Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Thinking about Anthony Weiner

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Matthew 5:27-28

Anthony Weiner has had a very bad two weeks.

On the upside, he looks way better bare chested than anyone would have guessed. I thought he was just skinny. He’s got some muscle.

Unfortunately for Mr. Weiner, that’s the end of the good news.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, called for an ethics investigation into his conduct. “I am deeply disappointed and saddened about this situation,” she said. That’s what she said publicly. I would love to hear the private conversations.

Political scandals in America are media driven. It’s not so much about right and wrong as about what appears right and wrong. Eliot Spitzer lost his job for consorting with prostitutes, but David Vitter is still at work. John Ensign and John Edwards are both in deep trouble, not for having affairs, but for trying to cover them up. Larry Craig resigned (as far as the public story goes) for playing footsie with an undercover cop. Newt Gingrich managed to get Bill Clinton impeached (but not convicted) while he (Gingrich) was having an affair. And what exactly did Christopher Lee do? Go figure.

There is always lots of posturing about how “the media” treats conservatives and liberals differently. Someone always claims a “double standard.” One guy loses his job and another guy just marries his mistress and moves on.

Of course there is something they all have in common. They are all guys. Even Jimmy Carter admitted to “lusting in his heart.”

Jesus was called the “Son of David,” but in terms of sexual ethics they were not even distant cousins. David had a thousand wives and a thousand concubines and still couldn’t stop himself from going after the (married) girl next door. And then Jesus says he was wrong from the first time he looked.

When I was in seminary, Dr. Walter Muelder, who was Dean of the School of Theology and a Professor of Christian Social Ethics, noted in his discussion of the ethics of Jesus that he would not ask for a show of hands for those who had violated the commandment not to “look at a woman with lust.” He allowed us to infer that even our very proper dean had done that. At the time, this came under the heading of way too much information.

It is not easy for us to cultivate healthy attitudes toward sex. It is not easy for Americans, and considering the evidence, it is apparently harder for men than women. Or maybe men don’t try as hard.

Every day in a thousand different ways, we prove that we are uncomfortable with our bodies and uncomfortable with our sexuality. The positive result of that discomfort is that most of us are not likely to post indiscreet photos online. The negative consequence is that for some of us, the discomfort with our bodies and with our sexuality will find expression in ways that are damaging and destructive.

The Anthony Weiner episode will launch a thousand jokes. But it really merits some serious reflection.

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