Saturday, June 22, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (64)

Psychology Today analyzes excuses for adultery. Here’s one of the more spectacularly trivial:

“Adultery may be the lightning conductor of modern indignation, but are there not other, subtler ways of betraying a person than by sleeping with someone outside the couple; by omitting to listen, by forgetting to evolve and enchant, or more generally and blamelessly, by simply being one’s own limited self?”

I must admit, that one’s a beauty: “My wife failed to evolve and enchant me, so I was compelled to explore my options. There was really nothing else for it.”

What do you think, gents? Have you been “evolving and enchanting” fast enough for your wife?

The Oracle of Agur (Proverbs 30:20)

You’re Fooling Yourself

This sort of thing is not new:
“This is the way of an adulteress:
she eats and wipes her mouth
and says, ‘I have done no wrong.’ ”
Of course ex post facto rationalization of sin is not the exclusive province of women, but I suspect it is more common in the adulteress than in the adulterer. Most of the men I have known who committed adultery and got caught slunk quietly away to start new lives. They were never heard from again. The few who stayed often invented some sort of tale in which they played the reluctant hero. You would not have believed the abuses they endured at home until they found love. Their wives didn’t like sex. The marriages were over in every way except the formalities. This woman at the office caught them in an unguarded moment. Anyone would have caved under that sort of pressure …

Women are especially adept at rewriting history. Agur is telling us about one of these, and he says she’s typical: “This is the way …” he begins.

First She Eats …

Eating after a major sin has been exposed is quite telling. Confronted with the exposure of his sin with Bathsheba, and with the consequences squarely before him, David fasted and lay on the ground. For seven days. “I know my transgressions,” he wrote, “and my sin is ever before me.” Not even the elders of his household could persuade him to get up and have a bite to eat.

But David was far from the first to humble himself and give up food when caught out. In the time of the Judges, the whole nation fasted at Bethel, weeping and offering burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. At Mizpah, they did it again in the days of Saul, confessing, “We have sinned against the Lord.”

A repentant person cannot think of eating when he knows he has offended God. This particular adulteress is untroubled.

Then She Wipes Her Mouth …

Next, the adulteress fusses about tiny details that matter not a whit in the grand scheme of things. She is fastidious about her appearance, but unconcerned about the state of her soul. “You Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish,” said the Lord Jesus, “but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”

The prophet Isaiah speaks of the wicked daughters of Zion, who were all about appearances, adorned with anklets, headbands, pendants, bracelets, scarves, headdresses, armlets, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, signet rings and nose rings, festal robes, mantles, cloaks, turbans and veils, mincing along as they walked, affecting a delicacy that was the furthest thing from reality.

Confronted with her sin, this woman’s first impulse is to make sure she’s still looking good. Perhaps there’s another target on the horizon.

Then She Rationalizes …

Finally, the adulteress tells you what she did was completely understandable. “He cheated first.” “I was bored.” “We were friends for years and it just … happened.” “I can’t help it … it’s who I am.” You’ve probably heard them all. Sometimes people who commit adultery even wax philosophical:

“What if there was something wrong in not being tempted, in not realizing just how short a time one had been allotted on this earth and therefore with what urgent curiosity one might want to explore the unique fleshly individuality of more than one of one’s contemporaries? ... Isn’t the blanket rejection of such temptations a little too neat, an infidelity towards the chaotic richness of life itself?”

That one amounts to something like “If I hadn’t had sex with that man, it would have been a crime against life! Embrace the chaos! It is the sexually ‘untidy’ man or woman who is really fully human.”

Wow, that’s brazen. Agur puts it this way: “She says, ‘I have done nothing wrong.’ ”

Apparently God’s law is mistaken.

Getting Allegorical

Let’s get allegorical for a moment. If you read the Old Testament through even once, you will not fail to notice that adultery is used as a picture of idolatry with alarming frequency. That’s not hard to remember: just swap out a few vowels here and there. All the consonants are the same.

The reason is simple: the two sins have a great deal in common. Frankly, for the man or woman who claims to have a relationship with God, adultery IS idolatry. It’s having “another god before me,” the god in this case being one’s own desires. David rightly grasped this when he cried, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” Strictly speaking this wasn’t completely accurate, in the sense that both Uriah and Bathsheba might legitimately have had something to say about the effects of David’s roving eyeballs on their lives. All the same, it grasps at an idea that is fundamentally true, and that is that all sin is first and foremost against God. All repeated choices to sin are, at their core, breaking the first commandment. We are choosing another god.

Does Agur have this in mind? Perhaps not. It’s only one verse, and perhaps he only intends to paint a striking verbal picture of something we have all seen time and time again: the attempt to rationalize away sin by telling some story or another to excuse ourselves, even to the point of redefining morality itself.

Thing is, nobody is fooled, least of all God.

1 comment :

  1. Psychology Today. I used to read it and perhaps it still provides popularized professional knowledge for those who are inquisitive and want to learn something about that field. It's less the article that is disturbing but the fact that what is there presented as objective and well thought out and researched knowledge seems to follow the modern tendency of self-serving opinionating as a form of, a substitute for, solid and honest analysis. It follows the modern trend of subtly misleading and misdirecting that we see with most news media nowadays to gain the upper hand in whatever argument is under consideration. It showcases the pervasive and growing trend of modern society to disregard what had once been the backbone of private and public life, namely the objective reliance on Christian ethics. In the past when that was happening you could at least call it out as such. Nowadays any moral ethics is clouded in obscurity, mental fog and deliberate and or incompetent misdirection. That used to be called dishonesty if I can remember back that far.