On this edition of Radio Free Acton, we talk with Marina Nemat – author, columnist, human rights advocate, and former political prisoner in her native Iran. Born in 1965, Nemat grew up in a country ruled by the Shah – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – who ruled in a relatively liberal fashion compared to what was to follow after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Nemat describes her youth and the changes that came after the revolution that led her to her time in the notorious Evin Prison. We also talk about how her experiences can shed light on our response to the problems that plague the world today: Islamic extremism, terrorism, and the Syrian refugee crisis.

You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How Market Principles Will Help Make Food Banks More Efficient This Thanksgiving
Max Lies, The Daily Signal

With Thanksgiving around the corner, charitable food banks across America are gearing up for their busiest donation season. Individuals and local firms supply a lot of the food, but donations also come by the truckload from major manufacturers and suppliers like Kraft, Con-Agra, and Walmart.

Socialism in America?
David T. Koyzis, First Things

Why then have Americans lost their fear of socialists such that many are prepared to put one in the Oval Office? The major reason, I believe, is that the generation that lived through the totalitarian experiments of the last century is gradually passing from the scene.

Immigration and the moral status of borders
Luke Bretherton, Reformation 21

In debates about immigration a crucial issue is the moral and political status of borders. Do we think borders are good or bad, a necessary evil or a moral necessity?

Strong Families, Prosperous States
Elise Daniel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

According to Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the retreat from marriage has increased child poverty and inequality, hitting low-income families the hardest.

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.