The Briefing, Monday, November 12, 2012

TODAY: So, adultery does matter, a new law “vexes” the porn industry, Norway’s mass murderer complains of “inhumane” treatment, and Germany decides to subsidize moms and export grandmothers. I discuss all these and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview.

Adultery Still Matters: The Downfall of a General

Even in our morally confused age, adultery still matters. Gen. David Petraeus, who until Friday served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, had to resign when he admitted to a sexual affair with the woman who had written his biography. That biography is now significantly altered.

Gen. Petraeus was a four-star Army general, known simply as P4 to many insiders. His appointment to the directorship of the Central Intelligence Agency came after he retired from one of the most illustrious careers in the modern American military.

As The New York Times reported:

“He was the preeminent military officer of his generation, a soldier-scholar blazing with ambition and intellect, completing his meteoric rise as a commander in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Worshipful Congressional committees lauded him as a miracle worker for helping turn around the war in Iraq, applying a counterinsurgency strategy he had helped devise and that was widely viewed for a time as the future of warfare. Then, dispatched to Afghanistan to replace Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who had been fired by President Obama, he sought to apply the doctrine he had championed, while also applying an aggressive counterterrorism strategy. He was fiercely competitive and carefully protective of his reputation.”

Furthermore, the paper noted that “Mr. Petraeus had seemed all but indestructible.” All that came to an end on Friday, when his resignation was announced. In a letter to CIA employees, Petraeus stated the matter directly:

“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. 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.”

In the past several years, adultery has brought down two governors (Eliot Spitzer of New York, who resigned, and Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who did not), one presidential candidate (John Edwards), and numerous business leaders (including Harry Stoneciper, former CEO of Boeing). The same day that Petraeus’s resignation hit the papers, word came of the fact that the incoming CEO of Lockheed Martin, Christopher E. Kubasik, had been forced out under similar circumstances.

As The New York Times noted, none were more shocked about Gen. Petraeus’ downfall than his former colleagues in the military, who compared his fall to that of David and Bathsheba in the Old Testament.

Christians know that adultery is not merely a sin — it is the breaking of a covenant and a maligning of God’s good gift in marriage. This particular sin also comes with devastating consequences to individuals, families, and institutions. Beyond that, it leads to the unraveling of community.

Even in our day of moral confusion and uncertainty, adultery has consequences. Tellingly, some argued that Petraeus had not done anything worthy of resignation unless national security had been breached. Gen. Petraeus knew better than that, as do we.

The Pornography Industry is Vexed

So says The Wall Street Journal in an article reporting on the situation in Los Angeles after the county’s voters approved a measure requiring actors in porn movies to wear condoms in order to improve safety.

According to the paper’s report, fully 28% of porn actors were found to have a sexually transmitted disease within a recent 4 month period.

The porn industry is outraged, however, claiming that the use of condoms by actors will make their product less interesting to porn viewers. Some are threatening to leave Los Angeles altogether.

Embedded in the article is the fact that the porn industry means a combined $1 billion in economic impact in Los Angeles alone, providing some 10,000 jobs.

Of course, from a Christian perspective the whole picture is a parable. Sin cannot be made safe, and there is no way that pornography can be transformed into “safe sex,” no matter what laws may be passed.

Anders Breivik is Outraged

Another moral parable comes from Norway, where convicted mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is serving a 21-year prison term for the premeditated murder of 77 people, mostly teenagers and young adults, in a 2011 rampage. Tellingly, liberal Norway lacks both the death penalty and anything like life in prison without parole. Even with 77 murder convictions, Breivik’s maximum sentence was 21 years in a rather comfortable prison in Norway. He may be held in custody after his sentence, but only if he is deemed a threat to others.

The New York Times reports that Breivik, who inhabits a 3-room cell complete with television and exercise equipment, has written a 27-page screed decrying the fact that he is being treated inhumanely. He complains about everything from the fact that he has no view to his lack of a thermos, which leads to cold coffee. The cold-blooded executioner of 77 human beings complained that his stab-resistant ink pen is a “manifestation of sadism,” even as he sat in his warm 3-room cell with television and all the rest.

Germany Passes a Child Care Subsidy

The German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her what her constituents in Bavaria had been demanding — a monthly subsidy for mothers who raise small children at home. The subsidy had previously been made available only to moms who put their children into child-care facilities. This discriminated against stay-at-home moms, many complained. The most interesting part of this story is the fact that extending the subsidy to stay-at-home moms was so controversial, revisiting the “letting down the team” argument made by some American feminist leaders.

Germans Outsource the Elderly

The German newspaper Welt am Sonntag (World on Sunday) reports that many German families are sending their aged and elderly relatives to care facilities far away — as far as Slovakia, Poland, and even Thailand.

As the paper reports:

“Outside the door, it’s Slovakia.  Mrs Ludl doesn’t know anything about that, because of her dementia – or maybe in this case, one might say, thanks to her dementia. It’s been a month since her son and her daughter-in-law sat the old lady in their motor home and drove here to Zlatna na Ostrove near the Hungarian border. It’s 700 kilometres from her old home in Bavaria, and driving here took a whole day. A nursing home in Germany would have been too expensive. That at least is the argument of the son, who runs a toy store out of his home. For more and more Germans, the last journey is leading to a nursing home outside Germany. In countries such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, and in Spain and Thailand too, there is a growing number of facilities that are geared towards Western Europeans and are often even run by German operators”

There are many issues at stake here, but the breakdown of the family, especially the extended family, makes developments like this almost certain. Furthermore, falling birthrates and longer life spans mean that exporting the aged may well become a practice elsewhere as well. This is a sad story with no silver lining.

I discuss all these and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview. Listen here.  Links to all articles cited also provided.