When The Washington Post recently ran a profile of US Vice-President Mike Pence, one line caused a twitter-storm of controversy. Author Ashley Parker wrote:
In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.
This is controversial?
Yes, in today’s world it is. Pence was said to be sexist, because this arrangement would limit opportunities for women working with him. He was said to be sexualizing women, supposing them all to be potential affairs, rather than seeing them as real people. Pence was likened to “Muslim Brotherhood officials” or people from the Dark Ages. As Atlantic writer Anand Giridharadas put it in a tweet:
This is a medieval vision of every man as an incorrigible adulterer or rapist, lest he be restrained by his wife’s presence by his side.
It’s hard to take this seriously. But there is an opportunity in the midst of this furor. When common sense is seen as crazy, it’s much easier to show the contrast between God’s wisdom and the world’s. So, for example, the Christian satire site Babylon Bee ran this headline:
Bill Clinton Calls Mike Pence’s Strict Marital Practices ‘Excessive’
And The Stream asked:
Ladies, Would You Rather Be Married to Mike Pence, or Anthony Weiner?
(Wiener is an ironically named former Congressman known for his complete lack of sexual self-control.)
The Pences’ arrangement is sensible for two reasons:
- We are sexual beings so sex can be a powerful temptation – The same media outlets lambasting the Pences are the same ones documenting what happens when others couples don’t put a guard around their marriage – they dish about entertainers and politicians’ affairs, divorces and third marriages As the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg put it: “It’s a very strange place we’ve found ourselves in when elites say we have no right to judge adultery, but we have every right to judge couples who take steps to avoid it.” And it’s also these same media types who editorialize about how we can’t expect abstinence from kids, because when it comes to sex, expecting self-control is just unrealistic.
- Misunderstandings, and false accusations do happen. What do you think would happen if a TMZ, or National Enquirer got photos of Pence dining alone with a woman other than his wife? What a story they could make out of it! Or imagine Pence dined with a woman who accused him of acting improper. It wouldn’t matter that he was innocent. It would be his word against hers, and the damage to his reputation would be done.
So whether Pence is avoiding temptation, or simply protecting his reputation, this arrangement is just a matter of common sense. Or, rather, increasingly uncommon sense.