Thursday, February 28, 2013

Animal Sacrifice: The Other Casualties In Our Un-Civil War

The “Coaling,” a fiercely contested hill in the Civil War Battle of Port Republic just south of us, was the bloody scene of numerous engagements where Confederate and Union troops battled for control on June 9, 1862. A historical marker near the little Grace Memorial Episcopal Church that stands there today describes some of that battle’s terrible toll, not only in human casualties, but in the losses of horses and mules deemed vital to the war effort.

Confederate Brigadier General John D. Imboden describes an incident in the Port Republic battle in which he took his men, along with his mules carrying the guns and ammunition into a shallow ravine about 100 yards behind Captain William Poague's Virginia battery, with Union artillery screaming overhead:

"The mules became frantic. They kicked, plunged and squealed. It was impossible to quiet them, and it took three or four men to hold one mule from breaking away. Each mule had about three hundred pounds weight on him, so securely fastened that the load could not be dislodged by any of his capers. Several of them lay down and tried to wallow their loads off. The men held these down and that suggested the idea of throwing them all to the ground and holding them there."

Historian Gary Ecelberger, in a special edition of the Blue and Gray magazine, XXVIII #2  2011, describes the terrible fate of Union horses in the conflict at the Coaling:

“The Louisianans swiftly gunned down artillery horses by the score. Those that were not killed by bullets were bloodied by Bowie knives drawn across their throats. By the time they abandoned their positions, no fewer than 50 horses were slaughtered to keep the guns in place.”

According to historian Deborah Grace, in an article on “The Horse in the Civil War,” the total number of horses and mules killed in the entire bloody conflict from 1861-1865 may be over a million, as compared to recently revised human casualties being estimated at 750,000. At the Battle of Gettysburg, for example, the number Union horses and mules killed was 881, and the Confederacy lost 619. Some estimates are even higher.  Other sources have more conservative numbers.

I’m dismayed at how we tend to glorify a war that in my mind was one of the most barbaric and insane of all the bloody conflicts throughout all of history. The cost in human and animal lives lost and property destroyed is truly horrendous.

Anyone with a heart for human beings--as well as for animals--should weep.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What's Amore? A Different Kind of Love Story

When the moon hits your eye
Like a big-a pizza pie
That's amore *

In the Greek language of New Testament times there are numerous words for love, such as "eros" (romantic, passionate desire), "philia" (filial or "brotherly" feelings of affection) and "agape" (unconditional love without thought of reward).

Ronald Sider, in his book, "Living Like Jesus," writes about the latter kind of love as modeled by his uncle Jesse Sider of Ontario, Canada. Five years into his marriage, and after the birth of their second daughter, his beloved wife Lydia developed a severe mental illness. Over time, she became increasingly disoriented and unstable and finally lost almost all touch with reality. When it became clear that it was impossible for him to take care of her at home, Lydia was committed to a psychiatric hospital, where she spent most of the rest of her life.

When the world seems to shine
Like you've had too much wine
That's amore *

Jesse faithfully visited her every week, expecting her to eventually get well enough to come home again. But one day her doctor recommended that Jesse simply give up on her and get on with his life. “Your wife is not going to get any better," he said. "I think you should go home, take care of your girls and try to forget about this woman.”

To which Jesse said, “I can’t forget Lydia. She’s a part of me.”

So for over twenty more years he made regular two-hour trips to Hamilton, Ontario, to see the person he had promised to love for better or worse, and until death do them part. Sometimes she seemed to recognize and welcome him, but often he got either no response or a negative one, Lydia having lost all of her former warm emotional feelings.

When the stars make you drool
Joost-a like pasta fazool
That's amore *

Eventually, after the doctors took the radical step of performing a lobotomy on Lydia, she got to briefly be at home again, although things were still extremely difficult.

One day, for the first time in many years, she asked Jesse, “Will you pray for me?” which he eagerly did, as he had often done before. The next day she died of a ruptured appendix, she having been unaware of the problem because her lobotomy had rendered her unable to feel pain in that part of her body.

“Yes, she was a burden,” Jesse said, reflecting on their relationship, "but I never felt it was something I should be relieved of. I loved her, and I did all I could.”

