picedenAs reported by the Wall Street Journal, Iraq’s largest oil refinery for domestic use has been overtaken by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the radical jihadi terrorist group aiming to establish an Islamic caliphate in these two nations. As Iraq’s most lucrative resource is now siphoned off by a radical organization, the global oil market risks destabilization while financially empowering ISIS. Economic stability facilitates greater religious freedom – establishing an ISIS controlled government as detrimental to Iraq’s advances toward a stable and secular democratic state. The Christian population has been a primary target of this fundamentalist movement, with ISIS demanding they must convert to Islam, pay a fine, or face “death by the sword.” It was in here, in ancient Babylon, where political and economic institutions took stead; today these have been condemned while the Biblical story of Exodus is being retold with 50,000 Christians fleeing their homes.

Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia delivered an impassioned speech on the House floor stating “ISIS is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.” The fear of a Christian genocide is all too real, as the zeal of fundamentalism bleeds through the country. Wolf also echoed the words he and his colleagues wrote in a letter to President Obama in June: “Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.”

Central to the free market, is the assurance of property rights. If the land rights of national corporations or private firms are targeted by rogue international actors, international investment will cease – disrupting global economic security. ISIS has also begun to sell this illegally obtained crude oil on the market. Herein lies the other major concern, a radical organization opposed to Western economic ideology has been financially empowered to continue their plight to disrupt the political machinery of a country. The BBC has reported that as ISIS advances further south toward Baghdad, they have also collected valuable American military supplies, which can either be used as physical weaponry or sold to be utilized as a financial weapon. ISIS is alleged to be the world’s wealthiest jihadist organization with assets exceeding $2 billion.

Licensing ISIS access to Iraq’s natural resources will only condemn the Republic of Iraq to be held hostage by a violent independent terrorist-run state in the north and west. America cannot continue to appease terrorists if it desires to sustain the ideals of liberty and the free market system globally. Iraq serves as a conduit toward expanding Western economic practices through more stable governance in the Middle East.

The more money ISIS collects, the more appealing it is as a viable and lucrative employment prospect for Iraqi citizens. As detailed by Richard Wright in The Looming Tower, the parent organization of Islamic fundamentalism, al-Qaeda, rose to power with its ability to provide a living wage, health care, and paid vacations to recruits. Winning the hearts and minds of a people is significantly more dangerous than the acquisition of weaponry and other raw materials. An offshoot of al-Qaeda, ISIS leadership understands effective recruitment practices.

Liberty and the global financial markets are at risk with Senator Lindsay Graham declaring that “[t]he seeds of 9/11 are being planted all over Iraq and Syria.” The longer ISIS’s conquest for an Islamic utopian state is appeased by the United States, the closer it comes to destroying the Republic of Iraq as it stands.

World leadership will establish that the international community recognizes the current Iraqi government as the legitimate sovereign and will protect its authority. When world powers does not assert responsible influence, volatile organizations will take advantage of the lack of security and assert dominance, establishing themselves as the new legitimate governing entity. Fueled by the powerful appeal of religious fervor, ISIS has the strength to dismantle capitalist ideas and forcibly implement socialist economic policies.

As I discussed in a recent piece, notable Islamic theologians, including the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, have asserted that Islam and capitalism are inherently incompatible, prompting the adoption of an Islamic social economic policy that invalidates the ideas of private property and free enterprise. ISIS follows this belief and would only further this policy and destroy religious freedom in the process.

It is easy to understand why many are apprehensive toward possible intervention in Iraq, the nation has been embroiled in sectarian conflict and the wounds of Operation Iraqi Freedom remain fresh. It will no doubt be a difficult task for Iraq to construct a more cohesive government, but it is hard for political unification if a radical organization distracts the process through warfare.

For the Christian who chooses to stay in behind in ISIS controlled Mosul, a devastating future awaits. In recent days, a statue of the Virgin Mary was destroyed outside of one of the churches, and replaced with a black flag, with a remaining Christian remarking “we are in the quiet before the storm”. Mosul will not be the only major conquest of ISIS. If the world stands by, not only will the light of Christianity be darkened, but the black flag of ISIS will cloak any hope of political and economic freedom in the birthplace of humanity – Iraq – once home to the Garden of Eden.

gleaners-milletIn recent years, we’ve seen a renewed focus on the deeper value, meaning, and significance of our daily work, particularly across the realm of evangelicalism. Yet as easy as it may be for some to alter old attitudes and begin appreciating the gift of creative service, it can be extremely difficult for others — and often for good reason.

