Military families

One of my former students married another former student who has become an officer in the U.S. Army.  She reports that the military has cut out the customary mid-deployment leave in which servicemen and women could spend some time with their families.  Here is a story about the change as it affects the National Guard.   This has gotten little attention in the media, so she has launched an effort to raise awareness of the issue, along with an online petition in support of military families.  Here is her statement:

 For Father’s Day this year, many deployed dads got the opposite of a present. They were told that the traditional two weeks of mid-deployment R&R that soldiers are given to see their families has been cut. Doing away with mid-deployment R&R is a devastating policy change that has affected practically all Army soldiers.

On the FAQs section of the Army.mil site, this is said about R&R: “The program provides respite from the stresses associated with the combat mission . . . this is seen as an investment in the well being of our forces that will improve mission performance.”

But unfortunately, this vital investment is no longer made. All soldiers and families have suffered from the cutting of the R&R program, but National Guard and Reserves soldiers are especially hard hit. Along with spending an entire nine months outside of the country, Guard and Reserve soldiers also must spend several months before that on full time, seven day a week mobilization orders, normally away from family. Twelve plus months is too long a time to work 24/7 for seven days a week. As the Army.mil site said, soldiers need R&R for morale. Military families also need R&R for family time.

Even with the R&R program, eleven years of back to back deployments have taken their toll. The PTSD rates among soldiers are ever increasing and this PTSD heightens the strain on marriages that are often already stretched to the breaking point by so many deployments. Military children also do their share of suffering when dad, and now increasingly mom as well, is never home.

Making life even harder on military families is a travesty. It is not right to try to balance the budget on the backs of military families. Sign the petition and ask your Senators, Congressmen, and the President to bring back our troops’ much-deserved R&R. http://www.petition2congress.com/8229/bring-back-military-rr/

How Christians can live in a non-Christian culture

Yesterday we discussed a post from my colleague Mark Mitchell:  The Culture of Hospitality | Front Porch Republic.  I’d like to focus on one line that he cites from the Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus written in the 2nd century A.D. (or maybe even earlier).  It describes how the very earliest Christians lived in the Roman Empire:

“they marry, as do all [others]; they beget children but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed.”

Isn’t this the same thing Christians are called to do today against the same cultural pressures?  Get married; back then even the Roman pagans did this, and that might change.  But whatever happens, Christians will still practice marriage and cultivate families.  Beget children and do not destroy them; that is,  don’t get abortions. Don’t have “a common bed”; that is, don’t be sexually promiscuous.  But do have “a common table”; that is, be hospitable to all, inviting even non-believers into your home so as to get to know them and so they can get to know you and your faith.

Keeping these simple distinctives, Christians would eventually win over the Roman empire.  Maybe if we did the same things, Christians might eventually win over the American empire.

Married priests must still be celibate?

Rome has allowed for some married priests, particularly Anglicans who have gone over to Catholicism.  Some Lutherans have been clamoring for the same privilege.  What is not generally realized, though, is that, according to Canon Law, married priests must still be celibate.  So says Mark Henderson:

According to a respected Roman canon lawyer, Rome absolutely requires “sexual continence” of married clergy in the Western church (Canon 277 excerpted below). Yes, you read that right, the canon law of the Papacy requires that in the Western church even married priests and deacons abstain from sexual relations with their wives (in the Eastern Catholic Churches observance of this rule is a somewhat patchwork affair but the long-term trend has been towards celibacy; but since that is the Eastern church, where different rules apply, it does not immediately concern us here). This matter has apparently been the subject of much intra-Roman debate recently, particularly in light of the small but significant number of ex-Anglican married priests who have gone over to Rome, most recently in connection with the Anglican Ordinariate. Rome is expected to make a definitive ruling at some time in the future. . . .

Code of Canon Law, Canon 277:
§1 Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, and are therefore bound to celibacy. Celibacy is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can more easily remain close to Christ with an undivided heart, and can dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and their neighbour.

via Glosses From An Old Manse: End of the Fantasy of “Lutheran-Rite Romanism”?.

Can this be true?  If so, that would be a serious distortion of what marriage is.

Adultery still matters

General Petraeus, who effectively led American troops in the “surge” in Iraq and Afghanistan, resigned as director of the CIA.  He confessed to having an affair with a woman who had written a book about him.

CIA Director David H. Petraeus resigned Friday and admitted to having an extramarital affair, bringing a shocking end to his brief tenure at the spy agency and highly decorated national security career.