Love is patient, love is kind. 
It always protects, always trusts, 
always hopes, always perseveres.
 That's agape

* "That's Amore" by singer Dean Martin (Number 2 Billboard hit in 1953)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

An Ancient Hymn For Lent

Hear the Choir of St. Martin in the Fields Church
"My Song is Love Unknown" is my chosen hymn for Lent this year. It was written by Samuel Crossman, a minister and hymn writer in the Church of England, in 1664. The melody was composed by John Ireland. You can hear several verses of it here.

The hymn is #235 in our "Hymnal, A Worship Book." Some of Crossman's other hymns are preserved in the Sacred Harp.

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

In life, no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heav’n was His home;
But mine the tomb wherein He lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Does Solitary Confinement Create Psychosis?

APA photo
It was both heartening and heartbreaking to read George Will’s column in Friday’s Daily News-Record, “We’re Creating Psychotics,” one that deserves the attention of every mental health professional, politician and taxpayer in the country.

Will describes how harmful confining inmates in isolation cells can be, and cites Charles Dickens, who as early as 1842 had this to say about America’s experiment with solitary confinement:

“I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body: and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.”

According to a March 10, 2010, article in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, “the adverse effects of solitary confinement are especially significant for persons with serious mental illness... All too frequently, mentally ill prisoners decompensate in isolation, requiring crisis care or psychiatric hospitalization.”

Here's some information on our local jail's use of isolation cells for the suicidally depressed and mentally ill:

Also check the following link, and another by the American Psychological Association.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Marry Well, Live Longer?

To all my single friends, let me make clear that I don’t believe being married is the only way to fulfillment and happiness. Jesus’ example alone should be enough to make that point.

But studies do show that on the whole married people live longer those living alone.

In spite of that, Dr. Mache Seibert, in a Care2 blog post, cites a report from the Pew Research Institute that shows that the number of new marriages dropped 5% from 2009 to 2010 and that only half of all adults in the United States are currently married. He also cites a 2006 study that shows that unmarried people living alone have the highest risk of death in the United States, and that compared with married people, people divorced or separated are at a 27% greater mortality risk, and people who have never married 58% greater.

Yet Americans are increasingly opting out of marriage, and there is a definite trend among young adults to wait until their later 20’s to legally marry (even though they are clearly not opting out of being sexually intimate or of living together in what would have previously be considered “common law” marriages).

If, according to current findings, married people have the longest life expectancy, it also follows that if we’re married, staying married is going to be better for our health, he says, unless we’re in a relationship in which there is ongoing adultery, addiction or abuse. Most couples who became single again by either divorce or death of a spouse, according to Dr. Seibert, tend to experience a decline in their physical health, are more likely to experience a chronic health conditions and a greater decrease in mobility than those still married to their first wife or husband by middle age. The divorced or widowed individuals also experienced more health and mobility problems.

The studies he cites suggest that those who remarry after being widowed or divorced still tend to experience 12% more chronic disease and 19% more mobility problems than those who are blessed with healthy enduring relationships. So his advice is that we should do everything we can to work at remaining happily married, and if we’re unhappily married, to try to work it out.

In order to do that, he says, “Don’t go for the jugular; don’t punch below the belt. Arguments are best recovered from if there is civility; some element of touch, some words of endearment rather than total hostility...Try to make up. Try to reconcile. Try to balance the emotional ledger. If both parties are committed, it’s never to late to repair. Marriage is good for your health.”

So far, it certainly seems to have been good for mine, for which I am thankful to God and to my wonderfully longsuffering and supportive wife.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Is This Outrageous or What?

$618,000,000 F-35 fighter
 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19 (RSV)

According to the last issue of TIME magazine, the Pentagon’s newest F-35 jet fighter is still not fully operational after frequent production delays and a multitude of technical problems. All of which have nearly doubled the original estimated cost of the program, now projected to reach a grand total of $396 billion.

That’s billion, at a time when politicians are bemoaning how devastating our deficits are and how drastically we must cut federal spending for health care and other life supporting programs currently under the gun.

I find this obscene. And just how many of these fighters are we committed to paying for?

