A 2009 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research says that the number of people in the world living on less than $1 per day fell from 403 million in 1970 to 152 million in 2006.
Political scientist and criminologist James Q. Wilson, co-author of the influential “Broken Windows” article in The Atlantic Monthly in 1982, which led to shift toward community policing, died today at the age of 80.
In 1999, Wilson spoke to Acton’s Religion & Liberty about how a free society requires a moral sense and social capital:
This issue of the journal (14.2) is actually a theme issue on Modern Christian Social Thought. Accordingly, all ten articles engage the history and substance of various approaches to Modern Christian Social Thought, with special emphasis on the Reformed and Roman Catholic traditions.
There is also another installment of our Controversy section, featuring a three-way debate over the question, “Does Libertarianism Tempt Some Catholics to Stray from Catholic Social Thought?”
As always we have another thorough collection of first-rate book reviews from top scholars and experts in the fields of theology, ethics, and economics.
Lastly, our Status Quaestionis section includes two works from the nineteenth century which have never before been translated into English: “Critical Analysis of the First Concepts of Social Economy” (1857) by Luigi Taparelli, SJ and “Christ and the Needy” (1895) by Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper. All in all, it may possibly be our largest issue yet.
The Catholic High School Honor Roll, a biennial list of America’s top 50 Catholic high schools, will now be sponsored by The Cardinal Newman Society, beginning with the 2012-13 Honor Roll application period. The Acton Institute, which has sponsored the Honor Roll since its inception in 2004, is turning the program over to The Cardinal Newman Society.
“It has been gratifying to see how the Catholic High School Honor Roll has grown to be a reliable standard for faithful Catholic education. In order to insure its continued growth, it seems logical to us that its mission be entrusted to a fine organization with a solid track record to take it to the next level,” states Fr. Robert Sirico, president and co- founder of the Acton Institute.
The Acton Institute encourages all past participants to continue utilizing the Catholic High School Honor Roll as a means of measuring academic excellence, Catholic identity, and civic education, and congratulates The Cardinal Newman Society for its on-going efforts to renew and strengthen Catholic identity in Catholic education. Please watch the Catholic High School Honor Roll website for further updates and announcements.
Also, please note that the new Honor Roll project manager, Mr. Bob Laird, will be sending a separate e-mail introducing himself to the Honor Roll schools. He is available at HonorRoll@CardinalNewmanSociety.org, 703/367-0333, ext. 103.
Beginning in 1908 as the “Octave of Christian Unity,” the eight days from January 18 to January 25 are designated as the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” and observed by many major Christian traditions and denominations.
All around the world, Christians who sometimes do not always get along so well (to put it lightly) put aside their discord to pray for renewed harmony and reconciliation. For example, in Bucharest, Romania, ecumenical prayer services are being held on nearly every day of this week rotating between Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Evangelical (Lutheran), Anglican, Armenian, and Romanian Orthodox churches.
In his recent book The Unity Factor, published by Christian’s Library Press, John Armstrong outlines his vision for a deeper unity between Christians of various traditions. “Christians are called to unity in love and to unity in truth,” writes Armstrong, emphasizing the need for Christians to once again share one faith, one church, and one mission.
Furthermore, Armstrong urges that
comprehensive biblical love is the defining identity and hallmark of all true followers of Jesus. I believe this is the central truth we must recover if we want the world to take notice of our witness. Today, the world mocks much of what we say and do. A great deal of this is deserved. This, however, was not the case in the earliest centuries of the church. Christians’ deep sense of shared, familial love led them to love even more deeply. As our present world polarizes politically and socially, the church must refuse to follow the ways of the world, returning instead to this unity factor.
I hope that all Christians will take some time this week to join millions of others who pray for that “comprehensive biblical love” and “unity in truth” that characterized Christians of the ancient, united Church.
Reflecting on the GOP presidential campaigns and the Iowa caucus, Joseph Knippenberg has voiced serious concern on the First Things blog regarding the compatibility of Ron Paul’s libertarianism with traditional Christian social and political thought. As this race continues, this may be a question of fundamental importance, and I expect to see more Christians engaging this issue in the days and months to come.
