Systemic Adultery and Matriphobia: Our Guilty Silence

A Lutheran pastor friend of mine recently posted this status on Facebook:

Be sure, before you get defensive, that you understand the difference between individual racism and systemic racism and how systemic racism is perpetuated by all of us white folks.

For purposes of this article, I am not going to evaluate each of the elements of that statement. That should be done another time.[i] For today, I accept the following propositions of the statement for the sake of discussion to see how ready we are to live by them on a consistent, principled basis:

  • Race exists.
  • Individual racism exists.
  • Systemic racism exists.
  • You should not get defensive when people accuse you of being part of systemic racism.

“Systemic racism” means an oppression or exploitation of people of color by white people that is so implicitly woven thoroughly throughout the system that we are not even conscious of it. We are suffering from false consciousness. We need to have our consciousness raised to be awake to all-pervasive racism.

Racism is systemic because it is enforced, expressed, implied, condoned, assumed, taught, encouraged, honored, or celebrated throughout culture. It is essential in art, architecture, cinema, television, politics, advertising, news media, social media, religion, banking, zoning, athletics, law, education, criminal justice, health care, journalism, civic organizations, charities, language, cuisine, clothing, demeanor, music, dance, ritual, technology, mythology, literature, science, and so on.

To speak about this in a Christian way, hatred of anyone because of their race is sin. It is a violation of the Fifth Commandment, “You shall not murder.” Jesus says:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. [Matthew 5:21-22]

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. [Matthew 5:43-48]

In one place, Luther exposits the Fifth Commandment like this:

The Fifth Commandment Transgressors:

He who provokes his neighbor to anger;

He who says “Raca” to his neighbor, which implies all manner of anger and hatred;

He who says “Fatue”—“thou fool” To this category belong all utterances directed against the neighbor which imply contumely, profane invective, abuse, slander, the imputation of evil motives, the sitting in judgment upon others, ridicule and the like.

He who criticises the sins and infirmities of a neighbor instead of covering and excusing them;

He who does not forgive an enemy, nor pray for him, befriend and help him.

Here are to be mentioned all sins of anger and hatred, such as murder, war, pillage, arson, strife, contention, envy, malicious joy at the sufferings of others.

Furthermore, he transgresses this commandment who is averse to works of mercy, even though this spirit is manifested only against an enemy;

He who sets people by the ears and stirs up trouble; He who creates discord among people; He who does not seek to reconcile those who are estranged ;

He who does not oppose and prevent passion and contention wherever possible. [ii]

That is a Christian indictment of racism, among other hatreds.

My question to my Lutheran pastor friend and to the rest of my Lutheran friends is this: are you willing to apply the principle of systemic sin in systemic racism consistently to all of the Ten Commandments?

To keep this down to a manageable scale for one article, are you willing to apply the principles of the statement at the beginning of this article to the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery?” Are you willing to accept, even just for the sake of discussion, that:

  • Marriage exists.
  • Individual adultery exists.
  • Systemic adultery exists.
  • You should not get defensive when people accuse you of being part of systemic adultery.

Antiracism is the virtue du jour and racism is the sin we love to hate. But are we willing to apply our virtues, loves, and hatreds on a principled basis to all virtues and sins, to all of God’s Law? Or are we editing God and being holier than Jesus?

Luther exposits the Sixth Commandment like this:

The Sixth Commandment Transgressors:

He who ruins a virgin, commits adultery, incest or any unchaste act;

He who is guilty of the monosexual crime or of any of the nameless crimes against nature;

He who by impure conversation, songs, stories or pictures incites and evinces evil lust;

He who arouses his passions and pollutes himself by unlawful objects of vision or touch, by thought or suggestion.

He who fails to remove the causes of the evil under consideration: intemperate eating and drinking, sluggishness, aversion to work, late rising and undue familiarity between man and woman;

The person who arouses the passions of others by lewd dress or gestures;

He who acts as accessory for others by offering the use of his house or by furnishing shelter, help and opportunity to commit this sin;

He who does not, in word and deed, safeguard the chastity of others.[iii]

He has scratched only the surface.

