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I could be wrong
Shame in an Ashley Madison culture
Lefavi Bob
Rev. Bob LeFavi

Maybe they were looking for something they felt was missing in their life. Maybe their marriage was on the rocks. Or maybe they were going through a kind of mid-life crisis. Whatever the reason millions of Americans signed up for an account on Ashley Madison — the Web site that specializes in connecting people for the purpose of having an extra-marital affair — those folks must now feel a bit like Michael Douglas in "Fatal Attraction," or perhaps more like the boiled rabbit.

I suppose the only discernible feeling I have is one of sadness.

It is sad that someone would actually create a business where the most likely outcome for customers is not happiness, but rather devastation that will leave their marriage and much of their life in ruin. Ashley Madison’s CEO, Noel Biderman, has fashioned himself the “King of Adultery.” How nice for him. And though Biderman wrote a book in 2001, titled, “Cheaters Prosper: How Infidelity Will Save The Modern Marriage,” he is a married father of two children and says his wife of 12 years would be distraught if he ever cheated on her.

It is sad that there are millions of people who believe a business like this is their best option to find whatever it is they feel they are missing. That these poor, lost folks would put so much at risk by trusting in someone’s promise that their personal information is safe is a symptom of bigger problems they must face up to.

It is sad that it took someone hacking into the Ashley Madison website to get any kind of regret or sorrow from members. Hackers originally asked the company to shut down. When they refused, the hackers posted their data — customer names, emails, home addresses, financial data, and message history — online for all to see. Locally, South magazine is considering publishing the names of Savannahians who registered.

It is sad that some people “outed” by this may never recover fully. As Christians, we want to see hearts changed. Shaming them — if that is even possible in an Ashley Madison culture — is not the most effective method of changing hearts. We may never get the chance to change the hearts of those who feel such shame; there have been at least two unconfirmed suicides related to the release of information so far. So, let’s not revel in or gossip about some list. We are better off remembering that if a list of sins is being kept somewhere, our names are on it too. I pray, however, that we may have the opportunity to show those so affected exactly how those sins can be permanently erased.

And it is sad that there is no law against such a business. Consider that in some states, a spouse can sue an individual when that person is the cause of their broken marriage. If “alienation of affection” can indeed be illegal, how can a business promoting extra-marital affairs not also be considered over the legal line? Here we have yet another indicator that (a) often what is legal and what is moral are two different things, and (b) we have fully transitioned to a post-Christian era.

What I find interesting is that, upon investigation, independent organizations have discovered that the vast majority of the female profiles were fake, being fraudulently maintained by staff. The men registering had no idea how much their involvement really was “fantasy.” In fact, of the 5 million female users only 12,000 belonged to real, live women. And of those 12,000 real women, only 1,492 ever opened their inboxes to check their messages.

Now, compare that to the 20 million male users who have checked their messages (out of 32 million total male users). That’s 10,000 active male user to every 1 active female user!

So, men, you don’t need the list database to know if your wife was one of Ashley Madison’s active women. Just ask yourself: Has she looked very tired lately?

Or perhaps the best question is, how are Christians to avoid such a torrid mess? Well, here is one small bit of advice. If you’re having trouble in your marriage, put on your big-boy or big-girl pants and get counseling. Don’t just go through the motions. Genuinely work at it. Get to the bottom of your feelings and the dynamics you both have created.

As faith-based persons, I would hope we would have the courage to see ourselves clearly, to take responsibility for what we have done and what we have left undone, and to work with a Christian-based counselor. Let’s not fall prey to the culture’s messages. I have seen Proverbs 5 play out in far too many lives, and a lot of innocent people get hurt.

Ashley Madison’s slogan is, “Life is short. Have an affair.” How about, “Life is short. Don’t ruin yours.”?