peers, I would argue strongly that the Pence rule (or, in the past, the Billy Graham rule) is both Christian and wise.

Beaty is correct in noting that the Pence rule does not directly relate to the conduct of alleged sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein. No one is assuming that most men try to rape and abuse the women they meet.

Still, she writes:

The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away. Offering the Pence rule as a solution to male predation is like saying, “I can’t meet with you one on one, otherwise I might eventually assault you.” If that’s the case, we have far deeper problems around men and power than any personal conduct rule can solve.

But this is a complete misunderstanding of the Pence Rule.

Being Mindful of Appearances

First, there is the issue of appearance.

Let’s say you’re a married man in your 50s. Your executive assistant is an attractive woman in her 30s. On a regular basis, you’re doing work together over meals, sometimes over lunch and sometimes over dinner.

Do you think it might look a little suspicious to see the two of you together in restaurants day after day? Not just talking but also laughing and appearing to enjoy your time together? Do you think it would be unnatural for people to notice and wonder, “Are they getting a little too close? And isn’t he married?”

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And what if you had to dismiss this woman from her job because of incompetence, embittering her towards you? If she launched an accusation against you years later, claiming you had a clandestine sexual relationship with her, many might say, “Well, they did seem a little too close. In fact, he seemed to spend more time with her than with his wife. Maybe something was going on.”

Beaty cites a situation that baffled her:

A former colleague at a Christian nonprofit threw her back out while on a business trip. Lying in pain in her hotel room, she asked her co-worker to carry her suitcase from her room. He refused to enter the room. One wonders what he thought was going to happen. In this and other cases, personal purity seems to take precedence over the command to love your neighbor.

But she’s missing the point entirely. The reason I wouldn’t go into a woman’s hotel room alone is primarily because of appearance (with awareness of the potential of a false accusation). Second, because of precedent (if I did it in this case, why not in another case?). The simple solution is that the door is open at all times and that the two people aren’t left alone in the room together. This way, the man can carry the woman’s suitcase without making anyone uncomfortable.

These days, with new scandals hitting the Internet every day, is this too much to ask? Is this really a hardship and burden?

And what about the idea of setting an example for others? Perhaps you are totally disciplined. In 100 years, you would never be unfaithful to your spouse. The fact is that plenty of others aren’t that strong. They might be emboldened by your example, thereby opening the door to their own downfall.

Christian leaders are called to be above reproach. With rampant sexual immorality everywhere to be found, both inside and outside the Church, you really can’t be too careful.

Acknowledging Attraction

Second, there is the issue of attraction.

Males and females are naturally attracted to each other, both physically and romantically. And while men might be drawn more to outward appearances than women — or, more moved by sexual lusts — emotional attraction comes to all.

These days, we can be in almost constant communication with co-workers and employees via email and text. So there’s already a steady flow of interaction taking place. Add to that spending time alone together — working in a building late at night (which also raises the question of bad appearance), having meals together, driving in a car together — and you’re almost guaranteed to spend more time with that opposite-sex co-worker or employee than with your own spouse.

Christian leaders are called to be above reproach. With rampant sexual immorality both inside and outside the Church, you really can’t be too careful.

And what if you’re going through a rough stretch at home? What if your wife is stressed out, caring for yet another child while finances are limited. You are consumed with your job. What if you and your spouse have lost the romantic spark? But that co-worker or employee of yours find your jokes funny and your stories interesting?

To deny the possibility of emotional or romantic attraction is to deny reality. That’s why Beaty completely missed the point when she explained the Pence Rule as saying, “Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away.”

Guarding Against Adultery

Third, there is the issue of adultery.

There’s a reason “Do not commit adultery” is included as one of the Ten Commandments. There’s a reason some of the great leaders in the Bible fell into sexual sin. There’s a reason Paul constantly warned against sexual immorality. And there’s a reason that the porn industry is so pervasive and powerful to the point that many Christians struggle with addiction to porn.

There is a strong sex drive in human beings, especially men. Women feel pressure to make themselves sexually attractive. (And yes, some women struggle with porn and sexual addiction as well.)

The Bible addresses this time and time again. Not because it is a sterile rule-book designed to take away our fun. But because it is a user’s manual drafted by our Creator. And if we play with fire, we will be burned.

In years past, I watched some of my colleagues (or leaders) destroy their lives and ministries through sexual sin, and I’m aware of my own human weakness. That’s why I wholeheartedly affirm the Pence Rule. And that’s why I’ve sought to live by it for decades as well. Better safe than sorry.


