For as long as I have been a Christian, I remember being taught, repeatedly, the story of Billy Graham and his attempt to always be above reproach. I have no idea if the stories of the Reverend Graham are true or not but they went something along the lines of: Reverend Graham would not get on an elevator if he’d be on board with a woman alone, that he wouldn’t counsel a woman unless a third party was present, etc.
I never questioned these stories or Reverend Graham’s intent until recently. A dear friend of mine, we’ll call her Molly, came home from college and told me the story of how she couldn’t visit a male friend of hers because his wife wasn’t available to “tag along”. Molly understood her friend’s feelings but yet she wound up feeling “icky”; which was quite vexing to her because she did nothing wrong.
I’m not faulting Billy Graham and his methods. He is a world renowned preacher and evangelist. I admire him for striving to do the right thing; to the best of my knowledge, his ministry is scandal free. He traveled constantly and was away from his wife and family a lot. I think it was wise for him to put safeguards in place to avoid temptation. However, I don’t think the Church should be using him as the poster child of chastity. We applaud him for staying strong, but we don’t seem to notice that every time the Church incorporates rules about married men not being alone with women, that we treat women as potential sexual predators.
I’m greatly troubled by how women are perceived and treated in the Church. Dan Brennan quotes Kristina LaCelle-Peterson and she sums it up perfectly in my opinion. “If women are viewed only as objects of male sexual desire, or if they are blamed for male temptation, they are dehumanized and not treated with respect, let alone justice.”
Jesus didn’t treat women this way.
In Chapter 6, entitled “Sacred Bodies and Friendship”, Dan Brennan recounts the story of the woman anointing Jesus feet in Luke 7.
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus saw this woman as someone who was overcome with love, not romantic love, for Him and expressed her love and gratefulness to Him in the best she way she knew how. There is nothing sexual about this scene at all.
Unfortunately, we as the Church are missing out the rewards of cross-gender relationships. Not all interactions with men and women are sexual in nature or have romantic undertones. The bogey man (or woman) is not lurching behind every corner.
I understand the need to be above reproach. Temptation IS something to be on guard from but wisdom is also needed here as well.
I’m afraid that this is an incomplete review of Chapter 6 and I apologize for that. Brennan was written quite a provocative book which is going to require many re-readings and further study. I’ve formed a book club with “Molly” this summer. She and I along with some friends (pastoral and non) will be discussing this book together as a group.