Friday, February 02, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: #MeNOT

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Have you heard of the “Pence Rule”? The term comes from a 2002 interview of current American Vice-President Mike Pence in which he confirmed that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife.

Tom: This idea didn’t originate with VP Pence. It has Christian roots. Way back in 1948, Billy Graham and team members George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows and Grady Wilson agreed to something called the “Modesto Manifesto”, which obligated each man on the Graham team to never be alone with a woman other than his wife.

Naturally, today’s media find the Pence Rule scandalous.

Taking Us in the Wrong Direction

CNN says, “Isolating and excluding women in the workplace will take us in the wrong direction.” American Lawyer says, “Mike Pence is a prude.” Vox says the Pence Rule is “probably illegal”.

Fine and dandy then: Pence is just an old out-of-touch fuddy-duddy. But then came the #MeToo scandal, along with the revelation that many male Democrats and their supporters are not much better than predatory animals. Women in business and government are claiming sexual harassment on an unprecedented scale. And suddenly the Pence Rule looks like not such a bad idea.

IC, how do you feel about having dinner alone with a woman you’re not married to? More importantly, how does your wife feel about it?

Immanuel Can: My wife would tend to trust me if I did that. But I wouldn’t ask her to. I’d make sure it didn’t happen.

Tom: Wow. Is that because you’re concerned that you might lose control if you’re around an attractive woman unsupervised?

IC: No. It’s because marriage vows mean something … and one of the things they mean is that nobody and nothing comes before my wife. The Lord, yeah … but nobody else.

Gnats, Camels and Wheel-less Baggage

Tom: I was amused to see that Katelyn Beaty had written a piece for the New York Times critiquing the Pence Rule from a “Christian” perspective. One objection she raises is that being sticklers about appearances might discourage male colleagues from carrying heavy suitcases into hotel rooms for women with bad backs, something Ms Beaty calls “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” and “neglecting justice, mercy and faithfulness”. (Your mileage may vary on such arguments, since almost every hotel in the world has dollies and bellhops, and most suitcases these days have wheels.) Another objection is that having a third party at every business meeting between parties of the opposite sex makes things “awkward”, which is certainly a position one might take, though not a particularly Christian one.

IC: Well, for me it holds no water. Business is important, but not more important than wife. Carrying bags is important, but not more important than wife. Equality is laudable, but wife is not the equal of any woman. And if any putative Christian doesn’t understand that, then maybe we want to think again about why he’s so concerned to play bellhop.

Tom: Okay, well, you and Katelyn Beaty are actually on the same page here then. The issues for you both are faithfulness and unblemished testimony, and I agree that both are important.

Mr. Brown is Out of Town

That said, there’s another related issue that’s becoming huge, and that’s the #MeToo movement. This week, Ontario provincial conservative leader Patrick Brown stepped down amidst sexual misconduct allegations. He’s just the latest in a long line: worldwide, the number of men similarly accused in the last few months is well into the hundreds.

IC: I hate to ask, but has anything like due process or even an investigation taken place? Does anybody know with any degree of certainty that he actually did what he’s accused of doing, other than the ones accusing him?

Tom: No, nothing has been established. His staff threw him under the bus, turned in their resignations and left him with no choice but to resign. And I’m not saying he’s innocent: we simply don’t know yet, and may never know. The circumstances of these cases are all over the map. Some allegations are substantiated; some are not. Some of the men accused have made public confessions and apologies; some have absolutely denied any wrongdoing. Some of the situations were rape or sexual assault; in others the accusations of sexual harassment were so nebulous and dodgy that it’s questionable whether there was any wrongdoing at all. At least one or two of these accusations, and maybe more, almost surely involve politically-motivated shenanigans or spite.

The common thread here is that due process has been thrown completely out the window. The accusation alone is sufficient to end political candidacy or get you fired from your job — unless you’re Mike Pence. Suddenly the Pence Rule looks useful for another reason entirely.

