Category: Christian Social Thought

scaliaSpeaking on February 14 at a Chicago event celebrating George Washington’s Birthday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s headline remark was his insistence that Chicago-style pizza is “not pizza.” But Scalia focused heavily on the abysmal state of civic education, which not surprisingly, includes law students as well.

Over at the Liberty Law Blog, Josh Blackman, offers some excellent highlights of Scalia’s words from the event. On the relationship between religion and good government, Scalia declared:

Let me make clear that I am not saying that every good American must believe in God. What I am saying, however, is that it is contrary to our founding principles to insist that government be hostile to religion. Or even to insist, as my court, alas, has done, that government cannot favor religion over non-religion.

It is not a matter of believing that God exists, though personally I believe that. It is a matter of believing, as our founders did, that belief in God is very conducive to a successful republic.

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Ukrainian priest/monks from Kiev stand between protesters and soldiers during recent protests, acting as peacemakers.

Ukrainian priest/monks from Kiev stand between protesters and soldiers during recent demonstrations, acting as peacemakers.

This weekend on Ancient Faith Radio, host Kevin Allen interviewed Metropolitan Antony, primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States about the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine. The bishop offered very good insights into the religious, cultural and political factors at play now in the Ukraine, carefully pointing out that the situation is very fluid and subject to change almost by the hour.

Allen asked the bishop what role the Orthodox and Greek-Catholic churches should play in this crisis going forward.

The Churches have an “enormous” role and indeed a “primary” role, Metropolitan Antony said. He continued:

We have all along, and so have all the churches in Ukraine have called upon those involved to remember the dignity of the human being, to remember the sanctity of life throughout this whole conflict. The Church and the clergy will be required to refrain from participation in any kind of political maneuvering or machinations, and to simply preach the word of God, and preach the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to overcome the difficulties first and then to begin the process of forgiveness, because this is a process that I believe will go on for some time to come. (more…)

thinkingWe read the same Bible and follow the same Jesus. We go to the same churches and even agree on the same social issues. So why then do liberal and conservative evangelicals tend to disagree so often about economic issues?

To explore that question I recently wrote a series of posts explaining “What Liberal Evangelicals Should Know About the Economic Views of Conservative Evangelicals.” The posts covered 12 principles that generally drive the thinking of conservative evangelicals when it comes to economics:

1. Good intentions are often trumped by unintended consequences.
2. Our current economic and historical context must be taken into account when applying Biblical principles
3. To exploit the poor, the rich need the help of the government.
4. We love economic growth because we love babies.
5. The economy is not a zero sum game.
6. Inequality and poverty in America is more often a matter of personal choice than structural injustice.
7. The best way to compensate for structural injustice is to increase individual freedom.
8. Saddling future generations with crippling debt is immoral.
9. Social mobility — specifically getting people out of poverty — is infinitely more important than income inequality.
10. Jobs that lead to human flourishing are the most important part of a moral economy.
11. Free markets are information systems designed for virtuous people
12. Free markets are the best way to serve free people.

To make it easier to read, I’ve compiled the entire series into a single essay, which can be downloaded in PDF or text format here.

wedding1In a recent column for USA Today, Kirsten Powers uses some legislation in the Kansas state legislature as a foray for arguing that, for many Christians, the supposed fight for religious liberty is really just a fight for the “legal right to discriminate.” Pointing to recent efforts to protect a florist, a baker, and a photographer from being sued for their beliefs about marriage, Powers argues that these amount to the homosexual equivalent of Jim Crow laws.

Powers, herself a Christian, reminds us that Jesus calls us “to be servants to all,” which is, of course, correct. Yet, as many have already observed, those involved in these lawsuits have no qualms with serving gay customers. Their conflict, rather, is with the particular ends that such services would support. As Andrew Walker explains at First Things: “What’s at stake in this context is when individuals who provide material and artistic craft for weddings are then forced to take their talents and their creative abilities and use them for purposes that go against their consciences.”

Setting aside any differences over sexual ethics or the particular legislation at hand, it’s worth noting how Powers so decidedly divorces work from religion, and in turn, work from ethics. Are we really to believe that the ends of our economic activity are of no consequence?

Powers writes that most of those planning a wedding would be shocked to learn that their vendors and suppliers had some kind of religious principle or transcendent ethic driving their efforts. “Most people think they just hired a vendor to provide a service,” she writes. “It’s not clear why some Christian vendors are so confused about their role here.” Reinforcing this view, megachurch pastor Andy Stanley is quoted, advising Christians to “leave Jesus out of it” when it comes to discerning the shape of their economic output. Later, in a tweet responding to her critics, Powers still fails to see it. “Of all the pushback I’ve gotten on my column,” she writes, “not one person has explained when Jesus taught that baking a cake is an affirmation of anything.” (more…)

gluttonyDiana Adams is an attorney in Brooklyn. I imagine there are a lot of those. But Ms. Adams’ work focuses on attaining marriage rights for people like herself: those living in polyamorous living situations. To get a sense of this:

Along with her primary partner Ed, she is currently romantically involved with several other men and women.

An interview with Ms. Adams is currently featured in The Atlantic. She was asked, after stating that we humans have a “hard time with monogamy,” what the consequences of a traditional married lifestyle are.

I think it’s interesting to see the way that when people get into a monogamous couple dynamic, they often have to neuter their sexual desires.

“Neuter” is an interesting choice of words. It’s not the one I’d choose, although I tend to agree with Ms. Adams here: marriage requires holding our appetites in check. This, then, brought to mind a show featured on TLC, “My 600-lb Life.” The show focuses on morbidly obese people struggling to lose weight. Often these folks are bed-ridden, literally trapped in their own flesh. They’ve completely lost control of their appetites. (more…)

Blog author: rjmoeller
Thursday, February 20, 2014
By

timeclockFrom Agence France-Presse:

Geneva — No Swiss fighter jets were scrambled Monday when an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked his own plane and forced it to land in Geneva, because it happened outside business hours, the Swiss airforce said.

