“And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Leviticus 20:10
Yikes. At the risk of being accused of non-originalism, I’d prefer to see that the ultimate penalty isn’t enforced here. But I cannot help thinking that, overall, the stricture is merited and wise. And perhaps foundational to Judeo-Christian civilization.
It’s a stricture which I think should be made explicitly to go both ways, no matter how “woke” on the one hand, or old-fashioned on the other, that makes me appear. That is, I believe that it should be equally unacceptable that a “wife committeth adultery with another wife’s man.” (This may be implied in the original, but I just want to make my position crystal-clear. Because, you know, gender equality.)
I’m certainly a sinner. And I married a divorced man (problematic, and a soul searcher for me, even though his first marriage was annulled by the Catholic church) in 1981. This July, we’ll have been married for 39 years and counting, and since that date, I’ve never thought that our relationship was other than sacred and permanent.
That’s my belief. Just as it’s my belief that it’s entirely possible for a man and a woman, even if one or both of them is married, to have a friendship which isn’t predicated or dependent on an offer, or a demand, for sexual favors. (Because, of course, there are other sorts of affection as C.S. Lewis points out in The Four Loves.) There are a few such friendships in my life right now, and I’m grateful for them, as my friends (and, in some cases, their spouses) help me through a difficult stage in my own life. God bless them all. I could use the occasional assist, and I’m grateful that their view of the relationship between men and women isn’t so narrow, so self-righteous, or so self-involved that they or their friends lose themselves in endless contemplation of primal urges and bitter, jealous assumptions. Sometimes, the willingness to climb 25 feet up a ladder to spare a nervous lady with an aversion to heights and an inner-ear balance disorder the trouble, is a simple act of friendship or chivalry, and not some sort of quid pro quo. Just as the provision of a plate of cookies or a cake, or an offer of hospitality, may simply be a kind and thoughtful gesture, with no other agenda in play. You know what Freud said about cigars. On second thought, never mind Freud. Just go with your gut on this one.
I believe that a strong family structure is essential for a stable civilization. I’m not so naive and/or stupid as to think that there won’t be times when the “centre cannot hold” (or that it won’t hold), or when “things [just] fall apart.” And I accept that, over time, as one relationship ends, it’s possible for others to form, sometimes with more, and sometimes with less, regard to the legal and ecumenical niceties of the situation. A very long time ago, I lived a small part of that story myself, so it would be wrong of me to pretend I believe otherwise. And thank goodness for the New Testament: There’s grace. And forgiveness. And I pray that when the time comes, I’ll be gifted with both, and that, in the meantime and should the need arise, I can summon my own grace to confer a bit of each of them on others.
And yet. I don’t think that makes it either daft or impossible to believe that, hard as life’s vicissitudes sometimes make it, we should hope for and we should strive for, the ideal. That which thousands of years of Western Civilization has, in the vast majority of cases, found to be best for the husband, the wife, the children, and the souls of all concerned. For the family.
I think there’s a fair amount of wisdom to be found in that old Book. What do you think?
PS: A musical interlude. When one marries a medievalist, it’s hard to get away from the “knight” metaphor. I could drone on and on about it for hours but it’s your lucky day! Still, here are a couple of songs that have meant a lot to my family over the years: The first is from our family’s favorite musical (We’ve watched the film so many times with our granddaughter, who pretty well knows the screenplay by heart, that we wore out the blu-ray disc and I had to buy another one.) Most of this song isn’t in the movie version, but I’ve known it since I appeared in The Music Man in high school (over half-a-century ago, LOL), and I have a couple of CDs from the Broadway shows. Here’s Kristin Chenoweth from the 2007 Broadway revival. This could be my song:
And this would be my four-decades-old dear knight’s song (and perhaps that of the fellow who climbed the ladder for me last week):