Category: Acton Commentary

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.

krakenIn this week’s Acton Commentary, Jonathan Witt asks “Why do entrepreneurs who don’t want government intimately involved in the economy want to hob nob?”

Think about it. Why do even some entrepreneurs who do not want government intimately involved in the economy feel compelled to hob nob with all of those European and American politicians at this year’s Bilderberg summit? Maybe what happened to Bill Gates has something to do with it. By most accounts, Gates went about building up Microsoft, happy in the knowledge that his Redmond, Washington operation was far away from the Washington on the other coast. But then Washington D.C. found him and began to make life difficult for him.

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

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson

Not earning enough? Take responsibility for your life, says Anthony Bradley in the second of this week’s Acton Commentary.

In today’s culture of entitlement people believe that they deserve certain rewards simply because they exist — not because of hard work, perseverance and wise choices. Entitlement is the only way to explain the lunacy behind recent demands that fast food chains like McDonald’s arbitrarily pay workers $15 per hour. Unlike many politicians, business leaders do not make decisions according to public opinion because they have fiduciary responsibilities to their boards and shareholders. As a result, McDonald’s Corp. Chief Executive Officer Don Thompson is doing the right thing by not cowing to ridiculous wage demands. In short, McDonald’s has become a scapegoat for a series of failed economic and public policies.

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, May 28, 2014
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Focusing on the universal to the neglect of the particular is a collectivist error, says Dylan Pahman in the first of this week’s Acton Commentary.

Justice, classically defined, is to render to each what is due. A just wage, then, is that wage which remunerates a worker with proper regard to his or her particular contribution, need, and other circumstances. The focus on a living wage reduces this criterion to need alone and furthermore presumes that the need of each worker is the same. But is this actually the case? No, it isn’t.

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

A new study focusing on the demographic effects of abortion in the United States brings to light what one scientist calls truly astounding findings. The demographic changes will even affect America’s economy. “There is no such thing as economic growth going hand-in-hand with declining human capital,” says Elise Hilton in the second of this week’s Acton Commentary.

The United States is facing a very difficult economic, educational, and sociopolitical outlook. We will have fewer workers, fewer small businesses and more dying small towns. There will be fewer teachers, fewer students, and more closed schools. We’ll have smaller families and more children not knowing what it means to have siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. A smaller population is not a good thing; it means the loss of many cherished American ideals. Our way of life is at stake. That is not a dramatic over-statement; it is a simple fact.

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

When it comes to environmental science, we can’t avoid tough science and policy questions by simply arguing from Scripture or Tradition, says Rev. Gregory Jensen in the first of this week’s Acton Commentary.

Yes theology and science “have different points of departure and different goals, tasks and methodologies” but they “can come in touch and overlap.” For this convergence to be fruitful we must resist “the temptation to view science as a realm completely independent of moral principles.” Science can, and often does, serve as “a natural instrument for building life on earth” (Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox ChurchXIV.1). However when we limit ourselves merely to the findings of the natural, social and human sciences, we risk confusing expediency with prudence and diluting the Church’s witness.

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

“Has the War on Drugs revived the 19th Century progressive crusade against ‘degenerates’?” asks Anthony Bradley in the second of this week’s Acton Commentary.

The United States currently has over 2.3 million prisoners incarcerated in federal, state, and local jails around the country. According to an April report by the Sentencing Project, that number presents a 500 percent increase in incarcerations over the past 40 years. This increase produces “prison overcrowding and fiscal burdens on states to accommodate a rapidly expanding penal system” despite the evidence that incarceration is not working. How did this happen? The culprit is usually identified as the failed policies associated with the War on Drugs. Because blacks are disproportionately swept up in the campaign against drugs, some scholars refer to the results of mass incarceration as the new “The New Jim Crow.” While the original intentions may have been well-meaning the long-term consequences may be worse: The War on Drugs may actually be class-based eugenics by another name.

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