Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 27, 2015

Black-Friday-LineToday is the unofficial first day of the holiday shopping season. Here are five facts you should know about “Black Friday.”

1. The term “Black Friday” was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department’s traffic squad in the 1950s. According to Philadelphia newspaper reporter Joseph P. Barrett, “It was the day that Santa Claus took his chair in the department stores and every kid in the city wanted to see him. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season.” Barrettt first used the term in the city’s newspaper, the Evening Bulletin, in 1961 to refer to the traffic problems on that day. Local merchants complained to police commissioner Albert N. Brown about the negative association of the term, so Brown released a press release describing the day as “Big Friday.” By then it was too late; the media had already started referring to the day after Thanksgiving as  “Black Friday.”

2. Because so few people were aware of the origin of the term Black Friday, analternative explanation became popular: that it is the day on which retailers finally began to show a profit for the year (in accounting terms, moving from being “in the red” to “in the black”). The earliest use of this meaning, though, dates only to the early 1980s.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 27, 2015

Pope lands in Africa hoping to bridge Christian-Muslim faultlines
Philip Pullella and George Obulutsa , Reuters

Pope Francis said on Wednesday he wanted to offer “spiritual and material” support to Africans on his first tour of the continent, where he will address a fast-growing Catholic congregation and seek to heal Christian-Muslim divisions.

How Friendly Is Your State To Businesses? See the Rankings
David Allen, The Daily Signal

Last week, the Tax Foundation released its State Business Tax Climate Index for 2016. This annual report ranks all fifty states (plus D.C.) on how hospitable their tax systems are to businesses.

Supreme Court to consider a small town case with huge repercussions on the First Amendment rights of all Americans
Melinda Skea, The Becket Fund

The High Court will hear the case of a New Jersey police officer who was demoted for picking up a mayoral campaign sign for his bedridden mother. The case, which involves a bizarre story of small town politics, will affect fundamental First Amendment rights such as freedom of assembly. Becket asked the Court to protect the officer’s rights.

Stop Saying That Public School Teachers Are ‘Underpaid’
Jason Richwine, The Corner

One of the more enduring education-policy myths is that public-school teachers are “underpaid” on average, and therefore that raising teacher pay across the board would improve student achievement.

In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis appeals for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” (n. 14) The encyclical also calls for “broader proposals” (n. 15), “a variety of proposals” (n.60), greater engagement between religion and science (n. 62) and among the sciences (n. 201), and bringing together scientific-technological language with that of the people (n. 143).

In this spirit of dialogue and engagement, the Acton Institute is organizing a half-day conference around the question, “Can free markets help us care for our common home?” The first session will examine the theological and philosophical foundations of Laudato Si’ while the second will look at specific economic, social and environmental issues from various perspectives, such as finance, agriculture and natural resource management. The conference will attempt to carry out the encyclical’s call for open and honest discussion of these and related areas, taking into account the principles of Catholic social teaching, Christian anthropology and stewardship, and the insights of natural and social sciences.

Below, Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico offers his personal invitation to the conference, which takes place in Rome at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross on December 3, 2015.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

FLOW Lord's PrayerIn this week’s Acton Commentary, “Cheap Grace and Gratitude,” I extend the notion of “cheap grace” beyond the realm of special or saving grace to the more mundane, general gifts of common grace.

One of the long-standing criticisms of common grace is that it actually cheapens or devalues a proper understanding of special grace. That is, by describing the common gifts of God to all people as a form of “grace,” the distinctive work of salvation can be overshadowed or under-emphasized.

This criticism of the doctrine of common grace gets at something important: there is a recurring challenge to rightly order our loves and our appreciation for the diversity of God’s gifts. I take this concern about the relationship between common grace and special grace to be a version of the problem of relating nature and grace.

It is important, as I argue in the commentary, to appreciate the gracious foundation of all of creation. So it is a gift of God that we have the sun, rain, food, and shelter just as it is a gift of God that we have repentance, forgiveness of sins, and freedom in Christ.

But that isn’t to say that all gifts are the same. In the abstract I would much rather have forgiveness of sins than daily bread. As the Puritan John Flavel (c.1630–1691) put it, “God has mercies of all sorts to give, but Christ is the chief, the prime mercy of all mercies; O be not satisfied without that mercy.”

As it turns out, though, forgiveness of sins presupposes our existence, which requires (among other things) daily bread. Thus the Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691) observed that

if nature be not supported, men are not capable of other good. We pray for our daily bread before pardon and spiritual blessings; not as if it were better, but that nature is supposed before grace, and we cannot be Christians if we be not men: God hath so placed the soul in the body, that good or evil shall make its entrance by the bodily senses to the Soul.

In this way, special grace presupposes nature or the realities preserved through common grace. The Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck argued that grace restores nature. And Abraham Kuyper, in his writings on common grace in science and art, put it this way:

Scripture does not arrange both of those—the way of salvation and natural life—like two ticket windows next to each other, but continually weaves them together like threads, giving us a view of the world, its origin, its course within history, and its ultimate destiny, within which, as though within an invisible framework, the entire work of salvation occurs.

So today, this Thanksgiving, and every day, let us be thankful for all the good gifts that come from God. Being thankful for our daily bread, how much more thankful should we be for the forgiveness of sins!

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tomorrow, Americans celebrate a national holiday set aside to give thanks for the blessings of the preceding year. But there is more to Thanksgiving than you may realize. Here are five facts you should know about the holiday:

1. The Pilgrims who traveled on the Mayflower and landed on Cape Cod were not the first Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving. The “Feast of the First Thanksgiving” was held near El Paso, Texas in 1598 — twenty-three years before the Pilgrims’ festival. And at the Berkeley Plantation on the James River in Virginia, settlers celebrated Thanksgiving on December 4th, 1619 — two years before the Pilgrims’ festival. As historian Robert Tracy McKenzie, author of The First Thanksgiving, notes, the early Plymouth settlers celebrated in 1621 could more accurately be called the “First American Protestant Christian Thanksgiving North of Virginia and South of Maine.”

2. The first Thanksgiving at Plymouth was a secular event that was not repeated. (A Calvinist Thanksgiving occurred in 1623 and did not involve sharing food with the Native Americans.) 52 Pilgrims and approximately 50 Native Americans attended that celebration. According to participant Edward Winslow, the feast consisted of corn, barley, fowl (including wild turkeys), and venison.

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.