Indeed, as Journal of Markets & Morality (JMM) executive editor Jordan Ballor has noted in his editorial for the most recent issue (14.2), the importance of this question is also highlighted by “the recent denial of a proposal for a master’s program in Austrian economics at Loyola University New Orleans [that] was in part attributed to ‘specific conflicts … between Catholic social teaching and the Austrian view of government, unions, taxations, human life and the place of Christianity in the public sector.'” Clearly, Loyola University New Orleans has already answered the question of compatibility with a strong no.
In light of the pressing need for a thoughtful and educated engagement of this question, I am pleased to note that the upcoming issue of JMM also features a debate in our “Controversy” section between Daniel Finn, Anthony Santelli, and John Mueller over the question: “Does libertarianism tempt some Catholics to stray from Catholic social thought?” The contributors represent an interesting spectrum of viewpoints on the issue and argue their stances with candor and conviction.
If you or your school or institution is not currently subscribed to JMM, this timely controversy is yet another reason to do so. For more information on how to subscribe, visit our website here.
Acton’s Director of Media Michael Matheson Miller was in-studio this morning on The Tony Gates Show on WJRW Radio to talk about global poverty, PovertyCure, and his recently completed trip to London to speak about those issues at an Acton conference. To listen to the interview, use the audio player below:
In this week’s Acton Commentary, I examine Jesus’s famous parable of the Lost Sheep in the context of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the parable after some people grumble about him eating with “tax collectors and sinners.” Tax collectors at the time had a bad reputation of unfair business practices and government ties. Yet, Jesus tells the parable of a man who left ninety-nine sheep to find the one that went missing in order to caution his detractors about marginalizing even these tax collectors.
In light of this, does the “we are the 99%” rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which implicitly insinuates that anyone in the top 1 percent has gotten there unjustly, amount to shunning the lost sheep (and others) of our society today? Read this week’s Acton Commentary for more.
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
Unported Author: Another Believer
Is Islam a religion of extremes? It certainly can appear to be. Muslim women in certain areas of the world cannot appear in public uncovered or without male escort nor are they are not permitted to drive a car. Just last fall, we saw a Christian Pakistani woman sentenced to death by stoning for allegedly blaspheming the prophet Muhammad. Throw in terrorist factions like Al-Qaeda who have hijacked the name of Islam and an understandable wariness sets in. The question arises: can a religion connected with such extremism be reconciled with the principles of human freedom, justice, and liberty? In his book, Islam Without Extremes, Turkish journalist and devout Muslim Mustafa Akyol earnestly addresses this pointed question that has undoubtedly become one of the central issues of the modern world.
Akyol believes Islam without extremes is not only possible, but vital to the future of the faith and the global economy. He also clearly believes that Islam without extremes does not require the compromise of one’s faith. Akyol’s aim in this book is to show that Islam is relevant in today’s world, and is not only NOT a threat to liberty, but a religion that has much to offer the world in terms of stabilizing economies and governments. For instance, the earliest days of Islam showed that it was a “business-friendly” faith. The Prophet himself was married to a well-to-do businesswoman, and property rights, inheritance laws and fairness in trade were all strengthened by Islamic teaching.
In the book, Akyol lays out a concise history of Islam (necessary for those who may be unfamiliar with the origins of the faith), and then delves into the intriguing areas of interpretation and application of not only the Qur’an, but the Hadiths, a collection of the “example” (Sunna) of the Prophet Muhammad (considered by some Muslims to be nearly “on par” with the Qur’an).
The Hadiths, no Muslim would dispute, were compiled by men, unlike the Qur’an, which Muslims (by and large) believe was “received” in recitation by the Prophet Muhammad from God via an angel. However, the Qur’an is a pretty short book; it doesn’t cover a lot of territory. In order for Muslims to apply the Qur’an, there are few choices. Either each person decides how the Qur’an applies, or a tradition of application had to come about. Thus, the Hadiths were born, in order to answer the question (perhaps crudely), “What would Muhammad do?”
Akyol’s contention is that the Hadiths, while borne out of necessity, were often not infused with reason. In fact, as the author points out, in early Islamic history, there were two basic schools of thought: the People of Reason and the People of Tradition, and that Tradition won out, at least in terms of the creation of the Hadiths Akyol presents one anecdote where a man refused to ever eat watermelon because he could find no record of the Prophet Muhammad doing so.
