Saturday, March 22, 2008

"Just Do It" Do-Gooders

David Brooks has an excellent column about the new breed of social service activists who are in it for results, not for big rhetoric and lifestyle theater. He writes, "The highest status symbol in their circle is a Rand study showing that their program yields statistically significant results." These are my kind of servants of the public good.

I see this as the coming to fruition of Gen-X. Howe and Strauss, in 13th Gen, predicted when Gen-Xers were still college students that what they would bring to the commonweal was a devotion to getting a practical job done. Reacting against Baby Boomer rhetoric, they eschewed big causes in their wild youth. Now settling into years of social responsibility, they want their work to really yield results.

I was born in 1960. I am on the cusp between the Boom and Gen-X. I feel the pull of both styles. But my heart is with the Xers.

Pick a problem. Try a solution. Test the results. Git 'er done.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Unilateral Divorce Increases Violent Crime

A new study by two Spanish researchers at a German labor institute using American data found that unilateral divorce led to increases in violent crime of 8 to 12% in the 30 years following divorce reform.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Another Marriage Benefit: Low-Stress Sleep

A new study from Brigham Young University researchers found that happily married people have lower blood pressure than singles by about four points. Even more interesting, happily marrieds had lower blood pressure while sleeping. Unhappily marrieds, on the other hand, had higher blood pressure than singles.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Adultery is Common, But Not Normal

After every big adultery scandal, such as Elliot Spitzer's, someone will run a story about how common adultery is in the animal world. In this week's entry, the New York Times' Natalie Angier opines that "In Most Species, Fidelity is a Fantasy." She combines the results of very varied studies about shrikes, voles, foxes, gibbons, and humans to conclude that "anywhere from 10 to 70 percent of the offspring will prove to have been sired by somebody other than the resident male." No big deal, she implies.

But it is a big deal. And it makes a big difference which end of the spectrum we fall on. In fact human beings are close to the 10% end. The great majority of children are fathered by their mother's husbands.

I think the subtext of articles like "Faithfulness is a Fantasy" is to normalize adultery. This is not simply reporting the facts, but making them worse than they are now. The truth is that among human beings, fidelity is normal, adultery is rare.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama Names Wright's Error

Barak Obama has taken some heat for things his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, said. I think Obama's previous repudiations of Wright's crazy comments should have been more than enough to put the issue to rest.

Today in Philadelphia Sen. Obama gave a great speech on race
. He reiterated his repudiation of Wright's crazy talk. Then he went beyond that repudiation, and named the underlying error that his pastor made. In this statement I hear the Joshua generation giving the right answer to a disappointed member of the Moses generation:

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Deport Polygamist Illegal Aliens

There is a growing subculture of West African illegal immigrants in this country who sneak in, then buy wives from home to serve as rightless free domestic labor. They make a bunch of kids at once, on the public nickel, to be US citizens who will retroactively make the whole thing legal. And create a voting bloc for polygamy. No thanks. Nip it in the bud. European nations that have given up on monogamy are already reaping the whirlwind these days, with the women doing most of the suffering.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Biting the Bullet About Women in Church Leadership

I am working on a larger project to restore the Establishment in the Presbyterian Church. By Presbyterian Establishment I mean an informal but real group that can lead the church and heal its divisions with recognized authority. Some readers have worried that my comments about the role of women in such an Establishment might be contested to the point of closing some readers' minds to the rest of my argument. I want to try a draft of this section on you, my helpful readers, for your comments. This is just one snippet from a much larger document in which I lay out the rest of what I mean by a Presbyterian Establishment.

The case of women in the Presbyterian Establishment is both the easiest and the hardest to resolve. It is the easiest, because there are so many devoted women in the church, many of whom have significant leadership experience and potential. It is hardest because, at every higher level of power, there are fewer women who are willing to take the job than there are men.

As a sociologist who has taught and studied family life, sex, and gender, I have become convinced over the years that the differences between men and women in their approach to power is deep. To be sure, women have been excluded from the opportunity to achieve power and to be part of the establishment in the past. Changing sexist structures that excluded women is a great gain and something we should always be vigilant about. But I believe that assuring women equal opportunity to be part of the Presbyterian Establishment will not result in an equal outcome of women being half of that Establishment.

I have been convinced that women, as a group, are less likely than men to sacrifice their families for positions of power. Moreover, women tend to be less likely to want to rule over others than men are; likewise, women tend to be less likely to accept other women ruling over them than they are men. To be sure, there will always be some women who would make good leaders and who are willing to do the job, even at the cost of being separated from others. But I think it is simply a fact of our complementary sexes that women will never voluntarily take up a proportionate share of positions of power, in the church or any other organization.

So if your main goal is equal representation of men and women in all positions of power and authority in the church, then the Presbyterian Establishment project is probably not for you. The more effective the Establishment is, the less likely it is to simply reflect the raw demographic diversity of the church. I say, so be it. The church needs an Establishment that works with real effect and authority.