In the 60s and 70s, people ridiculed marriage by mocking references to “Ozzie and Harriet.” Today, many don’t know what that is talking about. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was an American radio sitcom that came to television from 1952 to 1966. It became synonymous with the 1950s ideal American family life. It aired on ABC when we had only that network and a couple more. Today we have hundreds of channels and thousands of programs. Not one of them could serve as a reference for marriage. The point is not the we should be like Ozzie and Harriet or that the show taught the Sixth Commandment or Luther’s Catechism. The point is that we have no television reference for marriage.

On the contrary, what of marriage on television? Hook-ups, divorce, serial monogamy, fornication, pole dancing, pornography, lewd dialogue, lewd behavior, faux families — a cesspool.

That’s television. What about marriage in art, cinema, politics, advertising, social media, religion, law, education, language, clothing, demeanor, music, dance, ritual, mythology, literature, and yes, science? If we don’t see systemic adultery, we are suffering from false consciousness. We need to be woke.

Let’s just take mythology. That whole “Ozzie and Harriet” thing is part of a false consciousness mythology. According to the matriphobic myth, good ole traditional marriage was, well, traditional. It came down to us in a long continuity from centuries past. We were not liberated from its shackles until the Sexual Revolution in the 60s. The conceit of the 60s was that we were doing something new.

The truth is, it was olde, tired, and hackneyed. Read a handful of Luther’s sermons on marriage, such as in The Marriage Ring: Three Sermons on Marriage[iv] or What Is Marriage, Really?,[v] and you will find how beastly Europe was. Marriage was disdained and adultery was rampant across classes: clergy, nobles, merchants, farmers, commoners, artisans, intellectuals, craft guilders, and peasants. Luther says the world was looking at marriage only by outward appearance and could not see much difference between it and fornication. It treated marriage accordingly. The church actually taught, owing only partly to asceticism and monasticism, that unmarried situations were superior to marriage.

Eras of marriage being held predominately in honor are exceptional. People of the 60s thought they would liberate themselves from the chains of the past without knowing they were returning to it. They took a full gainer dive back into the 15th Century and called it the Age of Aquarius.

Luther reformed marriage and elevated women. Dr. Robert E. Smith has noted that while Luther used rough language against nearly everyone — himself, his friends, his opponents, his enemies — he never said a bad word about his wife, Katharina.

But we Lutherans have not followed as well as we like to think. Consider the research of Dr. Gerhard E. Lenski in Marriage in the Lutheran Church: A Historical Investigation.[vi] We Lutherans have a long abysmal history of systemic adultery through the celebration of remarriage of divorced persons.

At this juncture, the fourth principle needs to be rehearsed:

  • You should not get defensive when people accuse you of being part of systemic adultery.

Do we get defensive when someone says, we Lutherans are part of systemic adultery because of our celebration of remarriage of divorced persons? Does our train of thought turn to “Yeah, but …?” Do we think to ourselves, “We don’t celebrate it. We’re not condoning, teaching, encouraging, or honoring divorce and remarriage.”

Oh come on. Get real. The kids are on to us. How do you think they got the way they are? Don’t point outward to everyone else in society. We Lutherans need to look at ourselves and the inconsistency of our principles.

Look what we have done to our own children. If we don’t think the matriphobic state of America is burning down society like a race riot, we are suffering from false consciousness. We need to be woke.

Break the Sixth Commandment and what happens to the Fourth, “Honor your father and mother?” When husband and wife dishonor each other, what influence does that have on children honoring mother and father? The Ten Commandments are organic. An illness in one organ makes the whole body sick.

Do we Lutherans understand that of the three estates (family, church, state), the state is based on the Fourth Commandment? Don’t we see the linkage from adultery through the Fourth Commandment to the collapse of the state? Where have these armies of young people in the streets burning down buildings come from? The new doctrine of race censors all other issues. There is no issue but race, it says. But here is the truth. There is a combination of issues, and the combination is cataloged handily for us in the Ten Commandments. Adultery, and what it has done to our children, is as big a cause of Antifa as are racism, capitalism, corporatism, or globalism.

In his Law God tells us what is loving. Sin against his Law is hatred. Adultery is hatred. It hates wife. It hates husband. It hates children. It hates the civil estate. It hates our neighbors around us. Our children have seen and suffered the pervasive suffocating systemic hatred of matriphobia. They are wounded, hurt, suffering, alienated, aching, addicting, suiciding, and rioting. They are being commodified into tools of destruction.

