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The Issue Is Fidelity

Just when adultery seemed no longer news - after all those tabloided affairs of presidents, princes, and other celebrities - the ancient sin is back in the headlines.

It has taken America's first female B-52 bomber pilot to confront us all with issues going back at least to the Greeks and Romans and dealt with so strongly and sensitively by Jesus. First Lt. Kelly Flinn's legal battle involves adultery's broader sense of infidelity, with allegations of lies and disobedience of Air Force orders as part of the case against her in a court-martial that had been delayed and not rescheduled at this writing.

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Lieutenant Flinn has thrown down the gauntlet of demanding no trial and an honorable discharge as the price of resignation from a brilliant military career. Otherwise, she says, the court-martial can go ahead. Then adultery will be even bigger news, no doubt along with much more the Air Force would rather have handled quietly, as it reportedly has done in cases of adultery by male officers.

Many public voices have come to Flinn's support. Senate Republican leader Trent Lott went so far as to call for "at a minimum" an honorable discharge for someone with Flinn's record. He joined his wife in wanting to know about "the guy" in the case.

Certainly the old "double standard" arises again, under which women labeled adulterers are blamed more than men. Equal justice is demanded - and equal compassion for the reformed sinner as Jesus showed it to the woman taken in adultery.

The real news would be if current headlines led to self-examination, to the insight that courts deal with symptoms, not cures. The latter occur within, as the parables of Jesus show. He said that "out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." In no heart need these various facets of infidelity find a home.

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