The world is reeling from the hack and subsequent data release of the notorious affair supporting dating site Ashley Madison. Their sickening advertising slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair” only begins to show how bad this crisis is.
Let me be clear, I don’t think the crisis lies in the light shining on this evil place. The crisis is the fact that for years this kind of place operated collecting the email addresses and the eyes and of millions of potential affair seeking individuals. This crisis should be a wake-up call in our marriages and in our churches.
The email addresses, names and credit card details from more than 28 million accounts was stolen from this site who markets to married men desiring an affair. A few days ago that information was released on the internet complete with databases where someone can see if they, or someone they knew had an account. According to other news stories, over 85% of the email addresses belong to men.
Before anyone jumps to conclusions, there are reports that Ashley Madison did not verify email addresses unless it was for a paid subscription. So there is no telling if some of these accounts were erroneous. That being said, the amount of money in paid accounts that has been reported is simply astounding. Reporters created a graph shows each U.S. state organized by how many dollars they spent on Ashley Madison per capita. Estimates are between $1 and $5 per capita, not per subscriber, per total population! That is insane amounts of money showing just how serious this crisis really is.
Marriage in Crisis
For some of you the Ashley Madison reveal has hit home and become a reality. I am sure you are feeling crushed, and wondering what to do now. Here are things you need to do.
- Remember even if the worst has happened, affairs do NOT have to be the death of marriages. You will need help, but your marriage can survive.
- Being on the list doesn’t mean they have had an affair, although there are serious issues to address either way.
- Being on the list means you need to have some conversations, maybe some that you have been avoiding for some time.
As large as the company running this website was, it is estimated that the pornography industry makes more than 8 billion dollars in the U.S. annually. Just to give you an idea of the scope of that number, 8 billion dollars is roughly equivalent to the bottled water industry. (source) My concern with anyone on this list, is that they are engaging in other things online that have led them to an awareness that Ashley Madison exists, and drawn them into the trap of lust and pornography.
The hope is that this crisis will bring these issues of darkness into the light of truth. This will hopefully begin a process of repentance and healing that these marriages desperately need. The damage wasn’t done a few days ago when information was released, or when it was discovered. The damage in the marriage happened much earlier, bringing it to the light needs to be an opportunity for healing.
This leads me to my next issue.
Wake Up Call to The Church
It would be simply naive to believe that this crisis doesn’t impact Christians, church members and pastors! If the estimate that 5% of Americans had an account are accurate, that means that around 175 couples from my church are going to be going through a rough time soon. How many couples in your church are going to be in crisis? What are you prepared to do about it? Where are these couples going to go to get the healing they so desperately need?
The church needs to get serious about being an active part of healing marriages and not just speaking out about how marriages are crumbling. I wrote my post, “The Marriage Pastor” 4 years ago, sharing my observations that many of the largest churches in the US have marriage ministries consisting only of premarital coaching and Divorce Care programs. Unfortunately, over the past 4 years not much has changed to fill that glaring ministry gap!
I’m still waiting to see the day when the church wakes up to realize the role of “Marriage Pastor” is just as important as Youth Pastor. Woodland Hills Family Church’s TwoIgnite ministry, Orange’s Married People program, and (our personal favorite) Watermark’s re|engage are three great examples of what churches who realize the importance of marriage can do. I pray that this crisis helps some other churches wake up to the reality!
Who else but God’s people, will be the ones to stand up and refute the lie, “Life is short. Have an affair”. We need to be the ones shouting, “Life is too short to have an affair”, and “Life is too short not to grow your marriage!”
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How is your church responding to this crisis?
Have you been impacted? How are you working on allowing this light to lead toward healing?