The Ashley Madison Data Dump: Is Your Spouse Looking For An Affair?

Have you heard the brouhaha regarding Tuesday night’s data dump of personal information collected by the website Ashley Madison? For those who don’t know (and I sorta wish I was one of them) Ashley Madison is a site that encourages married people to clandestinely carry on what it calls affairs but what the Bible calls adultery.

(Side note: It’s interesting how a label can change our interpretation of something. The word “affair” conjures up romantic dinners and exciting getaways but the word “adultery” evokes shame, guilt, and broken vows. What do you say that we as Christians use the biblical word “adultery” and not the culture’s “value free” word “affair.”)

If you have any doubt about Ashley Madison’s goal all you need to do is note the tag line: “Life is short. Have an affair.” By all accounts lots of people sign up (124 million visits per month) for the opportunity to be matched with another married person.

Back in July a group of hackers known as the Impact Team hacked into Ashley Madison’s servers capturing the personal information of millions of users. If the parent company, Avid Life Media, didn’t shut down the site, the hackers threatened to publish the information and in the process expose and humiliate millions of people. These hackers weren’t necessarily upset at the immorality of the adultery but the fact that, according to them, Ashley Madison failed to keep it’s promise of deleting the private information of those who stopped using the site and paid a $19 fee.

Well Ashley Madison didn’t close down, the Impact Team executed the data dump, and roughly 40 million people’s names, emails, addresses, and partial credit card numbers became available on the web. Suspicious spouses have been searching the site to see if anything looks familiar. It’s been pointed out that just because someone’s email appears it doesn’t mean that they are the ones who filled out the request since the company didn’t verify the emails as belonging to the user. Case in point: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s email surfaced but it appears that he wasn’t the one who registered it.

One can’t help but think of the biblical phrase “Your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). All of us hope to hide if not our worst sins at least our most embarrassing sins. Most of the time this doesn’t work in life. Usually some sort of “data dump” exposes us for what we are.

A pastor I knew right after I became a Christian used to say, “The people you can fool don’t matter. And the one person that does matter you can’t fool.” That’s stayed with me for the past 25 years because it’s a good, sobering reminder that God, the one to whom I will give an account, knows and sees all. Even if I can manage to hide my sin from people (and I doubt that I really can), does it really matter? No one has ever hidden a sin from God.

Like I mentioned earlier the tag line of Ashley Madison is “Life is short. Have an Affair.” This reflects the world view that since life is short, one should make the best of the here and now. But isn’t that exactly backwards? The Bible agrees that life is short but it draws the exact opposite conclusion. Given that life is short, does it make sense to live for that which will soon be gone? If life is short and eternity is long, then shouldn’t a person live in a way that they’ll be happy for eternity even if that is at odds with what will make them happy in the short run? It reminds me of Dave’s sermon in which he wisely said that it’s not YOLO (You Only Live Once) but YOLF (You Only Live Forever). Therefore make decisions in light of forever.

But let’s examine the idea that adultery makes you happy. If you were going to try to maximize happiness in this life, would it be smart to break your marriage vows and commit adultery? Ashley Madison’s not so subtle message is that adultery is fun. Really? Guilt, breaking apart families, hurting children is fun?

Reports are that upwards of 15,000 of the email addresses end with .gov or .mil meaning they belong to government or military personnel. At least in the military it’s possible that an adulterer could face a year of confinement and a dishonorable discharge.

But, of course, the most painful consequences of adultery are spiritual as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 warns that adulterers won’t go to heaven.

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