Deep Ecumenism vs. Biblical Terror Texts

Essay by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox on 28 June 2018 2 Comments

Recently I underwent, along with about 225 other people, a very moving and powerful encounter in Deep Ecumenism or Interfaith in a synagogue in Ashland, Oregon.  We gathered Friday night with an opening Native American chant written by Chief Arvod Looking Horse and a simple Shabbath ceremony including the lighting of candles followed by my talk on Deep Ecumenism and Deep Ecology.

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As a progressive Christian, how do you deal with infidelity when your partner cheats on you but later confesses it?


Dear Yadidya,

As you know, infidelity is not an issue or behavior restricted to progressives. Liberals cheat, conservatives cheat, Baptists cheat, Mormons cheat. Both men and women cheat. It’s a human behavior and it’s all too common.

Sex at Dawn authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá even go so far as to say that it’s normal. In their book, they investigate whether the idea of monogamy really does come “natural” to our species.

“Marriage isn't about sex,” they say. “It's about things that are much deeper and more lasting than sex, especially if you have children. And the American insistence on mixing love and sex and expecting passion to last forever is leading to great suffering that we think is tragic and unnecessary.”

Yadidya, I don’t know anything about your marital situation or your religious beliefs. But, if it’s important (or possible) to salvage the relationship, you’ll need to find ways to cope with the inevitable denial, anger and self-doubt that can potentially eat away at your soul and your ability to turn toward each other and return to a place of love. This may mean regularly talking to your partner about what you’re feeling. It may mean seeking a therapist for yourself or a counselor for the both of you.

If you believe that infidelity is a transgression that goes beyond human law (it is illegal in some states), then there may be deeper work for you to do or you may (in any case) choose to separate or divorce.

The fact that your partner (I’m assuming you are asking for yourself, and not a friend) has confessed to their infidelity means that they are not willing to live in denial and want to live in truth with you. This does not mean the act is forgotten. It means you have the opportunity to renew your spiritual covenant and reset some mutual boundaries.

As a Christian (progressive or not), forgiveness -- the power and ability to release bitterness and anger -- is a divine attribute. The word “forgive” is mentioned in the Bible 95 times, including “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13) and in the way Jesus himself instructed us to pray (“Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors”).

What I can tell you is that forgiveness has real and lasting power.

With all of the lenses, maps and metaphors at our disposal, sometimes we neglect to show up in the very real territory of relationship. Sometimes we cling too tightly to scripture or law or expectations. And the capacity for empathy, compassion, insight and understanding might be the real advantage that you wield as a Progressive Christian.

No matter what you decide to do, I only ask that you begin by aiming that forgiveness straight into your own heart and know that you are loved.

~ Joran Slane Oppelt




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