Adultery: Finished Draft from Preach vs. Practice by Don R Barbera

Adultery is a Sin?

"Marriage is threatened more by adultery, and we don't have a constitutional ban on that. Alcohol is a threat to the stability of the family, and we don't have a constitutional ban on that." the Rev. Dr. William J. Shaw "

Effect of Infidelity on Marriage

More that 60% of marriages break up because of adultery.[i] “According to therapists who treat couples, infidelity is the second most difficult relationship problem, surpassed only by domestic violence.”[ii] The percentage of marriages that last after an affair has been admitted to or discovered is only 31%. [iii] Affairs affect one of every 2.7 couples, according to counselor Janis Abrahms Spring, author of After the Affair.[iv]

Public Sentiment

In the last decade, adultery’s approval rating never rose above 9 percent.[v] A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2006 found that Americans considered adultery worse than abortion, smoking marijuana or cheating on taxes.[vi] Going back to a 1992 survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago revealed that more than 90% of the men and women surveyed felt extramarital sex was wrong. [vii] Judging from those statistics it is clear that an overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove adultery.

Dazed and Confused

Despite the overwhelming disapproval of adultery, it seems large portions cannot agree on a clear definition of the act. As a starting point, only one out of every seven adults (15%) strongly agreed with the statement “when a couple gets divorced without one of them having committed adultery, they are committing a sin.” However, born-again Christian adults were twice as likely as non-born-against (24% vs. 10%) to strongly affirm this statement. On the other hand, a majority of born-agains (52%) disagreed that divorce without adultery is sin and three-quarters of all non-born-again adults (74%) disagreed with the statement. Overall, a majority of both Protestants (58%) and Catholics (69%) disagreed that divorce without adultery involved the commission of sin,[viii] a major disagreement with biblical teaching.

A majority of Christians should be familiar with the following biblical warning. Matthew 5:27-29 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

Yet, 74% of men say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught with 68% of women saying the same.[ix],[x] Yet, one in four men and one in 10 women think cheating is justified if a partner has no interest in sex. Even more alarming, 10 percent of men say extra-marital sex is "not a moral issue," compared with just 5% of women.[xi] Obviously the gap between Christian belief and behavior leans far from biblical teachings and in many cases does not even consider it.

Belief and Behavior

Despite the clear condemnation of adultery, belief and behavior often reveal that words tend to fade when compared to actions. For instance, the 1992 National Opinion Research Center survey showing that more than 90% of the men and women surveyed felt extramarital sex was wrong is not the entire story. Out of that same group 25% of the men and 17% of the women had been unfaithful. [xii] Although conservative, The NORC surveys tend to be highly reliable. The rate of cheating remains relatively consistent, according to research expert Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Smith conducted the highly respected study “American Sexual Behavior,” a poll of 10,000 people over two decades. The study found that 22% of married men and 15% of married women have cheated at least once.[xiii]

When using other sources the numbers are similar. More than a decade ago, a 1998 report in USA Today showed about 24% of men and 14% of women has had sex outside their marriages.[xiv] A 1997 Associated Press survey showed that 22% of married men and 14% of married women strayed at least once during their marriage or about one in five adults, or 22 percent, have cheated on their current partner.[xv] Even with a 90% disapproval rating, adultery happens at nearly a 20% average. Clearly condemnation is one thing, behavior another.

Worse Than Imagined?

These conservative figures are just the tip of the iceberg depending on the study used. U.S. sexual behavior studies over the past 50 years estimate male infidelity anywhere from 25% to 75%.[xvi] A national study by the University of California, San Francisco estimated that 53% of all people will have one or more affairs during their lifetime. Cheating Spouse statistics confirm that 50 and 70% of married men (between 38 and 53 million men) have cheated or will cheat on their wives.[xvii] Conservative estimates are that 60% of men and 40% of women will have an extramarital affair.[xviii] Another study reveals that 45-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their relationship.[xix]

Independent sources like author and therapist, Peggy Vaugn, says about 60% of men and 40% of women will have an affair at some point in some marriage. Michele Weiner-Davis, of The Divorce Busting Center, echoes the same sentiment saying that “60% of men and 40% of women” cheat on their partner. Bonnie Eaker Weil, psychologist and writer of several books about adultery agrees expressing that more than 50% of all married women, at some point, cheat on their mates. "Most experts do consider the 'educated guess' that at the present time some 50 to 65% of husbands and 45 to 55% of wives become extramaritally involved by the age of 40 to be a relatively sound and reasonable one.”[xx] Even the percentage of marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity, either physical or emotional is estimated at 41% far cry from the NORC surveys. Dr. Bob Lanier of Internet source speculates that up to 37% of men and 22% of women admit to having affairs. [xxi] Using the most conservative estimates and surveys, the number of American cheating on their spouses is far for than any would expect in a “Christian” nation where more than 7 out of ten Americans claim Christianity.