Indeed, until the last few centuries, the bulk of humanity was confined to activities that, while often fruitful, meaningful, and God-glorifying in their basic aim and end, did not leverage individual “giftings” in ways we would deem “fulfilling” or “dignifying” today.

Our economic situation has surely improved in the years since, with vocational opportunities and overall prosperity continuing to expand and improve in profound and unexpected ways. But many still find themselves in positions or careers that are difficult to endure, from the anxieties of a Wall Street executive to those of an underpaid farm hand.

Each of us is going to encounter our own unique challenges, driven by and toward our own particular calling. Although we ought to try our best to improve the alignment of such service in a fallen world, the persistent need for hard and rough work is bound to remain as long as it remains a fallen world. (more…)

bad winePhil Lawler at CatholicCulture.org voices what should be obvious: that by taking federal money and grants, the Catholic Church has put herself in a very awkward place. Money from the government always comes with strings attached, and those strings have tied the hands of too many  Catholics.

Earlier this week, President Obama handed down an executive order that requires the cutting off of government funds from “any organizations that discriminate against homosexual or ‘transgendered’ persons. This executive order is not aimed solely at the Catholic Church; many others will lose federal contracts.” The U.S. Catholic bishops have opposed this move, but since Obama did this as executive “fiat” it is hardly something one can legally oppose. That’s okay, says Lawler.

So how can the Church respond? That’s easy. Stop taking federal contracts. President Obama doesn’t want help from the Catholic Church. Say it’s a deal; don’t give him any.

What would that mean, practically speaking? It would mean things would get really messy, especially in terms of health care, human services, and services to the poor. (more…)

155150979_read_the_bill_postcard_xlarge“I’m still floored that it’s controversial or debatable to say that politicians should read and understand bills before voting them into law.”

That quote, from a tweet by Washington Post writer Radley Balko, might provoke sympathetic nods of agreement or sneers of derision from Americans familiar with D.C. politics. But sadly, he’s right. It is controversial—and has been for at least a decade. In fact, you are more likely to hear people make the argument that they shouldn’t waste their time reading the bills they vote on.

A prime example is an article Slate political correspondent John Dickerson wrote in 2009. The subhead of Dickerson’s piece says it all: “The case for not reading the legislation you’re voting on.” The gist of his rationale—which is shared by many people in the legislative branch—can be boiled down to these five points:

Oskar Zepeda when he was active military.

Oskar Zepeda when he was active military.

It takes a special person to serve in the military. It takes a special person to come to terms with and overcome profound injuries caused in the line of duty. It takes a special person to track down child pornographers. It takes unbreakable men.

Aptly dubbed “HERO,” the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative is being developed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Special Operations Command in conjunction with the National Association to Protect Children. The idea grew out of a chance conversation between a child advocate and an FBI agent about equipping wounded elite soldiers with high-tech computer forensics training and law enforcement skills to assist federal agents in their fight against online child sexual exploitation.

The intensive training kicks off with four weeks at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, followed by six weeks of computer forensics training in Virginia and an embedded internship assisting HSI special agents with criminal cases and prosecutions.


Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, July 25, 2014

When They Set Fire to Our Monasteries
Philip Jenkins, Aleteia

Day by day, we hear new horrors about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Now, believers living under ISIS control in northern Iraq must choose between conversion to Islam, payment of protection money, or death. Ancient churches and shrines are already in flames.

Sudan Christian Woman Spared Death Sentence Meets Pope in Rome
Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times

Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman whose death sentence in Sudan for refusing to renounce her faith set off an international protest, arrived in Rome on Thursday morning to a hero’s welcome and a private audience with Pope Francis.

The FAQs: Persecution of Christians in Iraq
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Last Friday, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gave Christians in Mosul an ultimatum: convert to Islam, leave the area, or die.

