Category: Acton Commentary

Cooperation and creativity are essential for both a well-functioning market and the celebration of the Eucharist, says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary.

As he has done in the past, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his encyclical for the beginning of the Orthodox Christian ecclesiastical year (September 1) meditates on “the ongoing and daily destruction of the natural environment.” Environmental damage is the poisoned fruit of “human greed” and the pursuit of “vain profit,” the patriarch writes. Given our place in creation, human sinfulness results in not only a dissonance within the human heart but also a “turbulence in nature,” fracturing as it does nature’s “crown, namely human existence.” Fallen out of love with God, Bartholomew continues, human existence is fractured, our physical survival is threatened. So profound is our estrangement from nature and nature’s God, that we risk His “imminent wrath.”

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

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
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In this week’s Acton Commentary Hunter Baker wonders why are so-called progressives eager to use political power to “correct” the thinking of those they disagree with:

You may not have realized it, but Tony Dungy is a heretic. Does the former football player, coach and now TV analyst hold beliefs that are considered heretical by his fellow Christians? No. But his recent doubts about Michael Sam as an NFL player (you’ll recall Sam as the All American college athlete who has publicly announced that he’s gay), caused Dungy to be viewed as a heretic by members of another sect that is gaining adherents at a rapid pace. They are more sure of themselves than ever. Where once they pleaded for tolerance, now they sense that they are gaining the upper hand. “There can be no tolerance for ideas that are wrong,” they explain.And they are thinking it might be time to exercise new power.

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

Christian churches in the West have been focused on redistribution of income rather than the creation of wealth, says Brian Griffiths in this week’s Acton Commentary.

Through much of the post-war period in the West, the formation of economic policy was dominated by Keynesian activism on the part of governments seeking an increasing role in providing public services, reducing material poverty, and reshaping income redistribution.

In the United States, President John F. Kennedy launched the New Frontier program and his successor, President Lyndon Johnson, soon after embarked on what came to be called the Great Society. In both cases, emphasis was placed on increasing the role of the state in order to solve problems of poverty and destitution. In intellectual terms, the economist John Kenneth Galbraith made the case for trade unions and government becoming “countervailing powers” in capitalist economies in order to check the power of large corporations. In Britain, Harold Wilson nationalized various industries, developed a national plan, a comprehensive prices and incomes policy, and extended the scope of the welfare state. Across the Channel and Rhine, the Social Democrat Willy Brandt was a major influence in extending the role of government in social policy throughout West Germany.

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

None of the prominent liberation theologians influential in Latin America had significant training in or exposure to the discipline of economics, says Carroll Ríos de Rodríguez in this week’s Acton Commentary.

This was odd given that their concern for the material well-being demanded at least some attempt to provide an economic explanation of underdevelopment and mass poverty. Instead of engaging in such economic reflection, many liberation theologians effectively married their theology to various renderings of what was then the fashionable dependency theory, which holds that that resources flow from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former.

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

Before we examine the current immigration issue and President Obama’s ill-conceived immigration policy, says Elise Hilton in this week’s Acton Commentary, let’s go back to 1960, another crisis and another group of children:

Most people have never heard of Project Pedro Pan. When Fidel Castro brought the horrors of Communism to the island nation of Cuba, parents feared their children would lose their faith, their heritage and suffer indoctrination. Some parents did the unthinkable: They sent their children away, not knowing if they’d be reunited.

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

“Despite the mounting cost and swelling debt,” notes Laura Prejean in this week’s Acton Commentary, “America’s demand for education, particularly higher education, has not decreased, defying typical market expectations.”

This is what economists call inelastic demand, when people continue to buy a good or service regardless of an increase in prices. Though the post-recession job market is still difficult, growing student debt ought not to lead us to forget the dignity — and responsibility — of each individual student. When prices for goods and services rise, consumers often make sacrifices and adjust their spending. For example, as gas prices rise, families use carpooling or more efficient routes to and from the grocery store. But what are students sacrificing when they join the immovable market for education? Are they considering less costly options with lower tuition, or do they unthinkingly take out student loans, falling into serious debt as they enter their twenties?