Church is No Antidote

Common sense is no good measure when it comes to adultery or infidelity as various studies of church ministries reveal that being in the church is no guarantor of proper behavior. As far back a 1989 a study of pastors sponsored by Christianity Today found that 23% of 300 pastors admitted some form of sexually inappropriate behavior with someone other than their wives while in the ministry.”[xxii] The subject barely crosses the lips of the clergy who now seem to turn a blind eye to adult behavior of this type and maybe with good reason. A 1993 survey of Southern Baptist pastors by the Journal of Pastoral Care said that 14% of the pastors surveyed admitted to engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior. More startling, 50% said that they had counseled at least one woman who had had intercourse with another minister.[xxiii]

According to a 1998 Newsweek artcicle, "Various surveys suggest that as many as 30% of male Protestant ministers have had sexual relationships with women other than their wives." The General Synod of the United Church of Christ tabled a resolution that would have "encouraged fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness" for all ordained ministers. In June the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) debated an amendment to its constitution, which requires all church officials to be faithful in marriage and chaste if single. But so many congregations threatened to ignore the amendment that assembly delegates voted to drop the chastity requirement.[xxiv]

A survey of nearly 1,000 Protestant clergy by Leadership magazine found that 12% admitted sexual intercourse outside marriage. Seventeen percent of these affairs occurred with people they were counseling, and 52% involved members, ministers or other leaders of their own congregation. An additional 18% disclosed that they had kissed, fondled or masturbated with someone other their spouse.[xxv] Another report showed that 70% had counseled at least one woman who had had intercourse with another minister.[xxvi]

Looking over the statistics, it seems that casting a stone when one is not without sin is dangerous business because it leaves the door open for others to throw back and may also be one of the many reasons the Christian Church is suffering losses in membership and more importantly, in reputation as the rest of society sees that what is preached is not readily practiced.

“The church scorns society for pervasive sexual promiscuity, while its own members and ministers fornicate and commit adultery with the best of them, and often even better” [xxvii]

Beneath the Surface

Sex Scandal Mars Megachurch Founder’s Death–March 29, 2009—Atlanta—Archbishop Earl Paulk, an evangelical pastor whose leadership of an Atlanta-area megachurch ended in a sex scandal has died. Before his death, Paulk (no relation to John Paulk) pleaded guilty to lying under oath about his sexual affairs and was sentenced was sentenced to 10 years probation and fined $1,000 on a single felony count. A paternity test revealed Paulk was the father of his nephew, who is now leader of the church. The former church leader was at the center of a sex scandal in 2007 that ended with the revelation that he slept with his brother's wife and fathered a child by her.

D.E. Paulk, for years was known publicly as Earl Paulk's nephew. D.E. Paulk is now the head pastor of Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church. A lawsuit by a female employee sparked a chain of events that ended in Paulk pleading guilty in January 2008 to lying under oath by denying affairs with other women. The charges stem from a 2006 deposition Paulk gave in a lawsuit against him, his brother Don and the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church by former church employee Mona Brewer, who said she was coerced into an affair.

In the deposition, Earl Paulk said under oath that the only woman with whom he had ever had sex outside his marriage was Brewer. A number of women from the congregation came forward during the 1990’s claiming that Paulk had sexual relations with them. Some of these claims have subsequently been proven correct. Moreover, “Donnie” Earl Paulk, the current senior pastor of the church, had a court-ordered DNA test in 2007 which showed that he was Earl Paulk’s son, not his nephew, which means that Earl and his sister-in-law had had a sexual relationship which led to the birth of D. E. Paulk.[xxviii],[xxix],[xxx]