It turns out that it’s a total of 2,457, according to the TIMES piece, making this the costliest weapons program in the entire history of humankind. And remember this project is being initiated by a country that, with less than 6% of the world’s population, is already responsible for 45% of the world’s total military expenditures. And in the article, Frank Kendall III, acting Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, is quoted as saying, “Putting the F-35 into production years before the first test flight was acquisition malpractice. It should not have been done.” In other words, it has a lot of serious problems that still need to be ironed out.

Can we afford to keep on borrowing for, and investing in, these kinds of high tech, high cost killing machines? Our personal calculators can’t even handle the numbers of wasted dollars involved, and this is only one line item in one part of our nation’s massive military budget. But the ultimate cost to us, our children and our grandchildren for the F-35 program alone, is staggering, with the total life cycle expense for the entire American fleet estimated to be $1.51 trillion over its 50-year life, or $618 million per plane.

May God have mercy on us all.

See also "Welfare Waste Versus Warfare Waste"
And here's a link to a 90-second video on projected Pentagon "cuts"

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Observing the "Plain English" Rule

"You should have known that would upset me."  
"You don't really love me anymore. I can just tell."
"You've lived with me long enough to know that..."  
"If you really loved me, you would have done that without my having to tell you."

Assumptions, assumptions.

We all make them, based on the irrational belief that if our spouse, friends or loved ones remotely cared about us, they would know our every wish, understand our every intent and respond to our every need whether we've actually stated them or not.

Not that we shouldn't try to be as sensitive as we can to unspoken cues we get from others, but relationships do best when we don't take too many things like that for granted. After all, the reason we have the God-given the ability to communicate is so others know things about us they would otherwise never know, and so have the opportunity to respond accordingly.

Many couples I've worked with report having their relationship improve significantly through adopting what I've called the "Plain English" rule (or the "Claro Espanol" rule if you're Spanish!).

It works like this:

I will not hold another responsible to respond to my need without my having made a polite and clearly stated request to that effect.

Nor will I accept either blame or responsibility for being unable to read another person's wishes, positions or intentions without their having stated them clearly.

A simple rule like that can eliminate a lot of misunderstandings and resentments.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Release for Aging Prisoners: A Letter From Buckingham Prison

Photo by Tim Gruber, Kentucky State Reformatory

I received the following letter  recently regarding Virginia’s Geriatric Parole Statute (Code § 53.1-40.01.:

Dear Mr. Yoder:

My name is Stephano “Steve” Colosi, Jr. #1037581,  and I am writing you as a result of receiving a letter from my brother in Christ and dear friend Pete Mahoney.

Pete suggested I inform you of my project, which has to do with the gross under-utilization of geriatric release under the above referenced statute. The statute is designed for the release of inmates sixty years old after ten years of incarceration, and inmates sixty-five years old and older with a minimum of five years of confinement.

Currently I am incarcerated at Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Virginia 23936. Each day I am in the company of many inmates over 60 and up to 80 years old who are obviously incapable of being a danger to anyone. Often times the Department of Corrections keeps inmates so long that their support system (friends, relatives, potential employers) are deceased or out of business, and unable to offer the safety net required to facilitate reintegration into society.

In my housing unit alone,  we have an 80-year-old inmate who is nearly blind, a 74-year-old who recently returned from MCV after congenital heart failure (he has been locked up for 50 years), and another man who is a 74-year-old Israeli expatriate who needs a cane to walk, and whose family makes the trek from Israel once a year for a three-hour visit!

I could go on and on, as these few examples are only the tip of the iceberg. My estimate is that there are, at minimum, 200 men at Buckingham alone who meet the criteria for Geriatric Release.

Admittedly, many of them are in for violent crimes or other crimes that would shock the senses. However, after 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years, I suspect that society has extracted their pound of flesh. At some point the public must realize hat keeping folks locked up without end becomes a diminishing return for society, and the cost is astronomical at an average of $68,000 per year (compared to $24,000 for younger inmates).

Many localities have overcrowded jails, and plan new construction costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Why not release (with caveats) geriatric inmates, many of whom can be self-sufficient with family support, social security and/or VA benefits. For every geriatric inmate released, two teachers could be hired to benefit the public and help circumvent the cycle of young men going to prison.

