What could your church do with a billion dollars?

Pretend that one of the megabillionaires mentioned above lived in your community.  To fulfill the pledge, he gave every church in your community a billion dollars.   What could your church do with that much money?   If all the churches in your community had that kind of money, what do you think would happen?

I intend this not as a fantasy but as a thought experiment.  Would it be an unmitigated blessing, or could it do harm to your congregation?  (If the church could thrive on an endowment and members didn’t have to contribute anymore, what would that do?)  If all the churches decided to get together to end poverty in your town, how might that be done?  (Give each poor person a million dollars so he wouldn’t be poor anymore?)

Why do fans trash their city when they win?

The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship.  Could somebody explain this?:

Violence erupted within 30 minutes of the game's end as rowdy fans poured out of area bars and, shortly after, the 19,000 ticket-holders inside Staples began to emerge. Phalanxes of LAPD officers successfully funneled the tightly packed revelers away from the venue, but bands of mostly young men grew aggressive and brazen as they moved into the surrounding blocks.

A typical scene played out on Figueroa Street, where revelers tore down a traffic sign, ripped open newspaper racks and lighted the papers on fire. As police in riot gear approached, the crowd hurled unopened cans of energy drinks at them. Several men stomped on an SUV parked on the street, breaking its windows.

Police chased the roving groups for about two hours, pushing them farther afield until they dispersed and relative calm returned.

Before it was over, police had fired tear gas and stinging pellets to disperse a scrum of several hundred people who surrounded a city bus filled with passengers and attempted to yank the driver out through a window. A cabbie fled when his taxi was set upon by another mob that kicked in the windshield and set it ablaze. A local YWCA, several restaurants and other storefronts had windows smashed. At least eight people, one of them beaten unconscious, were taken to area hospitals. Firefighters put out 19 rubbish and vehicle fires and police had made about 50 arrests.

via Lakers violence: Authorities release raw video of mob attacking cab, seek public’s help [Updated] | L.A. NOW | Los Angeles Times.

This sort of thing happens in other cities too, including college games.  But not all cities.  It’s a worldwide problem, common also with soccer.  (Let’s see what happens when some team wins the World Cup.)

Now I can see people getting angry when their team loses, but why get aggressive and destructive and mean against their own city when they win?

I’m just trying to understand the mindset.

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

Did you realize that one state in the union still requires an actual reason to get a divorce, as opposed to the no-fault divorces practiced everywhere else?  That state is liberal, progressive, sophisticated New York.  But now that is about to change.  Notice how New Yorkers have been getting around the current law so far:

There are certain to be consequences if New York State introduces no-fault divorce, as now seems likely. The divorce rate might climb. Matrimonial battles will focus on bitter issues like support and child custody. The poor will be able to get divorced as easily as the rich. But there is something else. Those who are splitting up can just tell the truth.

Justice Jeffrey S. Sunshine of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn said some of the old law seemed like a throwback to the 19th century and invaded divorce-seeker’s privacy.

For decades, New York State’s divorce system has been built on a foundation of winks and falsehoods. If you wanted to split quickly, you and your spouse had to give one of the limited number of allowable reasons — including adultery, cruelty, imprisonment or abandonment — so there was a tendency to pick one out of a hat.

Pregnant women have insisted they have not had sex in a year, one of the existing grounds; spouses claimed psychological cruelty for getting called fat; and people whose affairs have made Page Six have denied adultery. One legendary ploy involved listing the filing lawyer’s secretary as the partner in adultery (which may even have been true in a few cases).

“What the fault divorce system has done is that it has institutionalized perjury,” said Malcolm S. Taub, a veteran Manhattan matrimonial lawyer. “This play-acting goes on and everybody looks the other way and follows the script.”

On Tuesday, the State Senate approved a bill that would permit divorce without a claim that either side is at fault, and on Wednesday the State Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, said his members were discussing the details of similar legislation. “I support the concept,” Mr. Silver said.

via New Divorce Law Would Allow Couples to Tell the Truth – NYTimes.com.

