Thoughts on Ashley Madison Scandal

Here’s some random thoughts on the Ashley Madison Scandal, marriage, shaming, and its impact on Christian pastors and bloggers.

Reformation Sunday came early this year. An expected 400 Christian pastors resigned today in the wake of the Ashley Madison marriage cheating website being hacked and the names of subscribers, including the particularities and peculiarities of their sexual fantasies with a stranger which were, supposedly, held in confidence. Millions of people feel cheated:-) by Ashley Madison and lawsuits are mounting.

Rev Jeff Breakfast, who willingly confesses to everything (God bless his heart!!), who started the ball rolling with My Ashley Madison Apology :

Yes, I joined Ashley Madison. I can’t blame anyone but myself. Of course, I was tired from ministering to all of you ungrateful jackwagons. AND my wife wasn’t totally fulfilling all my needs (twerking, saran wrapping, toe stuff, looking like a teenage hitchhiker). AND I was actually doing research at the time on why so many men fail to honor their marriage vows, which is what brought me to the site. AND I hadn’t clicked send on the Ashley Madison sign-up page, but my dog Shasta came bounding over and must have double-clicked the mouse.

To be fair, I never had an affair. But I did communicate with a lady named @FakeProfile1234 who loves moonlit walks on the beach, filling out a bikini, baking cookies, Star Wars, exegetical hermeneutics, and pleasing her man till the break-a break-a dawn.


I was at at a cafe yesterday in a tiny post-communist town in Slovakia, having a beer and writing some thoughts about the Ashley Madison scandal. And this young lady comes over to my table and asks to sit down.

I’m like, yeah, sure. I figure she’s a prostitute, since I am not a very attractive man and women don’t normally come on to me. But she wasn’t doing any harm. And of course I was slightly amused by the irony of me writing about marital faithfulness as this friendly lady smiles charmingly and tries chatting with me in Slovak, which I don’t understand, and lights her cigarette.

So I pretend I am writing something really important and cannot be disturbed.

Jesus hung out with prostitutes. One of them massaged his feet with perfumed oil. But I really don’t think any of them expected to go home with him. Respect. Acceptance. Honesty. Clarity. Boundaries. Understanding.

“Life is short. Have an affair.” says the Ashley Madison cheaters website and despite everybody knowing that nothing is secret on the internet, millions of married men put forward their names and bank details. Vatican officials. UN delegates. And Christian professionals, some of whom were making their living as marriage icons and husband heroes. We now know them by name.

A long time ago, a woman caught in adultery was brought before the religious authorities and they asked Jesus if they should stone her. Jesus said “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone” and proceeded to write on the ground. Someone suggested that he was writing the names of the woman’s accusers on the ground. Or perhaps their girlfriends. We don’t really know but one by one they dropped their stones and walked away.

What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. Jesus. Luke 12:3

Sam Rader is one of the names that surfaced online. Sam wanted the videos of his spirit-filled godly marriage with Nia to go viral. He got what he wanted. Millions of viewers and some good money. But instant fame comes with its own peril, as we learned by watching the meltdown of video blogger Jason Russell of Kony fame.

Sam Rader, as everyone now knows, had a subscription to 2013 to Ashley Madison.

Its been 3 days now with no new videos. If Sam ever wanted to give the world a glimpse into the ups and downs of married life then now is the perfect opportunity. To be honest, I don’t like watching the videos of wide-eyed, gloating whippersnappers who have not yet been around the block. [Which is also why, btw, I avoid most of those New Calvinist churches]. I would rather see how these video bloggers react to crisis or respond to a pear-shaped situation, or in this case, getting busted with a subscription to the cheaters website Ashley Madison when you promote yourself as the ideal husband. How do you come back after that?

Sam gave up his job to be a full-time Christian video blogger. He promised a video every day at 5pm CST. Three days of crickets and there doesn’t seem to be a resurrection of his video series. What a shame. Here’s a chance for Sam to show the world how to own up, man up, make up and blog up.

Whatever happened to public shaming?

In olden days, village houses were tiny and windowless. No private room for the Big Talk. Getting chided by the wife was a shared experience. The wife yells and screams and chases the husband down the street with a rolling pin. The men of the village watch on, chuckle, and are relieved its not them. This humiliating scenario, shared perhaps by all earth’s creatures, serves as a visual warning not to screw up.