State Senator Walter Stosch of Henrico County (Innsbrooke Centre, 4551 Cox Road, Suite 110, Glen Allen, VA 23060-0740) is an advocate of geriatric release utilization and was recently quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch stating that, “We can no longer afford the expense of keeping geriatric geriatric prisoners locked up at more than twice the rate of regular prisoners.”

I believe if the taxpayers were made aware of the condition that exists, they would respond favorably to the statute/law which has been in existence since 1995 but rarely used. At some point, Christian values must outweigh needless vengeance associated with the mantra of “tough on crime.”

Thank you for your time and effort on behalf of likely several thousand inmates in the Department of Corrections who would benefit by implementation of geriatric release, as well as their families and friends.

You might want to express your concerns to: 

State Senator Mark Obenshain at

Assembly Delegate Tony Wilt at

Here are two good articles on this issue:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Let Your No be No

In an all too familiar scene, a harried parent is trying to wrap up her grocery shopping while her five-year-old is hassling her for a highly advertised sugar-coated cereal.

She says No. He puts it in the grocery cart anyway.

Mother again says No, and returns it to its place.

“But this is the cereal I like,” he pouts,  “and it’s what Bobby (a favorite cousin) likes! I won’t eat any other kind!” and tosses it back in the cart.

Once more mother says No, emphatically this time, and places it back on the shelf.

This time Junior yells, “But I want this kind! You have to get it for me!” and grabs the box and heads for the checkout line.

Mother, who has now reached her breaking point, dashes toward her son, yanks him by the arm and yells at him (for yelling).

But Junior has learned not to give up easily. He goes into dramatic meltdown, resulting in an angry mom shaking and threatening him, “I’m never taking you shopping with me again, ever!”

All to no avail. Son is crying uncontrollably, mom is desperate.

Finally, she bargains. “O.K., Just this one time. But only if you promise never, ever to act this way again. Understand?”

Child nods, half whimpering, half grinning.

Chalk up another win for Junior.

What part of "No" don’t children understand?  Or is the real problem that we parents (and grandparents) don’t understand how to say take a firm position with our children and teens?

Back in August of 2007 more than a dozen Minnesota parents, educators and health organizations sponsored full page newspaper ads launching a “Say Yes to No” campaign across the state. The program offered explanations and examples based on the book “NO: Why Kids – of All Ages Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It,” by David Walsh, president of the Media and the Family Institute.

“Parents have been looking for solutions... for a long time,” says Rosie Loeffler-Kemp, president of the Minnesota PTA. “Say Yes to No will give parents and educators answers and tactics that put them back into control of their homes and classrooms.”

Sounds good in theory, and maybe in our homes, but what about our grocery store scenario?

Here’s how an effective No might have worked:

Child protests, “But this is the cereal I like! I won’t eat any other kind!” etc.

Mother gets on her child’s eye level, arms on his shoulders, “I know you want this, but we don’t use that kind of cereal at our house.” (Respectful but absolutely firm position)

“But Mom, that’s the only cereal I like!”

“I hear you, but we don’t use this kind of cereal at our house.” (broken record restatement, still on his eye level)

“But Mom...”

“Remember, we don’t use this kind of cereal at our house. You can either stop begging, or we’ll go to the car right now for a time-out. If you don’t cooperate, you'll go to your sitter’s, and mommy will finish the shopping and go to the Taco Barn this time without you. It’s up to you.” End of discussion, mother rises for action.

Of course, she could have taken her son out and smacked him instead of giving him a firm, no-nonsense consequence. But that would be over in a harsh and heated instant, whereas removing him from the store, enforcing a five-minute time-out in his car seat (time doesn’t start until he cooperates), and bringing an abrupt end to the fun of shopping--and eating out with his mom--delivers a lesson that can keep on teaching for a long time.

And in case you’re wondering, there are worse things than leaving a shopping cart in the grocery aisle.

Like not doing whatever is necessary to teach Junior what No means.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Letter to Our House Church

from Stillsong Hermitage website
Greetings, Family of Hope loved ones,

I was so looking forward to studying this Sunday's texts (Exodus 34:29-35, Psalm 99,  2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2, Luke 9:28-43) with you at our 4 pm service. They are rich in insight into what we might experience in peak, mountaintop times in our faith, but also in what we need of God's "glory" and presence in everyday living.

