This week, we’ve found that it’s not as simple as AshleyMadison.com would like its (former) users to think. “Life is short. Have an affair.” So they say.
Get caught. Lose your reputation. Lose your spouse. So they omit.
I’ve been told that pastors I know, people in my neighborhood, members of my extended family, and prominent Christian leaders have found out they have been found out.
At the very moment I am writing this, I sit in a group of pastors who have ALL received news that someone they know is on the list.
For many, today, their secret sins are now public information.
The Ashley Madison website was launched in 2001 as a place for people in ostensibly committed relationships to go if they wanted to cheat on their spouse or significant other. Ashley’s allure was secrecy. For millions, their greatest fear was realized in July when The Impact Team, a hacker group, cracked the Ashley Madison database. The group held the personal data of 30+ million users ransom, demanding the owners shut down the operation.
Two weeks ago, the data was released on the Dark Web, and millions of users have since been exposed of cheating, or at least trying to cheat. Without a doubt, millions of people are reaping what they’ve sown. Light has revealed the darkness. Spouses who may not have had any idea of a fractured marital foundation now find themselves floundering in emotional quicksand. Others will not be surprised when their spouse or significant other confesses.
The prominence of this hack does raise the question: What do Americans think about adultery? Do Americans accept it? It is like going to a movie—some do, some don’t, but no one really cares? Or, is it something more?
In our increasingly sexualized culture, one may be surprised to find many are appalled at the thought of cheating on a partner—at least when they answer a survey questions. In recent polling, around 90 percent of Americans said having an affair is immoral. And, perhaps related, the vast majority of Americans (according to LifeWay Research data released last week), don't believe it is a sin to divorce after adultery.
It’s a Cultural Issue
Many are reaping what they have sown individually, but we are also reaping what we have sown culturally.
Though what was in the dark is now in the light, and though those who share our faith face utter embarrassment, our place is not to gloat. Perhaps, rather, we should grieve at what sexuality has become in our culture.
As the Ashley Madison leak moves from a big data file and glaring headlines on a computer, to strained conversations or screaming matches around the kitchen table, maybe it’s worthwhile asking, “Is this really what we wanted as a society?”
During the same week the Ashley Madison hack was revealed, an Old Dominion University fraternity made national news, by hanging out banners for fathers pointing out a “freshmen daughter drop off,” that includes the suggestion to “drop off mom, too.” (If you think the attitudes expressed here are abnormal, read Kimbery Thornbury's article on the hook-up culture.)
I could list many more examples, but perhaps at some point, we must ask, “Is this what we really wanted when culture turned against traditional sexual mores?”
We could pretend this is not mainstream, though a trip to a local theater, a look the history of a typical browser, or a conversation with a college student might tell us otherwise.
Now, freshman girls (and their mothers), are sport, affairs are encouraged and for fun, and modern entertainment affirms this harmful view of sex and sexuality.
The only problem is that the sexual revolution is, by definition, a war against something—in this case against the previous sexual mores. And wars, whether we admit it or not, always have victims. Few walk away unscathed.
In revolutions, attacks are launched, bombs are dropped, and victims are made. So it is in the sexual revolution.
We kid ourselves if we think what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Or with Ashley Madison.
That’s the way of our culture today.
Ashley Madison was right. Life is short. But the proper response to the brevity of this life is to focus on those things that will last beyond it.
Life is short, so have perspective.
The news this week reminds us that Christians don’t always live the way we are called, but perhaps today can be another reminder that there is a better way. We are called to another way.
That way is the way of Jesus, who spoke of a man and a woman becoming one flesh—one marriage, one sexual relationship, for one lifetime.
But for those who have failed to follow that way, the cross of Christ reminds us that a way has still been made.
So, if you are on the list, or know someone who is, a key word is repentance and there is a word that is comes after that—forgiveness.
That will not free us from consequences, but it does point us to Jesus. He is able to lead us past the pain and lies of Ashley Madison and into the grace and truth He provides.
The other way—the way of the sexual revolution—is on display this week. It's how our culture has decided to go. But, Jesus shows a better way.
Life is eternal. Don't have an affair.