Eugene Cho

facebook & adultery?

Last week, a pastor in New Jersey, Rev. Cedric Miller, made somewhat global news by his edict to many couples in his congregation to delete their Facebook accounts as he witnessed evidence that FB was ruining marriages since it was a “portal to infidelity.”

The news – in itself – was fascinating and worth discussing but unfortunately, the story got a little more sensational (in a bad way) as news surfaced that the pastor engaged in some inappropriate relationships in his personal past.

In court testimony he gave in April 2003, Miller said his wife had an extramarital affair with the church assistant. Miller said he participated in many of the sexual encounters and said the assistant’s wife was sometimes present, too.

Miller said the dalliances — which occurred in the Millers’ home — sometimes took place during Thursday Bible study meetings and Sundays after church. But the minister said the encounters “came to a crashing halt” when several women in the church accused the assistant of having sex with them. [yahoo news]

What? Huh? I’m not even sure how to respond to this so I won’t…

But what did you think about his edict about deleting Facebook to his congregation?

Some thoughts:

What’s wrong with his suggestion?

When I first read the article, I thought it was coming from a pastoral concern and care for his congregation. It’s been documented that there’s a rise in affairs as a result of folks re-connecting with past flings via Facebook. If it causes you to sin, why not delete it and/or suggest it to others?

I kinda like it. Pastor demonstrates some firm love.

A deeper issue.

Deleting Facebook is an action that while it may provide temporary relief and remedy to temptation – does not address a deeper issue of the heart (and one’s marriage).

But it has to go deeper.

Maybe it should not be non-negotiable.

But threatening to remove leaders from their leadership positions is unreasonable. In essence, you’ve made this a non-negotiable issue for leadership.

Lost authority?

Not much as this blog isn’t intended to spew gossip and like all stories, there’s always context that we’re not privy to. But it does bring up an interesting question:

Does his past now diminish his authority and ability to speak to his congregation about affairs, Facebook, adultery, etc?

He certainly has lost credibility and sadly, witness to those outside his church community. The news, reports, and blogs have been ruthless since his past has been revealed. Sad in man ways.

But how about his credibility and authority to his church? I hope it’s been restored…

But regardless, such a bizarre story.

Here’s the article:

A pastor is to warn his entire congregation to delete their Facebook accounts because he claims the website ruins marriage.

The Rev. Cedric Miller said 20 couples from his 1,100-strong flock have experienced marital difficulties because of the social networking site.

Facebook enabled spouses to reconnect with former lovers, leading to rows and bitterness, he said.

Rev. Miller has issued 50 married church officials an ultimatum – delete your Facebook account or quit – but will ask the entire congregation to stop using it.

He had already asked married members of his flock to share their log-in details with their partners in a bid to foster greater trust.

Married Rev Miller said there are many understandable uses for Facebook – he has his own account to keep in touch with his six children, although he will be taking his own advice and closing it down.

Beyond that, it posed risks that were too much to bear, he claimed.

‘People use it as an opportunity to invite others to social gatherings, to share Scripture or talk about what went on at church.

‘Those are all positive, worthwhile things. But the downside is just too great.

Modern problem: The America Academy Of Matrimonial Lawyers says 81 per cent of its members have dealt with cases involving people with Facebook account

‘I’ve been in extended counseling with couples with marital problems because of Facebook for the last year and a half.

‘What happens is someone from yesterday surfaces, it leads to conversations and there have been physical meet-ups. The temptation is just too great.’

Rev Miler, who runs the Living Word Christian Fellowship Church in Neptune, New Jersey said his advice would got to the ‘entire church’.

‘They’ll hear what I’m asking of my church leadership. I won’t mandate it for the entire congregation, but I hope people will follow my advice.”

So far the response has been positive and previous sermons against Facebook have resulted in parishioners deleting their accounts immediately.

Pat Dawson, a minister at the church, who is unmarried, said: ‘I know he feels very strongly about this.

‘It can be a useful tool, but it also can cause great problems in a relationship. If your spouse won’t give you his or her password, you’ve got a problem.’

According to the America Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81% of its members have dealt with evidence taken from social networking sites in divorce cases in the last five years.

British do-it-yourself divorce Divorce-Online has in the past claimed that the word ‘Facebook’ came up in one in five petitions it handled.

