Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Scabies Spiritual

My #2 daughter, the wonderful Endub, has written a spiritual.
I thank her for sharing it with us.

The Scabies Spiritual

I'm so oppressed, and it itches really bad.
I'm not quite sure what I did to make God mad
But if I'm in the same boat as old Jobab
I guess I'll wait for Him right here
With my pottery and my scabs

Scabies, scabies
How I wish I'd been a stillborn baby
Maybe then I would not suffer as I do
Scabies, scabies
It shall surely drive me crazy
Let my skin fall off, Oh Lord,
And let the Sarcoptes scabiei leave me be

Job's only friends sat beside as he cried
He whined at them about how much he wished he'd die
But I have no one to refute me by my side
'cause my friends think I'm contagious
And both my goldfish died


I want to give God a piece of my mind
Ask him why he's treating me unkind
This really bites
I'm covered in mites
And I'd better get my camels when this is through
And yes, God, I'm talking to you.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Military Divorces Up Due to Deployment

One further casualty of the Iraq war: according to the Army, from 2003 when the war began to the following year, more than 3,000 soldiers got divorced, a 78% increase in one year.

War has always been hard on marriages. As the military has gotten more married, the armed forces have of necessity become more involved in supporting marriages in order to retain volunteer soldiers. This makes the war's toll on military marriages a more significant problem for the armed forces. No one, to my knowledge, has calculated the effect of divorce on re-enlistment, but it surely can't be good.

The military's family support apparatus gets bigger, and more necessary, year by year. The Iraq war is the biggest test that the military family system has faced in the all-volunteer era. The fall-out will continue for years to come.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Married with Children … and a Rifle

Yesterday I noted that the All-Volunteer Force has obliged our armed services to be much more family friendly. Betty Alt gives us two statistics that show the sea-change in the family structure of the military.

At the end of the Second World War, 1/3 of the members of the armed forces were married. This is a large increase over pre-war numbers. These 1945 numbers include those iconic rushed marriages of G.I.s about the shipped off – which led to a huge divorce spike in 1947.

Today, 2/3 of the members of the armed forces are married. Moreover, 60% have dependents, though not all the dependents depend on married soldiers.

In the past, the military prohibited, discouraged, or scared off family men. Now, the military way of life is attractive to men, and women, with families.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Volunteer Military is a Pro-Family Military

I have been reading Betty Alt's Following the Flag: Marriage and the Modern Military this week. She makes a point that I could have figured out, but never thought of: the volunteer military has to support families, or the soldiers and sailors and airmen will leave.

There have always been wives, even children, following soldiers from post to post. They were, at best, tolerated, but never welcomed, especially for enlisted men. What changed the military's attitude toward families was the advent of the All Volunteer Force in 1973. For most of the history of the American military, the force was very small. Only officers would marry, and then only with permission. There weren't that many families to accommodate, and, except for a few lifers, they needn't be accommodated for long. Even in major wars – the Civil War, WWI and WWII – many men were drafted, but whatever accommodations were made to families, and especially by families, were temporary. The massive build-up was followed by a massive demobilization.

When we ended the draft after the Vietnam War, though, we had a superpower's need for a large, permanent armed force all around the world. The military had to make a fundamental change in the way it viewed families. In order to recruit and keep good volunteers, their families needed to be more than tolerated. Permanent base housing was built, a school system was created, medical benefits for families were increased. In time, with more female soldiers (now about 13% of the armed services), these benefits were extended to that new species, the military husband. Childcare services were created for working moms who were married to soldiers, or were soldiers themselves.

The military has been clumsy in adapting to families. And it is in the nature of war that families are separated, and mothers and fathers get wounded or killed. I, for one, think that mothers of small children should not be soldiers, though I would stop just short of making this a law. Still, the armed services have done a remarkable job in only one generation in changing their long custom and adapting to military families. There is more that could be done, of course, but in this area, as in many others, the military actually leads the way in practically accommodating new social formations.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

49 Up

The latest installment in the "7 Up" series has come out on DVD. "7 Up" was meant as a one-off when Granada Television profiled a group of 7 year olds in Britain in 1964. The kids were drawn from different classes, and the first show was fairly heavy handed in its socialist critique of the British class structure.

Then they did a follow up at 14. And another at 21. The class critique began to fall away, while the stories of the people came to the fore. By 28 most had married and started to have kids. 35 had a strong theme of parents dying, and the next generation stepping up to full responsibility. Some were divorcing, too. The subjects themselves began to be so famous for being in this series that their resentment of the disruption of their lives starts to come into the documentary as a theme.

