Can Conservative Rules Harm Women?

By | January 17, 2011

“I felt shame every time I was in a situation where a man would not meet with me, or ride with me, or talk with me simply because I was female. Those situations told me that there was something fundamentally wrong, and that my gender was a big problem.” (read the whole article for context)

Ladies, any thoughts? Have you felt this way?

As a guy, I’ve never thought of this before. I come from a background that taught being careful and not getting into tempting situations. At times people on the more conservative side would give a list of “rules” which shouldn’t be broken. I’m processing all of this, and what I’m coming up with is this: most any good thing can be taken too far. It is good to be careful, to try and do the right thing, and to try and keep yourself from a situation which you know will be tempting for you. But if you get into legalism and just doing things for the sake of appearing religious, it ceases to be a good thing. Instead, it can keep us from doing the good we ought to be doing, or even end up harming others.

Part of the problem with putting up these boundaries in between the genders is that it is a barrier to relationships (I don’t mean “romantic” relationships here, though it applies as well). The author of the above statement continues:

“Now, as an adult woman, I have many friends and ministry associates who are men – and I eat with them alone, and ride in cars with them, and sometimes do things just for fun like go hiking or to see a play. And every time this happens, it undoes a little of the message I received growing up. Instead of being told that my gender is too dangerous, or that my sexuality is a threat, these men (colleagues and friends) are telling me through their actions that they are not afraid of me; that they respect me; that I am not just a temptress; and most importantly that I am their sister in Christ – and they are willing to treat me as they would their own sister. It’s a marvelously wonderful healing experience for me.”

To me, at issue here is the question, “What is the foremost virtue?” I just had a conversation about it yesterday, though in that case it was a question of whether love trumps honesty or vice versa. In this case, it’s a question of whether moral caution trumps love. Is the ultimate virtue purity? Is it honesty? Is it sacrifice? Integrity? Consistency? Kindness? Optimism? Justice? Charity? All of these are good, but are they more important than anything else? I argue that love is the ultimate virtue, and I believe that the bible supports this.

So in the case of interacting with someone of the opposite sex, the question ought to be, “What action is best for them?” If you have good reason to be afraid that you will behave inappropriately toward them, then the best thing for them will be for you to keep your distance. If not, the best thing for them may be your friendship. This is how the previous paragraph plays itself out in a very practical, tangible way.

photo credit: brandsvig via photopin cc

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