Mike Pence’s Wisdom: Why Christian Men Protect Their Marriages

The kind of man Christ makes stands out like the sun at midday: disciplined, mature, dignified, kind, and holy.

Mike Pence protects his marriage. What could be more controversial than that?

Recently, the Washington Post ran a profile of Karen Pence, the Vice President’s wife. Through this article and a previous one from 2002, readers were reminded that Pence follows a rule famously associated with Billy Graham and his “Modesto Manifesto.” (See Grant Wacker’s illuminating book Billy Graham’s America for more—pages 10-11 in particular.) Pence does not eat alone with a woman who is not his wife, and he does not attend an event where alcohol is served unless his wife is present.

This news sparked a firestorm on Twitter. As the Atlantic reported, many mocked the Pences. Journalist Parker Molloy, for example, did not hold back: “Pence basically says that women shouldn’t be able to exist in public without a chaperone,” she wrote on Twitter. Write Josh Gondelman expressed fear, remarkably, over Pence’s choices: “I’m scared of the guy Mike Pence is, and I’m equally scared of the guy he thinks he is.” Laura Ortberg Turner penned the following: “the Billy Graham Rule … perpetuates an old boys’ club mentality, excluding women from important work and career conversations simply by virtue of their sex.”

Each of these responses misses the mark in a major way. Mike Pence has doubtless had many meetings with many women. Political leaders, after all, regularly conduct meetings with trusted staffers beside them, and thus are frequently not alone in even high-level settings. Pence, like Graham, is simply trying to preserve and protect his most sacred relationship, his marriage to Karen. He knows, it seems, the power of sin, he is aware of many men who have fallen because of sexual temptation, and he wants to honor his wife and his God by a holy life.

How outré.

The way to be culturally weird, and societally transgressive, today is to reject sexual hedonism. This is true for single people, who are increasingly stigmatized as repressed or unhealthy for not gratifying lust. This is true for married people as well. Most people are called to get married (preferably at a young age), raise a flock of children, have a bunch of fun with said family, strengthen their marital bonds over a lifetime, and die with a living legacy. This is not strange; this is right in natural terms and doxological in spiritual terms.

Christians protect their marriages. We recognize that marriage is not a piece of paper. It is a covenant made before God and man. We Christian men know our failings. We do not practice versions of what Mike Pence practices because we wish to harm women. We rigorously discipline ourselves in order to protect women—both our spouse, if we have one, and other women. We do so not primarily because of iniquity we find in women, but because we know that the old man—our sinful nature—pulls at us (see Colossians 3). We are the primary problem; thus we take steps against ourselves in order to care well for our soul, our spouse, and others.

The world does not and cannot understand such care. A fallen order despises wisdom and ridicules prudence. For many in a post-Christian culture, marriage is now much more like a lease than a permanent reality. If it works for a while, cool; if it fizzles out, fine. Break it and start over again. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter, so long as you’re happy.

But here’s the thing: true and lasting joy is evasive. Sin squelches so many of the good gifts of God. How kind, then, that the Lord has created institutions by which he is pleased to pour out gladness in our lives. The local church, marriage, the children he gives us, a vocation, the chance to minister the gospel in some way—these are precious gifts of God. His blessings often flow to us through institutions. Contra the world’s freeform understanding of happiness, we recognize that joy is commonly found in structures God has made, in discipline God grants, in death to self, in opening our hearts to love others.

Young Christian man: ignore the mockery of Mike Pence. Tune out the accusations against him and his wife. Be gracious and kind and dignified around women who are not your spouse; you need not treat them like kryptonite, as I am sure Pence does not. But do not emulate our wisdom-less world. Emulate men of oak who have proven character. Discipline yourself to the full for purposes of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). Protect your heart. Protect your wife. Protect your marriage. At all costs, including a scorching hot-take on a blog, protect your walk with Christ. Protect women by treating them with absolute purity, as sisters (1 Tim. 5:2).

Know the times, too. We’re in an age that is supposedly pro-woman, but the present mockery of men who actually act in a pro-woman way—a gracious, respectful, and careful way—shows you that this age is anything but pro-woman. It’s anti-woman, anti-marriage, and anti-family.

The kind of man the world makes is easy to spot: goofy, undisciplined, boylike, foolish, undignified, unholy.

The kind of man Christ makes stands out like the sun at midday: disciplined, mature, dignified, kind, and holy. His character is proven; his works, by the power of Christ, will endure on the last day.