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  • Howard Rosenbaum

    I suspect a lot of Senators & Congressmen are presently wishing that they had their own “Pence Rule” in effect. The political & social climate concerning abuse & accusation is no longer what it was when exploitation of a subordinate was once largely only an “open secret” …

    • chio

      Anyone surprised congressmen drunk with power and ego have fallen into this trap?

  • TaLina Parcel Hoff

    I agree with you and Vice president Pence whole heartedly. Also the respect you are showing your spouse by taking this approach! Honoring and treasuring your spouse and marriage like this is to be commended.
    I think this woman who wrote that piece either has been completely taken over by the ‘dark side’, or she has lost her backbone as a Christian by not standing up to the SJW’s. Just my opinion there.

  • She also seems to forget that while you are not responsible for the condition of another person’s heart, you ARE responsible for NOT CARING about the condition of their heart. You are also responsible for not contributing to their downfall by not caring about it.

  • Deborah Oliveira Buffone

    You can never be too careful. That bar can never be raised too high.we live in a world overtaken by sin. The appearance of evil is also a big problem here, not just the avoidance of out of control/dangerous situation

  • Make prayer for Mike Pence and Donald Trump and all the administration a part of your daily praying.

    • Elizabeth Litts

      I do!

    • Irene Neuner

      I do too!

  • brenda

    I was taught this ‘rule’, by a wise pastor and his wife, many years ago. It still stand true today that we, men AND women, have to be on guard for entrapments that seem innocent at the time. The enemy will use our best of intentions against up.

  • Kathryn Rose MacDonald

    We are called, as Christians, to be a holy people (set apart from, not superior to); to be in the world but not of it.

    It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain that holiness, that separation from, amongst others, the very things this article addresses.

    Some of the issue stems from systematic, intentional desensitisation of the unholy so that we don’t always recognise it because it appears normal. Some of the issue stems from our fear of being declared as judgemental or intolerant. I suppose we have to decide individually which we value more, holiness or acceptance by the world. That is a hard choice, and will become increasingly so as the end times draw nearer. Be of good cheer, we know how the story ends.

  • Bad Wolf

    Years ago as a young executive I started mentoring more junior executives to help them move forward in their careers. Around that time I watched the Clarence Thomas hearings. I saw a man whose life was led in such a pure way that nobody could be found who ever even heard him say a bad word (something that could not be said of me) then be humiliated and vilified based on the entirely uncorroborated accusations of a woman who claimed he propositioned her even as her other comments seemed to indicate she had wanted a relationship. I watched it closely. Listening to people, telling who is lying and who is telling the truth has long been a key skill to me. Listening to them and the evidence it was crystal clear to me that she was lying and misrepresenting the evidence. None of which prevented the maligning of Clarence Thomas. Watching that I saw quite clearly that “there but for the grace of God go I” meaning that my career could easily be destroyed by the entirely innocent relationships I formed mentoring and working. I thought deeply about it. I arrived at my own decision on the behaviors I should engage in – which turned out to be very similar to Pence’s principles. My motive was quite self protected. I worked 18 hour days advancing my career and I did not need the vulnerability of false accusations since my life is entirely and happily monogamous. Over the years I saw many executives who did not behave as I do – no off work personal friendships, no one-on-one out of work meetings, no one-on-one meetings without an open door, no physical contact beyond handshakes – and I have seens several be destroyed in their careers. Some, I thought, were guilty of initiating sexual contact that was unwanted, some initiating contact that was ambiguously wanted, some entirely innocent but falsely slurred by women who I often saw used the same slur on more than one man on their way up the ladder. I never had any problems, rose to levels commensurate with my ability, and dodged that bullet. When I heard the discussion of the Pence principles I understood entirely. There is no upside in having in work relationships that have any ambiguity at all, any opportunity to destroy you through false accusation. If one wants to have relationships – wholesome or sketchy – there are plenty of women outside the workplace where there is no possible accusation of abuse of power for harrassment – to have relationships with. Pence is absolutely correct in his behavior. Smart is good.

  • Elizabeth Litts

    Outside the church–and unfortuately inside in some cases, we have forgotten what real respect for each other is. We are told not to give our brothers and sisters occsation to sin. We have been so brainwashed by the world and so afraid of ‘offending’ others that we have no idea what real respect and honor for each other really is.

  • Jim Walker

    Katelyn Beaty says : “I can’t meet with you one on one, otherwise I might eventually assault you.”

    Actually to me Pence is saying “I can’t meet with you one on one, otherwise you might eventually assault me.”

    • Sonny’s Mom

      Anywhere, anytime, on any grounds imaginable, whenever the left feels the need to gain competitive advantage.

    • chio

      How about it is a good preventive measure for both? Appearance aside.

