The Scarlet Letters

I remember the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and the gradual acceptance of living together before marriage and even adultery. Adultery was demoted from a crime and sin to a private matter that was no one's business but the persons involved. Advice columnists recommended keeping affairs secret, to avoid disruption in the marriage. Polls emphasized the growing number of Americans who admitted adultery. Swingers promoted partner sharing as a healthy way to keep a marriage vitalized. Gone were the days, it seems, when adulterers were branded with the Scarlet A and publicly humiliated for their misdeeds.

Scott Peterson seems to have done what Clinton failed to do -- he has re-instilled in many Americans the desire to label adultery for what it is: a sin against God, the spouse, the families, and society. Angry Americans by the thousands, perhaps millions, vilify Scott for his adultery. They would gladly take him to the courtyard and stone him.

While I believe it is wrong to make the jump from adultery to murder, as so many have done, I am glad to see that adultery is again viewed as the destroyer that it is. It is not a victimless act; it cannot be committed without dire consequences. Because of his adultery, Scott lost the trust of his in-laws, his friends, and his community. It might even cost him his life. What a price to pay for a few fleeting moments of pleasure.

But there is another Scarlet letter, another destroyer at work in this case -- bearing false witness. Bearing false witness is the worst kind of lie. Bearing false witness destroys trust and confidence. Deuteronomy 19:18-19 says: "behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother." That's a very stiff penalty.

Who is bearing false witness? Those who report false information, those who so eagerly publish that information without verifying it, and those who so eagerly believe. We have an epidemic of bearing false witness in our culture. Blatant lies printed without any accountability. Once told, then believed, these lies threaten the very structure of our judicial system. They nullify the process. They let the guilty go free and they convict the innocent. Our entire judicial system is in jeopardy when such blatant lies can be published and re-published without consequences.

Adultery and bearing false witness are both Scarlet letters and equally destructive. I am very glad so many Americans condemn Scott's adultery. I just wish that bearing false witness was recognized and condemned with equal vigor.