Category: Christian Social Thought

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
By

1000x598xlife-of-st-benedict-benedict-discovers-totila-s-deceit-1502.jpg.pagespeed.ic.1ArTXFMkGL“The Church fathers, East and West, have a long tradition that affirms the value of human labor,” writes Acton’s Dylan Pahman at Humane Pursuits. “And their reflections on the subject contain depths of insight still relevant for those of us who live in “the world” today, such as how to find meaning in whatever work one may do.”

On the one hand, plenty of people may not see even a little lasting good in their job. The average factory worker, for example, is replaceable. And while many factories make fine products, it likely would not encourage many to exhort them to find meaning in the product of their work—trinkets, furniture, automobiles, and so on do not have the same lasting good as working for the Peace Corps, right?

On the other hand, some people may not be physically or mentally able to work in the same way as others. Many persons with disabilities are not even able to be a “cog in the machine”—do their disabilities disqualify them from the “little and lasting” work the old man recommends?

Read more . . .

Bruton_Church,_WilliamsburgThis summer I made a visit to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, and on a tour of churches, I heard a fascinating explanation of how society functioned when the church was the place where the poor had their material needs met, not the government. The Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg is one example.

According to church records, Burton Parish formed in 1674 following the merger of several colonial parishes originating as far back as 1633. As a Church of England congregation, this Anglican parish church was the center of life and culture. For example, during the era of the American Revolution men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry attended the church. Not only did prominent people in politics attend the parish church, the church also served the central location for providing social services for the poor.

In 17th and 18th century Williamsburg, Virginia helping the poor was assumed, as a social norm, to be the responsibility of the church, not the state. In the Bruton Parish, the vestrymen, in addition to managing the affairs of he parish, were responsible for all poverty related social services. In the Anglican church, the vestry was established as a committee elected in local congregations to work with the wardens of the church to meet various needs. During the colonial era, if a person did not have adequate housing, adequate food or clothing, if women were widowed and children were orphaned, and so on, it was simply an assumption that the church would meet the needs of those on the margins locally and personally.
(more…)

Syrian Christians rally in Qamishli, in northeastern Syria

Syrian Christians rally in Qamishli, in northeastern Syria

Just as armed citizens have been protecting themselves and their property in Ferguson, Mo., small groups of Christians are forming in militia-style units in areas of Syria and Iraq. While most Christians believe they are allowed to protect themselves and others using force if necessary, it is a religion of peace. Christ himself urges us to “turn the other cheek.” Yet the outrageous and barbaric violence against Christians is moving some to call for a more aggressive stance against ISIS.

Edward Pentin reports that these Christian militia groups have some strong backing:

One senior official [in Rome], speaking to me on condition of anonymity, believes that if the Islamic State begins making serious inroads into Lebanon — a country that’s no stranger to sectarian armed groups — Christian militias will become an everyday reality.

Small numbers of armed Christians are already established in Iraq and Syria. A group which calls itself “The Lions of the Canyon” reportedly has been protecting several Syrian villages while other Christian militias took up arms in Aleppo for the first time in 2012.

Evangelical pastor Michel Youssef, an advocate of armed Christian civilians in Iraq, recently told the website Act for America that the idea to form militias in Iraq was the “only way to protect our families and friends from attacks because we are tired of awaiting an action from the government which is preoccupied with politics and never looks after us.”

(more…)

MyWayYourWayI recently had an exchange with a Duke Divinity School student regarding many of things I’ve written at the Acton Institute over the past 12 years. The student said this about me:

When it comes to speaking comfort to power and castigating the most vulnerable in our society, there is perhaps no public theological voice more eager than that of Anthony Bradley’s. His body of work is a textbook in blaming the victim and reducing problems to pathology.