The affair came to light as part of an FBI investigation into a potential security breach involving Petraeus’s e-mails, according to federal law enforcement officials and a former senior intelligence official. The investigation uncovered e-mails describing an affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, a former military officer and co-author of a glowing biography of Petraeus, according to two law enforcement officials who were briefed on the investigation.

Petraeus, a retired four-star Army general who once was seen as a potential presidential candidate, met with President Obama on Thursday and said he intended to step down because of the affair, Obama administration officials said. The president accepted his resignation Friday.

“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Petraeus said in a statement distributed to the CIA workforce Friday.“Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the president graciously accepted my resignation,” he said. . . .

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Friday that she believed Petraeus’s infidelity did not require him to resign.

“I wish President Obama had not accepted this resignation, but I understand and respect the decision,” she said in a statement. She described Petraeus’s resignation as an “enormous loss for our nation’s intelligence community and for our country.”

via David Petraeus resigns as CIA director – The Washington Post.

Here are some of the ugly details.  But some are saying that his transgression in itself is not considered necessarily a reason to lose his job.  (Dianne Feinstein’s response is telling.)  Petraeus could possibly have hung on to his job.  And yet, he felt shame and guilt to the point of resigning his office and ending his extremely successful career, which many were hoping might lead to the Presidency.

Notice that sexual morality has not entirely faded away.  Though pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and pornography have become socially acceptable, adultery retains its stigma.  And rape and sex with children remain abhorrent, deserving harsh punishment.  This is evidence that sex has an objective moral significance that cannot be easily evaded.  Then again, if we accept pre-marital sex, how long can we still oppose extra-marital sex?  If sex is “no big deal” between adults, why is it a big deal when it is between adults and children?  Or perhaps, before we slide further down that slippery slope, we will perceive once more, from bitter experience, that sexual morality is real.

Let the children vote

Our politics are polarizing, to the point that, at least in Washington, D. C., little kids are getting into fights on the playground over politics.  Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak quotes a letter to parents sent by a school and cites her own 5-year-old’s political dilemma:

“A gentle reminder: As a Quaker school and as an inclusive community, I am reaching out to you, the adults, to talk to your child about respecting others’ views and seeing the Light in each classmate and colleague despite differences of opinion. We in Lower School have found our students at times judging one another harshly for each other’s political views or party preferences.

“This is relevant, of course, in relation to many issues in school life, not just the election. Our children do mimic our adult behavior, and this is an excellent opportunity for each of us to express our views in a manner that is not insulting or demeaning of others.”

Or you could just label it: “Stop Teasing the Republicans!”

My 5-year-old is all in pieces because some of his playground friends like Mitt Romney and others like President Obama. He is torn.

“I just don’t know who to vote for,” he said.

Meanwhile, an idea is being floated that would let children vote!  Actually, their parents would vote for them until they gradually transition into maturity.  Semyon Dukach explains:

Three major extensions of voting rights have been implemented since our republic was founded. The 15th Amendment extended suffrage to former slaves after the Civil War. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920. And the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, to match the draft age during the Vietnam War.

There is one clear path for our nation to navigate today’s crisis of political deadlock, growing debt, and under-investment in infrastructure, core science and education. We must lead the world by expanding our democracy and amending our Constitution. We should include those who remain unrepresented in our democratic process: children.

The most straightforward solution to reasonably represent the interests of children younger than 13 is known as “Demeny voting,” after the demographer who raised the issue in the 1980s. Under the Demeny system, the parents or guardians of these children split the vote of each child. In cases in which legal custody is shared between a father and mother, both would control an additional half-vote at the polls for each of their children age 13 and younger.

For example, if a couple has two children, each parent would wield two votes (one each for themselves and a half-vote for each child). A family of four would have four votes. In a family of five, with two adults and three children, each parent would have 2.5 votes (one for themselves and 1.5 for the three children). Again, this adds up to the total number of people in the family. If a single parent had sole custody, he or she would get the entire extra vote.

For adolescents, a simple variation of the Demeny voting scheme could allow them to be gradually emancipated. They could cast 20 percent of their vote at age 14, 40 percent at 15, 60 percent at 16, 80 percent at 17 and 100 percent at 18 (as they may today). The remaining diminishing percentage of their vote would be split each year between their parents or legal guardians, just as in Demeny voting, so that the total number of votes eligible to be cast in the nation will always be equal to the total number of citizens of all ages.