HT to tODD for alerting me to this development.   I’ll share our conversation:

tODD:
As with many Christians, I have frequently lamented the state of marriage in the US, with its high divorce rate. Many Christians typically decry the role of "no-fault" divorce in bringing this on. And I typically assumed that was true. But if this article is right,
I'm not so sure about that anymore. If the divorce rate isn't actually hindered by current NY law, and all it adds is a requirement that people lie (and perjure themselves!) in order to get a divorce, is that actually better than just implementing no-fault divorce? Or is this just an argument made by those who don't see divorce as bad in the first place?

ME:  I didn’t realize there was a state that didn’t have no-fault divorce! As Irecall, though, New York has had a lower divorce rate than less “liberal” states. Maybe that’s a reason.

tODD:  Apparently New York is the only state left (according to Wikipedia).
Fascinating. South Dakota went no-fault in 1985. New York! Who'd'a thunk?
I tried to look up divorce rates per state (which data is easily
available), but as many people will inevitably point out, those data
are misleading, as they count divorces per capita (or, typically, per
1000 people), which tends to miss the point that marriage rates are
not consistent across states.

I found this document from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_19.pdf
Which would be useful, except (a) you have to calculate the
divorce-per-marriage rate yourself by hand, and (b) it's missing the
divorce numbers from several states, notably California.

Based on that, I whipped up the attached Excel spreadsheet, in which I
chose about half the states. Now, I happen to think the Nevada number
is bunk, and it likely points out a problem with the methodology --
people who get married in one state don't necessarily live there,
especially when it comes to Nevada (while people who get divorced in a
state presumably DO live there).

Regardless, it is fascinating to note that New York has a respectably
low (well, as such) rate with 42% of marriages ending in divorce
(though not as low as gay-marriage Massachusetts, which has 39%,
almost the same as Utah!). On the other hand, Mississippi's 83%
divorce rate is jaw-dropping. I can't find any commonality between the
states at either end, though, which is interesting in itself.

tODD (later): 
Sorry, Dr. Veith, but your beloved Oklahoma clocks in
at #3 when it comes to divorces per marriage (just under 72%). Oof.

Here are the top 10 worst states (that I could calculate):
Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Delaware,
Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, and Kentucky

And here are the top 10 best states (that I could calculate, not
including Nevada for the aforementioned reasons):
South Carolina, Utah, Iowa, Massachusetts, South Dakota, DC, New York,
Vermont, Tennessee, and Illinois.

Honestly, can you see any pattern there? Urban/rural?
Conservative/liberal? North/south? I can't make any sort of
generalizations from this data.

I would add that divorce rates are usually related to income and social class, with poorer people (like those in Mississippi) getting divorced more often than affluent people (like those in Massachusetts).  Still, there is much to puzzle about here. But why should Mississippi have such a high rate while culturally and economically similar Tennessee has such a low rate?  Can anyone make sense of this?

Some are calling for doing away with no-fault divorce laws as a way to discourage divorce.  Yes, if people will lie, that’s one thing, but I don’t believe the state of New York was actually enforcing its no-fault–or its perjury– laws.  Can laws help cut down the number of divorces?  What will?

Now Hinduism is also going commercial

Much of contemporary Christianity has embraced the commercial culture, from church growth marketing and consumerism to the transformation of Christian language and imagery into tacky knick-knacks to buy and sell.  Now the Hindus are doing it.

Nestled between the wedding sari boutiques and hipster jean shops, there’s a store in the city’s most popular shopping mall that’s playing with the gods.

The fashion, art and design store has funky throw pillows depicting a psychedelic-looking Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music and the creative arts. She’s lounging on her pink lotus while swans float nearby and smaller versions of her likeness play the flute, drums and sitar.

There are retro journals, too, each featuring a particular god or goddess and a cheeky back story about the deity’s personality and dramas. “Ganesha is a foodie, and is crazy about ladoos [Indian sweets],” one says of the elephant-headed Hindu god.

