The answer is…
I have no idea.
But I read an interesting article over at CNN over the weekend by Stephanie Coontz that makes me think that it could be that we’re just hearing more about pastoral affairs these days because of the instantaneous nature of our culture, the media, and the internet in particular.
Stephanie points to some facts when it comes to affairs, that I found absolutely fascinating. It seems that, in past decades and centuries, much extra-marital conduct was just not as big a deal as it is now. Here are some examples she cites:
Tolerance for male adultery is certainly at a new low. In letters and diaries written during the Colonial and Revolutionary eras, men routinely bragged about their extramarital conquests — even to the brothers and fathers of their own wives! In the 1850s, it is estimated that New York City had one prostitute for every 64 men, while the mayors of Savannah, Georgia, and Norfolk, Virginia, put the numbers of prostitutes in their cities at one for every 39 and 26 men, respectively.
As late as 1930, Somserset Maugham’s play, “The Constant Wife,” was considered shocking because the heroine confronted her husband about his affair instead of simply ignoring it, as most women in polite circles did.
President Thomas Jefferson fathered a child by his mistress. So did Warren G. Harding, who also carried on an affair with the wife of a family friend. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had a long-term relationship with the woman who was his driver in England during World War II. CIA Director Allen Dulles, according to his own sister, had “at least a hundred” affairs, including one with the queen of Greece. President John F. Kennedy’s affairs and one-night stands may have numbered even more.
Can you imagine if the mayor of any major city in this country came out and said that there was one prostitute for every 26 men?
The question here is not whether this sexual behavior is wrong. It obviously violates scripture. But if society was mum on this type of affair, I wonder what things looked like inside the church, say, in the 1850s.
If a pastor had an affair in the 1850s, it was probably very discreet. By that, I mean that nobody knew about it. But the question is… if people found out… did they tell? Or did they, as the rest of culture, just look the other way?
There is no question that church leaders back in the day had the same pressures (and sins) as church leaders face today. The same temptations. The same desires. Lust was alive and well in the 1850s (just as it was in Old and New Testament times).
I think many times when we see a pastor fall, we somehow tie it to our screwed up culture, to the size of his church, or to an over-bloated ego that caused an attitude of entitlement in the man who has fallen. Many times this may be the case. But I don’t think this is, by far, a new problem for pastors and churches.
The writer then goes on to say why she thinks affairs happen these days. I can’t say that I totally agree with her. Maybe if I have time to write another post on this, we’ll take a look at that angle.
But what do you think? Do you think there are more ‘pastoral affairs’ now than a hundred years ago? Why or why not?
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