Need Some Summer Reading? Check Out These Five New Faith, Work & Econ Reads
Greg Ayers, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

A lot of rich, thoughtful books on faith, work, and economics have been published this year. Here’s five you’ll want to add to your summer reading list.

SurveillanceAs surveillance technology continues to cost less, we live in a world in which our activities are being increasingly monitored. And it’s not just the NSA doing it–even employers are utilizing surveillance technology in the workplace. The basis for this surveillance has been to catch employees abusing work time (e.g. scrolling through Facebook posts), to protect against sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits, and to discover if any company secrets are being leaked. It also helps deter workers from breaking the rules if they know they are being watched. Workplace surveillance is something that all employers will have to carefully consider. Take Ryan Tate, for example, the CEO of a Christian publishing firm who fired 25 employees over an anonymous email. In a recording of a business meeting that was leaked, Tate can be heard threatening to use electronic records to discover those involved.

Could employers, even Christian ones, be going too far in some cases? What happens if your employer discovers personal information that doesn’t have anything to do with work? And is this surveillance even legal, or is it an invasion of privacy rights? (more…)

Paul-Ryan-at-AEISocial mobility is a “key tenet of the American Dream” yet relative upward mobility has been stagnant, says Rep. Paul Ryan in his new 73-page proposal for reforming federal anti-poverty programs. Ryan acknowledges that there are many individual and social factors that affect upward mobility (e.g., family structure) but adds that “public policy is still a factor, and government has a role to play in providing a safety net and expanding opportunity for all.”

Expanding Opportunity in America includes recommendations for reform in reform five areas: the Earned Income Tax Credit, education, the criminal-justice system, regulation, and research on poverty policy. Listed below is a summary of Ryan’s recommendations for each of these areas:

Hobby-Lobby-StoreWhen the Supreme Court ruled on the Hobby Lobby case, the near universal reaction by liberals was that it was a travesty of epic proportion. But as self-professed liberal law professor Brett McDonnell argues, the left should embrace the Hobby Lobby decision since it supports liberal values:

The first question was: Can for-profit corporations invoke religious liberty rights under RFRA? The court answered yes. HBO’s John Oliver nicely expressed the automatic liberal riposte, parodying the idea that corporations are people. It is very funny stuff.

It is not, however, especially thoughtful stuff. The court does not argue that corporations are just like real people. Rather, it argues that people often exercise faith collectively, in organizations. Allowing those organizations to assert religious-liberty rights protects the liberty of the persons acting within them. The obvious example is churches, usually legally organized as nonprofit corporations.

The real issue is not whether corporations of any type can ever claim protection under RFRA — sometimes they can. The issue is whether for-profit corporations can ever have enough of a religious purpose to claim that protection.

To me, as a professor of corporate law, liberal denial of this point sounds very odd. In my world, activists and liberal professors (like me) are constantly asserting that corporations can and should care about more than just shareholder profit. We sing the praises of corporate social responsibility.

Well, Hobby Lobby is a socially responsible corporation, judged by the deep religious beliefs of its owners. The court decisively rejects the notion that the sole purpose of a for-profit corporation is to make money for its shareholders. This fits perfectly with the expansive view of corporate purpose that liberal proponents of social responsibility usually advocate — except, apparently, when talking about this case.

McDonnell is right, of course. Support for religious liberty should transcend partisan political lines. And it used to be an issue that was championed by liberals. The fact that religious liberty is now despised and denigrated reveals a sudden, perhaps irrevocable shift in the nature of progressivism in America.

(Via: Rod Dreher)

FreeSpeechThe First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”) is for all Americans. I know that seems obvious, but the folks at Salon seem to need a reminder.

Jenny Kutner has taken offense to a group of Catholic women expressing their opinion. The topic is birth control. (Let me just say that good Christians disagree on this topic. I’m not discussing the legitimate use of artificial birth control here, but rather the right to express one’s opinion on the topic.) In response to the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Hobby Lobby, Buzzfeed featured a group of women holding signs that expressed why they chose to use birth control. About a week later, Buzzfeed featured another group of women who held up signs explaining why they chose not to use artificial birth control. And that’s when Kutner lost it. (more…)