pope plant“Laudato si, mi’ Signore!” Both the title and first line of the most recent papal encyclical come from St. Francis’ canticle which looks at nature as a great gift, but you all know that. Every news source worth its salt made that clear before the encyclical was released (either time); yet, we as Christians are called to be salt of the Earth. This entails more than a brief glance at the word on the street about the ecological pronouncement. What is at stake here is the central call of humanity: to till and keep the gifted garden (Genesis 2:15). The first human was placed in this role of cultivation of the earth even before being told to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. There was a promise to act and a law to keep. The Bible is divided into two halves: law in the Old Testament and promise in the New Testament. The call to be salt of the earth is about the Christian life fulfilling that promise. Note that the law followed the promise in the order of our creation. Core to human being was first the love of the life of the world–the greatest commandment as Christ said. So, then why is the reactionary focus of the encyclical even before it was released surrounded upon the policy, the law, that it would inspire and not the call to promise?

Surely within the encyclical there is language that leads to law being created. What Pope Francis has seen in the world directly articulates the life he leads–one unaccepting of a “globalization of indifference” for any child of God’s in need. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
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Capitalism should stop being so self-serving
Archbishop Justin Welby, The Telegraph

If we relied solely on self-interest, society would collapse – but inclusive capitalism benefits everyone

In Victory For Small Businesses, Texas Ruling Eliminates Onerous Occupational Licensing
Carrie Sheffield, Opportunity Lives

Sometimes it’s all about the small victories. Yet as we have discussed here at Opportunity Lives, occupational licensing is no small problem that disproportionately harms the poor and the young. Some 29 percent of American workers are in jobs mandating these licenses, which are often lobbied for by incumbent business owners to shield them from fair competition.

ACLU: Why we can no longer support the federal ‘religious freedom’ law
Louise Melling, Washington Post

The ACLU supported the RFRA’s passage at the time because it didn’t believe the Constitution, as newly interpreted by the Supreme Court, would protect people such as Iknoor Singh, whose religious expression does not harm anyone else. But we can no longer support the law in its current form.

Supreme Court lets Obama administration say words don’t mean what they say
Michael Barone, AEI

For most people, words mean what they say. But not necessarily for a majority of Supreme Court justices in two important decisions handed down Thursday.

BuyLocal.inddOver the past few decades buying locally produced goods and services over those produced farther away has become increasingly fashionable. However, this “modern” trend is really a reversion to an earlier period when most all products were produced and bought from people in a localized area. For most of human history, “buying local” was the only option.

There may be many reasons we may want to buy local goods and services—but improving the local economy is not one of them. As economist Don Boudreaux explains in the video below, there are many reasons why it’s foolish to ‘buy local’ if your goal is to improve the economy of the locale in which you live.

Blog author: bwalker
Monday, June 29, 2015
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Good Stewards of the Earth
Religions for Peace New Faiths for Earth Campaign

Shortcomings undercut message of encyclical
Doug Bandow, Philly.com

For instance, the encyclical complains much of capitalism as well as property rights, which, in the pope’s view, allow selfish individuals to act against the public interest. Yet capitalism provides the resources and technology to improve environmental protection. Indeed, the holy father acknowledges that “science and technology are wonderful products of a God-given human creativity.”

Pope Francis’s Encyclical Makes Waves from Brazil to the Philippines
Sergio Mello e Sousza and Brother Jaazeal Jakosalem, OAR

Faith can move mountains and, combined with scientific facts, can open people’s hearts and minds in a powerful way. The pope clearly sees that fighting climate change and restoring the Earth’s ecosystems is a moral duty we have to our fellow humans, to future generations and to Creation itself. This is a message that we find in the sacred texts of many other religions. Caring for the Earth is caring for the common good.

Steyer climate group cites Pope Francis in new ads
Timothy Cama, The Hill

NextGen launched an ad on YouTube last week, putting the pope alongside the Pentagon and business leaders who have called for action on climate change.

