A few thoughts on the public attitude toward adultery

April 14, 2012

As an almost 30-year resident of Arkansas, I must admit to being somewhat surprised by the sudden and unceremonious dismissal of our head football coach. Razorback football enjoys the dignity and protection of a major religion, even though its practices are  steeped in idolatry. The short version of this sad destruction of one man’s very promising career is that self-control and truth are always the best policies.

If you have not closely followed the news, it turns out that the coach had a lengthy and inappropriate affair with an attractive young woman. He then gave her a substantial cash gift ($20,000.00) and put her on the fast track to a job in the athletic department working directly for the coach. When the coach had the misfortune of crashing his motorcycle with the aforementioned young lady on board, and proceeded to conceal all of these pertinent facts from the athletic director, the consequences were swift and unpleasant.

Many are quick to say that, were it not for the concealment and favoritism in hiring for such a well-paid state job, what a man does in his private life is nobody’s business. One may disapprove in a theoretical sort of way, but breaking the bond of marriage is a strictly private matter. Anyhow, that is what many people say. Maybe we should all come to a complete stop and think it over.

The first thing that needs to be said here is that it is high damn time that homosexuals stop their insidious attacks on the institution of marriage.

OK. Had to get it out of my system. Now, we can move right along. Here, first, is a bit of worldly advice – the wisdom from below.

So, adultery is a personal decision made by consenting adults and of no concern to the rest of us? Really? Without becoming a bunch of humorless old prudes, maybe we should give this a once-over. Do you imagine Mrs. Coach might have something to say about hubby’s messing around? Yes, you are correct. Some couples have “open” relationships and then there are others that just don’t care. Yes, there are always exceptions to every rule, and sometimes the exceptions swallow the rule.

Marriage, as a legal concept, protects the weaker (wife) from the stronger (husband). Please do not misinterpret this to suggest that weak equals inferior. The suggestion here is that, once Wife 1.0 gets past a certain age, the marital partner may unilaterally decide to upgrade to Wife 2.0, or, as happened in this case, Girlfriend Beta Version. There are infinite upgrades in the Girlfriend genre, so it is nearly impossible to keep up numerically. Meanwhile, Wife 1.0 has had all the kids and is now well past her youthful prime and may even be without marketable job skills.

Of course, wives are also guilty of unfaithfulness and the results are equally devastating. Still, when marriages end, it is typically the wife who gets the children and a substantial financial burden. Marriage is a contract which is supposed to help level the playing field when things go wrong. It is an important contract, even though fewer couples seem to avail themselves of the obligations and privileges. The newer forms of ceremonies associated with this institution are generally empty of meaning and entirely sentimental and self-serving. Considering the too frequent unhappy outcome, one can hardly get worked up with those who abstain from “tying the knot.”

Marital infidelity leads to the frequent impoverishment of the dumped spouse and helpless offspring. There’s more. In the case of the coach, there are the players that he recruited and an athletic director who stuck out his neck to bring coach on board in the first place, but these are extraordinary circumstances. While Americans have an unattractive fetish for individualism, we are all parts of neighborhoods, communities, families, and business associations. All of these are less effective when the bonds of trust are shattered. We depend on each other in many ways, or we should.

All of the above rings very hollow to the self-indulgent American consumer who recognizes no greater good than the personal good. What follows can best be described as an “on the fly” summary of the “wisdom from above.” Here’s what Christians traditionally think.

Marriage is, from the beginning, a permanent relationship between one man and one woman. Now some of you wise guys will hasten to point out that divorce and polygamy are both fixtures of life in the Old Testament. Let’s just get this out of the way. The Pharisees ask Jesus about the social customs.

And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:5-9 ESV)

Whether or not there are exceptions is something you may fight about among yourselves. The Christian understanding of marriage is that it is dissolved only by death. Furthermore, those of us from a liturgical background recite each week the Nicene Creed, which recognizes the Holy Spirit as the “Lord and giver of life.” We recognize that, in the sexual act, there is a cooperation between God and humanity in the creation of life.

This absolutely forbids any concept of casual sex. For a Christian, it is simply impossible. Since there seems to be a certain “trashiness” associated with sex, it probably worth noting that God is pleased to be a part of our joy and happiness. This is also why so many Christians are emphatic about the sanctity of life.

So this makes me a hypocrite?

Perhaps, Although, if it matters, I am willing to recognize my own sinful nature and the need for a savior. Nonetheless, adultery is a sin. It is such a serious offense that Jesus says even looking at a woman with lust is the same thing as the sexual act (Matt 5:27-30). This is one characteristic, the absolute respect for other people as bearers of the divine image, that makes  Christianity a counter-cultural movement.

2 Responses to “A few thoughts on the public attitude toward adultery”

  1. Scott Says:

    Many interesting points here. Too bad you had to stand up on the homophobic soapbox and wave a flag if only for a moment. …almost completely blew it.

    • patlynch Says:

      Scott, thanks for reading Glad Streams and, of course, for your comment. One always risks being misunderstood when attempting the use of humor. In this case, it was my sense of irony that caused me to point out that the most damaging public insult to the marital estate in the past few days was entirely due to the misdeeds of the “straights.” Try rereading with that in mind and see if it does not fit better.

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