Category: Christian Social Thought

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Monday, November 18, 2013

conservative liberalCarl E. Olson, in an editorial entitled “Catholicism and the Convenience of Empty Labels,” says that many who write and discuss all things Catholic get lost in “fabricated conflicts” which lack context. Pope Francis, depending on who is speaking, is a darling of the “liberals” or a stalwart “conservative.”

Suffice to say, the die has been cast for many journalists, and thus for their readers, when it comes to framing stories about the good Pope Francis and the evil “right-wingers” who oppose him. It’s not that some writers go to elaborate and sophisticated lengths to make dubious connections and render outrageous assertions; rather, they often demonstrate an intellectual laziness that is alarming and a crude simplicity that is exasperating, at best.

(more…)

AYN RANDThere once was a time when I was enamored by the philosophy of Ayn Rand. An émigré from the Soviet Union, the influential novelist and founder of Objectivism had an enthusiasm for market capitalism and a hatred of communism that I found entrancing. I discovered her two major philosophical novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, in my early years in college as I was beginning to wake from my enchantment with liberalism. I was instantly hooked.

Rand’s ideas were intriguing, yet she harbored sentiments that made it difficult for a young Christian to accept. She was an atheist who despised altruism and preached the “virtue of selfishness.” She believed that rational self-interest was the greatest good and sang the praises of egoism.

In retrospect, it appears obvious that any attempt to reconcile these ideas with my orthodox evangelicalism was destined to fail. Still, I thought there might be something to the philosophy and was particularly intrigued by her defense of capitalism. My understanding of our economic system was a rather immature, though, and I failed to recognize that Rand had an almost complete misunderstanding of capitalism. She confused self-interest with selfishness.
(more…)

Tea-Party-Catholic-196x300Tea Party Catholic, the latest book by Acton’s Director of Research Sam Gregg, continues to garner attention. Fr. Gregory Jensen, at his Koinonia blog, reviews Gregg’s work in light of the experience of Orthodox Christians in the U.S.

For the American Orthodox Christian, patriotism, “the love of the true good of one’s country” is the core of the Church vocation relative to the larger culture. We cannot evangelize, as I’ve said before, those we don’t know, but we don’t truly know those we don’t love. Additionally, American Orthodox Christians can’t makes a lasting contribution to the Church in the Middle East, Greece, Eastern Europe or Russia if we don’t love those true and lasting goods that inform the American Experiment at its best. This doesn’t mean we are called to export American democracy. (more…)

Class struggle. Racially-charged rhetoric. Anti-capitalist diatribes. Sounds like the lineup to a “Fantasy Diversity” team from a sociology professor at Wellesley College, right?

Alas, I’m merely referring to the controversy surrounding ex-Miami Dolphins players Jonathan Martin (black) and Richie Incognito (white).  For those who haven’t been paying attention – and thank your lucky stars that you haven’t – Martin left the team for personal reasons and his fellow offensive lineman Incognito was released by the Dolphins for allegedly being the bully who broke the spirit of the younger Martin.

I’m not here interested in solving the intra-team dynamics of a professional football team (comprised of giant men who willingly smash into each other for a living), but instead wanted to share with you a very telling quote from the media’s coverage of this story.

It comes from a sports “journalist” (term used loosely) named Jason Whitlock who works for ESPN. Mr. Whitlock is no stranger to controversy or inflammatory remarks, having made many of his own through the years via his columns and various radio shows. On Tuesday’s episode of The Tony Kornheiser Show on ESPN 980 (out of Washington D.C.), Whitlock was asked by Kornheiser to explain why the Dolphins players would want to harass and “cannibalize” a promising young player like Martin when they need all the help they can get on the actual football field.

Jason’s response?

“Because that’s what we do in America. That’s what capitalism does. It’s preys upon the weak.”

(more…)

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Monday, November 11, 2013

The Apostle Peter and Cornelius the centurion

The most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality (16.1) features an updated translation of “The Moral Organization of Humanity as a Whole,” the last chapter of the Russian Orthodox philosopher Vladimir Soloviev’s major work on moral philosophy The Justification of the Good. Writing in 1899, Soloviev offers an insightful reflection on the centurion Cornelius, the first Gentile convert to Christianity (Acts 10), regarding the military vocation and the kingdom of God, appropriate to consider as we celebrate Veterans Day today:

Neither the angel of God nor the apostle Peter, the messenger of the peace of Christ, nor the voice of the Holy Spirit himself suddenly revealed in the ones converted, told the centurion of the Italian cohort that which was, according to the latest notions about Christianity, the most important and urgently necessary thing for this Roman warrior. They did not tell him that in becoming a Christian he must first of all cast away his weapons and without fail renounce military service. There is neither word nor allusion about this ostensibly indispensable condition of Christianity in the whole story, even though the point is precisely about a representative of the army. Renunciation of military service does not at all enter into the New Testament concept of what is required of a secular warrior in order that he become a citizen enjoying full rights in the kingdom of God.

