rules-and-regulationsIn the Old Testament there are 613 commandments. Of those 248 are “positive commandments,” to perform an act, and 365 are “negative commandments,” to abstain from certain acts. Some of those include commandments that are deemed to be self-evident (“laws”), such as not to murder and not to steal. Others commemorate important events in Jewish history (“testimonies”) while the rest are simply decrees of God (“decrees”).

God deemed those 613 commandments to be enough to regulate almost every aspect of the lives of his people for thousands of years. You could read all of them in less than 30 minutes.

The American federal government, however, is not so succinct. There are over 1 million restrictions in the federal regulations alone (i.e., not counting the statutory law). Patrick McLaughlin calculated that it would take the average adult three years to read the whole thing.

In this video, McLaughlin provides a visual example of how much regulation has increased since the 1950s:
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globe-fabricIn Leonard Reed’s famous essay, “I, Pencil,” he highlights the extensive cooperation and collaboration involved in the assembly of a simple pencil — complex coordination that is quite miraculously uncoordinated.

Reed’s main takeaway is that, rather than try to stifle or control these creative energies, we ought to “organize society to act in harmony with this lesson,” permitting “these creative know-hows to freely flow.” In doing so, he concludes, we will continue to see such testimonies manifest — evidence for a faith “as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.”

In his book, Work: The Meaning of Your Life, Lester DeKoster explores the theological aspect of this phenomenon, noting God’s grand design in these webs of service and exchange. For DeKoster, this “practical faith” points rather clearly to a Creator, and when we recognize it, we begin to see how His purposes might manifest through our work in ways out of our immediate control or humanistic intent.

Echoing Reed’s essay, DeKoster refers to this web of exchange as the “fabric of civilization,” stitched together with the “countless tiny threads” of human work, each dependent on the other, but each mysteriously guided by an independent source. (more…)

Patriarch Bartholomew

Patriarch Bartholomew

“Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his statement for the 2015 World Water Day makes a number of assertions that, while inspired by morally good ideals, are morally and practically problematic,” says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary. “Chief among them is his assertion ‘that environmental resources are God’s gift to the world’ and so ‘cannot be either considered or exploited as private property.’”

While certainly not absolute, the Orthodox Christian moral tradition doesn’t reject the notion of private property. In fact, property is valued “as a socially recognized form of people’s relation to the fruits of labour and to natural resources.” Included here are the “basic powers of an owner,” such as “the right to own and use property, the right to control and collect income, the right to dispose of, lease, modify or liquidate property” (The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, VII.1).

On a practical level, Bartholomew’s concern for “sustainability” reflects what George Will calls an idea whose “premises are more assumed than demonstrated” and which “as a doctrine of total social explanation, transforms all ills and grievances into environmental causes, cloaked in convenient science.” When embodied in public policy, sustainability empowers “government planners and rationers to fend off planetary calamity while administering equity” allowing them “to supplant markets in allocating wealth and opportunity.”

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Blog author: ehilton
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
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student debtIs it time to write off the college experience? John Stossel thinks so.

Half today’s recent grads work in jobs that don’t require degrees. Eighty thousand of America’s bartenders have bachelor’s degrees.

Politicians such as Hillary Clinton promote college by claiming that over a lifetime, college graduates “earn $1 million more.” That statistic is true but utterly misleading. People who go to college are different. They’re more likely to have been raised by two parents. They did better in high school. They’d make more money even if they never went go to college.

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un-hungerToday there are 216 million fewer undernourished people than there was in 1990-92. To put that number in perspective, consider that across the globe there are currently 247 countries and dependent territories. If you ranked them by the number of people in each, the last 144 countries—Serbia to Pitcairn Islands—would have a combined population of 216 million.

According to the United Nations’ annual hunger report, since 1990-92 the number of undernourished people has decreased from nearly a billion to about 795 million. (Undernourishment means that a person is not able to acquire enough food to meet the daily minimum dietary energy requirements, over a period of one year.)