  • Hmmm…

    1Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
    This was shared at my first church, and I took it as some of the new and wise things I was learning. Actually, many years later, I still think so. It was applied to man/woman relationship like a single person riding around a lot with a married member of the opposite sex. It’s a matter of a witness mainly, the appearance given to unbelievers who know each person, seeing you “out together,” especially with contemporaries. Oh, a quick ride to help you get your car fixed or to the doctor or something, but not regularly. I rode with a couple (and took them on Sunday) to a weekly home group. When the wife couldn’t go and it happened semi-regularly, I passed on coming with the husband. They were gracious, but the leaders of the group questioned it, mentioning how so and so had ridden somewhere with her husband. Well, there’s something that appeared awkward to me of being picked up and coming into the meeting and leaving together. It just struck me of being the dynamics of a date. Besides, if regular enough, what about stopping at the grocery on the way home, then a coffee while we’re there, neighbors checking it out. I just felt that as long as it bothered me, I would stand firm on it. And people will think it strange.

  • alyse webb

    1 Thes. 5:12 is clear. The 10 commandments are clear. Though it may seem that Pence is overreacting, He is not. Most men are not sex maniacs driven to sexually overpower us “weak” women, but I’ve seen enough men and women working together who had ended up having affairs. They, even if not, cause me to wonder. My ex husband got very close to a woman and ended up sexually involved. It resulted in our divorce. I very much respect the men who will refuse to be alone with me. Although I have no intentions towards them, I recognize their sincere morality and (most times) faith. These are men of integrity. As a woman, I choose not to be alone with a man as I wish to be seen as virtuous. Jesus warned us to reject any appearance of evil.

  • KC

    God’s Word says not even a hint of sexual immorality.

  • chio

    She totally missed the point. The article lays it out well. An ounce of prevention can prevent a life time of pain. Integrity.

  • Raggs

    Reading this article and most of the comments, I see a common thread. “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16. As we take God’s “User’s Manual” to heart we naturally live our lives in a manner that benefits us and glorifies the Author. The world will have their say, just as in Jesus’ day. But he stood his ground to social pressure and set the example for (all of) us to live by. If the opposers spout off against us as we strive towards living with clean hands and a pure heart, at least we know who they are, and how to pray for them.

    As for the Graham/Pence Rule, years ago, just as the Promise Keepers movement began, along with my personal walk with Christ I was given a newly published book written by my long-time hero, Steve Farrar titled, Point Man. Up to that time in my life the only examples I had of manhood were not good, and I was in my early 30’s. Armed with God’s word and Steve’s incredible applications for men, I joined a small group of men as we all learned about masculine Christianity. In the third chapter titled, “Real Men Don’t,” Steve addresses the importance of what we are now calling the Pence Rule. Using the entirety of both books, I have spent the last quarter century clear on issues like this one. My Christian world view recognizes those who oppose our Judeo-Christian values but as Jesus said speaking of the poor, “you will always have them.” I alone will answer for my decisions. Though doing so imperfectly, I chose righteousness.
    [I highly recommend the book, Point Man, How a man can lead his family. 2003 by Steve Farrar and published by Multnomah Books. ISBN 978-1-59052-126-7. Over the years I have given away dozens of copies]

    • KC

      Well said

  • Martrecia Louviere

    I think it’s a great rule. I respect any man who adheres to it and wish my 2 unfaithful ex husbands had heeded this rule. It may seem old fashioned but it absolutely works.

  • bbb

    Vice President Mike Pence is a genius.
    Most people who are successful practice morality, honesty, integrity and talk a lot with Jesus and God.
    The proof is clear that those who are lured into materialism and forget our Lord usually end up less-than-okay. Money does not get one’s soul into heaven, but not realizing that the soul lives forever and has only two ways to go after death means the afterlife is not only going to be a shock, but hideous.

  • FromWhereIAm

    I agree, it’s a wise rule. Leave it to the Left to twist it into another accusation of oppression. I commend VP Pence for being prudent.

    Years ago, before being Saved, I once met an old love in a hotel room because I mistakenly believed nothing would happen except that we would talk freely, share a quiet meal (I hate noisy restaurants!) and have no distractions as we brought each other up to date on what had happened in the intervening years since we’d broken up. I literally assumed we would then fall asleep (on separate beds, of course) and it wouldn’t even be considered as an actual “date.” After all, we were simply getting reacquainted! Despite my innocent intentions and naivete, the evening didn’t progress in that way after all. Looking back later, I realized how completely foolish I was to place myself in that situation. How sure I was that nothing untoward would happen! I jumped into the frying pan as if I were flameproof. What an idiot!

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