Kind of Red

January 11, 2010

A Conversation on Marriage Pt. II

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Painted One @ 7:52 pm

Two weeks ago I mentioned how a good friend shared a link to a provocative debate conducted and published by ABC News’ award winning show, Nightline that elicited a great conversation amongst those around me.   The link featured Nightline Anchor Cynthia McFadden moderating the fourth installment of Nightline’s recurring series, The “Face-Off,” where opposing sides debate controversial topics.  This particular debate, hosted at the Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, pitted Pastor Ed Young of the Fellowship Church and recovering sex addict and founder of “Be Broken Ministries” Jonathan Daughtery against Ashley founder and CEO Noel Biderman and author Jenny Block.  The debate centered on The Seventh Commandment, adultery and the question of whether we were born to cheat.   My wife Rashida, along with our two of our friends, John and Fran, a married couple, conversed with me in our last installment.   They have graciously have agreed to join me again.  I will identify the speaker by some sort of appropriate marker (e.g. Me, Rashida, John, Fran).  We began our discussion at the beginning, by answering what is marriage.  In this installment, we are continuing our conversation where we concluded our previous one, and will discuss some of the thoughts The Face-Off sparked.  I pray you enjoy the discussion as much as we have, and always, you are invited to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Nightline began its discussion in the thick of its controversy by asking, “Are we born to cheat?”  What do you think?  Are we born to cheat?  Is monogamy, in its truest sense, possible in the current age?

(Me) As the flawed, sinful beings we are, we innately have the ability to cheat.  Nevertheless, to say, “We are born to cheat,” is a bit misleading.  It presupposes an inevitability of infidelity that I do not believe exists.    Each individual has a greater propensity towards committing certain acts than the average person, but to proclaim we all are destined to commit a specific act oversimplifies the problem and too easily skirts individual responsibility.

Furthermore, monogamy is far from old-fashioned; it is quite romantic when one considers the adventure of discovering new ways to show one person the depths of your love as you share life together.  It is also not as daunting of a task as we often make it sound either, when one thinks of the joy each day can bring or how comforting sharing sorrows may be.  In a recent interview with WHYY’s Marty Moss-Coane, author Frank Shaeffer discussed how he believes true living occurs between the “big ideas” that guide our lives (e.g. love, faith, peace, hope, et cetera).  He then suggested that his faithfulness to his wife was not thirty-nine years of monogamy, but a long series of daily commitments to remain true to his wife.   Though I do not endorse all of his ideas, I believe there is some truth in his perspective on monogamy.  For example, though I have made a lifelong commitment to my wife, that commitment is evidenced by my daily demonstrations of that commitment.  I live I remain mindful of my lifelong commitment, and each day I have an opportunity to demonstrate my faithfulness to it.

(Rashida) I have an issue with this question. It was definitely framed from a carnal perspective because the question in itself demonstrates a warped way of thinking (some would call it “reprobate”).  Another way to frame this question is, “Why were we created?”  There are many scriptures that help to answer this question.  The most basic answer is that “We were created for God’s pleasure.” If this is where we begin, then the question, “Are we born to cheat?” becomes moot.  Starting with the understanding that infidelity and adultery are things that displease God, asking the question, “Are we born to cheat” sounds a little silly.  Since God’s standards for marriage, purity, and holiness still apply to us today; it is absolutely the case that monogamy is still the standard for relationships today.

(John)  Depending upon which way you read this question, a multiplicity of answers could be given.  If read in the sense “are we bound to cheat,” then yes, we are indeed born to cheat.  We are born to do a lot of things.  We are born to lie, born to cheat, born to hate, and born to deceive.  But this is why Jesus came to save us from our total depravity, because we may be ‘born to cheat’, but we aren’t justified in our proclivity to cheat.   Cheating violates the nature of God, whose nature we are expected to reflect.

If read in the sense “is our purpose to cheat,” then no, we aren’t born to cheat.  The meaning of our lives on earth reaches far beyond such beggarly things as cheating, lying, and the like.  Every person’s responsibility is to respond to the calling of God on their soul, and thereafter follow His leading as He directs the path of their life.  God is the central figure in this monumental, epic, theatrical production called life, and we are the supporting cast.  Every moment of our lives is meant to bring attention to God, and to live attentive to God.  Cheating is not written in the proverbial script!

Does adultery exist where both parties consent to an open marriage?

