The Huffington Post recently headlined this provocative statement: “You May Be Surprised How Many Born-Again Christians Use Ashley Madison” (an online company that helps married people arrange affairs).
The company recently surveyed its members, and discovered that 25.1 percent are evangelical (“born-again”) Christians. Catholics came in next, at 22.75 percent, followed by Protestants at 22.7 percent. The article quotes a British sociologist who explains the data: “People who have faith often use it as an outlet for forgiveness, so they’re more likely to cheat and less likely to feel guilty.”
“So Much for Monogamy” is a related Internet essay that is generating buzz today. According to the author, evolutionary science helps explain and justify adultery. She explains the theory: “Males compete for females so they can spread their genes more widely; mating with multiple partners makes this much easier.”
Since only nine percent of mammal species are monogamous, it stands to reason that humans aren’t monogamous by nature, or so we’re told. The writer concludes: “Instead of wagging our fingers at people who stray from their partners, let’s first consider whether we’re really hardwired for monogamy. Maybe it’s simply a cultural ideal—a lofty, unattainable one at that.”
Everybody’s doing it because that’s how we’re made—it’s a compelling case for adultery, polygamy, and pornography. But is there another way to interpret the data? According to Pew Research, evangelicals make up 26.3 percent of the American population; Catholics comprise 23.9 percent; mainline Protestants make up 18.1 percent. These numbers are almost identical to the Ashley Madison survey results. In other words, the survey results reflect the larger population.
It is also true that calling oneself an evangelical Christian doesn’t mean that a person lives by evangelical faith standards. Going to church is more important than claiming we do: actual worship attendance drops the divorce rate 25 to 50 percent compared to those who don’t attend.
All that said, the percentage of believers who are Ashley Madison members is far too high. God’s standards are clear: we are to “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18) and “let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). Why does Scripture require monogamy? Because God knows the effects of adultery: horrific pain for spouses and children, intense guilt and depression, violence, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
The culture says adultery is hard-wired and popular. God says we are not the result of evolutionary chance, but the created, intended children of our Lord. When we see other people as God does, they cease to be objects of sexual lust and become sisters and brothers of one Father.
Here’s the good news: “The proof of spiritual maturity is not how pure you are but awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door to grace” (Philip Yancey). Do you need such grace today?