Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
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babyhandFrom Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away:

God told the world he was going to send it a king and the world waited. The world thought, a golden fleece will do for His bed. Silver and gold and peacock tails, a thousand suns in a peacock’s tail will do for his crib. His mother will ride on a four-horned white beast and use the sunset for a cape. She’ll trail it behind her over the ground and let the world pull it to pieces, a new one every evening.

Jesus came on cold straw, Jesus was warmed by the breath of an ox. “Who is this?” the world said. “Who is this blue-cold child and this woman, plain as the winter? Is this the Word of God, this blue-cold child? Is this His will, this plain winter-woman?” The world said, “Love cuts like the cold wind and the will of God is plain as the winter.”

 

 

Members of Band Aid in 1984

Members of Band Aid in 1984

In last week’s Acton commentary, “The Worst Christmas Song Ever,” Jordan Ballor touched on the well-intentioned yet harmful message shared by “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” the 1984 song produced by the music group, Band Aid, in response to the famine that struck Ethiopia.

Ballor describes the context and some of the song’s lyrics:

The song describes Africa largely as a barren wasteland, ‘Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears.’ It continues in this vein. Africa, the onetime breadbasket of the Roman Empire and home of the Nile River is a land ‘where nothing ever grows, no rain nor rivers flow.’ The title question likewise plays into the supposed desperation of the continent. The only ‘Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom.’ The response to this call is supposed to be charity from the affluent West, to ‘feed the world’ and thereby ‘let them know it’s Christmastime again.’

The song perpetuates an image of Africans as helpless and dependent on outside assistance to support their well-being. It is true that dire situations exist and increased awareness and emergency aid is needed to prevent loss of life, outbreak of disease, and other severe conditions. But overall, do negative depictions serve to accurately portray people in the “developing world,” and their capacity for producing innovation and change in the areas in which they live?

This is the question I pose in the PovertyCure blog article, “The Hopeless Results of Graphic Poverty Imagery,” which highlights the 1984 Christmas Song and similar versions that have been produced since.

I argue that depicting Africans as incapable and destitute ultimately neglects their true nature as human beings. Though it is true that poverty exists in some corners of Africa (and this should not be ignored), a vibrant, energized environment can be witnessed in many others. There are thousands of entrepreneurs like Senegalese entrepreneur, Magatte Wade, who are establishing creative solutions and finding new markets for business and trade.

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Blog author: sstanley
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
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In this week’s commentary, Acton president and co-founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico reflects on Christmas, but also on the things weighing heavily on many hearts. Despite this being a joyful time, we are caught in perilous moment in history due to the meeting of various things: intellectual, financial, militarily, and theologically. President Ronald Reagan gave a similar address in 1981:

Rev. Sirico says:

How to get to the heart of the matter? That, as Shakespeare might say, is the rub. Yet, as a Christian who believes that the redemption of the world was effected by the Incarnation of Christ, I can certainly use the lens of the Incarnation to understand the state of the world and the people in it, even when, indeed, especially when things are perilous.  That is what it means to affirm that Christology is anthropology, i.e., that in order to discover man and what his end truly is, one must study Christ, the perfect man.

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
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Pope Francis the Economist
Michael Severance, Catholic World Report

The Pope is not interested in validating the right or left on any specific policy, but rather reminding us of more transcendent principles.

Supreme Court to hear ObamaCare subsidy challenge in March
Sarah Ferris, The Hill

The highly anticipated case challenging ObamaCare’s subsidies will officially reach the Supreme Court on March 4. Justices will hear arguments in King v. Burwell in just under three months, according to the court’s schedule posted Monday afternoon.

Selfies, Stewardship, and the Real Meaning of Christmas
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

A recent ad by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn shows a young woman taking a selfie. She’s not alone in the picture, though: an image of Jesus is just behind her. A caption at the top of the ad reads, “It’s never just a selfie,” and at the bottom, the diocese bids viewers, “Join us for Christmas.”

10 Ways We Can Remember to Be Christians This Christmas
Kevin DeYoung, The Gospel Coalition

Christmas is almost here. And that means many of us are tired, frazzled, stressed, and busy. The next two weeks will go by in a blur–from family, to church, to food, to family, to football, back to church, back to family, back to food, and then back to work.

Blog author: johnteevan
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
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nativity1We know how God approached mankind: the surprising incarnation as a baby at Christmas. But how ought we to approach Him? Here is a wide range of 14 ways we often try, along with a benefit for each:

  1. Love the right things and you will find your way home to God
  2. Think the right things and you will know the sovereign God
  3. Believe the right things and you will live at peace
  4. Obey, obey, obey and you will not go to hell
  5. Withdraw from the world and you will know God best
  6. Keep these sacraments and you will be part of the kingdom of God
  7. Feel the right things and you will be blessed in your spirit
  8. Follow these steps and you will prosper
  9. Serve the Lord your God by serving people and you will honor God
  10. Once you have suffered enough you will know God
  11. Meditation is the path to knowing God
  12. Go with the culture and God will go with you
  13. There is no God, but there ought to be one, so I’ll “believe”
  14. We are all God’s children so let’s be nice to everyone

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wonderfullife600_3-480x309Frank Capra’s ‘It’s Wonderful Life’ is one of the greatest movies of all time. It’s a Christmas classic and also—as I’ve always thought—a conservative classic, a film whose themes align closely with traditional conservatism.

But not everyone agrees on the politics of Bedford Falls. Keith Miller and Chris Schaefer debate whether themes of the movie lean more liberal or more conservative. Naturally, I agree with Miller’s small government assessment:
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Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
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Parents spend a lot of time and money trying to get their children what they want for Christmas. The list written for Santa is poured over, gifts are wrapped, stockings are stuffed.

But are you giving your child what she really wants? IKEA Spain wants us to think about our children’s wish lists a bit differently.

Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
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highpricesGrocery shopping is not a chore I enjoy. It’s a mundane task, and everything you buy you will have to soon replace. Then, when you finally get to the end of the chore, you look at the register and think, “HOW much??”

It gets worse.

You and I (American taxpayers) managed to “misspend” $2.4 billion this year on food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.)

How did we manage this? (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
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Pope in blistering critique of Vatican bureaucrats
Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Pope Francis issued a blistering critique Monday of the Vatican bureaucracy that serves him, denouncing how some people lust for power at all costs, live hypocritical double lives and suffer from “spiritual Alzheimer’s” that has made them forget they’re supposed to be joyful men of God.

Islamic State: Yazidi women tell of sex-slavery trauma
Paul Wood, BBC

The Yazidi religious minority community in Iraq says 3,500 of its women and girls are still being held by the so-called Islamic State (IS), many being used as sex slaves. A few have managed to escape and here tell their harrowing stories.

A New Model for Helping the Poor
Matt Perman, What’s Best Next

Are there better ways of helping the poor in the medium to long term that go beyond giving things altogether? While giving is important, increasingly organizations are recognizing that the answer is yes.

States embrace religious liberty, spiritual awakening
Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Baptist Press

Still alarmed by subpoenas of sermons and correspondence for pastors who opposed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, resolutions on religious liberty and free speech were passed in more than a dozen state Baptist convention meetings this fall.

In the latest video blog from For the Life of the World, Evan Koons offers Christmas greetings and a few timely reminders with his usual dose of humor.

“He made himself nothing to be with us.”

Indeed, by entering the Earth in human form, nay, in infant human form, born to the house of a carpenter, Jesus provides a striking example of the order of Christian service — of the truth and the life, yes, but also of the way. (more…)