For those of you haven't heard of Mark Sanford, he's the South Carolina governor who disappeared without a trace for a week and when he resurfaced, it was discovered he had been to Argentina to visit his mistress. Sanford is married--has been for twenty years. The press confronted him on his return from Argentina in the Atlanta airport. He revealed where he had been and why: Belen Chapur. Someone hacked her email account (they were greedy)and now we have a lot of sizzling information about their once secret relationship. Sanford met Chapur in 2001. They began corresponding through email.
What steers my attention to this newest tryst is their friendship of seven years (at that point) "developed into something more than that" in 2008 while Sanford visited Brazil. He told the press, "I will be able to die knowing that I have met my soul mate" meaning Chapur of course, and not his wife of twenty years.
1. Opposite sex friendships take another hit in pop culture.
Some are quick to point out that the danger is opposite sex friendship and how it quickly can turn into extramarital affairs. Ruth Hudson for example, "Most people underestimate the danger of close friendships with members of the opposite sex, because they start out innocently, and in the early stages, no sex involved." She writes, "If cultivated and nurtured over a period of weeks, months, and years, an innocent friendship between close friends of the opposite sex can escalate into an extramarital affair...Today's opposite sex friendship can quickly become tomorrow's extramarital affair." She continues, "Very often, the person involved in this type of friendship does not realize how much of a threat it can be to his or her marriage or relationship."
Now I am sure there are well intentioned pastors will use this in their conversations and sermons on the dangers of opposite sex friendships--especially in South Carolina where this friendship turned into a sexual affair must be consuming the media's attention. Whatever one's view is on cross-sex friendship, this is a clear example of an innocent friendship turning into an adulterous relationship.
2. Romantic love/lust is not the be all end all.
Others are saying, hey, if he has truly met is soul mate, by all means, Sanford should get divorced and marry his soul mate. This is the advice of Huffington Posty columnist, Bonnie Fuller. She asserts, "People who deny love and stay in loveless marriages become bitter and sad...Repressing your feelings and forcing yourself to attempt to patch things up with Jenny will only end in disaster."
The sad thing of course, is that Sanford after twenty years, has not formed and culitvated a soul mate friendship with his wife, Jenny. Our Western culture has so romaticized and sexualized the concept of "soul mate" it is devoid of character, loyalty, reverence, honor, and renewal of desire for the good and beautiful. Instead, our culture submits to intense desire and delight as current boundary markers between what is "authentic" love and what is loveless. The glory of "authentic" romantic love for some is deep sexual chemistry and connection between two people--not a maturing, loyal, between a husband and wife.
This kind of thinking has no imagination for ebbs and flows of mature, loyal love between flawed human beings--the stuff of deep loyal friendships. It has no imagination for deep, passionate reconcilation and forgiveness between husband and wife. It has no imagination for God to do a new work in a new season of marriage where trust has been broken and destroyed.
More thoughts to come....