I saw somebody griping on the Internet the other day. What's new?
But, especially since I've been neglecting this blog a bit recently, I decided to post something about it. The specific gripe was that pastors seem to preach more about p--- (I'm going to use this typography through this post so as not to attract bots, creeps, and spam) more than about adultery. I haven't run into this in my own experience, but I'll take it as read that this particular person has seen a trend in which pastors preach more against the former than the latter.
Why is this foolish, bad, or inexplicable?
Here, just off the top of my head, are reasons why a pastor might reasonably have that emphasis in his preaching:
1) The pastor might easily have more reason to believe that the members of his congregation are using p--- than are engaging in physical adulterous relationships. In fact, he might have reason to believe that a far larger number of his members are sinning in the former way than in the latter.
2) The pastor might have reason to believe that members of his congregation think that p--- isn't really so bad because it isn't "real sex." He might well think he needs to try to dispel this dangerous confusion.
3) The pastor might reasonably believe that physical adultery, being connected with a particular person, is less likely to lead to lifelong addiction. If a person involved in an adulterous affair repents and forsakes that sin with that person, he is less likely to have a lifelong, destructive habit thereafter that he cannot break than a person who repents but has developed a p--- addiction. Hence the greater need to warn against getting involved in p--- and the greater need to warn parents so that their children do not fall into this evil and greatly harm their entire lives. (Children are not going to be literally accidentally getting involved in even physical fornication, much less adultery with a married person, though of course they may be abused by an adult, which is a different matter. But children have literally accidentally viewed p--- on the Internet and then found themselves sucked in and damaged for life.)
4) Relatedly, it is often true that one can break off contact with the other member of an adulterous affair, whereas p--- is constantly available.
5) Since a person in an adulterous affair has to deal with the willingness or unwillingness of another specific person, he cannot readily move, in the course of that affair, into every possible form of abominable perversion conceived in the dark depths of the fallen human psyche, but there are no similar limits to what is available for consumption in the world of p---. Thus a person involved in (heterosexual) adultery is less likely to be adding all manner of vile perversion and unnaturalness to the sin against chastity itself, and in the process developing a taste for such darkness, thus confusing his own sexual nature possibly for life. (See #3.) (Readers, please notice my deliberately vague language at this point. Similarly vague language will be expected in comments, or they will not be published.)
6) At risk of being thought to be excusing adultery, which I emphatically am not, or of applying touchy-feely criteria, I'm willing to add that a relationship that involves a real other person is in one sense and just to that extent less spiritually and psychologically unhealthy than a non-relationship that involves the deliberate objectification of other persons. This is all the more true when the media form is deliberately and aggressively degrading of those other persons.
A counterweight to these considerations is the fact that, precisely because of the real personal bonding, a person engaged in an adulterous affair is more likely to break up his marriage as a result, because he believes that he is in love with the woman he is having an affair with. (Or, in the case of a woman, believes she is in love with the man.) That's no doubt true, and it is serious. But I think in terms of how much a pastor preaches, it is probably outweighed by considerations 1 and 2, above. Of course, we also have to ask what counts as "preaching about" something. If a pastor mentions adultery in a list, does that count? But if we are talking about preaching at some length, it seems perfectly understandable that a pastor would concentrate on those extremely serious sins which he has more reason to suspect his congregants are actually engaging in and, worse, excusing.
The sort of gripe that prompted this post is, I'm afraid, likely to come from those who feel that somehow men get a bad rap in today's Christian world. I fear that the idea is that the pastors are being "too hard" on men by preaching disproportionately about p---. To be honest, my greater concern about a pastor preaching about p--- is that I think children of all ages should be welcome in the church service, and I wouldn't want to have to explain to my little child what Pastor Smith was talking about this morning. But I'm entirely unsympathetic to the idea that pastors should preach less about p--- because that's "taking it out on" the men in the congregation. If either men or women are hurting and degrading themselves and their marriages (present marriages or future marriages) in this fashion, they need to be told not only that it is sin but that it is dark, dangerous, and harmful. There is no need for some sort of "affirmative action" in preaching topics so that no one group feels "preached at" more than any other. And if a pastor thinks his members are involved in this, he is showing right perspective if he recognizes the urgency of trying to stop it.