It's Not Just the Lying

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here’s this week’s!

A train wreck of a political scandal has erupted in the United States over these last few weeks, and despite its sordidness, it has given me reason to hope for our future once again.
 In case you have not heard, a Democratic Congressman from New York named Anthony Weiner (I am not making that up) apparently sent lewd pictures of himself to strange young women on Twitter. He was discovered when instead of sending one as a private message, he sent it for all the world to see, and now everyone knows where he stands on the boxers vs. briefs question.
Originally he claimed his account had been hacked, and he self-righteously demanded that news organizations focus on something more important. As more and more pictures surfaced, though, he was eventually forced to resign in disgrace.
That’s right: he was forced to resign. Woo hoo!
For I still remember when another politician was caught in a rather uncompromising position involving a cigar, a blue dress, and the line “it depends on what the meaning of “is” is,” and everybody pretty much excused him.    

That was back in my major feminist days during my postgraduate degrees, and I initially liked Clinton. But unlike the rest of the media, I wasn’t comfortable with saying, “It’s not about the sex; it’s about the lying.” That didn’t wash with me. I thought it mattered that he had sex with a 21-year-old intern. All the feminist literature I had read taught me that this was an abuse of power—and yet here were these same feminists saying we should excuse him, because he was a Democrat.

Now there’s one big difference between Weiner and Clinton, which was that Monica Lewinsky was a willing participant, and Weiner seems to have emailed or “tweeted” pictures of himself to women who didn’t ask for them. But nevertheless, in the early commentary of the Weiner scandal, I kept hearing variations on that now standard line: “the issue is not the sex; the issue is the lying.”
When people say that, it’s as if they’re also saying that we’re not allowed to judge anyone’s sexual behaviour as being somehow unseemly. So let me clearly state that sending nude—or even merely lewd—pictures of yourself to young women who are strangers, while you are married and a Congressman, is disgusting, immoral, and shows an amazing lack of judgment. Besides opening yourself up to blackmail, it’s just plain a mean thing to do to your wife, and an ultra-creepy thing to do to these women.
 In the nineties, liberals in both Canada and the United States had to excuse Bill Clinton’s behaviour because they didn’t want to give leeway to Republicans. Republicans, in turn, to avoid being labelled as “prudes”, had to frame the issue as just the lying, and not the fact that the man was engaged in sexual activities while talking about national security on the phone.
But Clinton was a president. Weiner was just a creepy Congressman from New York. And so people didn’t circle the wagons. One by one, reluctantly at first, key members of both parties said, “he’s got to go.”
People were just plain grossed out, a reaction I cheered wholeheartedly, since I have teenage daughters—who are not on Twitter. And there is nothing funny or cute or quirky about sending nude pictures to young women. So perhaps we’ve finally given rest to that line, “it’s not about the sex; it’s about the lying.” Sometimes it is about the sex, and about how creepy and icky someone is being. I hope we as a society are free to start calling out people to behave responsibly again. If Weiner called us back to some basic standards, maybe he did serve a purpose, after all.

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Pain of Infidelity: You’re Playing with Fire

Our society ignores the pain of infidelity, treating cheating like it's No Big Deal--and it is.
I read a news report recently of a crime that really didn’t surprise me.

A guy was fooling around on his wife with three different women, none of whom knew any of the others, including the wife, existed. The wife finds out and calls the three women to tell them. Instead of confronting the cheat, they decide to get revenge. One lures him to a hotel room where she manages to get him to agree to being tied up. Then the other two enter and do things with him that include crazy glue.

They’re now on trial for assault.

I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be charged with a crime; but at the same time, I don’t think our society gives enough weight to the devastation involved when someone we trust cheats on us sexually. That is a huge betrayal.

Adultery Causes Immense Pain

I remember reading the story twenty years ago of the housewife who was married to an upper class guy. She had dropped her career to care for their four children, and nurture his career, and then he had dumped her for a gorgeous secretary or something like that. To top it all off, he arranged for his wife to get very little money, and humiliated her in the divorce proceedings. One night, she sneaks into his bedroom and shoots both him and his new lover.

I forget what sentence she got, but again, I couldn’t help feeling a little uneasy. Should she be tried? Yes. She broke the law. But so did he, just in a different way. And when you go about cheating on someone, you should realize that you’re putting in place a chain of events in your life that you won’t be able to control. You’re playing with fire.

The Pain of Infidelity Naturally Leads to Other Horrible Things

Our society denigrates the true feelings of betrayal that people have. The idea is that we should all just “act like adults” and “get over it” is predominant in our legal system, and indeed, our culture. In my extended family, for instance, one woman cheated on her husband, who had been a great provider and who was a great dad, and walked out. But she still gets joint custody, she still gets a huge chunk of his money (and any raises he gets in the future), and she gets half of the retirement savings. It’s all part of “no fault divorce”. No one can be blamed, so everything’s divided up equally.

