Acting on behalf of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines have issued a letter to the US House of Representatives. The bishops state that they wish to “address the moral and human dimensions of the ongoing federal budget debate,’ saying that the choices facing American politicians have a moral dimension, as well as political and economic ones. (more…)
Christians are frequently accused of conflating politics and religion. And not surprisingly, Christians like me are often frustrated by such claims. Whenever I hear such slurs my first inclination is to push back by asking who exactly can rightfully be accused of such confusion. Can they name even one person who does that?
And then I remember, “Oh yeah, there’s Jim Wallis.”
In the 2004 presidential election season, Wallis’ group, Sojourners, put out a bumper sticker with these words: “God Is Not a Republican, or a Democrat.” Wallis frequently repeats that claim yet he always makes it sound like God is a moderately pro-life Democrat. Take, for instance, his most recent claim that the government shutdown is “unbiblical.”
Wallis claims that those who support the government shutdown are “against government per se. They want to destroy the House.” The most generous thing that can be said about such a claim is that it is idiotic. But I can’t be that generous to Wallis because I know he is an intelligent gentleman. He’s not an idiot, he’s just dishonest. He knows that supporters of a government shutdown (and for the record, that does not include me) are not anarchists. Yet that is exactly what he is claiming. He knows it’s a lie and yet repeats the claim anyway.
His second claims is equally stupid. He says, “Because the government has a Biblical responsibility to care for the poor, they are against poor people. They get hostile to the poor because they are hostile to government. That’s also wrong. It’s unbiblical.”
By Wallis’ logic, opposition to the government of the Soviet Union was unbiblical since hostility toward a government is hostility toward the poor.
(It’s rather telling that Wallis has no problem with the government providing funding for abortions or forcing citizens to pay for abortifacients, yet thinks that laying off non-essential government workers is “unbiblical.”)
Today at Public Discourse, I explore the dubious connection between educational attainment and upward income mobility, arguing instead that a focus on cultivating social capital would be far more effective than the conventional wisdom: “Stay out of trouble and stay in school.” Staying out of trouble is still a good idea, but staying in school — when it comes to higher education — is becoming less and less effective on its own at predicting economic improvement.
In addition, while I believe education to be desirable for itself, I do not think that one can turn a blind eye to the great cost, decreased quality, and decreased utility of higher education today. I write,
Catholic Vote interviewed Samuel Gregg, Director of Research at the Acton Institute and author of Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy and Human Flourishing. The five question interview covers the historical Tea Party that the book discusses, Catholic social teaching, and virtuous citizenship, among other topics. Here is an excerpt: (more…)
Solving our intractable domestic and foreign policy crises will require much more that political compromise and diplomatic maneuvering. Our overextended federal systems and diminished influence abroad are signals of deeper issues. Conservatives press for reduced government and increased personal responsibility. Liberal/Progressive voices argue for better distribution of wealth that creates a just society. Conservatives are troubled by social elites proffering new moral standards even as they advocate for more government involvement in family and personal life in all non-sexual arenas. Liberal/Progressive leaders focus on structural changes that will even the economic playing field and open doors for historical underclasses to improve their situations.
Both groups have valid concerns. Both are concerned about government intrusion – but intrusion for one is justice for the other. When conservatives protest public school curricula, they are deemed intolerant, impervious to the needs of kids and out of touch with 21st century realities. When liberals are criticized for wasteful public spending and a lack of accountability, their response is to demand more money and label opponents “extremists” or (gasp!) part of the Tea Party. When conservatives are critiqued for a lack of social concern, they often resort to “family values speak” without mentioning the brokenness of families and communities. In foreign affairs, conservatives argue for national self-interest and realpolitik while liberals argue for human rights (while strangely ignoring the persecution of millions of Christians by Islamic regimes).
We are pleased to announce that Christian’s Library Press will be co-sponsoring a special event in the D.C. area on October 8th, “The Gospel and Public Life: Cultivating a Faithful Witness in the Face of Challenge.”
From the event flyer:
Much has been made of America’s slow transition toward a “post-Christian society.” But how should Christians prepare for the challenges ahead? What are the forgotten virtues and hidden practices that need recovering for an authentically Christian witness? How can Christians cultivate a courage and wisdom that has been in short supply?
The conversation will take place at 7:00 p.m. on October 8th at The United Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002. (more…)
Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, continues his radio tour of America in support of his latest book, Tea Party Catholic, and we continue to round up those interviews for your edification. This one took place on September 24th, on WLEA in Hornell, New York. Another intelligent interview; you can listen via the audio player below.
Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, joined host Perry Atkinson on Thursday’s edition of Focus Today, which webcasts daily at TheDove.tv. You can watch the interview, which touched on the Syrian crisis and Sam’s latest book, below.
In Tea Party Catholic, Samuel Gregg draws upon Catholic teaching, natural law theory, and the thought of the only Catholic Signer of America's Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton—the first “Tea Party Catholic”—to develop a Catholic case for the values and institutions associated with the free economy, limited government, and America's experiment in ordered liberty. Beginning with the nature of freedom and human flourishing, Gregg underscores the moral and economic benefits of business and markets as well as the welfare state's problems. Gregg then addresses several related issues that divide Catholics in America. These include the demands of social justice, the role of unions, immigration, poverty, and the relationship between secularism and big government.
It is truly amazing to encounter Protestants who believe that their views on theology and justice are objective and neutral — as if the Fall did not happen. In a recent discussion about the sacraments, a leader of an international ministry said to me, “If hermeneutics involves being taught to believe a certain theology, then it is not true hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is absolutely neutral.”
After reading his comment I wondered, what possible world is he talking about where neutrality actually happens? One of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s transgression against God in the Garden of Eden was a human race whose thinking is now impaired. In the book Wisdom and Wonder, Abraham Kuyper makes the point that while we have not ceased to be rational creatures, because of sin we have “lost the gift of grasping the true context, the proper coherence, [and] the systematic integration of all things.” Because of this aspect of the human condition it seems best, as much as possible, to put one’s presuppositions on the table since there is no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. Disclosure builds trust and solidarity.
One of the stumbling blocks in Protestant evangelicalism is that leaders teach their constituents that their respective positions are “the Biblical” positions when, if fact, they are formed and concluded by particular approaches and perspectives. The implication is that each tribe says that they are “truly” Biblical and those who disagree with them are not Biblical. The fact is every tradition believes that their distinctives are “biblical.” Ignoring our presuppositions often leads to useless quarreling and much wasted time (2 Tim 2; Titus 3). This does not mean that all things are up for debate and difference, but it does challenge us to pay closer attention to those things that the Scriptures are more clear about.
Christianity can and should be a leading influence in human culture, says Greg Forster. We do this not by seizing control of the institutions of culture but acting as cultural entrepreneurs — like the biblical figure Job:
Before he was stricken, Job was a cultural leader. People looked to him for wisdom. And the word “because” in verse 12 indicates that he’s about to tell us why people looked to him for wisdom. Was it because he was smarter? Was it because he was wealthy and successful? No doubt those factors were important, but Job does not identify them as the main source of his cultural leadership. Instead, he points to something else:
12 because I delivered the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to help him.
13 The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me,
and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;
my justice was like a robe and a turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy,
and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know.
17 I broke the fangs of the unrighteous
and made him drop his prey from his teeth.
Job was a cultural leader because he served human needs. The connection is reinforced in the following verses, where Job seamlessly transitions back from his deeds of service to his position of cultural leadership. “Men listened to me and waited and kept silence for my counsel…” etc.