Life must be terribly annoying to human secularists. They are stuck with human beings that God created
who possess certain built-in tendencies, and no amount of social engineering
seems to eradicate those proclivities. No
matter how many times the, “we know what’s best for you,” crowd insists that we
should act according to their wisdom, we keep on being (gasp)—human.
This past December, an Iowa court ruled that dentist James
Knight was legally entitled to fire a member of his staff because he found her
attractive. He was worried that down the road the relationship might move in a
direction that would harm both his and her marriages. His wife encouraged the
move after discovering that the employee wore ‘distracting’ clothing and that
platonic, though personal, emails had been exchanged outside of work.
Not surprisingly, while unable to attack the legal basis for
termination, the court of public opinion erupted in outrage. Reviews on Yelp
began to slam the dentist and the general tone was that even if legal, Dr.
Knight’s actions were wrong. As one columnist
put it, “How fundamentally unfair that, when guys prove incapable of
regulating their urges, women get fired.” This would be exactly right if we
were talking about robots instead of human beings.
Truthfully, I have no idea how people actually felt about
Dr. Knight’s case. It would be a mistake to assume that the angry and
vituperative represent a majority opinion. Nevertheless, there was a disturbing
backlash against the dentist.
In my opinion, Dr. Knight made certain mistakes, most of all
not keeping the relationship on a formal, professional level. In today’s
unceremonious office environment that is difficult, but he certainly should
have drawn greater boundary lines. However, in firing his employee,
specifically because of concern for the sanctity of marriage, the dentist was
not breaking new ground. Any number of plots of old TV shows or movies revolved
around a wife’s insistence that her husband’s secretary be an older or plain
woman. Was that an old-fashioned, ridiculous idea? Or, as the number of office
affairs taking place today would suggest, was it a valid concern? Perhaps the
only updating that needs to happen is that not only women, but also men, need
to be concerned about whom their spouses are meeting at work. Even the current
and popular TV show, Parenthood, had a plot line a few
seasons ago, which revolved around the damage caused by the completely credible,
spontaneous interaction between a young, attractive woman and her older,
happily married boss. This show, which
is frequently referred to as true to life and believable, unleashed a viewer
response to this episode that showed understanding and empathy for the wife’s
reaction – (paraphrased) “You fired her, of course”.
Is it possible that some of the vitriol directed at Dr.
Knight was because he consulted with his pastor on the firing decision? For
many people today, a psychiatrist, therapist or coffee barista are appropriate
to turn to for advice, while accepting religious guidance is creepy. From where
I’m sitting, he made the only possible decision. Any husband and wife who don’t
address temptation and danger in the workplace have their heads in the sand. Wise
couples set certain behavioral parameters such as not having any non-business
or out of the office communication with someone of the opposite sex unless
their spouse participates as well. They could follow the advice of ancient
Jewish wisdom and refuse any physical contact as well – even a platonic,
sympathetic hug or a hand on the shoulder. All females whether homemaker or
working outside the home, attractive or average looking, need to accept that their
choices in dress will elicit reactions from males. This isn’t a male “weakness”
any more than monthly hormonal shifts are a female “weakness.” It is reality. While
some may enjoy fantasizing about men losing all their unique masculine
tendencies (though many of us would view that with horror) it is no more
realistic than insisting that if we only try hard enough humans should be able
to tap our heels three times and be transported home.