There is an old joke out there that goes something like this: Moses comes down from the mountain holding two tablets and says to the Israelites, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I got the list down to ten. The bad news is that adultery stays.”
This encapsulates the difficult yet key importance of the sixth commandment – thou shalt not commit adultery. The bitter irony of the joke is that we know for human kind it can be a difficult commandment and marriage vow to keep. It’s stark and simple. There are no exceptions.
The point of the prohibition on adultery is that it is intended to keep families together, and for children to be raised by both their mother and father. It is the family that is the foundation stone of all civilised society. Mothers and fathers are the best protectors and providers for their children and children do not like interlopers, even if you – the adult who should know better – are really just madly in love with this person who is not your spouse.
The sense of the prohibition on adultery is pretty obvious to children. When trying to explain this to my daughter I simply say, would you like me to ship Papa out and ship a new person in, say, Bob? She laughs hysterically at the very thought of it. Sadly, the fallout that can be caused from adultery is not so funny for many children.
This probably explains the good news that on the issue of adultery, at least, ‘young people’ are far more conservative than their elders. “A survey has revealed that 66 per cent of 18-to-34 year olds believe that it is ‘never acceptable’ to cheat on your spouse, compared to just 46 per cent of 55-to-64 year olds.”
This is not that surprising – the standard set by the morally bankrupt generation of baby boomers is pretty low. Perhaps the Romans were worse, just about. I expect many of those 18-34 year olds have had first-hand experience that of the wreckage and emotional turmoil that is inflicted on children as result of adultery committed by their parents. Adults, who should have known better.
However, in terms of the State supporting marriage I have come to the conclusion that the fight is lost. There is repeated pressure to abolish no fault divorce (obviously some people think Moses did indeed get adultery off the list) and to extend marriage-like rights to cohabitation.
Now if you ask me, if there is no legal distinction between those who make a public commitment and those who don’t (as well as the ability to end unilaterally the public commitment against a spouse who has done nothing wrong) obviously as far as the State is concerned there is simply no point to marriage.
Therefore we should focus on the culture. This is where marriages are made and strengthened. Surveys confirm it is still a hope of many that they will get married, and this latest survey suggests the next generation have high regard for it. It is for families, communities, religious groups and schools to inculcate in the next generation the importance and sanctity of marriage. It is far too important to be left to the State.
Laura Perrins is Co-Editor of The Conservative Woman, where this article was first published. Republished with permission.