While this may appear to be an argument from silence, Soloviev notes,

When Peter came, Cornelius said to him, “Now, therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things … commanded you by God” [10:33]. But in this all that God commands the apostle to communicate to the Roman warrior for his salvation, there is nothing about military service.

Taking seriously that the Apostle Peter did not leave anything out when he told Cornelius everything he needed to begin the Christian life, the omission of any command to renounce military service is a significant silence. (more…)

Creation Heart ManBeginning today, Acton is offering its first monograph on Eastern Orthodox Christian social thought at no cost through Amazon Kindle. Through Tues., Nov. 12, you can get your free digital copy of Creation and the Heart of Man: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalism (Acton Institute, 2013). The print edition, which runs 91 pages, will be available later this month through the Acton Book Shop for $6. When the free eBook offer expires, Creation and the Heart of Man will be priced at $2.99 for the Kindle reader and free reading apps.

A summary of Creation and the Heart of Man:

Rooted in the Tradition of the Orthodox Church and its teaching on the relationship between God, humanity, and all creation, Fr. Michael Butler and Prof. Andrew Morriss offer a new contribution to Orthodox environmental theology. Too often policy recommendations from theologians and Church authorities have taken the form of pontifications, obscuring many important economic and public policy realities. The authors establish a framework for responsible engagement with environmental issues undergirded not only by Church teaching but also by sound economic analysis. Creation and the Heart of Man uniquely takes the discussion of Orthodox environmental ethics from abstract principles to thoughtful interaction with the concrete, sensitive to the inviolability of human dignity, the plight of the poor, and our common destiny of communion with God.

(more…)

Blog author: rjmoeller
posted by on Friday, November 8, 2013

King Solomon. Georgian MSSWhen given the choice to possess whatever he asked for, the young King Solomon asked God for wisdom. Not “the ability to ask for more things,” or “x-ray vision,” but wisdom. An overview of the wisdom Solomon accrued in his memorable life was, for our sake, recorded in the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs has some definitive things to say about matters related to how we might, as Christians, organize our lives (and communities) economically. The concept of wealth is a tough one for Christians to wrestle with. We cannot serve both God and money, but the discussion about economics is more complex than the “money = wealth and therefore wealth = bad” mantra reiterated by progressives. Wealth cannot be reduced to purely monetary terms.

In their 2009 book, Calvin and Commerce, David W. Hall and Matthew D. Burton identify a number of general teachings about wealth found in Proverbs (among other books of the Old Testament) that supply modern Christians with principles that can be directly applied to our worldview regarding economics, business, and personal finances. Below are two of the general teachings the authors flesh out.
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, November 7, 2013

ChristendomOur ideal as Christians is a social world that encompasses everyday life but is oriented toward God and the good, beautiful, and true in all its aspects, says James Kalb. “In our time,” says Kalb, “the phrases ‘culture of life’ and ‘civilization of love’ have been used to refer to basic aspects of such a world, but Christendom seems the best name for it overall.”

Has this ideal of Christendom gone away?

Christendom may be gone as a matter of public law, and perhaps in the consciousness of most believers, but it’s still here as a substantive reality. Obedience and loyalty form a hierarchy for Christians, with God at the top, the Church and secular connections farther down, and natural law helping to sort and order the pieces and hold together the ones that can be used. If something in our present life finds a place in that hierarchy, it’s part of Christendom.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Royal Coat of Arms of the NetherlandsDrawing on some themes I explore about the role of the church in providing material assistance in Get Your Hands Dirty, today at Political Theology Today I look at the first parliamentary speech of the new Dutch King Willem-Alexander.

In “The Dutch King’s Speech,” I argue that the largely ceremonial and even constitutionally-limited monarchy has something to offer modern democratic polities, in that it provides a forum for public leadership that is not directly dependent on popular electoral support. In the Dutch case, the king broached the largely unpopular subject of fundamentally reforming the social democratic welfare state.

This is in rather sharp contrast to the social witness of the mainline of Dutch church leaders, at least over the last few decades. But the churches, too, have a role in acting as makeweights against democratic majoritarian tyranny.
(more…)

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bansky No StoppingOver at the University Bookman today, I review John Lanchester’s novel Capital. I recommend the book.

I don’t explore it in the review, “Capital Vices and Commercial Virtues,” but for those who have been following the antics of Banksy, there is a similar performance artist character in the novel that has significance for the development of the narrative.

As I write in the review, the vice of envy, captured in the foreboding phrase, “We Want What You Have,” animates the book. Capital “provides a richly textured and challenging narrative of the challenges of affluence, the temptations of materialism and envy, and the need for true human community expressed in a variety of social institutions.”

I note the insights of my friend and colleague Victor Claar in the review, and for a more thorough academic engagement of the ethics and economics of envy, check out our co-authored paper recently accepted for publication in Faith & Economics, “Envy in the Market Economy: Sin, Fairness, and Spontaneous (Dis)Order,” as well as my piece slated to appear in Philosophia Reformata, “The Moral Challenges of Economic Equality and Diversity.”