Not all that long ago, that kind of cheeky irreverence about Hinduism's most-sacred deities might have caused riots in the streets. Krishna on a mouse pad? Monkey-headed Hanuman on a drink coaster? Unimaginable a few years back.

But today they are just a (mostly) accepted sign of how young, urban Indians are changing the way they view themselves and their society. Market experts say it’s also a sign of how India, an increasingly affluent and globalized society, is able to see itself through the eyes of the rest of the world.

“Young India is imagining what it can be. And it sees an abundance of inspiration in our culture, our religion, our streets,” said Hemant Dongre, an artist and one of the founders of Play Clan, the shop best known for the funky new take on the gods.

“The economy is opening up. This has inspired a whole generation of young Indians to be creative, break mental barriers and have fun with ideas and commerce,” he said.

As more businesses use images of Hindu deities on handbags, stuffed animals, coffee mugs and the dresses of runway models, it is causing more fascinated buzz in artistic circles than anger among religious purists. . . .

“Indian religion and culture is now open to new concepts,” said Puri, who has two young daughters. “The divine beings are depicted like cute icons and that makes them more relatable. What’s great is that the younger, educated, college-going children would appreciate these deities depicted in a new and improved way, because they would not put up a traditional image in their rooms.”

via Traditional Indian piety makes way for pop culture images of Hindu gods.

I suspect that this sort of thing works better with Hinduism, with its many deities that can be manipulated into serving the devoted consumer than with Christianity, which insists on bringing up unpopular subjects such as the Cross.  I predict pop Hinduism  gets popular over here.

Children of sperm donors

Our study, released by the Commission on Parenthood’s Future last week, focused on how young-adult donor offspring—and comparison samples of young adults who were raised by adoptive or biological parents—make sense of their identities and family experiences, how they approach reproductive technologies more generally, and how they are faring on key outcomes. The study of 18- to 45-year-olds includes 485 who were conceived via sperm donation, 562 adopted as infants, and 563 raised by their biological parents.

The results are surprising. While adoption is often the center of controversy, it turns out that sperm donation raises a host of different but equally complex—and sometimes troubling—issues. Two-thirds of adult donor offspring agree with the statement “My sperm donor is half of who I am.” Nearly half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception. More than half say that when they see someone who resembles them, they wonder if they are related. About two-thirds affirm the right of donor offspring to know the truth about their origins.

Regardless of socioeconomic status, donor offspring are twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to report problems with the law before age 25. They are more than twice as likely to report having struggled with substance abuse. And they are about 1.5 times as likely to report depression or other mental health problems.

As a group, the donor offspring in our study are suffering more than those who were adopted: hurting more, feeling more confused, and feeling more isolated from their families. (And our study found that the adoptees on average are struggling more than those raised by their biological parents.) The donor offspring are more likely than the adopted to have struggled with addiction and delinquency and, similar to the adopted, a significant number have confronted depression or other mental illness. Nearly half of donor offspring, and more than half of adoptees, agree, “It is better to adopt than to use donated sperm or eggs to have a child.”

The stories that donor offspring tell about their confusion help to illustrate why they might be, as a group, faring so much worse. Christine Whipp, a British author conceived by anonymous sperm donation more than four decades ago, gives voice to the feelings some donor offspring have of being a “freak of nature” or a “lab experiment”:

My existence owed almost nothing to the serendipitous nature of normal human reproduction, where babies are the natural progression of mutually fulfilling adult relationships, but rather represented a verbal contract, a financial transaction and a cold, clinical harnessing of medical technology.

Lynne Spencer, a nurse and donor-conceived adult, speaks eloquently of losing trust when her parents did not tell her the truth about her origins, and she suspected the secret:

When you grow up and your instincts are telling you one thing and your parents—the people you are supposed to be able to trust the most in your life—are telling you something else, your whole sense of what is true and not true is all confused.

Others speak of the searching for their biological father in crowds, wondering if a man who resembles them could be “the one.” One donor-conceived adult responded to an open-ended question on our survey by writing: “Sometimes I wonder if my father is standing right in front of me.” Still others speak of complicated emotional journeys and lost or damaged relationships with their families when they grow up. One wrote at the end of our survey: “I still have issues with this problem and am seeking professional help. It has helped me to become a stronger person but has scarred me emotionally.” Another said, “[I am] currently not on seeing or speaking terms with family because of this.”

