primer-pentecostalIn the latest Journal of Markets and Morality, Joseph Gorra reviews Dr. Charlie Self’s new book, Flourishing Churches and Communities, calling it a “joyous, practical, and insightful primer to the integration of ‘faith, work, and economics” that will inspire “a pathway for leaders of Pentecostal thought to reflect on public life in a renewed way.”

The book is one of four tradition-specific primers from the Acton Institute, and although it focuses specifically on a Pentecostal perspective, Gorra rightly observes that Self writes in a way that draws wide appreciation for the work of the Spirit in economic life. Avoiding “provincial understandings” of Pentecostals themselves, Self is careful to present Pentecostalism in a “nontriumphalistic manner,” Gorra writes, which mainstream evangelicals may find “accommodationist to many of their own theological sensibilities.”

As an example, the book seeks to highlight and illuminate five key principles, which on their face fit rather snugly within these discussions across Christianity as a whole:

  1. Work is good.
  2. Although sin has effaced human nature and work, it has not erased the divine nature in people and the ability to bring good to the world.
  3. God has reconciled the world to himself in Christ and is now working through the church to express the life of the kingdom in the present age.
  4. God the Holy Spirit actively energizes compassion for the poor and wealth creation for community flourishing.
  5. Cultural, economic, and social institutions are built on transcendent moral foundations.

As Gorra duly notes, numbers 4 and 5 are perhaps the most distinctly Pentecostal, demonstrating where Pentecostalism may offer its most distinct contribution to such matters: (more…)

When is a ban not a ban? One answer might be when it is based on moral suasion rather than legal coercion. (I would also accept: When it’s a Target.)

In this piece over at the Federalist, Georgi Boorman takes up the prudence of a petition to get Target to remove smutty material and paraphernalia related to Fifty Shades from its shelves.

Boorman rightly points to the limitations of this kind of cultural posturing. Perhaps this petition illustrates more of a domination mentality than authentic cultural engagement, and Boorman’s right to offer many more hopeful options for engaging the kinds of cultural corruption that this case provides evidence of. I also tend to favor the more direct, personal, and relational methods of engagement to petitions, charters, public statements, and open letters, and there’s a lot of wisdom offered in Boorman’s piece.

shades_banned (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 30, 2015
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Cake baking and journalistic story baking
Marvin Olasky, World

Bill Jack goes on the offensive today in the Colorado cake-baking story that’s received enormous media attention over the past week.

Anti-Slavery Activists Imprisoned in Mauritania
Charlotte Florance, The Daily Signal

Three prominent anti-slavery activists and opposition politicians in Mauritania were sentenced to two years in prison earlier this month.

The Image of God in Each of Us Could Change How Christians View Prison Reform
EliseAmyx, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

The United States is home to more incarcerated citizens than any other nation in the entire world. With 25 percent of the world’s prison population behind bars in the U.S., prison reform is an issue of rising bipartisan support in Washington. It’s also a huge concern among Christian social justice advocates, especially since there is a strong link between incarceration rates and poverty rates and reform may greatly improve overall human well-being.

After Charlie Hebdo, Balancing Press Freedom and Respect for Religion
Jeffrey Gottfried and Michael Barthel , Pew Research

Majority Says Publishing Cartoons Was ‘Okay,’ But About Half of Non-Whites Say ‘Not Okay’

The 2015 Acton Lecture Series got off to a rousing start last week with the arrival of Jeffrey Tucker, Chief Liberty Officer of Liberty.me, to deliver the first lecture of this year’s series, entitled “Capitalism Is About Love.” If you go by the conventional wisdom, that seems to be a counterintuitive statement. Jeffrey Tucker explains how the two are actually bound up together.

You can watch the lecture via the video player below, and if you haven’t had a chance to hear the Radio Free Acton interview with Tucker, I’ve included it after the jump.

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Creación_de_AdámDorothy Sayers, playwright, novelist and Christian scholar, wrote an important work in the 1930s entitled, Are Women Human? In her essay, she presents the biblical case for gender equality in a humorous and insightful way, grounding mutuality in theological anthropology. From the Genesis narratives to the new earth of Revelation, she affirms this thesis:

We are all human beings, made in the image of God with a job to do. And we do our jobs as a man or a woman.

This theological vision — of men and women in mutual love and respect carrying out their vocations for the glory of God and the good of others — undergirds the best of ecclesial, economic, political, and social liberty, and it has implications for the full range of human interactions and relationships. Notice the order of reflection: Creator > human identity > the call to worship/work > gender identity.

Alas, the effacing (not erasing) of the imago dei has led humankind down all manner of oppressive pathways, from dehumanizing and disintegrating practices of pagan and secular ideologies to the degrading subjugation of women, minorities, and many others in the name of “religious tradition.”

