The Briefing, Tuesday, November 13, 2012

TODAY: Adultery in the digital age, worldview and demographics strike again, teenagers ready to vote, religious liberty undermined, and a new reason to elope. I discuss all these and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview.

Hubris and High Tech: Adultery in the Digital Age

The digital revolution has altered just about every dimension of contemporary life, including adultery. One one hand, digital technologies and social media have facilitated the kinds of connections that have encouraged adultery, with individuals developing relationships online that often do not stay merely online. Flirtation via social media has often led to adultery.

On the other hand, many of these same technologies have made hiding a clandestine affair increasingly difficult, if not impossible. Writing in The Washington Post, columnist Ruth Marcus said that the downfall of former Gen. David Petraeus is a case of hubris brought down by high technology. As she writes:

“The technological part is something that we have not yet fully internalized, although Petraeus, of all people, ought to have known: There are no true secrets in the modern world. Privacy is an illusion that we allow ourselves to avoid the alternative of paralysis. Every communication is potentially public. Like the gift of fire, technology is a magical device that, if not used carefully, contains the seeds of our own destruction.”

There is great wisdom in her assessment. Marcus cites novelist Ann Patchett, who complains that the constant chatter of social media has made the task of crafting convincing fiction far more difficult. “Plot twists fail in a world without secrets,” Marcus explains.

“If you don’t want to see it on the front page of The Post, don’t write it down,” she warns. The Petraeus affair underlines the fact that adultery still matters in the modern age, and that the digital world is no place to hide.

Worldview and Demography

Looking back at the election, The Washington Post offers a detailed analysis of the results with a keen demographic perspective. The data points to the fact that worldview is often tied to contexts and conditions.

First, gender matters. Men favored Mitt Romney for President, with 52% of men voting for him, while 45% voted for President Obama. Women flipped the equation. 55% voted for Obama, while only 44% voted for Romney.

Second, marriage matters. Married women favored Mitt Romney (53%) rather than Barack Obama (46%). Non-married women, in contrast, favored Obama (67%) over Romney (31%). Note the scale of that reversal.

Third, theological convictions matter. White Roman Catholics favored Romney by a huge margin, 59% to 40% for Obama. But white evangelicals preferred Romney by an even greater degree, with 78% voting for Romney and 21% for Obama. But, from the opposite direction, voters with “no religion” as preference preferred Obama, giving him 70% of their votes, leaving 26% for Romney.

As a recent Pew study indicated, fully one in five American adults is now a “none,” registering no religious affiliation of any kind.

All this affirms the vital importance of worldview, but we are also reminded of how worldview is related to gender, marital status, and theological conviction. That lesson is right there in the numbers.

Teenage Idiots to Vote?

Argentina is poised to give 16-year-olds the right to vote and Scotland is proposing to do the same. In Scotland, leaders of an effort to declare its independence from the United Kingdom recognize that they need the votes of younger teenagers. Meanwhile, in Britain and in the United States, some now call for 16-year-olds to be given the right to vote. Is this nuts?

Polly Hudson of the Daily Mail [London] sure thinks so. “This is the worst idea ever,” she argues. She wonders out loud if the adults pushing this proposal suffer from amnesia. Polly Hudson insists that she was “a complete idiot at 16,” and she provided her readers with ample proof. She recounted rebelling against her mother’s denial of permission to pierce her nose by attaching a stud to her nose with super-glue, and other tales of adolescent irrationality. She suggests that her readers were also idiots at age 16.

“It’s extremely obvious the very last thing I should have been given was any power in making important decisions that affect everyone,” she said.

In the United States, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 by ratification of the 26th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1971. President Eisenhower had called for lowering the voting age in 1956. There appears to be little support in the U.S. for lowering the voting age to 16.

The bigger issue in the United States is the lack of maturity among voters 18 and older. Recent studies indicate that a frightening percentage of Americans vote according to no rational principle at all, but merely on the basis of personal preference.

Religious Liberty Subverted

The Obama Administration has made a truly dangerous argument in a Federal court, signaling once again the fact that the contraception mandate handed down by the Department of Health and Human Services is a clear and present danger to religious freedom.

Responding to a suit filed by David Green, head of the Hobby Lobby chain, the Obama Justice Department argued that corporations have no religious liberty rights. The Justice Department lawyer argued in an Oklahoma courthouse that Hobby Lobby is a secular corporation, “and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion.”

The clear point of this argument is to deny religious liberty to any normal corporation. David Green claims, quite understandably, that the new healthcare law and its contraception mandate violate his religious liberty. He is not trying to make contraception illegal. He simply cannot pay for certain forms of contraception without violating his Christian convictions.

The argument made by the Justice Department lawyer in this hearing are ominous indeed. We will watch this case closely.

A New Reason to Elope

Not too long ago, couples eloped for two main reasons — they wanted to escape parental opposition or legal jurisdiction. Now, a new wave of couples are eloping for a very different reason. They simply cannot afford an expensive wedding.

As the Sydney Morning Herald [Australia] reports, the price of the average wedding in Australia is now $48,296. In the United States, the average wedding now tops $29,000. This is insane.

Christians affirm the importance of a wedding as a public celebration and witness to a public event — the uniting of a couple in the covenant of marriage. Marriage is a public reality, and this is why states require witnesses at the ceremony. Furthermore, Christians understand the importance of celebrating the union. But the modern wedding is often a financial disaster, and many young couples say that they are forced to delay marriage due to the cost of the wedding. This points to very confused values. The point is the marriage, not the wedding.

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.