In truth, this is not the first—or even the second—sex scandal to engulf Paulk and the independent, charismatic church. "I am so very sorry for the collateral damage it's caused our family and the families hurt by the removing of the veil that hid our humanity and our sinfulness," said D.E. Paulk, who received the mantle of head pastor a year and a half ago. D.E. Paulk said he did not learn the secret of his parentage until the paternity test. "I was disappointed, and I was surprised," he said.[xxxi]

Mega-Church Pastors Zachery and Riva Tims' Divorce is Finalized after Zachery Admits to a Year-Long Adulterous Affair with a Stripper—Orlando—A husband and wife pastoral team is getting divorced after the husband admitted a yearlong adulterous affair with a stripper. Zachery and Riva Tims ended their 15-year-marriage in late July, two years after Zachery admitted the affair.

The couple started New Destiny Christian Center (NDCC) in a hotel ballroom in 1996 and grew the Orlando-area church to more than 7,500 members. But in October 2007, Zachery Tims admitted "an indiscretion" before the congregation and then stepped down from his position to seek counseling. He returned to the pulpit three months later, after being counseled by a group of ministers. In a written statement to Charisma, Tims, 40, said he has been involved in counseling since the affair became public.

"I submitted myself to an ecumenical council of clergy that came into my ministry and ran the spiritual operations while I submitted myself to a counseling and ministry facility for several months out of state," he stated, adding that he is "still involved with monthly counsel."

Many members left the independent church after Judy Nguyen posted details of her affair with the pastor on the Internet. In an e-mail interview with Charisma, Nguyen said she met Tims when he visited the men's club in Paris where she worked. She said the long-distance affair lasted from August 2006 to October 2007. Riva Tims, 38, also left the church and filed for divorce in 2008. The couple share joint custody of their four children.

Riva Tims would not comment on the circumstances surrounding the divorce, founded Majestic Life Institute and opened Majestic Life Ministries church in Orlando. Much like NDCC, the church emphasizes outreach, with programs planned for children with special needs and youth gang prevention, as well as a job placement ministry for former inmates, drug addicts and alcoholics.[xxxii],[xxxiii]

[i] National Opinion Research Center,

[ii] Journal of Family Psychology, Not Just Friends, Shirley P. Glass, Vol 11, Number 3, Pg. 9

[iii],Infidelity Statistics,

[iv] After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful, Janis Abrahms Spring, HarperCollins, April, 1997

[v] Tales of Republicans, Bonobos and Adultery, Eduardo Porter, The New York Times, July 2, 2009,

[vi] National Opinion Research Center,

[vii] National Opinion Research Center,

[viii],Infidelity Statistics,

[ix],Infidelity Statistics,

[x],Infidelity Statistics,

[xi],Infidelity Statistics,

[xii] National Opinion Research Center,

[xiii] American Sexual Behavior: Trends, Socio-Demographic Differences, and Risk Behavior, Tom W. Smith, NORC, GSS Topical Report No. 25. 2006

[xiv] Affairs rare despite rumored popularity, Karen S. Peterson; USA TODAY, 1998,

[xv] Many cheat for a thrill, more stay true for love, Jane Weaver,, April 16, 2007,

[xviii] HOW TO CATCH CHEATING SPOUSES: An Adulteress Speaks Out, Free-Press-Release, April 25, 2008,

[xix] Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy: Innovations in Clinical and Educational Interventions, Joan D. Atwood and Limor Schwartz, Volume 1, Issue 3, 2002, Pg. 37 – 56

[xx] Intimate Partners: Patterns in Love and Marriage, Maggie Scarf, Ballantine Books, March 12, 1988

[xxi] Infidelity Check, Dr. Bob Lanier,,

[xxii] Torn Asunder, Dave Carder, Journal of Psychology & Christianity, Winter 1989, Number 4, pg. 26

[xxiii] Probe Ministries, Adultery in the Church, November 14,1998,

[xxiv] Sex, Morality and the Protestant Minister, What Sexual Standards Should the Clergy Obey?, Kenneth L. Woodward, NEWSWEEK, July 28, 1997,

[xxv] Sex, Morality and the Protestant Minister, What Sexual Standards Should the Clergy Obey?, Kenneth L. Woodward, NEWSWEEK, July 28, 1997,

[xxvi] Tales of Republicans, Bonobos and Adultery, Eduardo Porter, The New York Times, July 2, 2009,