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

The Liberty Bell in PhiladelphiaRegarding the Hobby Lobby decision and the Supreme Court, I believe the National Review editors summed it up best: “That this increase in freedom makes some people so very upset tells us more about them than about the Court’s ruling.”

I address this rapid politicization and misunderstanding of religious liberty and natural rights in today’s Acton commentary. The vitriolic reaction to the ruling is obviously not a good sign for religious liberty and we’re almost certainly going to continue down the path of losing rights of conscience and free expression. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong. But I wanted to step back and take a more comprehensive look at where we are now.

One point I make in the piece is that our federal lawmakers no longer hold a consensus to protect religious liberty, as they did with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Back then, there was overwhelming unification and bipartisanship to protect and strengthen religious liberty, that is a thing of the past and it has been swallowed up by partisan politics. Our collective partisan politics is becoming bigger than our once common understanding of natural rights.

Another point I stress is that there is an obvious difference on the very meaning of religious liberty that cuts through our country. This is well known to those who pay attention to these issues. Many saw the Hobby Lobby ruling not as a ruling in favor of the rights of conscience and liberty, but only a temporary setback in divorcing religion from public human affairs.

The Supreme Court ruling is being politicized in a myriad of vicious ways and that by itself is a bad sign for religious liberty. It will be a tough task going forward to educate people on the necessity of a vibrant understanding of religious liberty and natural rights that promotes the common good.

Much of the art before World War I can be seen as moral in nature, says Bruce Edward Walker in this week’s Acton Commentary, while post-Armistice art commonly celebrates materialism if not outright hedonism:

After the Great War, however, the genie was out of the bottle, leading to works meant only to shock, dismay or anger would-be censors and art consumers in general. These works lacked what Irish philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke were essential for a “moral imagination” of which he wrote in his classic Reflections on the French Revolution: “Nothing is more certain than that our manners, our civilization, and all the good things which are connected with manners, and with civilization, have, in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles; I mean the spirit of a gentleman, and the spirit of religion.”

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

While you’re at it, download lectures on culture, economics and faith from Acton University 2014 at the online store. Of particular relevance to today’s commentary are the Day Three lectures by Vigen Guroian on “Our Cultural Crisis: Restoring a Vision of the Permanent Things” and Michael Matheson Miller on “The Moral Imagination.” The Miller talk is in production and will be posted to the store soon. Lectures from AU 2014 are now available for 99 cents.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
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What would it take to make a society fully just rather than merely settling for moving society toward justice? In this week’s Acton Commentary, John Addison Teevan considers that question and how we can respond to social justice demands in biblical terms.

Seeking the peace and harmony (Shalom) of God as the highest good for man, Keller indicates that doing justice means “to live in a way that generates a strong community where human beings can flourish … The only way to reweave and strengthen the fabric is by weaving yourself into it.” Keller, the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, continues : “Human beings are like those threads thrown together onto a table. If we keep our money, time, and power to ourselves, for ourselves, instead of sending them out into our neighbors’ lives, then we may be literally on top of one another, but we are not interwoven socially, relationally, financially, and emotionally … Reweaving shalom means to sacrificially thread, lace, press your time, goods, power, and resources into the lives and needs of others. ”

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

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
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British_sixpence_1962_obverseSixpence economics, like the economic teachings of Jesus’ parables, shows us the stewardship responsibility that God has given to human beings, says Jordan Ballor in this week’s Acton Commentary.

At the conclusion of the first of his two chapters exploring the theological virtue of faith in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis provides a brief illustration that helps set the stage quite well for a discussion of the relationship between theology and economics, a relationship that currently stands in need of serious repair. Lewis wants to show that a key element of faith is the understanding of the divine origins of all things. “Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God,” he writes. A consequence of this reality is that, as Lewis puts it, “If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.”

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