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?

The boundary between work and home

A growing number of companies are telling employees to stop using electronics to work even when you are home.  From Cecilia Kang:

Tonight, employees at the Advisory Board have an unusual task: Stay off ­e-mail.

Stash away those smartphones and laptops, the District firm has instructed. For those who just can’t stay away, read but don’t reply. And while we’re at it, ignore your inbox throughout the weekend, too, the firm added.

The consulting firm’s push for no after-hours e-mail is part of a growing effort by some employers to rebuild the boundaries between work and home that have crumbled amid the do-more-with-less ethos of the economic downturn.

In recent years, one in four companies have created similar rules on e-mail, both formal and informal, according to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Firms trying out these policies include Volkswagen, some divisions of PricewaterhouseCoopers and shipping company PBD Worldwide.

For the vast majority of companies and federal offices, the muddying of work and personal time has had financial advantages. Corporations and agencies, unable to hire, are more productive than ever thanks in part to work-issued smartphones, tablets and other mobile technology, economists say.

And that presents one of the great conundrums of our recessionary era: E-mail has helped companies eke out more from each worker. But the perpetually plugged work culture is also making us feel fried.

“There is no question e-mail is an important tool, but it’s just gone overboard and encroached in our lives in a way where employees were feeling like it was harder and harder to achieve a good balance,” said Robert Musslewhite, chief executive of the Advisory Board, a health and education research and software-services firm.

Official numbers show just one in 10 people brings work home, according to a Labor Department report in 2010. But economists say that figure is wildly conservative because it counts only those who are clocking in those hours for extra pay.

More often, employees work evenings and weekends beyond their normal hours and do not record that time with their employers, labor advocacy groups say. And that’s made work bleed into just about every vacant space of time — from checking BlackBerrys and iPhones at school drop-offs, on the way home from happy hour and just after the alarm clock rings, they say.

via After-hours e-mail, companies are telling employees to avoid it – The Washington Post.

Some professions just don’t fit the 9 to 5 hourly breakdown.  If you own or are responsible for a business, you are thinking about it round-the-clock.  Even with me, a professor and college administrator, I find myself thinking about what to present in my classes or what to do about some problem at any time in the day or night, including when I toss and turn in the middle of the night (where I seem to get my best ideas).

It’s worth noting too that when Luther was articulating the doctrine of vocation, there was no boundary between work and home, since most work–farming, crafts, most trades–was done at home (as opposed to what happened after the industrial revolution when most economic labor took place away from the family).  Thus Luther wrote about the vocations of the “household,” which included both the family callings such as marriage and parenthood and what the family did to earn a living.

And yet, arguably, the invasion of the home by the workplace, abetted by technology, may well be eroding the other vocations we have.  Notice how when we hear the word “vocation” we immediately think of our “job.”  In Luther’s day and in the Biblical writings about “calling” (e.g., 1 Corinthians 7:17), people would first think about things like marriage.  (See our book on the subject, Family Vocations.)

There is little doubt that today people are neglecting their callings as spouse, parent, church member,  citizen, et al., because of their pre-occupation with their work and the enabling device of their smart phones.  Would you agree?  Do we need to “rebuild the boundaries between work and home”?  Or do we need to break down those boundaries, but in a different way than we have been doing?

Look who’s waging the culture war

Christian conservatives and Republicans in general have been criticized for waging the so-called “culture wars,” making political issues out of  abortion, gay marriage, and other divisive moral issues.  But now it’s the Democrats who are raising those divisive issues.

At the Republican National Convention, hardly anything was said about abortion or gay marriage.  But at the Democratic National Convention, speakers wouldn’t shut up about the goodness of abortion and gay marriage.

It sounds like both sides believe being pro-life and pro-traditional marriage are losing propositions.  The Democrats apparently think they can win voters by emphasizing the Republicans’ official stance on these issues.

Are they right? Have conservatives lost the “culture wars”?  Or are Democrats over-reaching?  Should Republicans be more assertive about their usual pro-life, pro-traditional-family stand?  Or would that doom their chances and put the Democrats in power?

Vocation Day reading

Happy Vocation Day!  It was formerly known as Labor Day, but this blog has crusaded to take over this national holiday–day off work, last day of summer vacation, cook-out customs and all–and add it to the church year as a commemoration of the doctrine of vocation.

That topic is a major theme of this blog.  Vocation is more than just the notion that you can do your work to the glory of God.  It has to do not only with how we make our living–though it includes that–but also with our life in our families, our churches, and our cultures.  The doctrine of vocation is filled with specific details and practical guidance.  It is, in short, the theology of the Christian life.

A good activity for Labor Day would be to read up on the doctrine of vocation.  You could read from my two books on the subject– God at Work and Family Vocation–or, if you are in a hurry to get the car loaded, I’ll post a brief article with a sidebar that I wrote on the subject for  Modern Reformation.  Click “continue” to read it.

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