Monday, February 26, 2018

Billy Graham rule about Christian Protestant male preachers avoiding sexual scandal; My views in context of Hindu & Christian male spiritual aspirants/preachers

Note: Readers who prefer not to read about sensItive matters like sexual temptation may please skip reading (rest of) this post.

Here are some extracts from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Graham_rule :

The Billy Graham rule or the Mike Pence rule is a practice among male Protestant Christian leaders, in which they avoid spending time alone with women to whom they are not married. It is named after Billy Graham, the most notable proponent of the practice. It is adopted as a display of integrity, a means of avoiding sexual temptation, and to avoid any appearance of doing something considered morally objectionable, but has been criticized as being sexist.
...

In 1948, Graham held a series of evangelistic meetings in Modesto, California. Together with Cliff Barrows, Grady Wilson and George Beverly Shea, he resolved to "avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion". The accountability agreement, which has become known as the "Modesto Manifesto", covered not only their interactions with women, but also commitments to integrity with respect to finances, their interactions with local churches, and publicity. Since that time, Graham made a point of not traveling, meeting, or eating alone with a woman other than his wife Ruth. Graham biographer Grant Wacker observed that "Over the years Graham received intense media scrutiny, but hardly anyone accused him of violating any of those four principles." By Graham's own admission, though, he was not an absolutist in the application of the rule that now bears his name: his autobiography relates a lunch meeting with Hillary Clinton that he initially refused on the grounds that he does not eat alone with women other than his wife, but she persuaded him that they could have a private conversation in a public dining room.
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The rule has been criticized for viewing women merely as potential objects of lust as well as restricting opportunities for women to network with male colleagues. Tracey Bianchi argues that it means "Women are marginalized and cut out of opportunities to network, share their ideas, and advance in the organization." Bianchi also argues that the rule conflicts with the practice of Jesus himself, who spent time alone with the Samaritan woman at the well.

Ty Grigg suggests that the rule has not been "effective at curbing infidelity". He argues that the rule "has framed relating with the opposite sex with fear", and that this leads to a diminished mutual respect, which in turn creates "the kind of environment where inappropriate relating is more likely to occur". Others, though, suggest that unfaithful pastors must have failed to implement the rule.

--- end wiki extracts ---

Rev. Billy Graham's grandson, Will, who also is an evangelist, said to The New Yorker, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/04/10/virtue-and-vice-mike-pences-dining-policy, as follows: "Think about 1948—the times were different, but one of the things that my grandfather was dealing with was the image of an evangelist, which was kind of synonymous with what you’d think of as a used-car salesman." Will also mentioned that Elmer Gantry, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmer_Gantry,  a satirical novel by Sinclair Lewis, where the protagonist, Rev. Elmer Gantry, is portrayed as a Christian pastor who is into drinking alcohol and womanizing, was published two decades earlier (it was published in 1926).

Will said, "When my grandfather would check into a hotel, a man would go inside the room and look under the bed and in the closets" .. "What they were afraid of was that someone had snuck in the room, like a naked lady with a photographer, and she’d jump into his arms and he’d take a picture, and they’d frame my granddaddy."
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Ravi: My frank thoughts on this as a Hindu spiritual aspirant who is very respectful and reverential towards genuine Christian preachers, and who (I am referring to myself) is certainly not perfect and has more than his fair share of human flaws, are given below.

My considered view is that some male spiritual aspirants/preachers on traditional Hindu spiritual paths, especially those that do some spiritual sadhana (efforts) like intense meditation, tend to have issues like increased sex drive (libido) and also tend to attract some women. In such circumstances, it is quite easy for the male Hindu spiritual aspirant/preacher who interacts in private with a woman other than his wife, to lose control over himself and get into a consensual sexual relationship outside of married life. Note that the aspirant/preacher can be an unmarried person (bachelor) or a married person.

Perhaps it is somewhat similar for male spiritual aspirants/preachers on traditional Christian spiritual paths, especially those that involve intense contemplation.

Now for a male spiritual aspirant who is NOT a big preacher preaching about marital infidelity being a sin and premarital sex being a sin, a consensual sexual affair with a woman who is not his wife and who has got attracted to him (and he to her) is not illegal or even unethical if the social norms of that community permit such consensual sexual affairs outside of marriage. That is my considered view. However, it may become a serious interference/hindrance to his spiritual sadhana (efforts), and the woman may also want the male guy to marry her in which case his life would take a different turn from what he was aspiring for. So for a male spiritual aspirant, to protect himself from succumbing to sexual temptation outside of married life, I think the Billy Graham rule is very good advice. Of course, in typical Hindu spiritual traditions there are far more stringent norms for male spiritual aspirants who seek to lead a celibate life, when it comes to contacts with women.

For a male spiritual preacher whether Hindu or Christian, this temptation could land him and his mission into serious, very serious trouble. So, to protect his mission and his career, it is very sensible for him to follow the Billy Graham rule.

I don't know how it is for female spiritual preachers and female spiritual aspirants. I leave it for them to comment and write on such matters.

Another important point is that following the Billy Graham rule allows male preachers to have an easy defence against malicious and false rumours their opponents may try to spread about the preacher having a premarital or extramarital sexual affair with a woman, as the preacher can ask the other individual(s) who were present at the time the preacher was with the woman, to refute the allegations.

Note that spiritual missions are like politicians' offices in that they are dependent on donors and followers. Other spiritual missions, especially those that are opposed to some views of a spiritual mission, are typically in hot competition to draw away donors and followers from a mission. A sex scandal is the most effective weapon to draw away such donors and followers, ****if**** the allegations can be made to appear credible.

Like Caesar's wife had to be above suspicion, the male preacher too has to be above suspicion (in matters related to premarital and extramarital sex). This is the reality ***today**** of spiritual missions, of both Christian and Hindu religions especially in an easy to whistle-blow and easy to create 'fake news' Internet connected world. I have not followed other religions' spiritual missions so much to know about their reality today but I wouldn't be surprised if it is similar for them too.

[I thank wikipedia and Mr. Will Graham (Rev. Billy Graham's grandson) (and newyworker.com), and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their websites (short quotes of Will Graham from newyorker.com) on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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