Guillotines and Children of the Revolution

IC: That’s extremely ominous. If a person can be publicly excoriated and have his career tanked on the mere say-so of an accuser, from what kind of slander or allegation is anyone safe? The whole reason due process was created was to ensure that we don’t convict the innocent and that we prevent people from successfully bearing false witness. If the “all accusers must be believed” meme is now taking over from that, it’s a very, very dangerous turn of affairs … for everyone.

Tom: Absolutely. I got a little concerned when this whole thing first blew up. We had Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey and Al Franken and Garrison Keillor one after another, all hardcore Democrats. If we consider only the outcome for the accused, what’s not to like about the Left eating its own? So as the numbers mounted and the accused remained almost exclusively in the Progressivist camp, the Right got on the bandwagon, cheering along the process in the media with very few reservations about how this new inquisition was being conducted, because after all its targets were primarily undesirables. And I started to wonder what the endgame is here, because prior to #MeToo, the Left has always circled the wagons when their own were charged with sexual misconduct — look at the way they protected Bill Clinton and pilloried his accusers.

IC: Well, and from history, we know that the guillotines always get used against children of the revolution, and even before all the enemies are dead. Nothing in the entirety of human history has been so bloody in its effect as unrestrained Leftist ideology — 148 million, at least, died that way in the last century alone. Yet I wonder how much lower the count could have been had there been any kind of due process in place.

Due Process Meets Its Maker

Tom: Just so. And as it turns out, the endgame was just that: the destruction of due process, which is a legal principle with its roots firmly planted in scripture. Now that the Right has accepted that the “new normal” is destroying a person’s life on the basis of nothing more than an unproven accusation, the Left is going to be free and clear to weaponize false accusations against virtually any political enemy. The ongoing demolition of the “patriarchy” is just kind of a lucky bonus that comes with it.

IC: So you’re suggesting that Christians ought to be very careful not to jump on the gleeful, right-wing dismissal of due process, just as they ought to be opposed to the Leftist version?

Tom: I think it’s too late for that here. The speedy denouncements of Patrick Brown from his staff suggest that ship has already sailed, at least in the Canadian public square. And who knows, maybe they know something about him we don’t. But if they did and were willing to work for him anyway up to the point he was accused, they certainly owed it to him to let due process play out rather than hurling him under the bus in order to virtue signal. I’d say the Canadian Right has already adopted the Left’s frame, and big time.

IC: Uh oh.

Two or Three Witnesses

Tom: But whether or not the claims against Brown turn out to have any substance, false accusations can happen in our churches as easily as they are happening in politics, business and Hollywood. I’m surprised they haven’t already.

So before we find ourselves being urged to remove our own leadership, we should remind ourselves that due process is commanded by the Head of the Church through his apostles: “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” And that’s two or three witnesses to EACH CHARGE, not two or three individuals coming with completely different personal stories on a similar overarching theme.

IC: Yes. We’ve also forgotten that this is consistent with the OT too. One of the Big Ten is “You shall not bear false witness.” And that’s explained by the later injunction, “On the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed”, where it also says, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed.” That’s pretty clear, and covers all cases; and it’s Old Covenant and New.

I don’t think the Lord is planning on changing that one in order to cater to Leftists or right-wingers, do you?

Turnabout Is Fair Play

Tom: I don’t, not in the least. And our society has forgotten the best one of all:
“The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”
I suspect that would effectively cure any future false accusation problem.

IC: It sure would. And don’t tell me God just “doesn’t understand” that all accusers “deserve to be believed”. They deserve to be believed only if what they said proves true. If it does not, then what they deserve is to pay the price they tried to inflict on the innocent. Now that’s social justice.

Tom: Tell me: It seems archaic, I know, but do you think something like the Pence Rule might be a good common sense move for church leaders?

IC: Absolutely. In order to avoid all appearance of evil, I would argue that married men, in particular, should choose not to have any private interviews with women at all. If you can’t say or do something with a third person in the room, then I would suggest that’s a thing there’s just no need to do. The Pence rule rules.

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