Unfortunately, Alma Jean and I have both come down with a miserable cold, sore throat and cough we must have gotten from our grandtwins in Rochester this past week, so I'm afraid we, with much regret, won't be able to be there. If ever there were any germs in or on either of these 19-month-olds, we made many up close and personal contacts with them last week, and now we want to be sure we don't share those same bugs with others.

In studying today's passages, I was struck with how we all experience both a God of mystery, way beyond our knowing, and a God of history, within our means of somewhat understanding and knowing, since we believe God has chosen to enter history through the human lives and voices of the prophets and especially in the divine/human work and voice of Jesus. So to experience more of God, we must, like the three disciples in the Luke passage, walk with, observe and listen to, Jesus, (and not get dulled and drowsy, as the three did in the Luke passages!). In this way we believe we can know God more fully and truly as the one who lives among us, and who brings both healing and hard words of truth we so much need to hear and heed.

Otherwise, we will tragically live in this world of history and miss out on how God is directing and moving the story toward shalom and harmony as God intended from the beginning. Being distracted and "so earthly minded that we are of no earthly good," we risk being unaware of what it means to be an active citizen of God's new and forever reign in a celebrative, faithful and difference-making way in the here and now.

In addition to the realms of mystery and history there are also recorded instances in scripture of an intersection between the God of unimaginable glory and the God of everyday story that is a little like the meeting of a massive warm front with a cold front. Weatherwise, that is often characterized by storm and turbulence, wind and lightening, cloud and darkness, as when God's awesome glory and dazzling light envelope Moses on Sinai mountain (in Exodus), or when Jesus' disciples encounter Jesus, Moses and Elijah on the Tabor mount of transfiguration (Luke). These are those peak times in our experience when there seems to be only a thin veil between the God realm of mystery and the one we inhabit here in everyday life.

In the II Corinthians 3 passage, if one were to begin the reading earlier, at verse 7, we would find the word "glory" used a total of 14 times. What I need, what all of us need is to reflect and radiate God's pure and powerful light in all of the the dark places both within us and around us. This passage became very powerful to me in a transformative point in my life as a pastor some years ago, when I felt especially depleted and demoralized in my faith and in my work. When I read, as if for the first time, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (or liberty)", and the words "with unveiled face, we are being changed from one degree of glory to another," all heaven seemed to break loose for me there alone in my study. The passage remains an especially important one to me today.

May God bless each of you with a fresh encounter with the God of glory, mystery and history today. We'll be with with you in spirit.

Love and prayers, Harvey and Alma Jean

Friday, February 8, 2013

Local Prison Reform: Still a Work in Progress?

A past form of restraint
A number of mental health professionals and other concerned citizens have expressed concern over the past year about the frequency with which the restraint chair and the isolated padded cell are used for suicidally depressed and mentally ill inmates at our local jail, as described in my November 8, 2012 blog. In that post I detailed the number of times and the circumstances these were used in the period from January 1 to June 30, 2012.

We recently asked for, and kindly received, an update from Sheriff Hutcheson’s office about the uses of the restraint chair and padded isolation cell from July 1 to December 31, 2012.

A current form of restraint

This latest report showed there were 6 cases of mentally ill persons (usually suicidal) being confined to the restraint chair during that time, an average of one per month, as compared to a three times per per month average in the first half of the year. While in restraint, belts and cuffs have the prisoner's legs, arms, and torso immobilized.

Five other inmates were detained in the chair for other miscellaneous reasons (being intoxicated, incorrigible, etc.). The average time someone spent in the chair for medical reasons (mentally ill and deemed suicidal) and in this “other” category combined was 4.8 hours, the shortest time being 2 hours and the longest 18 hours.

This total of 11 persons in the second half of the year compares favorably to a total of 27 in the first half, although the average length of stay for the 11 was longer (no doubt a skewed number because one of the 11 was thus detained for 18 hours). Another slight  improvement, one a number of concerned citizens and mental health professionals have recommended, was that an additional 17 suicidal inmates were simply assigned to a regular segregated cell and put on suicide watch, as compared to 13 in the first half of the year.

