Category: Christian Social Thought

????????????????????????????????????????The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently released a report on intentional homicide (see this post for more on that report). Around the world, there were about 475,000 homicide deaths in 2012 and about six million since 2000, making homicide, the report notes, “a more frequent cause of death than all wars combined in this period.”

While the rate of homicides, particularly in the Americas, remains disturbingly high, the fact that they exceed deaths due to war is should be an indirect source of encouragement.

Consider, for instance, that in the twentieth century, there were at least eight wars whose average deaths per year exceeded the current homicide rate:
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Blog author: ehilton
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
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Martin Luther King, Jr. accepting the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo

Martin Luther King, Jr. accepting the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo

He was 35 years old, and the Civil Rights Act had passed. For almost 10 years, he had been leading the national struggle in the United States for equality for all citizens, but especially blacks. Today, in 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke these words as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize:

After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. (more…)

online predatorReligious believer or not, most of us agree that we should take care of the downtrodden. We have to feed and care for the homeless, the hurting, those who’ve temporarily hit hard times or those who, for whatever reason, cannot take care of themselves. These are the people who gather at the entrances of soup kitchens, who live atop garbage heaps, who salvage whatever they can for a shelter to call home.

What about those who live in the “cyberslums?” How do we minister to them? (more…)

3557statuechris_00000002873Those interested in reviving Catholicism’s saliency in everyday life in Latin America, says Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg, should consider how they can make Christ front-and-center of their social outreach:

It’s hardly surprising that the election of Latin America’s Pope Francis has focused more attention on Latin American Catholicism since the debates about liberation theology which shook global Christianity in the 1970s and 1980s. The sad irony, however, is that this renewed attention is highlighting something long known to many Catholics but which non-Catholics are now becoming more cognizant: that Latin America’s identity as a “Catholic continent” is fading and has been doing so for some time.

By that I don’t mean that most Latin Americans no longer identify as Catholic. That’s still the case. Indeed, in many countries south of the Rio Grande, it remains overwhelming true. But what’s clear is that Catholicism’s ability to shape Latin America’s religious context is in decline, or, from another perspective, faces some significant competitors: and not just from Evangelicals but also agnosticism and atheism.

Read more . . .

Interest-Rate-burdenUsury is the practice of making immoral monetary loans intended to unfairly enrich the lender. But what, for Christians, counts as an immoral loan?

For much of church history, any interest was considered immoral. The 12th canon of the First Council of Carthage (345) and the 36th canon of the Council of Aix (789) declared it to be reprehensible even for anyone to make money by lending at interest. But that view eventually changed, and today even the Vatican participates in modern banking.

Some Catholics have used this example to argue for other changes, such as contraception. As Jay Richards notes,
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imageIn an increasingly atomizing and alienating culture, what role does the church play in holding the fabric of civilization together?

Over at the Evangelical Pulpit, Bart Gingerich offers a hearty response, albeit by way of answering a rather different question: Why do folks abandon the church, particularly those who still believe in Jesus?

Although plenty of disaffected church-ditchers have undergone deep shifts in basic doctrine and belief, Gingerich observes that, for many, “the abandonment testimonies seem fueled more by embarrassment and bad experiences.” If this is the key driver, he continues, such departures may have just as much to do with the typical failings of human organizations in general as they do with the church in particular.

“Humans in groups can be jerks, make mistakes, have blind spots, and mishandle all sorts of cases,” he writes. “Many of the ‘I’m leaving or taking a break from church because people hurt me’ manifestos could just as easily been authored about the local Ruritans, Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Garden, or Women’s Club.”

But therein lies the issue: “Few under the age of 40 participate in such societies any more.” (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
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"Tree Grace" - Mako Fujimura

“Tree Grace” – Mako Fujimura

Are you creative? No, that’s not one of those silly Facebook quizzes; it’s a serious question. Would you describe yourself as “creative?”

Turns out, that’s a pretty important question. Folks who study such things say that “creativity” is one of the things employers are looking for in today’s workforce, and not just in places like Silicon Valley. While we value creativity in our culture, it seems as if we’re quashing it in our kids: Common Core doesn’t exactly call for “outside the box” thinking.

Are you creative? If you say “no,” then can you be taught to be creative? It seems that you can. Gerard Puccio at Buffalo State College in New York teaches creativity. (more…)

On The Daily Caller, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg looks at the connection between economic liberty and religious freedom which, he observes, “has not been so obvious; or at least it wasn’t until cases such as Hobby Lobby’s started making their way through the American court system.” Also not so obvious is how the ever expanding welfare state in many countries — and the growing dependence of some religious charities on state funding — have had a negative impact on the institutional liberty of religious organization. Gregg:

As funding from government contracts begin to make up large portions of a given religious charity’s financial resources, economic reliance on such assistance can easily incentivize such organizations into avoiding any significant conflicts with government officials: including those occasions when such conflict is inevitable if the religious organization is to remain faithful to its core beliefs. It is not unknown for religious organizations receiving or seeking state contracts to downplay their religious identity precisely so they can maximize their chances of receiving such a contract. As George Weigel points it, such organizations can begin to transform themselves into “mere vehicles for the delivery of state-defined and state-approved ‘benefit’.”

It is also true that acceptance of government funding can encourage many people working in religious organizations to view government as their main authority. This should not be surprising. If 80 percent of a religious charity’s income is coming from state financial assistance and government contracts for which religious organizations compete, it would seem that the government effectively controls that religious charity’s purse-strings. And that means the state is well and truly in charge.

Read all of “Economic Freedom And Religious Freedom Are Mutually Reinforcing” by Samuel Gregg on The Daily Caller.

Today at Public Discourse, I examine recent data that strongly suggests that “freedom from government restrictions on religion often paves the way for economic liberty.”

I write,

Thus, we can say that if someone wishes to promote economic liberty worldwide, one should not neglect to encourage religious liberty at the same time. This requires facing the challenges of any given country’s religious context and history, while underscoring the importance of interreligious studies for international economic development efforts.

These findings also ought to affirm a tempered realism among international development organizations and advocates who hope to encourage free economies in countries with high government restrictions on religion. Such liberalization is not impossible, as Singapore, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain demonstrate. However, the strong correlation clearly favors those countries with moderate to low government restrictions on religion and preferably with moderate to low social hostility toward religion as well. A country that values and protects religious liberty offers fertile soil for economic liberty to flourish.

Exploring the connection between religious and economic liberty is one of the central focuses of the Acton Institute. For more on this subject, check out Michael Novak’s recent Acton Commentary, “Economic Tyranny Trumps Religious Liberty,” and be sure to look into our Religious and Economic Freedom Conference Series (here).

You can read the rest of my article, “Connecting Religious and Economic Liberty” at Public Discourse here.

Almost twenty years ago I learned an important lesson in Christian ethics from a Jewish writer. In his book, Think a Second Time, Dennis Prager explains a principle from the Talmud about consumer ethics. While I had read several book about business ethics, I don’t recall ever hearing much, if anything, about the ethical obligations of consumers.

Prager helped me see not only how the “shopkeeper’s law” should apply to my consumer choices, but also to many of the relationships in my life. This lesson helped me to understand a practical way of applying the most important principle in Christian ethics (Matthew 7:12).

In the video below, Prager explains the concept and how it shows “the customer isn’t always right.”