One of the slogans of anti-systemic racism is, “Your silence is violence.” Well, how consistent are we with that principle? We don’t speak up against adultery. Is our silence violence there? Or do we edit God’s Law, signal our racial virtue, and pharisaically absolve ourselves of everything else?

[i] For example, the element “perpetuated by all of us white folks” is a category fallacy. It defines an endemic racism, not systemic racism. Those are two different categories. As an endemic claim that racism is endemic to all white people, the statement itself is racist.

[ii] Martin Luther, trans. John Nicholas Lenker, Luther’s Two Catechisms Explained by Himself in Six Writings (Minneapolis: The Luther Press, 1908)9, 197-198.

[iii] Luther, Two Catechisms Explained, 198.

[iv] Martin Luther, The Marriage Ring: Three Sermons on Marriage, trans. J. Sheatsley (San Diego: The Book Tree, 2003).

[v] Martin Luther, What Is Marriage, Really?, trans. Holger Sonntag (Minneapolis: Lutheran Press, 2013).

[vi] Gerhard E. Lenski, Marriage in the Lutheran Church: A Historical Investigation (Columbus, OH: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1936).

7 thoughts on “Systemic Adultery and Matriphobia: Our Guilty Silence

  1. Insightful and prophetic. If ever there came a time of collective repentance in the evangelical church (let alone the LCMS), this (systemic adultery) would be one area that would fall within a list of sins in crying out for God’s mercy. Like Daniel in Daniel 9:4-19 who prays for his people:

    “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenants and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from Thy commandments and ordinances…Open shame belongs to us, O Lord…because we have sinned against Thee…nor have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us…As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Thy truth.”

  2. Brilliant analysis, much better than anything I have read in a long time. A couple of extra points. In the ELCA the strongest argument for gay marriage was the actual status of heterosexual marriage with all the transgressions you have mentioned. When anything goes in the heterosexual world, opposing gay marriage is only homophobic.(I am against gay marriage BTW but I have been more regularly attacked about my stand on heterosexual sins. I am unloving!). Sadly these problems reach into the highest levels of church leadership in all Lutheran groups. I am a professional reader of obits. I remember one in which it was said that the woman the deceased pastor was married to was the “love of his life” never mentioning that his children’s mother wasn’t that woman and that their mother was still alive. We have stretched the idea of “Biblical divorce so far it has become a joke. Finally, if a pastor condemns either systemic racism or adultery in the average congregation, he better have his mobility papers in order. We live in dark times. Thanks for lighting a small candle.

  3. Precisely, Bruce, We have no principled basis to oppose the mono-sexual sin when we are systemically adulterous in heterosexual matters.

  4. I’ve never seen anyone excommunicated for divorce. In fact, I can recall our former pastor communing a recently-divorced couple in the same congregation at the same time. As an elder I once commented to him that it did not look good…that this made it look like impenitence. His response was that it’s none of my business. My best construction could only be that they were both absolved for their divorce.

    I recall another time that a member of our voters’ assembly pointed out at a meeting that about half of the voting members were divorced.

  5. It is not difficult to make the case that our society is woefully sinful and doomed without a Savior. Who could argue with that? But it seems the argument that white people are racists has a different purpose. Per the definition, systemic racism is ubiquitous in the white part of our society such that we are unaware of our racism, and we must recognize that our racism is “all-pervasive.” Then we are told that this all-pervasive racism that we are not even aware of is “enforced, expressed, implied, condoned, assumed, taught, encouraged, honored, and celebrated throughout culture” which seems inconsistent with us racists being unaware of its presence. That a human trait is itself limited to one race is deluding. In our all-pervasive racist white society that expresses, condones, teaches, encourages and honors racism does not have a single law that by its terms favors whites over blacks or any other race, and there are literally millions of laws. We have seen again and again police officers encounter black citizens with bad results. The vast majority of these situations occur in cities with police departments headed by black men or women and no one claims they are racists. The tensions that lead to the volatile situations are almost always law enforcement related. Police officers are hated in these communities whether they are black or white. In fact, though the post speaks only of white racism, it ignores the fact that these difficult encounters between police and law breakers occur by and between all races, and the range of poor outcomes is not defined by the races of the people involved. Pegging the root cause as racism is simplistic and patently false.

