Category: Christian Social Thought

Silicon Valley certainly has a reputation for innovation and risk. But Christianity? Businesses designed not only to innovate but to pursuing business as an “intimate” adventure with God? That seems unlikely.

Christianity Today tells the story of several entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who are grounded in faith, but are shrewd business people. Take, for example, Sonny Vu. (more…)

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared the sale of the “morning-after pill” (such as Plan B) for teens as young as 15, with no need for parental consent, and mandated that the drug no longer can be kept behind the pharmacy counter. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, believes there are “daunting and sometimes insurmountable hoops women are forced to jump through” when faced with a crisis pregnancy and that this measure is a step forward for women’s health. While there are conflicting opinions as to whether or not these medications cause abortions, there is no doubt that the side effects for the female taking the medication can be harsh, including hypertension, depression and ovarian cysts. morning after

What is disturbing to many is the fact that this move by the FDA now gives human traffickers a way to stop or end pregnancies in young girls being trafficked, with no medical care or follow-up. For instance, LiveAction did several “sting” operations at Planned Parenthood facilities around the country to see if workers in those facilities would follow mandated laws to report suspected sexual abuse of a minor. Over and over, workers were complicit in covering up what was presented as minor girls acknowledging having sex with much older men. In 2008, MSNBC reported that sex trafficking victims were “compelled to perform sex acts 12 hours a day and were subjected to beatings, rape and forced abortions.” With now-easy access to “morning-after” pills, sex traffickers won’t even have to visit a clinic; they can simply send a girl into the local pharmacy for the drug. No fuss, no muss…no medical follow-up, no chance for a medical professional to question the teen for her safety, her health, her well-being. (more…)

Salman Rushdie, the British Indian novelist, has a piece in The New York Times entitled “Wither Moral Courage?” He is saddened that we have “no Gandhis, no Lincolns anymore” and that those who do stand up to the “abuses of power and dogma” are quickly imprisoned or vilified.

While it’s true that it is increasingly difficult to speak freely or practice one’s religious faith without fear of retribution, Rushdie confuses moral courage with shock. He cites the members of the Russian Pussy Riot as courageous, yet they refused to use their real names and disguised themselves in their protests against the Russian Orthodox Church. He also touts the “highly-effective” Occupy Wall Street movement here in the US as those with the courage to stand up against the establishment.

Pussy-Riot_2339711bThe problem here is that Rushdie isn’t really talking about moral courage. He’s talking about shock value. Courage, classically  understood, is a virtue; Cicero (106-43 BC) said, “Virtue may be defined as a habit of mind in harmony with reason and the order of nature.” While we can find many acts of courage around us every day (the fireman who rushes into a burning building to save a child, the soldier who holds his ground under enemy fire), moral courage is more than just this. (more…)

A recent CNBC article by Mark Koba notes the bleak outlook for 2013 college grads looking for work:

A survey released last week from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that businesses plan to hire only 2.1 percent more college graduates from the class of 2013 than they did from the class of 2012.

That’s way down from an earlier NACE projection of a 13 percent hiring rate for 2013 grads.

There is good reason for this bad news, however. As Koba notes, “One reason there may not be so many grads hired is that many employers don’t believe college graduates are trained properly.” He goes on: (more…)

In today’s New YorkerJiayang Fan offers a family memoir that highlights the degradation of China’s One-Child Policy and hints at the demographic issues that we are facing globally.

photo credit: Michel Croix

photo credit: Michel Croix

Fan recalls, at the age of seven, meeting an aunt for the first time. It was widely-known in the family that this aunt had been sold for two bushels of rice, as she was the result of an unplanned pregnancy. She was adopted by a childless couple, and then grew up to work for the government as a family planner; that is, she helped implement the government’s One-Child Policy. (more…)

Questions about poverty and social teaching are on the forefront of Pope Francis’ mind, as he’s made convincingly clear in his young papacy. This calls for cogent thinking on the topic, according to Fr. John Flynn, LC in “Francis and Catholic Social Teaching: Debates About Economy, Equality and Poverty Sure to Continue.”

Flynn cites Jerry Z. Muller, professor of History at the Catholic University of America, who gives credit to the astonishing “leap in human progress” that capitalism has brought about, but cautions that some find the disparity between rich and poor, the powerful and the dispossessed, to be grounds for anti-capitalist sentiment. Muller points out that this type of inequality seems to be growing internationally. (more…)

Finding solutions for feeding the world’s poorest is about as non-controversial a mission as you could imagine for someone pursuing a religious vocation. Yet, the investors belonging to the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility put politicized science ahead of that mission in their opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The ICCR’s approach to GMOs leans more toward anti-business political activism than any concern for producing plentiful crops that are resilient against pests, diseases and extreme weather events such as drought or excessive precipitation, which, in turn, would benefit those endeavoring to provide inexpensive foodstuffs to the economically and ecologically disadvantaged.