Despite the support from his congregation, some observers dismissed Rev Miller’s attack on Facebook as misguided.

CNN commentator Roland Martin said: ‘If somebody is committing infidelity there is something else going on in their marriage that has nothing to do with social media.

‘If you ban Facebook, what about Twitter…what about all these other social media outlets?

‘The real issue is what’s happening inside these marriages. I think we’re also crossing a line by telling somebody what you can do in your personal life as a staffer.

‘How are you saying you’re going to link having a personal account on Facebook to your job? That makes no sense to me’. [article]

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22 Responses

  1. gar says:

    Bizarre. So if connecting with people and socializing is a sin, then I guess the pastor will be recommending to his congregation they also ban phones (mobile and otherwise), e-mail (nevermind, the whole internet), letter writing (once you send it, you can’t take it back!)… does the pastor really think that sin is eliminated by isolating oneself? I guess if you’re good at being a pious hermit… O_o

    On a serious note, FB and social media admittedly take up more time than they should in our lives, but for myself, with family and friends spread across the world outside of Seattle, it gives me a way to stay in touch, even if it’s just a quick status comment or sending them a link to a silly YouTube music video.

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  4. criss says:

    Well I have two thoughts:

    1. Requiring the staff to delete their Facebook account is not an adequate response in and of itself, but it might be a good step. I agree that he is setting up a de-facto criterion for leadership, but I think that he uses it for a criterion in a specific context for a specific people (he claims that in the past month his church has counseled 50 people about infidelity- most of which developed through Facebook). If his posture is “as a staff, we need to work through this church crisis, let’s delete our accounts as an example to the congregation while we address and work through this” then I think it’s great. If it’s just a bully pulpit demand then I would be against it.

    2.His past matters. That is his testimony. I’m not saying it disqualifies him from speaking on the issue, but it matters. How we get from there to here always matters. His past could be wonderful testimony on the power of the Cross to redeem and restore, or it could be a shameful event he is trying to cover up and ignore. I think people that are closer to the man and church are the only ones that can judge that.

    The AP article really only brings up this “hot potato” issue and drops it in our lap. Without giving some space for the people in the church to speak we don’t really know much about the context of all this. We become armchair judges without the facts.

  5. Chris Loach says:

    facebook doesn’t cause adultery…people do.

  6. Daniel Azuma says:

    Just a couple notes.

    “Deleting Facebook is an action that while it may provide temporary relief and remedy to temptation – does not address a deeper issue of the heart (and one’s marriage).”

    True, but in many cases, it’s probably a necessary first step. If FB is the trigger, remove the trigger, in the same way you never give a drink to an alcoholic.

    The blanket non-negotiable edict (even if just to the leadership), however, does seem unreasonable. If it were part of a more comprehensive package of austerity and simplicity in living that the church stands for, then I would understand it. But if he’s just singling out Facebook, then this is either just a panic reaction that wasn’t thought through very well, or its real goal is the shock value (and, possibly, the newsworthiness value.)

  7. Daniel Azuma says:

    Incidentally, Pastor E, speaking of Facebook, did you see this article from the New Yorker last month?

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell

    Written by Malcom Gladwell (author of, among other things, The Tipping Point), arguing that social media is ineffective at fostering social change. Very insightful study into the nature of online movements and the requirements for truly world-changing movements.

    Also, some summary, commentary, and response from the Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/oct/03/malcolm-gladwell-twitter-doesnt-work

  8. Robin Vestal says:

    It’s not facebook, twitter, email etc. it’s what’s in your heart.

  9. elderj says:

    Maybe I read it wrong but it looks like it was his wife who had the affair. Either way, that doesn’t diminish his authority to speak; it potentially increases it. If he (or she) fell into sin because of something like this, he would have some credibility on the issue.

    Also, his words seem much more nuanced about how FB can be a danger. He doesn’t appear from his words to be reacting simply in a knee jerk fashion.

    While it is true that “it is what is in your heart that matters,” that sort of dualistic gnostic reasoning has been used to excuse and justify all kinds of things. The Bible doesn’t teach that; rather it enjoins us that we ought to obey God’s commandsn and walk as he walked for real and not just in some imagined “spiritual” place called our heart. I hear echoes of Jesus’ words, “if FB causes you to sin, delete it..”

  10. Steven Kim says:

    Sometimes I want to delete the world.

