It’s been interesting to see the ever-expanding implications of the Petraeus scandal as it unfolds, although as a rule I typically have a low threshold for that type of thing. The adulterous relationship that is in question is not the central issue, for it is not illegal to commit adultery. The central issue for the nation is one of national security. The old military expression “loose lips sink ships” comes to mind, but here it seems that “loose morals sink nations” is the fear. I’d also read this that seemed apropos:
In the arithmetic of love, one plus one equals everything and two minus one equals nothing.
– Mignon McLaughlin
I am not informed enough, nor in any kind of position to begin weighing in with anything other than opinion and speculation on this matter. Those of you who know me know that I am rarely lacking in either opinion or speculation, but that is saved, in this case, for conversations over coffee or waffles (or both). My thoughts on this have been two-fold, and not remotely complex or uniquely insightful.
First, it should be said that morals and scruples do not exist in a vacuum. Morality is not a pegboard that we slide actions into and out of. It is more like Christmas lights pulled out of a box in late November, everything is inextricably connected with little hope for simple extraction. In this story, adultery became the doorway to more problems, this is typical and not in any way unusual. When Jesus simplified the Law of Moses into two memorable commands (love the Lord, love your neighbor) He only simplified our understanding of the big picture. In boiling all of the rules and regulations down this far, He did what boiling always does: melted everything together. There is no difference now in adultery, murder, rape, or embezzlement, they are all infractions under one line item. We will foolishly think of sin as intrinsically isolated, it is not. And we will even more foolishly believe that we can, through effort and planning, isolate sin. One broken link in a chain of a thousand links is still a broken chain.
Second, I have thought more as I’ve casually followed this story about how grateful I am to be married to the woman who is my wife. I don’t worry in an anxious way as to whether or not she is going to betray me in any way. I am confident in her commitment to me and to our marriage. Obviously this doesn’t mean that we get along all the time or that we never have different opinions, but it does mean that in those difficult times I have confidence and assurance that no matter what happens, in the end our commitment will stand.
I read this quote from Ronald Reagan of all people and the simplicity of its imagery, combined with the profound nature of what it means emotionally made it noteworthy:
There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.
– Ronald Reagan