The decline is more pronounced in developing regions, the report notes, despite significant population growth. In recent years, progress has been hindered by slower and less inclusive economic growth as well as political instability in some developing regions, such as Central Africa and western Asia.

Here are some other highlights from the report:
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pentecost12Pentecost Sunday: The Holy Spirit comes with tongues of fire and an “incendiary community” is empowered for mission.

Pentecost is not the birth of the church. The church is conceived in the words and works of Jesus as he gathers followers and promises, “If any one is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believers in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-39)

The church is born when our Resurrected Lord appears to the fearful disciples and breathes new life into them and sends them out in mission (John 20:21-23).

There was one more moment to come in this drama of unveiling a missional people reflecting the manifold wisdom of God: empowerment for witness and the formation of heterogeneous communities of faith, hope, and love (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:8). (more…)

Great and powerful Oz

Great and powerful Oz

According to Merriam-Webster, “cronyism” is ” the unfair practice by a powerful person (such as a politician) of giving jobs and other favors to friends.” For instance, former Detroit mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, surrounded himself with friends and family members while in office, as he cheerfully plundered the city’s coffers, sharing the wealth with his entourage.

It’s easy to think that cronyism is like Oz: far, far away. Yes, there are tricky creatures there, but heavens, we here in Kansas won’t be affected by shiny streets and glowing horses.

Not true. The economy shapes the culture. What happens in Oz, if you will, is felt in Kansas. And not only felt in Kansas, but eventually begins to seep into the Kansas culture. Why shouldn’t I have an army of flying monkeys to protect my farm? Why shouldn’t I sidle up to the Wicked Witch and make sure she’s on my side? You never know. Michael A. Needham and Ryan T. Anderson state,

While cronyism is most recognizable when it generates economic windfalls for the favored few, conservatives would do well to explain that it also operates in other realms. Indeed, for decades, the Left has been seeking special advantages from government in its effort to reshape the character of American society. So, if you’re against the government arbitrarily picking winners and losers in the economy, you need to be against it doing the same in the culture. If Solyndra and the Export-Import Bank are a problem, so too is government funding for Planned Parenthood and government discrimination against Catholic Charities.

We call this sort of government special-interest-seeking “cultural cronyism.”

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
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Here’s the Data to Prove School Choice Is Working
Patrick Wolf, The Daily Signal

Private school choice initiatives have become increasingly common across the United States. Far from being rare and untested, private school choice policies are an integral part of the fabric of American education policy.

Malaysia: Human Traffickers’ Camps Had 139 Suspected Graves
Associated Press

Malaysian authorities say a cluster of abandoned jungle camps used by human traffickers contained 139 suspected graves as well as barbed-wire pens likely used to cage migrants, shedding more light on a regional trade that preyed on some of Southeast Asia’s most desperate people.

Christian Ethics, Evangelicals, and Functional Marcionism
Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy

The maneuver is simple enough to understand: Any time someone uses an Old Testament passage to argue for a specific idea about morality, you should start talking about shellfish and mixed fabrics.

Maryland’s ‘free range’ parents cleared of neglect in one case
Donna St. George, Washington Post

A Maryland couple investigated for neglect after they let their two young children walk home alone from local parks have been cleared in one of two such cases, according to the family’s attorneys and documents.

Yazidi women searching for family members

Yazidi women searching for family members

Young girls kidnapped from their beds. Yazidi women and girls sold into sex trafficking. Rumors of female Muslim teens being used as suicide bombers. It is hard to imagine that Islamic extremists could make things more difficult for women and girls in war-stricken areas, but they are.

A United Nations team of sex crime investigators has been working in and around Islamic State war zones since 2009. Middle East Eye reports:

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jefferson-portraitThomas Jefferson was a Deist who famously cut and pasted, with a razor and glue, his own version of the New Testament to remove all the miracles of Jesus and any reference to his Resurrection. So why did Baptists in New England cheer when he won the presidency and claim he had won a providential victory over John Adams?

As Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins explain, despite their differences the Baptists were able to find common cause with Jefferson on the issue of religious liberty:
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