[xxvii] Pulpit Confessions: Exposing the Black Church, N. Moore, BSB Publishing Co., 1998, p.6

[xxviii] Sex Scandal Rocks Atlanta-Area Megachurch, FOX, Associated Press, November 20, 2007,,2933,312249,00.html

[xxix] Ex-Megachurch Pastor Earl Paulk Dies in Atlanta Hospital, FOX, Associated Press, March 29, 2009,,2933,511324,00.html

[xxx] Preacher pleads guilty in sex case, January 17, 2008, The China Daily,

[xxxi] Sex Scandal Rocks Atlanta-Area Megachurch, November 20, 2007, Associated Press,,2933,312249,00.html

[xxxii] 06 Nov 2007

[xxxiii] Mega-Church Pastors Zachery and Riva Tims' Divorce is Finalized after Zachery Admits to a Year-Long Adulterous Affair with a Stripper, Black Christian News Network, August 20, 2009,,

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Tags: adultery, aldulterous, christian, church, infidelity, preachers


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Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 28, 2014 at 6:23pm

Cat--It's tough out there for a sexual being. So many rules, traditions, cultures and opinions. Biologically, it seems that men are especially attuned to polygamy in that men are able to impregnate many, but a woman once pregnant is out of the game for nine months. A woman can only be impregnated one pregnancy at a time. Of course a man can impregnate as many women who will have sex with him. It's a tough subject, one that I would have liked to explore 30 years ago! LOL

Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 28, 2014 at 6:16pm

I can't remember the book I read, but it addressed the human tendency in cultural monogamous relationships actually are literally nothing more than serial monogamy. I did a paper on polygamy where I studied several cultures where polygamy is an acceptable form of marriage. However, I found there are drawbacks most men never consider. All we see is the sex. For instance, in some African cultures polygamy is permitted, but the first wife chooses the next wife. Then those two will pick the next one. You can see where I'm going with this. So, the unmarried cross-eyed sister is picked so she can have a husband too. Then those two pick a friend you never cared for in the first place. Now the hard part is that you must treat them all equally and that means service them regularly. There are different rules for different cultures. I have one woman giving me pains in my ass. What do I need with two or more? They'd whip my ass and lock me out of my own house!

Comment by Sentient Biped on January 28, 2014 at 5:51pm

It's interesting how some old posts are resurrected. Then seem as fresh as if they are new.

In our society, emotional commitment is tied to sexual exclusion. Some people just don't seem made for monogamy, especially when young. But also when older.

As a result, sexual adventuring outside of the relationship, threatens the relationship. So many things are tied up in sex - trust, self image, self esteem, trust, dependency, abuse.

I am not one to propose any relationship model. In the end, I think a relationship is about a lot more than sex.'

Preachers shouldn't be preaching that monogamy is the only option, if they are not monogamous. They should be preaching about forgiveness, coping, learning how to have mutual understanding. Their bible and the traditions of their church do not agree with that, and therein lies the dilemma.

Comment by Grinning Cat on January 28, 2014 at 5:24pm

Quite a few people find that some form of ethical, consensual, responsible nonmonogamy works well for them. Yet I've seen swinging and polyamory mentioned by religious conservatives as horrors apparently worse than infidelity -- which is exactly backwards!

A|N's Polyamory group

Modern Poly

Loving More

An important point from an article at More Than Two:

"... there is no single relationship model that works for everyone.... There are monogamous people who are monogamous because monogamy is the most natural fit for them, not because they're ... merely accepting cultural defaults...."

Comment by John B Hodges on August 24, 2010 at 1:33pm
Impressive presentation! Collecting so much evidence on the point clearly took some work.

The final section "Beneath the Surface" is juicy but contributes nothing to the point of the essay. The point seems to be as summed up “The church scorns society for pervasive sexual promiscuity, while its own members and ministers fornicate and commit adultery with the best of them, and often even better”. If you have any other or additional point to make, state it at the end.
Comment by Prog Rock Girl on August 22, 2010 at 7:51pm
Marriage is threatened more by adultery, and we don't have a constitutional ban on that

Yeah! Although I've usually heard it phrased, "gays don't have to ruin straight marriages; they do that themselves."
Comment by Glen Rosenberg on August 22, 2010 at 7:05pm
If billy-boppin n glop-stoppin is the glue in bonobo society then maybe just maybe persons should by agreement billy-bop at another stop.

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