U.S. Must Take the Lead on Pope Francis’ Call on Climate Change
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Huffington Post

The Vatican’s commitment was clear to me when I visited there last year as the only American representative in a group of six legislators from around the world who were working to address climate change in their own countries. My international colleagues shared the impacts of global warming on their people — the destruction by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the droughts that harmed Mexico and South Africa. I spoke of the impacts on coastal Massachusetts from record-breaking ocean temperatures and rising sea levels. We all agreed that the world’s poorest are suffering the worst consequences — extreme poverty, famine, and disease.

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heart in handCompassion is a marvelous virtue. Feeling concern for others and acting sacrificially — especially on behalf of those that cannot return the favor — reveals mature character and contributes to human flourishing.

Compassion moves missionaries and monks to great efforts as they plant churches, pioneer institutions, and work for justice across cultures and geographies. Paul’s words are the motivation for his apostolic proclamation that, “…the love of Christ compels us…” and, “one died for all, therefore all died. And those who live should not live for themselves but for him who died and rose again.” (2 Cor. 5)

This agape love includes moral conviction and missional wisdom.

“Unsanctified mercy” (thank you, Jill Miller, for this term) arises when compassion becomes compromise and our fear of offending subverts biblical truth. The American church is increasingly guilty of doctrinal, moral, and spiritual compromise under the guise of compassion and misplaced historical guilt.

At the risk of offending tender sensibilities, it is time to confront our own hearts and our public ministries with gospel truth. Progressive Christians have served the kingdom well as they expose the excesses of consumerism, capitalism, and colonialism that often mark American and Western ecclesial efforts. Conservative Christians serve God’s reign as they remind the church that there are timeless beliefs and values not subject to one’s “evolution.” The sanctity of life, the definition and marriage, and the historical foundations of the gospel and Scripture are among these convictions. There is much room for civil family debate on a variety of issues and strategies.

The events of the past half-century and the last few months are cause for grave concern and I am unashamedly speaking truth to power as unsanctified mercy leads the church down pathways of compromise, irrelevance and ineffective witness. (more…)

Coal power plant Datteln 2 Crop1Today at The Federalist I explore “Why Big Oil Wants A Carbon Tax.” Perhaps such advocacy isn’t just made out of a sense of global citizenship and environmental stewardship.

On the surface such advocacy may seem counter-intuitive. Why on earth, other than out of selfless benevolence, would a firm (or group of firms) advocate for higher taxes on their products? But on reflection, it makes some sense, and the reasoning is similar to why an online retailer like Amazon might be in favor of the collection of sales tax at the state level.

As Adam Smith famously put it, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

Companies are often happy to raise prices if it hurts their competition or provides them with a competitive advantage. And in the case of carbon taxes, it’s important to recognize that not all fossil fuels are equally carbon-intensive, just as not all renewable sources are equally sustainable and resilient.

This is one of the economic realities that I wish Pope Francis had recognized more clearly in Laudato Si’, although I may have more to say about this later. For now, David Brooks expresses a similar desire in his column, “Fracking and the Franciscans.”

Poverty Rate Rises To 15 Year HighWithin 48 hours of the Supreme Court issuing its diktat on same-sex marriage, there were already calls for religious organizations that oppose gay marriage to lose their tax-exempt status. But Mark Oppenheimer goes even further. The writer of a regular column on religion for the New York Times argues in Time magazine that “the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage makes it clearer than ever that the government shouldn’t be subsidizing religion and non-profits.”

There is a lot that could be said about this proposal, but one fact needs to be stated clearly: it is un-American.

In the past I’ve had discussions with Oppenheimer on other issues. I don’t often agree with him, but I like him personally. He seems to advocate what he truly believes. I don’t think he is attempting to simply gain attention with a provocative article; I think he considers his proposal to be good for America. I say all this to make it clear that I am not using the term “un-American” as an invective against a despised political opponent. In fact, I don’t use that term as an insult at all, but merely as an accurate description of an idea that is fundamentally at odds with American principles. Taxing churches and other charitable non-profits implies that the people exist to serve the government, rather than the government for the people. That is about as un-American as it gets.

