Washington is not only the seat of government, but also the capital for spouse-cheating.
What has long been assumed by many has now been confirmed. The data released last week came from a website that seeks to facilitate individuals wanting to cheat on their husbands or wives. Washington has the highest per capita number of users of the site of any other city.
"The more successful you are, the more prone to cheating you are," said Noel Biderman, CEO of the website, in an interview with the Washington Post. "Washington," he continued, "is full of successful people looking for something outside their marriage."
This sad fact is neither surprising nor hard to understand in a city where the game of pursuit and conquest is played for the highest stakes.
"Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac," said Henry Kissinger in a 1973 New York Times interview. Power is also the fundamental temptation. The serpent's core appeal to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was that they seize power from God with respect to their personal lives and the creation over which the Creator had given them dominion.
A prominent Christian leader told me once after touring the White House that he sensed an alien "presence" there. Perhaps it was the clustering of the demonic that swirls around centers of human power like vultures circling fresh road-kill.
There are big differences between true authority and raw power. Authority is given, but raw power is seized. Authentic authority proceeds from the higher to the lower. Logically, then, Paul writes in Romans 13 that all authority comes from God. The privilege of holding authority comes with the expectation of accountability to that higher person, group, or institution that has granted the authority. In God's scheme of things, we are accountable to Him for the gifts and resources He gives – including the way we use the authority He grants us.
Misused, authority inevitably degenerates into authoritarianism, another label for raw power.
King Saul discovered just how risky it is when we choose raw power rather than operating by God-given authority. In rash moments, Saul seized power, and took himself out from under God's authentic authority. The result was that Saul lost his kingdom.
Power depends on manipulation, intimidation, condemnation, and domination, as writer Dudley Hall puts it. Those attitudes and behaviors are stock-in-trade for survival in Washington. According to the Washington Post, Biderman "believes people who live and work in the District achieve success from taking professional risks, which often pay off, and that personality trait prompts personal risks, too."
The carry-over from "professional risks" to "personal risks" is much deeper than what Noel Biderman suggests. It goes to the heart of human nature. All people given the right to an office or position of authority need to be on full alert lest they allow raw power to take away their true authority.
When that happens to a politician all he or she has left is that domineering power. And that explains a lot.