The Billy Graham Rule is a Capitulation to Secular Society

Put most succinctly, the “Billy Graham Rule” is a practice for Christian men in which they live by the moral stricture of never being alone with a woman who is not their wife. This means that Christian men who hold to this rule will not, for example, give a woman a ride home from a meeting. Many interpret the rule in such a way as to mean any one-on-one meeting between a man and woman. This interpretation would even preclude the possibility of a man meeting a woman for coffee in a public space.

The Billy Graham Rule has been criticized for many reasons. Some have argued that the Billy Graham Rule unnecessarily targets women as being universally “seductresses.” Others have argued it objectifies women, making them nothing more than a foil for men. Still others argue that the rule is inherently sexist because it targets women specifically for exclusion. Distressingly, many have pointed out that the Rule makes certain work relationships impossible, because one-on-one meetings can be required between supervisors and subordinates. While I think each of these arguments has value, I want to make my own argument against the rule. Namely, the problem with the Billy Graham Rule is that those who practice it are, in the name of alleged Christian values, in fact giving in to a complete capitulation to non-Christian thought patterns.

The message that is given in our culture is one which pushes the necessity of male-female relations being inherently sexual. On television shows, time and again, men and women who are “just friends” end up together. People who are dating other people start hanging out, they discover a rapport, and the message that is delivered is something akin to “Hey, they’re so good together because they can talk about X, Y, and Z! So now they’re dating.” The same thing plays out in many, many books. Men and women who start as friends inevitably start to wonder about the possibility of dating and often end up together. The message is pushed time and again: men and women can’t be just friends. Even the sitcom entitled Friends features these relationships happening. Secular society states the message loud and clear: men and women who get together one-on-one or who are friends will end up dating or at least one of them will develop feelings for the other.

The Billy Graham Rule presents an attempt to counter to this non-Christian message. It does so by undercutting the scenarios presented by simply making it impossible for a simple one-on-one chat over coffee or a ride home because it’s raining to develop into romantic or sexual feelings. But in doing so, it presents a solution to a problem that itself is what Christians ought to be confronting. Thus, among other possible problems with the Billy Graham Rule, it must be challenged on the front that it cedes to non-Christian society the possibility of male-female relations that remain Godly outside of marriage.

Rather than giving in to the message in secular society that men and women cannot hang out one-on-one without developing romantic or sexual feelings, Christians can offer a better way, a way that embraces the full humanity of both male and female. Men and women are told to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). This mutual submission is paired with a radical equality in which there is no male and female in the body of Christ (Galatians 3:28). The very Word of God calls us to challenge the secular message that undercuts male-female relations and reduces them to mere sexual/romantic endeavors. Instead, we are to acknowledge our mutuality and our equality.

So go ahead men, give your women colleagues rides home after meetings. Go out for coffee to talk over a tough time. Do these things as a challenge to secular society and as a witness to the goodness of God–a God who calls us to mutuality in ways that only Christ can demand.


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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


5 thoughts on “The Billy Graham Rule is a Capitulation to Secular Society

  1. I don’t think it’s capitulation at all. I think it’s an honest recognition of the very real temptations that are present in male/female relationships. This rule is particularly important for those who are married. I’ve been married almost 25 years, and early in my marriage, I thought it was prudish and silly to think men and women couldn’t “just be friends.” On three separate occasions, with three different men, I found myself in situations that cultivated an unwanted intimacy. One was a friend, and the other two were co-workers. Nothing untoward happened, and we were always around other people–at work or at a restaurant. But it doesn’t matter. When two people of the opposite sex are focusing only on each other, the opportunity exists for boundaries to be crossed. All three of these men eventually made very subtle comments that raised red flags for me and I knew a line had been crossed. How do you think most affairs start? What if all the men and women who’ve cheated on their spouses could go back and implement the “Billy Graham” rule? Do you think they would’ve prevented their affairs? Even when men and women are single, they should avoid one-on-one time with someone of the opposite sex *unless they are open to a romantic relationship.* I’m not saying it’s impossible for men and women to only be friends, but these mixed-gender relationships need to have more boundaries than same-sex friendships.

    Posted by Anonymous | October 7, 2019, 11:34 AM
    • Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. I guess I would respond by saying that I’d re-emphasize that Christians are called by God to a standard of mutuality and equality that is not upheld when we put up barriers on interactions and enforce rules that are unbiblical. There is no such thing as inevitability of affairs, nor is there an impossibility of men-women being friends.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 7, 2019, 12:52 PM
  2. Whilst there is very prudent advice not to put yourself into the firing line of temptation, in order to test your faith (or God’s providence) we are to show the secular society that, with the provision of the HS we can by obedience keep our vows of cleaving only to our spouse. Sin is not inevitable, temptation may be very common, or would you remove all vehicles from the road because of the temptation to drive whilst unfit?’Lead us not into temptation’ goes with ‘deliver us from evil’ but as Jesus said in John 14 ‘those who love me, obey me’, there is a concomitant desire and action to not sin. We append more time on average at work than at home, many if the work affair situations occur not because of close physical proximity, but because of an emotional reliance and dependence on the other person. Physical Avoidance of the opposite sex at work is usually impossible, emotional dependency/reliance is.

    Posted by roberjan3112 | October 8, 2019, 10:01 AM
  3. 💗

    Posted by Diana Harrington | October 9, 2019, 2:14 PM
  4. 💗

    Posted by Diana Harrington | October 9, 2019, 2:14 PM

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