Posts Tagged ‘Adultery’

Scandal and Ashley Madison

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Hard to miss all the attention around Ashley Madison. A website catering to those searching to have an extra-marriatal affair, it hosted 10′s of millions of subscribers.  Recently, following a massive computer security breach, the personal data of those subscribers was made public.

To give an idea of the breadth of the websites reach, every zip code in the US with the exception of 3 were represented in the clientel.

I imagine a conversation must start with this.  Adultery is bad.  A sin.  And why?  Because we were created a certain way.  And that certain way appears to function best married to one.  A concrete love.  Committed. Blessed and broken. Where we can learn and grow.  Working over the decades to learn how to love unconditionally. That seems, plainly, to be God’s plan.

When we go outside of the plan, hurt follows. Notice even our language.  We don’t often use the term “adultery.”  We say instead someone “cheated.” They were “unfaithful.”  I think those words are spot on … adultery is a “cheat”, a shortcut, a way of pulling faith in relationahip from a relationship.

And people do have affairs.  It happens.  People make mistakes.  Good people. Christ clearly shows a way forward.  A woman, caught literally in bed with her lover, is brought by a mob to Christ.  The mob seeking to stone her to death as Jewish law prescribed.  Christ gently rebukes the crowd “Let those without sin throw the first stone.”  Words that saved her from a horrendous death.  And then lovingly raises himeself up from the ground and offers…

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

So the message is simple.  No condemning. No throwing stones. And please, no adultery.

Petraeus and the Falling of Idols

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

The resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus is a sad moment, a resignation stemming from an affair, recently uncovered, with his biographer Paula Broadwell.  While such behavior is not unknown in the upper reaches of government or business, neither is it unknown among the population at large.

The pervasiveness of infidelity in our culture does not mitigate the incredible lapse of judgement displayed by Petraeus.  The danger lies in this – with our cultural attentiveness myopically focused on this man’s lapses, we miss a far broader picture and a far bigger lesson, one we can see if we are willing to not just see the problem “out there” but able to own it “in here.”

Does Petraeus really surprise?  It does not for me.  The broader picture is this – we are a fallen and flawed people.  We have created a culture awash with addictive behavior – sexual and otherwise.  We spend large parts of our lives driven not by the higher angels of our nature but by our compulsions, fears, anxieties, neurosis.  That drive not infrequently pulls us into actions that are transparently insane.  And, Petraeus has an affair.

That does not mean we live in a world devoid of hope.  We can live in world filled with hope however it is a hope born of the sober acknowledgement that all of us are born with feet of clay.  Such a world maintains appropriate boundaries and accountability as well as a right-sized perspective on the foibles of humanity.  What it does not do is pretend, the great game of pretend so readily fostered in a culture that relishes scape goating, relishes in seeing these issues as “out there.”

These things are in us.  The idols we need to see fall are not solely the Petraeus’s of the world but the idols of our own heart.


Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

I say, with an attempt at being lighthearted, that the most common theological question I field is “I am thinking about a divorce. What should I do?”  There is nothing however lighthearted about the question.  Divorce often is devastating not just to the couple but to families and friends alike.

And yet there are situations where divorce is a legitimate choice.  I don’t believe the job of a pastor is to serve as a court-appointed arbitrator who renders decisions on a “legitimate” or “illegitimate” divorce. The role of a Pastor is to listen, to hear, to offer an unanxious and loving presence willing to sit with someone in pain who has reached a painful crossroads.  From that place a pastor can offer what he/ she sees as God’s insights from His Word.

And what would those insights be?

For me, it starts with the overwhelming need for compassion.  Working on both sides of the marriage equation – with those who want to keep working and those ready to leave – I know the entire enterprise is filled with pain for everyone.  No one gets a “Get out of jail free” pass .  That is a clear call for compassion, a call we see again and again in God’s Word.

In the New Testament, Jesus consistently narrowed the scope of appropriate reasons for divorce, eschewing the Old Testament teaching that a man could divorce his wife if she was “displeasing” to him.  That Old Testament perspective reflected the overbearing paternalist chauvinism of Middle Eastern culture.  Christ stood clearly against it, urging men to leave ancestral family ties behind in order to join with their spouse.  He likewise narrowed the cause for divorce to adultery.  Those teachings were offered in the spirit of compassion, as a way of protecting women for whom a divorce was often, literally a death sentence, given their lack of rights and their inability to claim any of their husbands property in the event of a dissolution of the marriage.   New Church theology reflects that same basic posture.

I do not believe marriage should be dissolved for “light” reasons.  I likewise believe that adultery is a broad term.  A husband addicted to pornography who purposefully pushes the marriage aside as he dives further into a land of addiction is adulterating the marriage covenant.  Abuse – physical, sexual, or verbal – arguably would be the same I believe.  All relationships entail periods of suffering.  However there is a categorical difference between the suffering that is within God’s will and the suffering that is death dealing, that is outside of God’s will.

And what I know at a very deep level, is that regardless of “rights” and “wrongs” compassion must reign supreme.  For those versed in the New Testament, Jesus’ comment to the woman caught in adultery was not “suffer the consequence” but instead quite literally the life saving approach of the Savior.  To the Samaritan woman at the well – married 5 times and now living with her boyfriend – the promise was in the same vein – a promise of “living water.”

Words of kindness are not just reserved for the easy situations in life.  They are likewise applicable to the mess.   As Emanuel Swedenborg noted, “Those guided by kindness hardly notice evil in another but pay attention instead to everything good and true in the person. When they do find anything bad or wrong they put a good interpretation on it.” Lets do the same.  Lets be guided by kindness.