In this week’s commentary I argue that “Do They Even Know It’s Christmas?” is the worst Christmas song of all time.
Earlier this year I declared that Bitcoin was (nearly) dead. But as The Princess Bride’s Miracle Max once explained, “There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.”
Right now, Bitcoin is only mostly dead. As an investment, it was the worst of 2014. As a currency, it was destroyed by the IRS by a single sentence (“For federal tax purposes, virtual currency is treated as property.”). All that really remains is for it to become a financial network. But then it will be likely killed (i.e., all dead) with one word: regulation.
“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.” –Proverbs 3:13-14
In Episode 5 of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, Evan Koons asks about the purpose of knowledge, wondering whether it’s simply a means to greater levels of self-fulfillment, or if there’s something more. “Is knowledge just a tool that we use to leverage to get more stuff?” he asks.
On the contrary, as he goes on to learn, “knowledge is a gift, and like all gifts in God’s oikonomia, it points us outside of ourselves.” As we participate in the Economy of Wisdom — whether through education, research, or innovation — we have a remarkable opportunity to love greater and serve better, further uncovering the mysteries and abundance of God, and sharing the wonder of his glory with the world around us.
Economists continue to affirm the creative power of human collaboration in generating new ideas, innovations, and discoveries that on the whole have improved our quality life and created enormous opportunities. Why, then, do Christians so often forget the breadth and depth, the aim and end of this core feature? For indeed, when paired with the whole-life transformation found in the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, which includes the renewing of our minds, such collaboration takes a whole new shape. Christians have unique call and contribution to this area, so if we hope to spread life and abundance to those in need across all areas of society, materially, socially, spiritually, and otherwise, having a rightly aligned perspective on the basic purpose of knowledge is essential. (more…)
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. While it isn’t as endemic in the U.S. as it is in some countries (Somalia, North Korea, and Afghanistan being the most corrupt), the problem still exists. According to the Justice Department, in the last two decades more than 20,000 public officials and private individuals were convicted for crimes related to corruption and more than 5,000 are awaiting trial, the overwhelming majority of cases having originated in state and local governments.
But measuring corruption based on convictions can be tricky for a variety of reasons, ranging from inadequate data to partisan bias. One alternative measure is to use perceptions, especially of state and local governments. Oguzhan Dincer and Michael Johnston surveyed the news reporters covering state politics in addition to the investigative reporters covering issues related to corruption during the first half of 2014 to gauge their perception of state corruption:
Children have always worked in our country. On farms, in factories, in family-owned businesses, children have worked and continue to do so. However, we know that children face increased risks for injuries and fatalities in many jobs, and that working often means that children are not in school.
In a Minneapolis suburb where a school is under construction, a union boss stops by the non-union work site to check on things.
He saw something surprising: a boy, who appeared to be about 12 or 13, wearing jeans and a fluorescent work vest, smoothing mortar on a brick wall. It was a clear violation of child-labor laws, which prohibit 12 and 13-year-olds from working most jobs, except on farms, and also say that youths aged 14 and 15 may not work in hazardous jobs, including construction.
When others in the Laborers Union went to the site, they saw a boy too, this time driving a bobcat and cutting concrete with a saw. (more…)
Churches key to combating slavery across the world
Caroline Wyatt, BBC News
The Catholic Church’s role and that of other churches in the UK and abroad is often a practical one, with some helping uncover victims, and then giving them practical support via charities offering safe houses and legal advice.
Vatican probe ends with an olive branch for American nuns
John L. Allen Jr., Crux
An unprecedented and highly controversial Vatican investigation of every community of Catholic sisters in the United States that began with criticism of nuns as having a “secular mentality” ended Tuesday with a report full of praise, and without any disciplinary measures or new controls.
Judge declares Obama immigration action unconstitutional
Lawrence Hurley, Reuters
President Barack Obama’s new plan to ease the threat of deportation for 4.7 million undocumented immigrants violates the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge found on Tuesday, handing down the first legal ruling against the plan.
Police can use evidence seized during mistaken traffic stops, Supreme Court rules
Sam Hananel, Associated Press
Police can use evidence seized during a traffic stop even if it turns out the officers initially pulled a car over based on a misunderstanding of the law, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
Imagine you were tasked with creating rules for a nation or a civilization and could only choose ten. Which would you choose?
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better list than the Ten Commandments. As Dennis Prager says, “No Document in world history so changed the world for the better as did the Ten Commandments.”
In a new video series, Prager University clarifies what the Ten Commandments means and explains why they are as relevant as ever to our society.
Here are all ten of the five minute videos:
Over at The Gospel Coalition, Hunter Baker reviews Abraham Kuyper’s newly translated Scholarship, a compilation of two convocation addresses given to Vrije Universiteit (Free University). He offers a helpful glimpse into Kuyper’s views on Christian scholarship, as well as how today’s colleges and universities might benefit from heeding his counsel.
Recommending the book to both students and university leaders, Baker believes Kuyper’s insights are well worth revisiting, particularly amid today’s “tremendous upheaval in higher education”:
All universities, and certainly Christian ones, face a landscape in which students have been largely replaced by consumers. The change is not the fault of the students so much as it is a consequence of the extraordinary rise in tuition prices during the past quarter century. Instead of seeing education as a good that enriches lives and provides learners with tools and habits useful to making a career, we’ve embarked on a course in which students all but demand to know which career and exactly how much money….
…Kuyper has much to say to both students and institutions in these century-old addresses. He would resist the transformation of the university into something more like a business. In light of his idea of sphere sovereignty, I think he’d say a school is a different kind of endeavor than a profit-making business—and I think he’d be right. Universities (including Christian ones, especially Christian ones) must find a way to reduce the market-driven nature of their activities…At the same time, students must place more emphasis on developing scholarly (in the best sense of the word) habits and less on simply progressing toward a credential.
The recent Rolling Stone debacle has brought to the forefront of national discussion a very serious issue: does America have a “rape culture” on college campuses? This is an important issue for a couple of reasons. First, no person, male or female, should ever fear or experience sexual assault, especially in a place they feel “at home,” such as a college campus. As a society, we have to do everything we can to make sure sexual assault never happens.
This brings us to the second issue. We cannot make our society safe if we are working with shoddy research and specious data. And that is what seems to be at the heart of the Rolling Stone story. Christina H. Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute explains how the notion of “rape culture” became seen as the norm, and why that is downright dangerous. Women (and men) deserve far better than anecdotes masquerading as science, and journalists who play fast and loose with facts.
In a first private audience in the Vatican with a Salvation Army general on Friday, Pope Francis said theological differences do not impede the witness of a shared love of God and neighbour.
Church, Immigration, and Nation
John Zmirak, Chronicles
The God Who knows us so well did not make something alien or antihuman as a means of saving us. Instead, He uplifted, transformed, and perfected the institutions by which we relate to our fellow men in our mortal capacity.
Pantagruel Comes for the Establishment Clause
Marc Degirolami, Library of Law and Liberty
Pantagruel is coming for the Establishment Clause. He comes today bearing the standard of equality, and the manifestations of equality that he would have courts superimpose on the Constitution.
Father Christmas Is Now Better Known Than Jesus In China
In the first decades of Communist rule in China Christianity was banned, along with other religions. Now there are tens of millions of Christians in China and faiths of all kinds are blossoming.