This voting scheme has drawbacks, including that it gives excessive power to parents of large families. And some parents might vote to protect their own interests instead of their children’s. But it would still be a crucial improvement over the status quo. Giving people younger than 18 indirect political representation will result in a more forward-looking balance of power among Americans. It would enable more political investment in our children’s future. Most important, by completing our national journey from a country ruled by landowning white men to one run on the principle of “one person, one vote,” we would lead the world in securing the inalienable universal human right to democratic representation.

via Giving children the right to vote – The Washington Post.

Well, this would give families greater clout.  Counting chads for fractions of votes would be rather challenging.  This would make universal suffrage more universal.  And it would indeed encourage large families and give them a bigger say in the body politic.  It still, though, strikes me as insane.

Now to legalize polygamy

Now that gay marriage is legal in many jurisdictions and broadly accepted, activists are taking up the cause of polygamy.  The liberal Washington Post religion columnist Lisa Miller is sympathetic:

This week, in one of his first public statements since this past summer’s anti-gay-marriage remarks, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy told an Atlanta television reporter that he supports “Biblical families.” This comment immediately gave rise to jokes questioning his familiarity with the Old Testament, where, as any Mormon elder can tell you, patriarchs such as Abraham, Jacob and David all practiced polygamy.

John Witte Jr., however, thinks it isn’t so funny. A scholar of religion and law at Emory University in Atlanta, Witte is working on a lengthy history of polygamy due out next year. He believes that polygamy is the next frontier in marriage and family law. If states are able to dismantle traditional or conventional views of marriage by allowing two men or two women to wed, then why should they not go further and sanction, or at least decriminalize, marriages between one man and several women?

This is the argument that Kody Brown and his wives, the stars of the reality television show “Sister Wives,” are making in a civil suit against the state of Utah. They are claiming that Utah’s anti-polygamy laws violate their privacy and their religious freedom. “The Browns want to be allowed to create a loving family according to the values of their faith,” Jonathan Turley, the family’s lawyer, wrote in an op-ed this summer.

Beneath the sensationalism, there lies a real question. If Americans increasingly value their rights to privacy and liberty above historical social norms, then why should the state not legally approve other unconventional domestic set-ups? In his first chapter, Witte presents the problem this way. “After all,” he writes, “American states today, viewed together, already offer several models of state-sanctioned domestic life for their citizens: straight and gay marriage, contract and covenant marriage, civil union and domestic partnership. Each of these off-the-rack models of domestic life has built-in rights and duties that the parties have to each other and their children and other dependents. And the parties can further tailor these built-in rights and duties through private prenuptial contracts. With so much marital pluralism and private ordering already available, why not add a further option — that of polygamous marriage?”

This is an argument that makes defenders of individual liberties sweat, for few people like to be put in the spot of having to uphold a social taboo. But really. If the purpose of marriage is to preserve personal happiness, protect and raise children, and create social stability through shared property and mutual obligation, then why is polygamy so problematic if it occurs among consenting adults? The two-parent household may be an ideal, but real life is far messier than that. Children are raised all the time by groups of adults: there are exes and steps, adoptive parents and biological, mistresses and wives. Didn’t someone say it takes a village?

Witte is worried about this line of thinking. He sees the “sexual liberty for all” folks increasingly pressing their cases in law reviews, saying “those that oppose polygamy are just like the homophobes and the patriarchs.”

via Polygamy may be hot, but in marriage three’s still a crowd – The Washington Post.

Is there any Biblical reason why polygamy should not be legalized?  That is, set aside natural law arguments, what’s best for women, the needs of children, etc., and just focus on the Bible.  Clearly, the New Testament demands monogamy for church leaders, but that requirement doesn’t seem to be binding on everyone.  And, of course, polygamy was almost the norm in the Old Testament, in particular for leaders of the magnitude of Abraham and King David.

The defining texts for marriage, on the other hand, are those that refer to Adam and Eve, and Christ and the Church, and to “the two” becoming “one flesh.”  Those would argue against polygamy.  (Jesus doesn’t have more than one bride, contrary to the gnostic manuscripts being circulated, and the applications of this relationship to the vocation of the marriage in Ephesians 5 don’t really work for more than one spouse.)

And yet we cannot say that Jacob was sinning or defying God’s will when he took many wives whose progeny created the Twelve Tribes of Israel, can we?  The practice of Christian missionaries when a polygamist converts has been to make him put away all but one of his wives.  How can that be a good practice?  Doesn’t that do great harm to the wives who are abandoned?  And doesn’t this violate the definite Biblical prohibitions against divorce?

If we cannot make a Bible-only case against polygamy, does this mean that extra-Biblical reasoning is necessary, if in this case, also in other moral and legal issues?


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