Because the issue is so important, I have decided to respond to critics of my last column on adultery, politics, and character.
As any reader of my columns or books knows, I am a religious conservative, and my primary concern is morality. By morality, I mean issues of good and evil. I am also concerned with the issue of sin, but sin and evil are not identical. All evil is sin, but not all sins are evil. For example, religious people regard saying the word “God” for no religious purpose (“taking God’s name in vain”) as sinful, but to regard saying, for example, “goddammit, I stubbed my toe” as evil is to trivialize evil.
Above all, I seek to clarify moral issues. It is the duty of everyone, religious or secular, to strive for moral clarity.
That is what I tried to do in my last column in examining two questions: Does adultery disqualify a presidential candidate? What does adultery tell us about a person?
To the first question, my answer was: sometimes, but not usually. And to the second question, I responded that, in general, issues related to others’ marriages, divorces, and infidelities are too complex an arena in which for outsiders to draw immediate conclusions about a person.
Most readers who commented on websites or who wrote to me directly agreed with me, but a significant percentage did not. And some of them attributed a host of motives to my writing on this issue — from personal to political. But the fact is the column had nothing to do with my life or with support for any particular politician. I wrote the column in order to try to provide clarity on a very important issue that is too frequently relegated to emotion rather than reason.
Allow me to share two e-mails sent to me.
The first is from a friend. She and her husband are religious conservatives who have three young children. They are so traditional in their values that they homeschool their children and do not allow TV watching in their home:
“I completely agree with you. A woman I know well had an affair that ended her marriage. Yet, I trust this woman implicitly, and to this day we are very close. I know two other women who have been (to my knowledge) faithful as daylight in their marriages, yet I do not trust either one because they are emotional, insecure women, and I have to walk on eggshells when I deal with them. If the only fact you know about a person is that she has been unfaithful to her spouse, it tells you nothing about her trustworthiness in other areas, in my experience.”
The second is from a listener/reader whom I do not know:
“My wife has dementia, with no intimacy for over a decade. My eight-year affair has kept me sane. It also kept me there to be sure she has the best care (living now with her sister) without divorcing her because of issues with regard to health insurance. I am not proud of it but I feel I handled it the best I could. Surely it has been better for her than divorcing her and letting her be a ward of the state. A person’s character is important, but we need to be sure we are using good standards when we judge it.”