In his article, Oppenheimer provides some unconvincing rationales for his proposal. But the underlying premise is that the government should be the primary, if not the sole, provider of services handled by charities and other non-profits:
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Daniel J. Mahoney reviewed Michael Zantovsky’s 2014 book Havel: A Life in the City Journal last week, calling it “a remarkable book about a complex and genuinely admirable human being.”

Václav Havel was a Czech writer, philosopher and dissident who served as the first democratically elected president of Czechoslovakia and then the first president of the Czech Republic. Zantovsky’s “moving and intelligent book guarantees that Havel’s monumental achievement will not soon be forgotten,” Mahoney writes.

As Zantovsky shows, Havel was “one of the more fascinating politicians of the last century” even as he was much more than a politician. He ably explores Havel’s multiple roles as writer, dramatist, moralist, dissident, and anti-totalitarian theoretician. The book also captures Havel’s myriad “contradictions,” which were never too far from the surface. …

Havel’s genius was to locate the specific features of the “post-totalitarian regime”—ideological to the core but no longer relying on mass violence in the manner of a classic Leninist-Stalinist regime. Like Solzhenitsyn before him, Havel saw the ideological lie as the glue holding together a totalitarian or post-totalitarian regime. …

The Czechoslovakian dissident movement pursued the path of truth with Charter 77—a courageous document that called upon the authorities to live up to obligations agreed to in the 1975 Helsinki accords and even in Czechoslovakia’s mendacious constitution. Its original signatories were few, but they spoke for the self-respect of a submerged civil society. Its spokesmen, such as Havel and the great Czech philosopher and phenomenologist Jan Patočka, were men of undeniable courage and integrity. Their movement was informed by solidarity, dignity, and resistance to the lie.

The full text of Mahoney’s review can be found here.

Mahoney is a professor of political science at Assumption College who has been a faculty member at Acton University and a participant in events hosted both by the Acton Institute and Istituto Acton. Mahoney’s own books, The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings 1947-2005 (2006, ISI Books) and The Conservative Foundations of the Liberal Order (ISI, 2010) have been reviewed in the Acton Institute’s publication Religion and Liberty.

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Sirico appearing on InfoBae TV in March.

While at Acton University not too long ago, Buenos Aires journalist Adrián Bono sat down with Rev. Robert Sirico to discuss Laudato Si’. Bono recently wrote about his interview with Acton’s president and co-founder at Infobae. “Muchos no saben que la encíclica depende de la hermenéutica,” Sirico argued, “que significa cómo puede interpretada. No es un documento infalible.” Simply put, Laudato Si’ is not a binding document for Catholics, but many don’t understand that. He continues on that thought:

Merece respeto, pero no necesariamente significa que los creyentes deben seguirla. En lo que respecta a sus enseñanzas de la doctrina, los católicos tienen la obligación fiel de seguirla, pero en lo que hace a sus declaraciones empíricas, esas se le dejan a la comunidad científica para que sean debatidas. La ciencia es un proceso abierto de debate y descubrimiento…A veces el Papa es imprudente al hablar de conjeturas científicas y análisis económico.”

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The Acton Institute’s 2007 book Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition offers insight on Jewish theology as it connects to creation and our place in the world. The following list provides seven key quotes from “The Spiritual Nature of Human Work,” an essay in the book written by Jewish scholars.

1. The religious Jew has much appreciation for the beauty of nature. We are filled with gratitude for these natural treats to our senses that are also natural treats to our senses that are also natural resources vital to the human race. In fact, a collection of benedictions is part of every religious child’s early-learned faith arsenal. From the earliest age, Jewish children smilingly utter the benediction for a rainbow upon seeing this arc in the heavens. When seeing a beautiful tree, the ocean, hearing thunder, and for many other manifestations of God’s world, we say a fervent “thank you.”

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