But imagine that. Your husband cheats, and now you have to go get a job, he gets the kids halftime, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The law expects you to grin and bear it, because these things happen.

Maybe they do, but they’re not supposed to. I don’t think that scorned wife would have been charged in that double homicide a hundred and fifty years ago. I think people would have assumed he had it coming. And in the first case, the one with the three women and the crazy glue, I don’t think there would have been charges even 75 years ago. No real harm was done (although I’m sure he lost some skin), and again, he had it coming.

We think that we have progressed because we no longer allow these kinds of “crimes of passion”, but I wonder if in the meantime we have begun to excuse major sexual sin. We don’t realize the true consequences of sexual betrayal. And to say that all parties should move on, and not assign blame, is treating the human condition in a rather naive manner.

The Only Way to Find Healing from the Pain of Infidelity is in God

When you are betrayed, there is a little part of all of us that flips out. And the only way to avoid the revenge is just to take it to Jesus and ask for His grace. And even then, it’s going to be hard to get over infidelity. At least God acknowledges that this kind of betrayal is very serious, unlike our legal system. Only He can help us forgive and move on (and here are some wonderful books on surviving an affair). I don’t think it’s easy to do this on your own. And that’s why, whenever I hear stories like this in the news, I find myself perhaps a little too sympathetic to the woman with the Crazy glue, or the gun, or the knife. I can only imagine what that must feel like. And I can only pray that God gives them grace–and me grace if I were to need it after something that bad.

I’m not saying our legal system should excuse these crimes; I’m only saying that I’m uncomfortable with how nonchalantly we treat adultery. What do you think?

Wifey Wednesday: Carelessness is not an Option

Does God make a difference in your marriage?
Now, before you say, “Of course He does!”, and murmur all the Christian platitudes, just take a step back for a moment and let me talk.
The divorce rate among Christians in most parts of the country and in Canada is actually lower than the general population–significantly lower. Unfortunately, in the Bible belt in the U.S. it’s a tad higher, which is the statistic that is often mentioned when we talk about Christians and marriage.
So for most of us, God does make a difference.
But our divorce rate is nowhere near 0. Just because it’s not 30%, like the rest of the world (it’s not 50%; that’s a false statistic, too), doesn’t mean that we should rejoice at 22% or even 18%. That’s still high.
And I’m extremely troubled by that. I see so many of my friends who go to church, and who honestly do believe, but God doesn’t seem to come into their lives in other ways–what movies they watch, how they spend their time, how they spend their money, how they raise their kids. They’ve simply blended into the culture.
I have to, in many ways. We all have. But my husband and I decided early in our marriage that we would be intentional. We would not let the culture take us over. While we’re far from perfect (we sure could stand to pray a lot more than we do), we at least talk about it and wrestle with how to bring God into our marriage and our family.
I had some really bad news this week. A couple I love dearly have split up. Now there are good reasons, though I’m not fully apprised of them, and in their situation this sounds like the prudent course. I won’t elaborate more than that, but let me just say that sometimes separation is necessary.
From the little I do know, though, it sounds like one partner in the marriage has let culture infiltrate too much into his/her thought processes, so much so that his/her morality has been seriously compromised. I’m sorry for being so vague, but I don’t want to betray any confidences.
And this is happening all over the place! I know another marriage that split up because he had an affair. This man ran a praise team. He stood with his wife while she went through cancer treatment. And then he left her anyway, when she was already feeling ugly and unattractive. And now he’s trying to get out of paying child support; this, a man who has written praise songs that are still played on our Christian radio station.
We all know stories like that, don’t we? And chances are, the first thing in your mind is, “I thought they were such a great couple! What happened?”
Think about all the things that work against marriages today. How many marriages do we know have been destroyed by pornography? Pornography is now implicated in the majority of divorces. It is not harmless. It is not something “fun” that adds “spice” to your marriage. It is poisonous, and it ensnares people, especially men. It lowers their sex drive, eats at their soul, and consumes their time. And what are we doing about it?
All addictions–workaholism, affairs, pornography, alcohol–could be avoided if we all simply were intentional in our marriages. If we decided from the outset that we would limit the computer, that we would always have dinner together, that we would spent time each night connecting, that we would put our time with our spouse as a priority, even before our kids, maybe our marriages would last.
One partner can never completely save a marriage. The other needs to agree too, and if your spouse has deserted you or cheated on you, that is not your fault. I am not blaming you.
But at the same time, carelessness is not an option. If your marriage is going well right now, don’t assume it will always be like this. Develop habits so that the things that can drive us apart don’t start taking over our marriages. We need to be vigilant. Never assume that you’re the one couple that this stuff will never hit. Never assume that your husband would never look at pornography, or that you will never be tempted to have an affair. Instead, take steps now to make sure that this won’t happen.
Every marriage break up is like the death of a small civilization. It hurts the kids, it hurts ourselves, it hurts our families.
Please take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. None of us is invincible.
What do you think? How have you put hedges around your marriage? How do you deal with the pornography threat?