Category: Christian Social Thought

devil made me“It doesn’t matter what I believe…as long as I’m a good person.”

How many times have you heard that? As our society trends more and more to the secular, this type of thing becomes more common. We’ve gone from a society that, at the very least, paid lip-service to communal worship and having moral standards set by a higher authority, to “I can worship God on my own; I don’t need a church to do that” to “It doesn’t matter what I believe, as long as I’m a good person.”

Is that right? Can a person believe “whatever” and still be good. Fr. Robert Barron disagrees.

I would imagine that, if pressed, most people in our society would characterize “being a good person” as treating others with love, honoring the dignity, freedom, and inherent worth of their fellow human beings. And most would agree that ethical violations—stealing, lying, sexual misbehavior, infidelity, cheating, doing physical harm, etc.—are correctly seen as negations of love. But what is love? Love is not primarily a feeling or an instinct; rather, it is the act of willing the good of the other as other. It is radical self-gift, living for the sake of the other. To be kind to someone else so that he might be kind to you, or to treat a fellow human being justly so that he, in turn, might treat you with justice is not to love, for such moves are tantamount to indirect self-interest. Truly to love is to move outside of the black hole of one’s egotism, to resist the centripetal force that compels one to assume the attitude of self-protection. But this means that love is rightly described as a “theological virtue,” for it represents a participation in the love that God is. Since God has no need, only God can utterly exist for the sake of the other. All of the great masters of the Christian spiritual tradition saw that we are able to love only inasmuch as we have received, as a grace, a share in the very life, energy, and nature of God.

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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, February 27, 2014
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Fracking_Graphic_t670Fracking is a slang term for hydraulic fracturing, a procedure of creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger fissures allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the wellbore, from where it can be extracted. Fracking has resulted in many oil and gas wells attaining a state of economic viability, due to the level of extraction that can be reached.

Fracking has been around since the end of World War II, but it was only in the last decade or so that the economic incentives helped to make it more common practice. The result has been an increase in oil production — and an increase in controversy.

Gasland, a 2010 documentary, and Promised Land, a 2012 feature film starring Matt Damon, helped to turn public opinion against the process. The information in those films has been effectively rebutted, but the damage has already been done. According to a 2013 University of Texas poll, 41 percent of Americans oppose fracking.
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Radio Free ActonAre you special? Do you have intrinsic dignity? Are “human rights” something that you have by virtue of the fact that you’re a human being, or are you no different from any other creature on the planet? These are all vitally important questions, the answers to which will shape the way you view yourself and other people, and deeply impact the sort of society that you attempt to build.

On this edition of Radio Free Acton, Paul Edwards talks with Wesley J. Smith, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Human Exceptionalism and author of National Review Online’s Human Exceptionalism blog. Smith is a powerful voice in defense of the intrinsic dignity and value of human life in the face of growing threats to those ideas from supporters of assisted suicide and population control, as well as from the environmentalist and animal rights movements, both of which have trended toward more radical anti-human sentiment over the past few decades.

Smith has recently released an e-book and a documentary called “The War on Humans” – both of which are available at waronhumans.com – detailing the very real and very current threats to human dignity that exist in the world today. You can view the documentary after the jump, and we’d encourage you to download and read the e-book as well. The Radio Free Acton podcast is available via the player below.

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I have five kids. I thought I was sane, but apparently, I’m living a crazy alternative lifestyle.

Freestyle halfpipe skier David Wise won gold at Sochi. NBC, rather than being impressed with his world-class athleticism, focused on his “alternative lifestyle.” You see, Wise is married to Alexandra, and they have a young son. Wise is also considering becoming a pastor.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers has had his critics in terms of his play, but there are also critics of his “alternative lifestyle”: he and his wife, Tiffany, have six kids (they recently had a seventh child.) ESPN noted with this comment:

Six kids? Regardless of your profession, it’s impossible to be a good parent to six kids. Not enough hours in the day.

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gay new blackAt The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter (Senior Editor for the Acton Institute) does some speculating on whether or not “gay is the new black.” That is, can we equate sexual behavior and race when we are discussing questions about equality, marriage, adoption, and discrimination?

By now, most of us are familiar with the issues surrounding Christian business owners (such as bakers and photographers) who have declined to do business for a homosexual wedding. Our nation is currently struggling with whether or not a person with religious beliefs can be forced to violate those beliefs in the name of equality. If I (a Christian) own a hall that I rent out for parties, receptions, etc., can I refuse to rent to a Hispanic or black family? The law says no, and rightly so. Can I refuse to rent that same hall out to a gay couple celebrating their wedding? Carter dissects the issues:

The argument to make this comparison takes the following form:

Major Premise: A sexual orientation is analogous to the category of race.

Minor Premise: Race is a category protected by anti-discrimination laws.

Conclusion: Therefore, sexual orientation should have the same civil-rights protections as those afforded to race.

The question we will examine is whether the major premise is true. Is sexual orientation and its behavior analogous to race? Before we can answer that question, we we must consider what constitutes a justification for anti-discrimination laws.

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Blog author: dpahman
Monday, February 24, 2014
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Today at Red River Orthodox, I offer a brief introduction to the liberal tradition for Orthodox Christians living in the West:

Liberalism, historically, is a broad intellectual tradition including a large and disparate group of thinkers. The epistemological differences between John Locke, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant do not stop them all from being liberals. In economics the range extends from Friedrich Hayek to John Maynard Keynes. In political philosophy, from John Rawls to Robert Nozick. For that matter, both the American and French Revolutions have liberal foundations, though often (and rightly) contrasted.

I conclude by encouraging a more nuanced engagement with the West than is sometimes the case in the East:

[F]or a responsible, “liberal engagement” with the West from an Orthodox Christian perspective, it will not do to dismiss anything we don’t like as Western and liberal and, therefore, wrong. As Solzhenitsyn put [it], “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” And if that is true, then both East and West, including Western liberalism, have plenty of good and evil to go around.

How might Orthodox Christians better evaluate one of the many liberalisms that make up the water in which we swim in the West today?

To give an example, I would positively recommend to my fellow Orthodox Christians the German ordoliberal school of economic thought for the following reasons: (more…)

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…)