Judging from ICCR proxy shareholder literature, feeding more people less expensively is secondary to a politicized agenda. This from the ICCR’s “The Right Solutions to Hunger:”

“In recent years, several weeds have built up resistance to the herbicides used on GE [genetically engineered] crops, driving the use of more, and multiple industrialized herbicides to kill them. Who is looking long-term, for the protection of the consumer and the food system and who will bear the risk?” asked Margaret Weber of the Congregation of St. Basil. “These issues are critical and it is apparent that the regulatory system is not adequately addressing them,” she continued.

And this: (more…)

This past weekend, I had the privilege to attend and present a paper at the 2013 Kuyper Center for Public Theology conference at Princeton Seminary. The conference was on the subject of “Church and Academy” and focused not only on the relationship between the institutions of the Church and the university, but also on questions such as whether theology still has a place in the academy and what place that might be. The discussion raised a number of important questions that I would like to reflect on briefly here.

In the first place, I was impressed by Dr. Gordon Graham’s lecture on the idea of the Christian scholar. He began by exploring a distinction made by Abraham Kuyper in his work Wisdom & Wonder. Kuyper writes (in 1905),
(more…)

Over at the National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters makes some comments about my book Becoming Europe based on a review he had read by Fr. C.J. McCloskey. Here are the most pertinent of his observations:

I know that American exceptionalism lives on both the left and the right, but when did the right become so Europhobic? And why? National Catholic Register has a review of a new book by the Acton Institute’s Samuel Gregg entitled Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, & How America Can Avoid a European Future. I confess, come August, when Europeans sensibly take the month off and head to the beach or the mountains for time with their families, I am envious of them, not scornful. When I look at Europe’s lower rates of income inequality, I am envious, not scornful. When I look at the creative ways Germany minimized unemployment during the recent economic downturn, I was deeply envious.

Of course, given the fact that Gregg works for the libertarian Acton Institute, where the false god of the market is worshipped day in and day out, it should not surprise that he misses the Catholic and Christian roots of the modern social welfare state as it exists in Europe.  And the fact that Rev. C. John McCloskey misunderstands the Christian roots of the modern social welfare state shows the degree to which some members of the Catholic clergy have bought into what can best be described as the Glenn Beck narrative of the relationship of faith and culture.

Alas, Mr. Winters apparently hasn’t actually read the book. Because if he had, he would know that Becoming Europe (1) notes several good economic things happening in Europe (such as in Germany and Sweden) and (2) addresses at considerable length the various Catholic and Christian contributions to the development of European welfare states and the European social model more generally. In the case of the latter, I’d direct his attention to Chapters 2 and 3 of Becoming Europe where these matters are discussed extensively. The point is that it is always prudent to perhaps read a book before venturing criticisms of its arguments.

Then there is the label of “libertarian.” Again, if Mr. Winters took a moment to read a few of my writings, he’d know that, in books such as On Ordered Liberty, I‘ve articulated critiques of libertarian thought, especially with regard to the way that libertarian thinkers approach, for instance, moral questions. Figures such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman have many interesting economic insights. But I have always viewed their philosophical positions (which include, among others, commitments to nominalism, epicurism, utilitarianism, social-evolutionism, and social contractarianism) to be less-than-adequate. In many ways, their conceptions of the human person are virtually indistinguishable from modern liberals such as John Rawls. (more…)

Samuel Gregg, Director of Research at Acton, discusses Blessed John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth) in a new article in Crisis Magazine. Entitled, ‘Veritatis Splendor: The Encyclical That Mattered’, Gregg makes the claim that this encyclical may become one of the greatest in history. Why?

For one thing, Veritatis Splendor was the first encyclical to spell out the Catholic Church’s fundamental moral teaching. Catholicism had of course always articulated the moral dimension of Christ’s message. Never before, however, had a pope provided a formal systematic outline of Catholic moral doctrine. That alone makes the encyclical a perennial reference-point for Catholic reflection.

Second, Veritatis Splendor provided what’s now widely recognized as a powerful response to the crisis into which Catholic moral theology fell after Vatican II. In many respects this crisis was precipitated by the debates surrounding Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. But more deeply, Veritatis Splendor was a rejoinder to many Catholic theologians’ attempt to do three things.

Gregg goes on to state that this encyclical reminds the world of the truth that will set us free:

Herein lies Veritatis Splendor’s importance for anyone who wants to preserve and promote civilization. Not only does it insist that particular acts are eternally unworthy of man. It also affirms that human reason can identify what the encyclical calls certain “fundamental goods” that transcend the particularities of the here-and-now.

In that sense the encyclical reminds us that avoiding evil isn’t enough. As Veritatis Splendor’s unfolding of Christ’s encounter with the rich young man illustrates, the prohibitions contained in God’s moral law are supposed to be a spring-board toward human flourishing. 

Read Veritatis Splendor – The Encyclical That Mattered’ at Crisis Magazine.