When I was a teenager, my Evangelical pastor father had an affair with the church secretary. It had apparently gone on for quite a long time before somebody discovered it.
The scandal was intense beyond words.
Dad wasn’t a huge figure in evangelicalism, but he wasn’t a tiny figure either. We knew the Falwell family and hung out with well known evangelists. Dad had a radio show and our church was getting ready to go on television too.
The sexual infidelity scandal cancelled all of that, of course.
I didn’t really think about it at the time as being unusual. Of course getting divorced because of sexual infidelity should be scandalous, I told myself. (Naturally, my own personal feelings of betrayal were mixed up in everything.)
But looking back on it all decades later, I asked myself why that particular scandal should have mattered the way it did. Our church was filled with people who were doing all kinds of really ‘sinful’ things.
Things that Jesus would have despised, like being cruel to children and stigmatizing people because of the color of their skin or because they were poor.
One of our deacons had gone to jail a couple of times for “slapping his wife around” a little bit too much. He continued to serve as a deacon.
Everybody knew which deacons got drunk on Friday nights in our dry county. Everybody knew who smoked cigarettes, strictly forbidden in our Evangelical circle.
Yet having an extramarital affair was the unforgivable sin.
It’s funny, when Dad died back in August, I spent 20 minutes on the phone consoling the woman he had an affair with. You see, they later married, and while they they only stayed together for about a decade,they loved one another deeply throughout their lives, often visiting and catching up.
I have a hard time finding it within me to condemn love.