For Better or Worse
The multimillion-dollar wedding of the reality show star Kim Kardashian and the N.B.A. star Kris Humphries was broadcast in a two-part, four-hour special on E!. Each segment was watched by more than four million viewers. Their divorce—just 72 days later—has attracted even more attention. On her blog, Ms. Kardashian lamented getting “caught up with the hoopla and the filming of the TV show” and said she “probably should have ended my relationship” before the marriage. But these days, even couples without reality shows easily can be swept up in the preparations for their big day.
Wedding planning has become a multibillion-dollar industry (the Kardashian cake alone reportedly cost $20,000). Then there are the television programs dedicated to finding the perfect dress, venue or florist and gawking at the not-so-perfect “bridezilla” tendencies of some women. One wedding planner laments the loss of manners and concern for guests at Southern weddings. She told The New York Times that many couples she meets are worried only about how they will benefit from their day, and they neglect the community that supports them.
Those concerned with promoting the sanctity of marriage may want to start by helping couples understand the serious nature of such unions. While reality shows can be entertaining and there is joy in finding the perfect invitation, worries about the details of the big day should not replace preparations for the ones that will follow. Couples must not lose sight of the fact that through marriage they enter into a commitment more important and, one hopes, longer lasting than the one they make to the caterer.
The House of Representatives worked late on Nov. 1. The high jobless rate and President Obama’s jobs bill were not the order of business. The millions of Americans facing the threat of foreclosures on their home mortgages were not on the agenda. With an abundance of pompous words, the House was passing a bill to strengthen the status of “in God we trust” as the national motto.
The idea appears in the “Star-Spangled Banner” (1814): “And this be our motto ‘In God is our trust.’” The current wording first appeared on coins in 1864, giving a strange challenge to the injunction in Matthew’s Gospel that one cannot serve both God and Mammon.
The motto has stirred controversy. Theodore Roosevelt thought its association with money to be irreverent and “close to sacrilege.” It has survived legal challenges, though, and in 1984 the Supreme Court ruled that the motto did not violate the establishment clause because it had “lost through rote repetition any significant religious content.” This is subtle jurisprudence: it is not unlawful because it is meaningless.
With Congress’s approval rate now at 9 percent, it is hard to imagine the good to be derived from their dabbling in civic piety. Their endorsement hardly enhances trust in God. And trust does not absolve one from work. Instead of revising mottos or slogans, the country needs members of Congress to stop bickering, stonewalling and obstructing. They might also show that they trust others who trust in God: government workers, unions, the powerless, the poor, members of the other party. Then the people might even start trusting them.
Vatican Science Project
This month the Vatican convened a meeting of scientists to discuss the future of stem-cell therapies. The conference was part of an unusual foray by the Vatican into the field of scientific education and research. Teaming up with NeoStem, an international research company that focuses on adult stem cells, the Vatican has invested $1 million in a foundation aimed at promoting adult stem-cell research. The goal is to advance stem-cell therapies that do not require the destruction of human embryos.
“We don’t see reason why we have to sacrifice human lives, while we have technologies that do the same [work] without harming anyone and without raising any moral difficulties,” said Tomasz Trafny, chairman of the science and faith department at the Pontifical Council for Culture.
The initiative has met resistance from some scientists who are wary of the Vatican’s intentions. They say the church is trying to close off an avenue for research when scientists should be encouraged to pursue all potential cures to intractable diseases. Yet at a time when embryonic stem-cell research is being fiercely promoted, the Vatican has every right to dedicate its own resources to avenues of research that are just as promising.
Among these is the field of induced pluripotent stem-cell research, which avoids many of the ethical dilemmas associated with stem-cell research. First created in 2007, these cells closely resemble embryonic stem cells, and because they come from the patient, they offer benefits that embryonic stem cells do not. More important, they do not require experimentation on human embryos. The Vatican is right to take advantage of this opportunity to find common ground with the scientific community. The scientists who took part in the stem-cell conference should be commended for collaborating with an unlikely partner.