As often is the case, whenever something happens nationally or internationally, there is a Modesto connection.
Modesto resident Susan Cassidy was reminded of that last week when she read a piece on National Public Radio’s website. It quoted Washington Post reporter Ashley Parker, who tweeted (and remember, this a tweet), “Mike Pence never dines alone w a woman not his wife nor does he attend events with alcohol w/o her by his side.”
Indeed, the vice president openly ranks his Christianity and conservatism ahead of being a Republican.
The statement, which he made some time ago, generated controversy when regurgitated. Because by refusing to meet with alone with another women – say U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley or any woman senator, congressmember or Education Secretary Betsy De Vos – he would be limiting their ability to do their jobs and thus discriminating against them.
So what is the Modesto connection, real or inadvertent? Pence echoes what the Rev. Billy Graham said first – right here in Modesto – during a religious meeting in 1948. Youth for Christ, a local evangelical group, set up a giant tent at Burney Street and La Loma, and drew more than 28,000 of people over several days to what they dubbed “The Canvas Cathedral.”
Graham was just beginning to build his ministry and reputation as a national religious leader. During the Modesto event, he met with a group of men that included Cliff Barrows of Turlock, who died in December 2016, Graham associate Grady Wilson and Graham’s soloist, George Beverly Shea. He asked them spend some time thinking about the concerns evangelists and evangelism faced.
An hour later, they met and created the “Modesto Manifesto,” which consisted of four elements.
One involved involved money. “The temptation to wring as much money as possible, often with strong emotional appeals, was too great for some evangelists,” Graham posted on his web site. They decided they would instead depend “as much as possible on money raised by the local committee in advance.”
(That one seems to have been ignored. See Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen, et al.)
In two other points, they vowed not to criticize other clergy nor to exaggerate “their successes or to claim higher attendance numbers than they really had.”
Neither last nor least, they addressed “the danger of sexual immorality,” Graham wrote. “We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, I did not travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than my wife.”
Hence, Pence, or at least the basis for his comments.
Graham made that proclamation in 1948 – post-World War II and at a time when the traditional American family arguably was at its strongest. Dads worked and brought home the only paycheck needed. Moms, who averaged 20 years old when they got married, stayed at home and raised the kids, according to a study by Concordia University of Minnesota. The average home cost $7,700, a car $1,250 and the average family income was $2,950.
Realistically, the status applied primarily to white, middle-class families. Minorities didn’t fare as well, and folks of the era bemoaned that “only 60 percent of children spent their childhood in a male-breadwinner, female-homemaker household,” the Concordia study reported.
Women today are CEOs. They hold elected office, referee NBA games, serve in combat and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, make up about half of the U.S. workforce.
The idea that a politician, CEO, public official, businessman, journalist or any other man can’t sit down to a working lunch or dinner or meeting alone with a woman says more by far about the man than the woman. Such thinking only inhibits a woman’s ability to work as an equal and some argue that it even would violate their civil rights.
Still, Pence will do or not do what he wants to do or not do.
But when it comes to the concept of not being alone with a woman other than his wife, remember, you heard it here – in Modesto and through Graham’s Modesto Manifesto – first.