When did infidelity become a moral misdemeanor? When did we decide that a guy can cheat on his wife yet be an otherwise honest, trustworthy and upstanding gentleman? When did we determine that adultery happens in some sort of isolated vacuum, and it does not reflect negatively on the character of the person who commits it? Maybe there isn’t an exact moment in time we can point to, but I assume this shift in perspective coincided with our culture’s general fall into sputtering lunacy.
I bring this up because I just read a piece written by David Lightman, where he points out, and rightly criticizes, voters’ willingness to overlook scandals and ethical crimes. He cites Eliot Spitzer, the married creep who cheated on his wife with hookers, and is now running for office — with a sizable lead in the polls — in New York. Anthony Weiner, Mark Sanford, Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton are also mentioned. Clinton didn’t just commit adultery, he was accused of rape by multiple women. Gingrich cheated on his cancer stricken wife, divorced her, married his mistress, cheated on her, then married his new mistress. Newt still garnered support during the Republican primary, and Clinton is still a Democrat darling.
I guess it’s true then, we are willing to forgive scandals and move on.
Or maybe not. Todd Akin lost reelection and will never hold any office ever again because of a few controversial comments he made on the subject of abortion. Ben Carson, a brilliant medical pioneer and a rags-to-riches hero who saved the lives of countless children, probably shot his chances of making a serious run for president because of one politically incorrect sentence he uttered about gay marriage. I could venture outside the political realm and come up with an extensive list of people who have been given a metaphorical death sentence by the court of public opinion for “crimes” they committed, and apologized for, repeatedly and profusely. So, ‘forgiving’ and ‘willing to move on’? Not quite.
We will ruthlessly condemn and ostracize someone for their scandalous activities, it’s just that we have our own definition of what constitutes “scandalous.” Nowadays, the worst thing you can do is simply speak a word or verbalize a thought that falls outside of acceptable mainstream views. This is the solitary scandal we recognize, and we will exact eternal vengeance on anyone who commits it. Infidelity, on the other hand, isn’t “forgiven” because our culture doesn’t see it as any sort of significant failure of judgement or character in the first place. The marital union is soluble and conditional, marriage vows are negotiable and tenuous, divorce is routine, and adultery is inevitable. That’s the way we see it.
Of course, as usual, we are wrong. Allow me to state something provocative and controversial: Adultery is a horrible thing. Adultery is the betrayal of THE MOST IMPORTANT promise you will ever make. You could save a puppy from a burning building, buy a diamond necklace for your wife, help an old lady across the street, and discover a cure for skin cancer, but you are still a person of weak character and little integrity if you did all of these things on the way home from a liaison with your girlfriend. I would never vote for an adulterer. It’s got nothing to do with forgiveness. It’s not up to me to forgive a man for cheating on his wife. His wife has to struggle with that — and she will, for the rest of her life. This is a burden, an anger and a penetrating sadness that her husband has hoisted on her, and it will never go away. I wouldn’t vote for him simply because he can’t be trusted. I still believe in trying to elect people with integrity and virtue. An adulterer has already looked into the eyes of his spouse and lied, probably hundreds of times, so how could I ever have any faith that he won’t look into a camera and lie to the faceless masses? Your marriage vow is more important than the vow you take for elected office. If you broke one, you’re a high risk to break the other.
People who have dealt with cheaters tell me that there is no such thing as a “one time thing.” The actual act of adultery comes after a long succession of emotional and spiritual betrayals. Then, once “it” happens, the likelihood of a repeat offense is unfortunately quite high. I don’t need a man in office if he would devastate his wife and trample on his children’s trust, all for a cheap fling. What else is he capable of? What superficial incentive would need to be offered to coax him into betraying his elected position and his country? By the way, I don’t mean to pick on men here. Women cheat, too. I’m just not aware of many known cases of female politicians getting caught up in this sort of thing.
The people who downplay the significance of infidelity only reveal something about themselves. It seems that a week can’t go by without someone writing an enlightening blog or editorial about how monogamy is unrealistic and cheating is unavoidable. People who say this are speaking for themselves, and their spouses or future spouses should take note. Marriage can be challenging, and fidelity is something that happens actively — rather than passively — but it’s entirely achievable if you aren’t a pathological liar and a weak willed coward.
So maybe I’m alone in this, but I’ll gladly vote for someone who has committed the crime of saying unpopular things. But I wouldn’t cast a ballot for anyone who lacks the basic discipline and moral character to stay faithful to the person to whom they’ve sworn fidelity before God.