  11. PP says:

    This recent article from the NY Times seems fairly relevant to the discussion, as it speaks to how technology seems to be having a direct effect on the habits and behavior of teenagers:

    “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction”: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/technology/21brain.html?src=me&ref=homepage

    In effect, the article indicates that technology provides an easier avenue to indulge a temptation that was more difficult to indulge in the past (in the case of the high school students in the article, for example, it’s to avoid studying). Seems that a similar observation would lead a person to see a benefit in cutting out Facebook.

    Relevant quotes:

    “Thin and quiet with a shy smile, Vishal passed the admissions test for a prestigious public elementary and middle school. Until sixth grade, he focused on homework, regularly going to the house of a good friend to study with him.

    But Vishal and his family say two things changed around the seventh grade: his mother went back to work, and he got a computer. He became increasingly engrossed in games and surfing the Internet, finding an easy outlet for what he describes as an inclination to procrastinate.

    “I realized there were choices,” Vishal recalls. “Homework wasn’t the only option.”

    ““The technology amplifies whoever you are,” Mr. Reilly says.”

    • PP says:

      Of course, this doesn’t speak to the rest of the questions Eugene poses, in regards to the wisdom to the pastor’s one-size-fits-all edict. But if temptation with adultery is a common struggle in his congregation and leadership, then it may indicate there’s some wisdom in the no-Facebook idea (again, we don’t know if it is or not, but we have evidence that the adultery has affected the pastor himself and we have the 20 couples statistic).

      • Steven Kim says:

        Interestingly enough, Facebook was not in existence (or at least not as widespread) back when the pastor, his wife and secretary were involved in adultery. Facebook is an easy target. Let’s get rid of all steak knives as they are readily available for a would be killer.

        • PP says:

          If you had a concrete statistic that 3.6% of the people in your church killed someone else specifically with a steak knife (20 couples affected here out of 1100 people in the church), would you at least think about limiting access to the steak knives?

          • Steven Kiim says:

            My point is if we get rid of steak knives then the next device available for carrying out the act would be sought and used, i.e., screwdrivers, forks, etc.

            If facebook is the target de jour, then basically all forms of communication device are suspect with cell phones being the primary culprit.

            Rather, the focus should be on curbing the sinful nature. Either that or we should bring back the chastity belt :)

  12. eliseanne says:

    i agree that affairs, etc are caused by things that are deeper rooted than facebook use…and i agree that things like facebook can be a trigger/temptation for working out those deeper things. So in that respect, if it is too difficult to be appropriate on it, then set up some boundaries or get off of it.

    however, i think it is also important to call out this black/whit all-or-nothing thinking that says simply because something could be a struggle, it is all bad.

    I think it is much more beneficial to work on why it is a struggle, work on those root issues/behaviors, instead of working on banning every thing that may be a struggle.

  13. Hm.... says:

    1) The man chose to take action to protect his sheep, and the church. We know the statistics on the larger scale. AND we know there are 20 cases within his own congregation! If you are a leader and you see a problem, I would think taking some kind of action would make sense. Needless to say, this is not one incidence, but 20 incidences, at the very least that has been revealed!

    2) Credibility: Perhaps it is the opposite of what people are saying. Because, if anyone, Pastor Miller knows the danger of infidelity, and how temptations and sin arise and grow beginning with small decisions and choices. If he were a Pastor who had destroyed his life with drugs in his past, now sees his congregation struggling with say alcoholism, and let’s say this is even a potential problem among the top leaders, and so he puts a non-negotiable about alcohol… would he be any less credible? I would think he is all the more credible.

    But we fail to see the man is pleading giving warning, for the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. From scripture, we know also that we ought to flee from sin and temptations, and we also know we are foolish to walk down a path we already know can be dangerous. And about why is this placed upon all the top leaders? They are leaders for a reason, and even their title as leaders implies people are following them. This pastor knows the crippling effect of a leader who fails his sheep and his church, for he had done so before. And, I would think, even for leaders who do not struggle with such issues that may arise from FB, there is too a calling for us to lay down our rights, for the good of others, lest they stumble and fall from our exercising of our freedom?

  14. [...] Services is providing pictures/images for Advent. Check it out. Speaking of Covenant, our friend Eugene Cho stirs it up.Luke Bretherton blogs, and this post shows why we need to bookmark him. Bill Donahue on growing [...]

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