schoolpantryFrom lame dad jokes to awkward mom hugs, parents have nearly inexhaustible means to embarrass their children in front of their friends. But when I was a young teenager my mother had a surefire way to fill me with shame and dread: ask me to buy groceries using food stamps.

In the early 1980s—an era before EBT (electronic benefits transfer) cards could be disguised as a debit card—food stamps took the form of easily recognized slips of colored paper. In my small town grocery store, it was all but impossible to pay for groceries without several people from my school seeing me using food stamps and discovering my family was “on welfare.” Rather than submit to that shame, I’d have preferred to go hungry.

It’s easy to dismiss such adolescent concerns, especially for adults who have never endured the awkwardness of being a kid in poverty. But for many young people from poor families, the lack of resources is a constant source of embarrassment and stress.

That’s why it’s encouraging to discover the simple, yet innovative, approach taken by a high school in Washington, North Carolina to help such students:

refugeeAs debates about the Syrian refugee crisis bubble and brim, we continue to see a tension among Christians between a longing to help and a desire to protect.

As is readily apparent in BreakPoint’s wonderful symposium on the topic, Christians of goodwill and sincere Biblical belief can and will disagree on the policy particulars of an issue such as this. (See Joe Carter’s explainer for the backstory)

Indeed, although we have heard plenty of rash and strident grandstanding among Christians — not to mention by President Obama and his political opponents — the tension is probably a good place to sit. As Russell Moore reminds us, compassion and security needn’t be pitted against each other.

As I argued last week on the FLOW blog, the Christian heartbeat of hospitality doesn’t necessitate some blind march to self-destruction. At the same time, ours is an ethic that relishes in the risk of sacrifice and is willing to deny our security and comfortability, all that but one might be saved (Luke 15:1-7). Any policy is latent with risk, and in the cost-benefit analyses we’re seeing bandied about, Christians ought to bring inputs uniquely reflective of the Gospel. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Let’s Reclaim November For Giving Thanks, Not Greed
Patrick Hedger, The Federalist

Life is short, as the Paris attacks have shown. Use it to do something bigger than whining about minor irritations, as November traditionally reminds us.

Nuns who rescue sex slaves expand efforts to 140 countries
Ellen Wulfhorst, Reuters

An army of Catholic religious sisters who rescue victims of human trafficking by posing as prostitutes to infiltrate brothels and buying children being sold into slavery, is expanding to 140 countries, its chairman said Wednesday.

Getting real with the new homelessness numbers
Kevin C. Corinth, AEI Ideas

The latest round of homelessness numbers was released yesterday. But as the Obama administration celebrates yet another decrease in homelessness, several cities are declaring homeless states of emergency. So what is really going on with homelessness in America? I dug into the new data to get some answers.

Millennials are less religious than older Americans, but just as spiritual
Becka A. Alper, Pew Research

Only about half of Millennials (adults who were born between 1981 and 1996) say they believe in God with absolute certainty, and only about four-in-ten Millennials say religion is very important in their lives.

Blog author: dpahman
Monday, November 23, 2015

“Mockingjay — Part 2,” the last film based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling Hunger Games trilogy, opened this past weekend to high sales that, nevertheless, fell short of the other films in the series and industry expectations. In addition, with a thematically confused ending, the story itself doesn’t live up to the quality of previous installments.

Regarding sales, Brent Lang reported for Variety,

The final film in the “Hunger Games” series debuted to numbers that few pictures in history have ever enjoyed, but not everyone seems impressed.

Indeed, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” is a victim of the franchise’s success. The film’s $101 million bow ranks as the lowest of the four installments and is off 17% from the previous film in the series. Globally, the picture also struggled to attract as big crowds. The $247 million it made worldwide fell short of the roughly $300 million that many analysts expected the picture would generate.

Lang offers an interesting bit of speculation for what the “problem” may have been with this second “Mockingjay”:

Compounding issues, “Mockingjay — Part 2” ends on a relatively downbeat note. Although a series built around children fighting to the death always had dark undercurrents, the film ended with political maneuvering and betrayals that prevented it from concluding on a triumphal note. Moreover, some of the novelty of the concept had worn off by the fourth and final installment.

I’m not sure that it would have improved ticket sales, but I actually think the problem was the source material. Specifically, I don’t think the ending was downbeat enough, because Collins tried to have it both ways between tragedy and victory. Let me explain. (Spoiler alert!) (more…)

Although popular in his own day, C.S. Lewis has become even more influential since his death on November 22, 1963—52 years ago yesterday. One of the most enduring of Lewis’s works is his book Mere Christianity, which started out as a series of radio lectures that aired on the BBC during World War II.

A YouTube channel called CSLewisDoodle contains a number of videos that illustrate some of Lewis’s selected essays to make them easier to understand. The video below is from the third radio talk (Chapter 4 of Mere Christianity) in which Lewis explains what lies behind the moral law.

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have again brought to the forefront discussions about problems of culture faced by both Europe and the United States. The attacks have complicated western responses to the Syrian refugee crisis, with concerns about the stated intentions of groups like ISIS to smuggle operatives into western nations among the legitimate refugees in order to carry out terror operations. And of course, the questions of the compatibility of Islam with western political and economic values, as well as questions about the will of western nations to defend and uphold those values have returned as well. Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined host Al Kresta last Tuesday on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon to discuss these important issues; you can listen to the full interview via the audio player below, and be sure to check out Sam’s article “The End of Europe” at Public Discourse.

Blog author: sstanley
Monday, November 23, 2015


Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris

Despite a decline in the number of individuals attending Mass, Catholicism in France is becoming more self-confident and, surprisingly, more orthodox. Writing for the Catholic World Report, Samuel Gregg discusses the Catholic Church in France. He says that France’s néocatholiques are leading change in the European nation:

Perhaps the most evident sign of this sea-change in French Catholicism is what’s called La Manif pour tous. This movement of hundreds of thousands of French citizens emerged in 2012 to contest changes to France’s marriage laws. La Manif’s membership traverses France’s deep left-right fracture. It also includes secular-minded people, many Jews, some Muslims, and even a good number of self-described gays. Yet La Manif’s base and leadership primarily consist of lay Catholics. Though the French legislature passed la loi Taubira legalizing same-sex marriage in 2013, the Socialist government has subsequently trod somewhat more carefully in the realm of social policy. After all, when a movement can put a million-plus people on the streets to protest on a regular basis, French politicians have historical reasons to get nervous.