(John) What must be considered is marriage is not defined by the individuals who choose to participate in it.  Marriage is defined by the Creator of it.  We can’t after countless thousands of years, up and decide to redefine the guidelines which makes marriage what it truly is.  Such a disposition is a result of our humanistic worldviews, in which we believe everything revolves around us.  If I haven’t made it clear by now, my opinion is, yes, adultery does exist where both parties consent to an open marriage.  There is no such thing as an open marriage in essence.  The very fiber of marriage has everything to do with ‘closed’.  Exclusivity is built into its framework.

I wonder what vows people of open marriages take?  I imagine them to be people who want to go through bells and whistles of a grandiose marriage with the archbishop straight from the Vatican presiding, expressing lofty vows, and wearing expensive dresses and suits.  Do such individuals even pay attention to the very words that come falling out of their mouths as they stand at God’s altar?  Are they more concerned with form and fashion?  Since white dresses and stained glass windows seem to be the prescribed way to do marriage ceremonies, they simply fall in line without thought?  Whatever it is, my suggestion would be to not even call it marriage.  Because they are simply trying to sanctify something, that can’t be sanctified!

(Me) In a word, yes, adultery exists in an open marriage.  I agree with John, and will present my answer through an example in the law.  In some instances consent can serve as a means to insulate one from liability for potentially harmful or offensive conduct, so long as the conduct does not exceed the scope of the consent.  For example, a football player impliedly consents to bodily contact, contact that could presumably prove harmful, when the player agrees to participate in a game.  Thus, it would be silly for one player to initiate a lawsuit against another because the player suffered a minor injury from a routine tackle by the other.  Nevertheless, a player who violates the given rules or established customs of the game in a manner that inflicts an injury on another may prove liable for such conduct, because that conduct exceeded the scope of the consent.  Therefore, even in a game of football, a game heralded for the ferocious and vicious beatings it inflicts upon its players, prohibits conduct that represents a clear deviation from the confines of the game and the purpose for play.

Adultery represents a direct violation of the covenant of marriage, and consent cannot mitigate the breach it initiates.  By its very nature, adultery represents a clear deviation from the confines of the relationship (or the game in the football analogy), regardless of how or why both parties consented to enter the relationship (or play in the football analogy).  In marriage, the two become one and covenant to form an eternal union.  The two vow to share life, in its most intimate detail.  That is why the Bible describes martial intimacy as “to know.”  Adultery allows for another to trespass the bounds of the union, and thereby represents a breach of the covenant.  It also is the only means in which Jesus justified divorce.  Regardless of whether both parties are cognizant of the dalliance, and thereby consent to it, neither knowledge nor consent halts the transgressing of the bounds of appropriateness, nor does it preserve the union severed by the adulterous act(s).  It actually constitutes a graver offense considering both parties knew it, and condoned behavior that stands contrary to the purpose of marriage.  Consequently, in the event two have agreed to have what is termed an open marriage, the two have agreed to diminish the strength of their bond and commit adultery.

Are the Ten Commandments Old Fashioned?  Should we even attempt to allow them to guide our daily lives? How can we reconcile them with the laws that currently govern our society.

(Me) During the discussion Noel Biderman argued that the absence of all but two of the Ten Commandments in modern law is evidence of their inability to stand the test of time.  In short, he said that the old fashioned law of the Old Testament is outdated, which is why our law, the law of the United States, did not promulgate laws based on the other commandments.  He used this as a basis for his argument supporting the propriety of adultery when all parties are privy to the liason(s).  This proposition conflates the purpose of the law of God and the law of man (it also ignores the influence the Ten Commandments have had on our laws).   The purpose of God’s law is to expose the presence of sin, show us a better way to live and ultimately make us more like God.  As I mentioned before, I believe the purpose of man’s law is not to legislate morality, but rather to set a minimum standard of expectation and set forth remedies when those expectations are dashed.  The United States is not a modernized theocracy.  It is a secular democracy with heavy Christian cultural influences. See U.S. Const. amend. I. Its laws were never intended to supplant God’s laws, they merely seek to allow people of divergent backgrounds to converge their lives harmoniously and resolve their differences peacefully.  The Ten Commandments are far from outdated, particularly when viewed in light of their purpose.   They have merely been fulfilled through the life of Christ, embodied in His believers and ignored by those who do not believe.


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