The challenge of any book-based religion, bound in history, is to meet modern challenges and remain relevant in any time and place. For instance, how does a Catholic deal with in-vitro fertilization when the Bible says nothing about it? Is a Jew bound to each and every law prescribed in Scripture? Akyol’s contention is that much of the Hadiths and Shariah law were formed in a particular time and place (based on political and not religious convictions) and often are not Qur’anically based, or rooted in any actual example of Muhammad’s. They are, Akyol argues, apocryphal at best, politically- and personally-motivated at worst. Therefore, they lose their relevancy to the modern Muslim believer.
However, shortly after the death of the Prophet, Akyol proposes that the School of Tradition cut off the young Islamic community from the economic mainstream that was flowing through the Arabian Peninsula, effectively isolating Muslims from doing trade with non-believers. This type of isolation affected not only economy, but art, language, science and many resources. It was not until the Ottoman Empire (beginning in the late 13th century and stretching into the 20th) that Islam began to regain its economic footing. The Ottoman Empire, of course, was a “Renaissance age”, if you will, for Islam: a time of great innovation in many areas of thought, art, philosophy and culture. However, there has remained skepticism of free-market enterprise within Islam and many Islamic nations.
It is here the author directs his focus on Turkey (and stays there for most of the remainder of the book). Turkey’s unique political history (its sympathy for the West, for example, and its governmental roots in both constitutional and parliamentary rule) certainly made for a sound basis for a free-market economy. Akyol credits men like Said Nursi and especially Turgut Ozal with creating not only a far-more stable political situation than most Muslim-majority countries enjoy, but with liberalizing the nation’s understanding of what it took to compete financially on a global scale.
Ozal’s policies were based on the freedom of ideas, religion and enterprise. Ozal believed, according to Akyol, that a planned economy built on free trade would lay the foundation for a robust Turkish economy. His era, ending with an untimely (natural) death, is known as the Ozal Revolution.
Of course, economic freedom does not occur in a vacuum. Free trade brings with it exposure to travel, communication with people from all over the world, information, money to buy luxury items, and the experience of other cultural norms, fashions, mores and ways of life. Whether one experiences such exposures as “good” or “bad” is based on many things, but the exposure is there nonetheless. Islam, if it is to be open to the free-market economy in other places in the world, will also have to learn to deal with all of these. Islam, Akyol asserts, must embrace democracy.
Once we start looking for “a state for Muslims”, we will soon end
up with a commonsense solution. Since no particular Muslim
can claim to have theocratic authority, and since there are all
sorts of Muslims with diverse views, ideas, and aspirations, the
only system that will be fair to all would be one that would include
all of them in the political process: a democracy….
Akyol very clearly states that democracy cannot be based on Shariah law, as that would be a theocracy. And, he strenuously makes the point that a secular state and a secularist state are two different things: a secular state remains neutral to religion, while a secularist state is hostile to religion. It is the secular state, Akyol contends, that will allow every Muslim true freedom: the freedom to pray as he or she ought, to follow the example of Muhammad as he or she sees fit, the freedom to submit to the will of God as he or she understands that. It is also this secular state, this democratic state, that will allow Muslim men and women – so inclined – to be entrepreneurs in business, to compete fairly in the global marketplace and to bring the commandment to do good and avoid evil with them into that market. It would also considerably strengthen the Muslim ability to bring charity to those less fortunate – a strong enjoinder in the Muslim faith.
Mustafa Akyol does a thorough job of illustrating that Islam is not a religion of extremes, but a religion of personal goodness, provided that goodness is a free choice. The book is accessible to anyone with even the slightest knowledge of Islam, as Akyol provides a succinct history lesson. It is clear that his point of view is Turkish, and moderate in terms of politics and faith, but that moderate view is the view that leads one to conclude that Islam and its adherents can become profound contributors to the realm of free-trade and global economics. Akyol’s book is highly recommended for anyone who wants to answer the question of whether or not Islam is an “extreme” or viable option when examining issues of liberty, freedom and justice. Akyol’s answer is that Islam offers a coherent and vibrant addition to this global dialogue.