Listening to the stories of donor-conceived adults, you begin to realize there’s really no such thing as a “donor.” Every child has a biological father. To claim otherwise is simply to compound the pain, first as these young people struggle with the original, deliberate loss of their biological father, and second as they do so within a culture that insists some guy who went into a room with a dirty magazine isn’t a father. At most the children are told he’s a “seed provider” or “the nice guy who gave me what I needed to have you” or the “Y Guy” or any number of other cute euphemisms that signal powerfully to children that this man should be of little, if any, importance to them.

via New study shows sperm-donor kids suffer. – By Karen Clark and Elizabeth Marquardt – Slate Magazine.

Mr. Greene goes to Washington?

Democrats always present themselves as champions of the poor, the disadvantaged, minorities, the little guy.  But they sure don’t like it when a poor, disadvantaged African-American guy with no political connections wins a Democratic election.   This piece about Alvin Greene, who won the Democratic primary for the Senate race, just oozes condescension and classism:

Alvin M. Greene never gave a speech during his campaign to become this state’s Democratic nominee for Senate. He didn’t start a Web site or hire consultants or plant lawn signs. There’s only $114 in his campaign bank account, he says, and the only check he ever wrote from it was to cover his filing fee.

Indeed, in a three-hour interview, the unemployed military veteran could not name a single specific thing he’d done to campaign. Yet more than 100,000 South Carolinians voted for him on Tuesday, handing him nearly 60 percent of the vote and a resounding victory over Vic Rawl, a former judge who has served four terms in the state legislature.

“I’m the Democratic Party nominee,” Greene says in the interview at his father’s home on a lonely stretch of rural highway in central South Carolina. “The people have spoken. The people of South Carolina have spoken. The people of South Carolina have spoken. We have to be pro-South Carolina. The people of South Carolina have spoken. We have to be pro-South Carolina.”

Things have gotten even stranger since Greene’s win. First, the Associated Press reported that he faces felony obscenity charges for allegedly showing pornography to a University of South Carolina student last November. Greene says he’s not guilty. Then the state’s Democratic Party chairman called on him to withdraw from the general election. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) — who has questioned whether Republicans may have planted Greene in the race — is calling for federal and state investigations. A spokesman for Republican Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) called that notion “ridiculous,” and Greene dismisses suggestions that he is anyone’s pawn.

via In South Carolina, Greene is mystery man despite winning Democratic Senate nod.

Democrats are so embarrassed with Mr. Greene winning their election that they have succumbed to conspiracy theories.  Republicans put him up to it!  Republicans crossed over to vote in the primary!  Somebody paid his filing fee!

First, the South Carolina Republican primary was all taken up with the big, heated governor’s race with tea-party favorite Nikki Haley.  Republicans were all trying to either defeat her or get her elected.   They wouldn’t vote Democratic out of spite.  Second, however this guy got into the race and paid his filing fee, enough people had to vote for him.   Why shouldn’t he get that relatively low number of votes in a mostly Republican state?

Which raises a bigger issue.  In this day of bipartisan revulsion against incumbents and professional politicians, why shouldn’t an average American without political experience serve as a representative of the people?  In the ancient Athenian democracy, certain offices were filled by casting lots so as to ensure that an ordinary Athenian–not some aristocrat or demagogue–would hold the office.   If we are going to have a democratic republic, why shouldn’t the Mr. Greenes of the world run for office and why shouldn’t the other Mr. Greenes of the world vote for him?  Or is that kind of democracy not a good idea?

I agree that this particular citizen doesn’t strike me as making a good Senator, but do you think a person really needs to be a lawyer or rich guy to serve in elected office?  Some, of course, such as mayor or governor or president require administrative ability, but senators and congressmen don’t have to run anything, just represent their constituents.  Or is it good to have more creative lawmakers?