General Petraeus and Private Vs. Professional Matters

I was driving along in my automobile, listening to an interview on National Public Radio (NPR) about the General Petraeus Scandal, when I heard this quote from military writer, Tom Ricks:

Our standards have changed, I think, in a way that’s not for the better. We are very lax about enforcing professional standards and demanding professional competence. Yet somehow, we have become very insistent about judging people’s private, consenting relations with other adults. Link to the whole interview. 

When I heard this I immediately wondered: “Does he really believe what he just said?”

It may be true that professional military standards have fallen. Truthfully, I don’t know since I am no expert on the topic. I doubt, however, that people care more now about people’s private lives than they used too. If it seems that way, it most likely is the result of an unending and vicious appetite to fill a never-ending news and social media cycle. So I am not really sure people are more insistent about judging people’s private business, I just think there is more access to everything celebrity and scandalous.

This information age makes me glad that I am no a celebrity.

What’s troubling about Ricks’ comment, though, is that he seems to imply that what is done in one area of life has nothing to do with what is done in another. He seems to be suggesting that we should be able to live life in isolated categories that would allow for a person to cheat, lie and break promises to a person or persons, and then expect us to believe that actions over here, have nothing to do with what goes on over there. If a person isn’t honest with their spouse, a person they made a public covenant with before God, why should  a different result be expected professionally? I have a hard time seeing a clean divide.

I have been a General Petraeus admirer for a while, but  his unfaithfulness to the covenant he made with his wife causes me doubt the commitment he made to do what is right to defend our country against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. He may have still been able to be a fine CIA leader, but it does cause me to doubt. It is inevitable that his private life casts a shadow on his public life, and the same could be said the other way around.

Is this fair? No less than cheating on his wife is fair. We all will reap what we sow – whether now or later.

Here are a couple of other thoughts:

  • Ricks comments: “We have become very insistent about judging people’s private, consenting relations with other adults.” This makes adultery sound very harmless, but I can tell you who didn’t consent – Holly Petraeus. By the way, it’s not private. The commitment to covenant faithfulness is a public one and God is watching. If a person wants to pretend like God isn’t there, well, they will have to take that up with God.
  • We humans intrinsically want others to be committed and honest. We have a sense of justice about us that expects honesty from others. We have an internal moral compass – especially with what we expect of others. I think this is why  the unbelieving world hasn’t yet completely discarded marriage. Humans have an innate belief that commitment and honesty are virtuous things. If not, why then would anyone make a pledge to a lifetime of monogamous commitment? It doesn’t take a contract to procreate. Put yourself in Holly Petraeus’ shoes and ask whether her husband’s actions were just a consenting relationship among adults. No one that I know wants to be betrayed.
  • We humans are fallible creatures. As I said, I admired and thought highly of General Petraeus for his service to our country, but his fall is another stark reminder that we all are unrighteous and, therefore, we all need Jesus. We simply must not make idols of broken people. But neither should we assume that we all are destined to fail miserably. We are saved by faith in the gospel and not by works, so that no person may boast. But we are saved for good works of righteousness (Matt. 5:48). We have to navigate the tension without running into a ditch on either side.
  • We should pray for General Petraeus, his wife and our leaders. We would want that for ourselves (Matt. 7:12).
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About brentprentice

Brent is the lead pastor and one of the Elders at Eagle Heights in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He has been married to Lacey for 14 years and together they love two sons, Luke and Elijah, and a daughter, Bella.

Posted on November 14, 2012, in Leadership, Marriage. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Our society certainly believes in public versus private arenas in life, at least when it is convenient. Don’t bring religion to politics, that’s your personal life. However, a gay person is free to bring their personal life to politics and insist on gay marriage.
    I also find it interesting that when Clinton cheated on his family, the same issues were brought up. Clinton did not resign, and even took the nation through congressional hearings over it. And the worst part is that he actually broke the lie, in that he asked people to lie for him before congress. I would argue that In the end, the honor of the presidency was damaged. The really interesting, or sad, thing is that Clinton is still looked upon by many as a great president, and worst of all, many think he is cool, because he fornicated in the Oval office.

  2. Good points Will. Especially about convenience. It seems as though we often want to have it both ways.

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