So what do we make of Ashley Madison? Christian media outlets keep us up to date on the latest Christian celebrities/mega church pastors and assorted other Christian leaders who have been discovered to have visited the website that promises to fulfill that fantasy of an extra marital affair. It was supposed to be so secret. Then it wasn't. Some Christian men caught in the hack job on the website confessed to being curious, or filling idle time, or simply being stupid. None were seriously considering unfaithfulness. It's like that judgement day scenario when every secret will be revealed. Only now it is affecting marriages, jobs, and churches who are wondering what to do with the secrets their pastors have been keeping from them. (and if pastors, who else?)
One columnist for Christianity Today even felt it was necessary to propose a process to restore wayward pastors who visited Ashley Madison. Is it really that bad? Did he think we would run out of pastors who have not visited that site?
We can always say, well pastors are only human. Which is not much help because what else would they be? We want them to be humans such as we strive to be. When they fail, what does that do to our self confidence? We want to know they face temptations just like the rest of us,just not give in to them. We want them to be human only not that human. (since most of the Ashley Madison visitors were male this might be a good place to put in a good word for female pastors) Do we really want to know what they are up when no one is watching? Male pastors face the same temptations as any male in the congregation and in the internet age there are not a whole lot of firm boundaries. The male pastor may be the most isolated and lonely male in the congregation. He, a person with a whole lot of high expectations (many that come from himself) and few or no confessors. His marriage may be a mere front, too; they have a united face to put toward the congregation but when they are face to face, well, they are rarely face to face. She may be tired of being the church wife. He may be simply tired, or drinking too much or eating too much, trying to avoid whatever their issues are.
Most of these Christian leaders who have been outed on Ashley's site were probably bored, looking for a brief titillation when the sermon process had ground to a halt. They never intended to go any further than a look see. Now their secret thoughts are public for all to judge. Some of those who were outed were outspoken in their judgment of other Christians who had "fallen into sin". Now others are doing to them what they did to them.
Does the church need a process to restore fallen pastors whose names or email addresses appear on Ashley's website? I doubt it. That will only add to the hypocrisy in the Church. What the Church needs is more counselors and spiritual directors. It needs fewer buildings and programs and more spiritual maturity. And a long time line because most pastors will get there eventually. Churches need to get rid of pedestals; pastors can preach from the floor where everyone sits. They are only human. They are a part of the Body of Christ, no more, no less. They need to be at meetings with the church where their word is a word and their thoughts are considered like anyone else's. They are expected to have struggles, doubts, depression, anxieties; hard times personally, maritally and in their families are normal because they are human. Put retreats on the church schedule. Schedule a counselor or a mediator to come and address the issues that are secret. Expect the pastor to regularly get away to face the issues in his or her life. Stop pretending there are no secrets.
Is the Ashley Madison hack job a scandal for the Church. No, the scandal is the dis-connect between pastor and people. It's the biggest and most destructive secret we have.