You simply cannot make this stuff up. Granted, Switzerland has sort of made it “their thing” to avoid any territorial issue more dangerous than a Von Trapp family crossing, but this is embarrassing. Yes, the Swiss haven’t had much need for a military, but this is the result of policies and cultural values. And, one might posit, it is the result of generational dependency on the sacrifice of others.

Swiss airforce spokesman Laurent Savary told AFP…Switzerland relies heavily on deals with its neighbors, especially France, to help police its airspace outside regular office hours.

Just because you don’t need a military today does not mean you’ll never need a military in the future. It’s stage-one thinking. It’s erecting for yourself a fantasy land where trouble will only ever come between the hours of 8 AM and 12 PM (or then again between 1:30 PM and 5 PM).

It’s along the same distorted lines of the European Union’s laws requiring employers to pay for their workers’ longer and longer vacations, fining small businesses for staying open later than their competitors, and ensuring talent-less hacks are impossible to fire.

The European Union is an entity well versed in the art of fantasy land creation. They give Tolkien and Lewis a run for their imaginative money when it comes to concocting creative canvases on which they can paint the world the way choose to see it. But unlike the landscape of an Inklings’ novel, the lever-pullers of western bureaucratic states can’t easily erase the impact of a well-intended plot line gone awry.

Are we any better? Perhaps today we are, but how can we avoid the same regrettable (and ultimately dangerous) path?

I know Dr. Gregg has a few thoughts on the matter.

Today at Ethika Politika, I take issue with Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option,” a term inspired by the last paragraph of Alasdair MacIntyre’s book After Virtue.

The basic idea is that, due to the Enlightenment, we have lost the social conditions — in particular a shared moral and religious narrative — that make virtuous living an intelligible and shared social standard. Thus, MacIntyre claimed, “What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.” He concludes, “We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.”

Dreher has done much to popularize this “Benedict Option,” which he defines as “an intentional and thoughtful retreat into narrativity, by which I mean a reclaiming of the church’s story, inculcating commitment to it within the lives of its members, in defiance of the narrative collapse around us.”

There is at least one major problem with this, however. I respond,

Yet as Owen Chadwick noted, it was not until the early ninth century, and that due to strong papal support, that the Rule of St. Benedict became the standard rule in the Frankish Empire. Until that time, the dominant rules were often Celtic, especially the Rule of St. Columbanus, as well as a strong influence from St. John Cassian, St. Basil the Great, and the fathers of the Egyptian desert.

And the Celts, importantly, were not retreating from the world but rather from Ireland in feats of what they termed “green martyrdom,” missionary exile as ascetic discipline. If Thomas Cahill is even half-right, the Irish played just as much a part in saving civilization as the Benedictines, if not far more so. Far from a retreat, their approach was quite confrontational (as was St. Benedict’s, as Goerke points out).

[...]

Thankfully, we need not wait for a “new and very different” Irish people as the Irish are still with us. Indeed, the equal respect accorded to Roman Catholics in the United States today is the result (in large part, at least) of a hard-won, confrontational battle of Irish immigrants to carve out an equal place in American society for their children and their cultural and religious heritage (see, e.g. Dagger John). Perhaps traditional Christians looking to preserve a moral culture today have more to learn from them.

It might have been better had I written “see, especially, Dagger John,” since his story is one of remarkable social action and spiritual reform, defending the cause of religious liberty and equal rights for Irish Roman Catholic immigrants in the 19th century and emphasizing the vital role of personal responsibility. (more…)

Panel moderator Elise Amyx, blogger Jacqueline Otto Isaacs, panelist Taylor Barkley

Panel moderator Elise Amyx, blogger Jacqueline Otto Isaacs, panelist Taylor Barkley

While acknowledging that the Bible is not a book of political theory, a recent panel hosted by The Institute for Faith, Work and  Economics asked whether or not Christianity and libertarianism were compatible. The panel, moderated by former Acton Institute intern Elise Amyx, was made up of young evangelicals eager to tackle the question. They came up with 5 reasons that Christianity and libertarianism were indeed compatible.

1. Christianity Celebrates Voluntary Action, Value Creation

Jacqueline Otto Isaacs, a blogger at Values & Capitalism, explained that the Christian worldview also supports libertarianism. ‘The message of the Gospel, the good news, is that salvation from our sins is offered through Christ — this salvation is voluntary and individual, and this is the core message of Christianity, Isaacs declared.

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Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, joins Drew Mariani on Relevant Radio’s Drew Mariani Show to discuss the problem of Global Poverty and the seemingly counterintuitive solutions that have been lifting people out of poverty over the last few decades, as well as how more conventional “solutions” like government-to-government aid often have disastrous effects for those who are the intended recipients of the aid. You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.

Last week on the Acton PowerBlog, Anthony Bradley raised the issue of the war on men, specifically the high rate of imprisonment among men in the United States.  At one point in time, America acknowledged that prison might be a place of rehabilitation rather than simply the warehousing of criminals (read Ray Nothstine’s work on Angola Prison to see that rehabilitation in prison is possible.)

Catholic blogger Mark Shea interprets the high rate of imprisonment as a sign of the de-Christianization of our culture: we’ve de-valued life, and slavery becomes acceptable. The infographic below shows that prison – no longer rehabilitative and no longer warehousing – is profitable. Prisoners are cheap labor and big business. Rather than tending to criminals, visiting the imprisoned and helping men and women who’ve committed crimes become better people, we’re using them. It might be a money-maker, but is it just?

Prison, Inc - The Secret Industry