    If we limit the discussion as between black and white, there are obvious problems. There is too large a portion of the black community that live in poor, under educated, hopeless, crime ridden communities. Before we conclude the reason is because of known or unknown racism, consider the bigger picture. When you walk the streets of our cities, you see the most diverse population in the world. There are countless examples of successful blacks in every corner of our country who have risen to virtually every position of success and leadership in our great country, from teachers, pastors, engineers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, CEOs, police officers, police chiefs, councilmen,mayors, generals, Secretaries of State, attorney generals, judges, Supreme Court justices, governors, congressional representatives, senators, to President. What allowed them to succeed, while a too large portion of the community lags far behind? As to that portion of the community that lags behind, it seems education lags, there are not enough dads at home, over burdened mothers, out of control gang influence, rejection of authority, rampant drugs, under churched, … . To the extent those factors are present in any population regardless of race, that population will not succeed, and we in fact see that same pattern present in every racial or ethnic community, white included, with the same lack of success. If when this pattern is present In a black or brown community and intrinsic racism is said to be the cause, what then is the cause when it happens in a white community? Making the call based on skin color is simply wrong.

    The events of the last six weeks have shined a light on very difficult problems and good people are genuinely concerned and many have pondered the intrinsic racism argument. The intrinsic racism theory is one that I respectfully believe is calculated not to repair and restore, but to tear down our society. What we see happening in the streets of our cities is not calculated to help, improve or heal. For six weeks far too many of our political leaders, of our media, of good intentioned people have promoted, glorified, encouraged and praised the very behavior that is itself a root of many acute problems. Protestors, or I think more accurately, rioters, have confronted, disobeyed, abused, assaulted, cursed, slandered, and resisted police and other authorities. The encouragers of this behavior are not seeking to solve problems. To what end?

  6. I have been hearing – reading this stuff for many years in that if you are born white you are immediately a racist. There is ALWAYS this call from the religious to repent and for the sins that others have committed. Bullcrap. What do you morons do with people that think more than once a day and follow Jesus instead of people like you?

  7. The only problem that I have with this article is a similar one that you would have regarding Systemic Racism – that it leaves those who are victims in a state of essential victimhood. The stricter view of divorce and adultery holds that the victim of adultery cannot get married to anyone else either. The adulterer has fatally sabotaged his/her marriage, goes on to enjoy the fruits of the poisoned tree, while the victim and children are left to suffer since we no longer impose capital punishment upon adulterers (which would enable the victim to remarry without penalty).
    Even if you “allow” the victim the ability to marry again, the fact that they will be required to justify in the future their having done so, as I was AFTER I had completed all of my coursework and vicarage, and told that if I wouldn’t write the statement explaining how it was that I had become a divorced and remarried person, I could not become a pastor. I had to relive the pain of being rejected, disrespected, and having my hopes crushed because someone else decided that marriage with me was no longer in her interests. I had already written that document BEFORE I entered the seminary, but because something happened to that statement, I now had to do it again.
    It is true that I survived that, but I still occasionally get into conversations regarding this, and it still hurts. I am finally at the place where to say her name does not bring with it an immediate, almost physical feeling of pain. And yet, I wasn’t the one who ended the marriage, nor did I cooperate in any way other than finally signing the papers when they were handed to me, having testified that we weren’t divorcing because we were irreconcilable, but because she had gotten into another relationship and no longer wanted to have to honor ours.
    The fact is, divorces are traumatic, painful, and destructive, They are not the CAUSE of sin, however, but the FRUIT of it. We now live in a society that dishonors marriage and the marriage bed. What do you suggest for those who suffer the results of satan’s attacks? That they are “damaged goods?” That God has no further use for them? What?
    I know, this was not intention of your article, which addresses the charge of systemic racism and the results of accepting the notion that it is a deep corruption of American culture. I agree, in this care, the cure is as destructive as was the sickness, and I don’t see any solution offered by the world as not leading us down the same destructive path. I’m just pointing out that ideas do have consequences that are often unforeseen.

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