"42 Up" seemed to me a turning point. Up to this point, the story was mainly about fulfilling youthful promise – including the opportunities and limits that their initial class position created. Their stories at 42, though, were more about realization. A few still had major turning points coming. The happiest part of that episode was that the nicest guy befriended the most troubled guy, and helped him get on his feet. The nicest guy also got married just before the 42-year-old revisit by the camera crew.

At 49, quite a few are grandparents, especially those who started in the working class. Michael Apted, the director, asks most of them about the effect of class on their lives. He agrees with the general consensus that they have transcended class, or at least the old class structure. The former East Enders had moved out, succeeded by Asian and Caribbean families who changed all the landmarks of the old working-class citadel.

The theme that I noticed this time was that those who stayed married were notably better off than the others, especially financially. Several of them, notably Tony, clearly teetered on the brink of divorce in earlier episodes. Some had divorced, and went on to make second marriages or partnerships that were pretty good. But the losses to divorce run through the whole story. At 49, a good moment for stock-taking, marriage mattered as much as class in how their lives were turning out.

I think the "7 Up" series is the greatest sociological documentary ever made. In Roger Ebert's interview with Michael Apted on the DVD, Apted, who will be about 70 when the time for "56 Up" comes around, worries that he will die long before all the participants do, or before they all refuse to participate any more. I am a few years younger than the subjects of these films, so I have always found them personally helpful as a glimpse into my own future. I hope, with Apted, that someone will carry the project out to its conclusion – to "98 Up."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Most Women Not Living With Husbands – Congratulations, Healthy Widows!

A new Census Bureau study shows that slightly under half of women are now living with husbands. Some see this as further as proof that women don't need marriage, that it is a minority lifestyle and will fade in the future.


Three fourths of women marry. More than half are still married. The 9 percent who are widows can't be read as "anti-marriage." Most of the 11% who are divorced remain pro-marriage – just not to their exes. And many of the unmarried quarter are younger women who hope to marry.

Moreover, most men are married, and continue to benefit from it.

Many women delay marriage, but still cohabit and have children. This is especially true of children of divorce, who want a good marriage so badly that they will mark time cohabiting until they are sure.

I think that when the word starts to get out that cohabiting prevents good marriages more than it helps secure them, the marriage rate will go back up. And I believe the divorce rate can continue to go down, especially as panicy young marrieds absorb the wisdom that they can ride out the rough spots, just as all previous generations have.

This study is the low moment of the curve, not the wave of the future.

ADDENDUM: Michael Medved reports that the New York Times story is even more flawed than I thought. They included all girls 15 - 19 in the total. This hugely inflates the number of females who are living without husbands, but does not, as they claim, mean that most women are living without husbands. My 17- and 18-year-old daughters are living without husbands, and a very good thing, too. I want them to marry someday, but not any time soon. Shame on the Times for such distorted -- if not deliberately devious - reporting.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Baptists Fire a Teacher for Being a Woman

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas gave Sheri Klouda a Ph.D., hired her to teach Hebrew, and then fired her for being a woman.

The seminary based its decision on its reading of I Timothy 2:12, "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence" (King James version). They normally forbid women to teach men in theology or biblical languages, though women may teach men in other subjects.

I think Southwestern Seminary has a perfect right to tailor their hiring rules to their reading of Scripture. My objection is not on feminist or equal protection grounds, or anything like that. They are a free school in a free country, and can follow their conscience in reading Scripture.

I think they have made an incorrect decision, on two grounds. First, on a narrow reading of the verse in question, I can see how they might justify excluding a woman from teaching theology. But Hebrew? If they let women teach music, I think they should let them teach languages. Both can be used for teaching theology, but so can they be used for many other purposes. I don't see why biblical languages are included in the ban.

Second, I think they err in reading this verse as applying to professors. I believe this verse and its neighbors are meant to apply in the home, so I don't even think it rules out women ministers. But even if you think I Timothy rules out women as pastors, as Southern Baptists normally do, I don't think that prohibition carries over to professors. Teaching is not simply proclaiming the word or proselytizing the faith. Southwestern is open to many kinds of Christians, and teaches Hebrew and theology and many other subjects to men and women who want to understand the Bible and the Christian faith for all kinds of reasons.

I think Southwestern Seminary has erred in firing Sheri Klouda, and erred in a way that will bring as much strife within the church as it will draw outside criticism.