My wife once suggested I watch Fatal Attraction, not because she wanted me to see the vigorous sex scene but because she wanted to remind me of the consequences of an affair and the possibility that, should I chose to be unfaithful, my adulterating partner might turn out to be a crazy rabbit-killing psycho-vixen from hell who will screw up all our lives and not just my own.

28 years of marriage and no rabbits on the doorstep. Thanks to God!

We need these visual, memorable reminders. The expectation of shaming can be a healthy tool to stop us doing really dumb things. These days we transfer the process to courts and councils behind closed doors, preferring guilt’s payment rather than shame’s process. We retired the dunce cap. We limit confession to the privacy of a counsellors office. We have lost something.

Reminds me of Zipporah berating of Moses for not manning up enough to perform his spiritual Hebrew duties of circimcising their son. She made it public. She performed the ceremony without him and when he turns up she throws the foreskin at him, publicing shaming him for all to see and possibly inventing the game of frisbee at the same time.

Onion rings, anyone?

Sam Rader could show us what it looks like to be berated by your wife. Ohhh the anger. The yelling. The swearing. The scene where she scoops out a large chunk from the toilet bowl and shows Sam what he’s full of. Sam drops his defences, closes his trap, looks down and accepts whats coming to him. People would watch that. And the other videos over the next week where Sam sleeps on the couch, asks his boss for his old job back, when Sam talks to his mother-in-law on the phone.

That would be an interesting video, the mother-in-law conversation. “Switch on the camera, honey, your mothers on the phone.”

Would he lie? Ashley Madison? WHAT??? No . .. the ladies in your knitting group are misinformed. Ashley Madison is a baked goods delivery website. You never heard of their hot buns? No . . . really . . . Ashley Madison Bakeries . . Life is shortbread. Have an eclair!.

Or would he humble himself with the ashes and sackcloth of his own failed humanity and ask forgiveness and advice.

It would be a great comeback series and hopefully, with a healthy sprinkling of time, Sam emerges a changed man, adds some reality to his reality YouTube channel and talks about making a marriage work without a smirk on his face. Now that, THAT, is a video channel I could subscribe to.

The prostitute is still at my table. She asks me for a pivo (beer) and normally, with strangers seeking only conversation, I would be polite and buy one. But in this case, I really, really didn’t want to give any ground or the illusion of beer+. That verse appears in my mind again – “Make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lusts and desires”.That means, to me, like, don’t orchestrate an Plan B scenario for your marriage and don’t pack those just-in-case condoms in your wallet and don’t create a come-and-get me profile on a cheaters website. It means you and your partner actually fulfil those vows you made publicly.

Which reminds me of a husband who once told his wife that, should he ever die early, she should marry again and the new husband could have all his sports gear and clothes and everything he owned.
She replied that she had never even thought of that possibility and was highly offended that he would even suggest it. “Besides”, she told him, “he wears a different shoe size than you.” Heh Heh. OK I should have left that out . . .

Instead of buying her a drink I offer her a sip of my beer, which she took grudgingly, beginning to realise that I wasn’t leaving this cafe with her. I thought about how to encourage her to move on but not be too rude in the process. Maybe if I showed her a picture of my wife and five kids she might understand that I was not going to be a customer. Or maybe many of her customers have families and she wouldn’t understand what I was saying. I went back to writing this post and she excused herself and left.

400 resignations. 400 substitute preachers in church and 400 elder speeches inside a very illuminating announcement segment. I hope humility and honesty will rule over damage control.

I don’t think many those 400 Christian pastors had a full-on clothes-off affair, especially since the vast majority of the female profiles on Ashley Madison were fake and offered only a tantalising fantasy of a fling with a fem-bot rather than an actual encounter with a real person. Not sure whether those pastors knew that or not. Or if they cared. But its true that the mass resignation of Ashley Madison subscribers from their churches today is an embarrassment to the wider religious community, and much has been written on it this week.

And its also a sign that the New Reformation is in full swing and a reminder that the ethical standard required of religious professionals is very high. Still.

As I have said, repeatedly, since 2001, the Reformation will be blogged.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.

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