For followers of Jesus, a full vision of God’s reign includes living the future now in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the church as the herald and witness of the fullness to come. This includes redeeming the wholeness of being human, integrating all facets of individual and social being, including relational shalom. Women and men who love Jesus are icons of the coming kingdom. Singleness is not incompleteness, but a signpost of a future where all God’s people are married to Christ and sisters and brothers of one another. Marriage is a special illumination of Christ’s delight in his church, not a superior status. (more…)

slavery-handsThousands of girls and women in Iraq and Syria have been captured by the Islamic State and sold into sex slavery. But one Iraqi man is trying to save them by buying sex slaves in order to free and reunite them with their families.

As the Christian Post reports, “an Iraqi man, who remains nameless, disguises himself as a human trafficking dealer in order to ‘infiltrate’ the Islamic State and get the militants to sell him sex slaves. But in purchasing sex slaves, the man finds a way to reunite them with their fathers, husbands, and the rest of their family.”

It’s hard to criticize a man for using his resources and risking his life in order to free these women. But while the individual effects—women and girls being freed—are laudatory, the long term effect of implementing the policy on a large scale could be disastrous.

In the 1990s, humanitarian groups traveled to Sudan to redeem slaves by buying them out of slavery. The result of the program, as economist Tyler Cowen explains, was likely an increase in the number of people enslaved.

detroitDetroit home owners are being put out of their homes, but it’s not because of bankers. Then by who?

It’s the Detroit city government seeking to collect back real estate taxes. There are always tax foreclosures, but foreclosures are growing from 20,000 in 2012 to an expected 62,000 in 2015. Who is putting poor people on the streets in Detroit? The government.

There is a twist here based on the fact that Detroit homes have an old (and therefore way too high) assessed valuation that the taxes are based on. So for the homeowners, it’s easier to let the property go into a tax foreclosure and then buy it back at a tax sale than it is to pay the overdue taxes based on assessed property values that have fallen 70% in recent years. People follow incentives.

We have a narrative in America stating that all financial evils come from the banks. Even Scott Burns used his space to hammer the banks for the 2008 collapse. His proof: The fines that large banks have paid to the government. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, January 29, 2015
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Morality in the Marketplace: A Catechism for Business
Joseph Pearce, The Imaginative Conservative

There are many books on my shelves that haunt me with a sense of guilt every time they catch my eye. They are my sins of omission, those worthy tomes that deserve my attention and which I should have read but which I have thus far neglected. “Read it?”

Resist or Accommodate Evil: There is No “Third Way”
Jeffery J. Ventrella, Public Discourse

When conscience flirts with the idea of accommodating an unjust law, it must politely, yet firmly, reject the sirens of seduction

How Hurricane Katrina Made Radical School Choice Possible in New Orleans
Katherine Mangu-Ward & Todd Krainin, Reason.com

“Katrina literally and figuratively washed away many of the institutional barriers that had prevented us from even imagining that we could make systemic changes to this school system,” says Patrick Dobard, superintendent of Louisiana’s Recovery School District.

A new study argues cutting unemployment benefits created 1.8 million jobs
Max Ehrenfreund, Washington Post

Economists will debate what happened, but one of the more controversial theories is that Congress’s decision not to extend federal unemployment benefits at the end of 2013 encouraged those out of work to settle for more poorly paid jobs, giving firms a better reason to expand and hire new workers.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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“Consumption serves, sustains and deepens community—above all the Eucharistic community,” says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary.

Consumption is not an end in itself but has a purpose. We are, Schmemann says, called by God “to propagate and have dominion over the earth”; that is to say, consumption serves human flourishing. The first chapters of Genesis portray creation as “one all-embracing banquet table,” foreshadowing a central theme in the New Testament. In the Kingdom of God we will “eat and drink” at the table of our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 22:30), the Eucharist standing at the mid-point between the creation of the world and its eschatological fulfillment.

We are therefore consumers by nature; if we weren’t then the reception of Holy Communion would be a sin. More importantly, our consumption finds its source and fulfillment in the Eucharist, in our obedient response to Jesus’ command that we “take and eat.”

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

DowntonAbbey1After what seemed to be an interminably long wait, Downton Abbey, a British period drama on PBS, recently returned to America. Many of us who have been hooked on the show for four seasons tune in each Sunday night to watch the new twists in the saga of the Earl and Countess of Grantham, their household, and their servants.

But as with most pop culture artifacts, this series about Victorian England is having a subversive effect on the views of modern Americans. Who would have guessed when the show premiered in the U.S. in 2011 that it would undermine liberal arguments about the significance of income inequality?

Many of those concerned about income inequality, though, don’t quite grasp that fact yet. Indeed, some even think the show proves their point. For example, Brett Arends, a columnist for MarketWatch, recently wrote an article titled, “Inequality worse now than on ‘Downton Abbey’” in which he notes,
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