The restraint chair was used an additional 21 times for violent behavior, which many of us see as appropriate when all other measures at subduing an inmate fail (such as someone coming off a bad drug induced high, for example). The average time that a violent person spent in the chair was 5.1 hours, compared to six hours in the previous time period.

As to the dreaded isolated padded cell, or “rubber room”, there were 10 cases of it being used for “medical reasons” (inmates deemed suicidal) during this past six-month period, compared to 7 in the first half of 2012. Here the inmate is stripped, given a paper gown to wear, has no mattress, blanket, reading material or eating utensils, and has to use a hole in the floor for a commode. No numbers were provided as to the average length of time people were detained under these conditions.

We look forward to continuing to work with Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson and Steve Shortell at our local jail and with Mr. Lacy Whitmore of the Community Services Board to improve mental health services for our local inmates. Please let me know if you have questions or concerns.

For other posts on this issue check this link.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Saint of a Different Sort: Richard "Dick" Randel, 1944-2013

Nikki Fox DNR file photo, used by permission
I felt a special sadness when I heard of Dick Randel’s death last Friday. Unfortunately, we were in  Rochester, NY, with our daughter and family and couldn’t meet with his family at the funeral home.

Our paths crossed in the early nineties when our house church frequently met at the former Star Gables Motel, which Dick and Laurie managed as a rundown kind of homeless shelter for the down and out.

Dick was a complex man. He claimed to be unable to read or write, but was remarkably articulate and seemed good at dealing with finances. While our concerns for offering a hand up to needy families were much the same, our personality styles and ways of relating to people sometimes put us at odds.

Dick had strong opinions about what people should do, and didn’t hesitate to make strong demands of people, in a way we felt sometimes bordered on being presumptious or overbearing. But his heart was in the right place, and he freely spoke out against injustice and as an advocate of the homeless poor and especially of children in the foster care system, which he felt was insufficiently responsive to the rights of both parents and children.

In spite of his ability to irritate and offend pretty much everyone at times, I always believed there was something of the voice of God in this man, the God of wild, unpolished and unpopular prophets throughout history.

Our community needs people like this. He was truly one of a kind.

Monday, February 4, 2013

2012 Stats: 995 Base Runs, 455 Outs

Each January I ask the clerk of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Circuit Court to give me the number of marriage licenses issued for the prior year and the number of divorces granted. The results for 2012 were 995 marriages and 455 divorces.

As you can see from the bar graph, I've been recording these statistics since 1996, and as noted in the post I did a year ago, the numbers really haven't changed that much, in spite of the significant growth population in our area.

This means that while our divorce numbers haven't really increased, our marriage rates, like those across the nation, are in significant decline.

Or more accurately, it is the number of documented marriages per capita that is in decline. We simply have no way of knowing how many couples are cohabiting and "wedded" in every way other than having gotten a formal license and had an actual ceremony. And the sad fact is that when these undocumented couples go through their distressingly frequent "emotional divorces", they pretty much experience the same heartache and distress their married counterparts do who break up.

I'm especially concerned about the semi-orphaned children who are an unwilling part of all the above  divorces, legal and otherwise.

Here's a link to some other posts on divorce: 

Special thanks to Elmer Malibiran, an intern at EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, for preparing the above bar graph.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Responses to 2012 "Superbowl Insanity" Post

A year ago I blogged some of my thoughts about our national Super Bowl obsession. That piece then got posted on the Mennonite Weekly Review's "Our World Together" blog, where it drew a lot of interesting reactions.

I later posted some of those responses on Harvspot, and to my surprise, that post has generated over 2100 page visits (1/20/14 update: close to 6000).

My feelings haven't changed much about our most revered of national holy days, dedicated to our love of an overly aggressive sport called football. And there is not much new to say about the spectacle itself, except for two brothers being the head coaches of the competing teams this year, and that a 30-second television commercial for the event now goes for $4,000,000, as compared to last year's $3,500,000.

Is all of this a form of craziness or what? Or is it just all about an institution designed to generate tons of money?

What do you think?