Not only had the student actually not read most of the things that I have written but the comment exposes something that Jonathan Haidt explains well that I’ve talked about before: ideological “tribalism.”
(more…)

soil-hands-web“A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it: and we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian… I cannot learn to love my neighbour as myself till I learn to love God: and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him.” –C.S. Lewis

In Economic Shalom, John Bolt’s Reformed primer on faith, work, and economics, he includes a chapter on how we might understand flourishing in the social order through “a biblical understanding of the human person, created in God’s image and living in God’s world.”

Bolt reviews a variety of different areas and approaches, providing a firm critique of top-down social planners who, in their attempts to impose utopia, far too often impede, distort, or destroy the positive manifestations of organic and spontaneous order that already exist, whether in churches, schools, businesses, communities, or the family. That’s not to say such planners don’t have some role to play or vocation to fulfill, but it must be constrained accordingly and focused toward that which is productive and possible.

As political theorist Kenneth Minogue explains: “We could never produce a crystal by directly placing [i.e., mechanically] the individual molecules from which it is built up. But we can create the conditions under which such a crystal will form itself. . . . Similarly, we can create the conditions under which a biological organism will grow and develop” (507–8). (more…)

Reading through the German economist Walter Eucken’s work The Foundation of Economics (1951), I came across one of the most helpful charts for economic analysis I have yet to find. In it, Eucken gives every possible form of market in a single table:

Eucken Chart

The Foundation of Economics, p. 158

Eucken adds four qualifications that are important to keep in mind:

  1. “These forms of market are actual forms which have been or are to be found in actual economic life (often blended with one another, and existing alongside the forms of a centrally directed economy). They are not given a priori. They are discovered with their distinguishing characteristics by studying the planning data of those taking part in the market….”
  2. “Under each particular form of market a man can act according to different principles, for example, that of maximum net receipts or that of optimum output….”
  3. “Each of these forms of market can appear in four types: both open, both closed, or closed on either side only.”
  4. “Fixing of prices by the state occupies a special position, since it can follow any form of market and has different effects accordingly…. For example, the significance of coal prices being fixed by the state varies according to whether perfectly competitive, oligopolistic, or monopolistic supply, or some other form of market, exists, or whether both sides of the market are open, or whether the supply side is closed by an investment veto. Governmental price-fixing is to be treated as a variant of the different market forms and not as a special market form of its own.”

So, what does this amount to? (more…)

news4.wideaIf you live or work in a city you likely pass them on the streets and sidewalks every day. Holding a sign reading “Homeless, please help” or an old coffee cup to collect spare change, the itinerant panhandlers and chronic homeless look you in the eye and ask for your money.

What do you do in such situations? What should you do?

Jim Antle recounts some of the experiences he’s had with panhandlers and explains why he gives them money:
(more…)

140621-world-iraq-border-file-6a_62087f8de527aaa365a9bd952f19bed7Christians from a broad range of traditions — from Chaldean Catholics to Southern Baptists — are uniting in a call for military action against a common enemy: ISIS. As Mark Tooley notes, the persecution of religious believers by the Islamic extremists has “reanimated talk about Christian Just War teaching.”

Citing the call by Iraq’s Chaldean Patriarch for military intervention, a group of prominent Christian thinkers, with others, has declared that “nothing short of the destruction of ISIS/ISIL as a fighting force will provide long-term protection of victims.” Urging U.S. and international help for local forces against ISIS, they assert that “no options that are consistent with the principles of just war doctrine should be off the table.” They want expanded U.S. air strikes against ISIS and U.S. arms for the Kurds, among others. The most prominent church official on this list is the Southern Baptist Convention’s chief public policy spokesman.

Pope Francis has seemingly agreed, at least obliquely, about the morality of force against ISIS. He said on Monday in flight home from South Korea:“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor.” Plus, “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.” Pope John Paul II is recalled speaking similarly during the 1990s Bosnian genocide. But typically pontiffs speak unequivocally against war.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
By

The_Church_is_a_PartyChristians frequently talk about “stewardship,” but what do we mean when we use that term? And more importantly, what should we mean by it?

At The Gospel Coalition, Stephen J. Grabill, director of programs and international for the Acton Institute, discusses what it means to have a holistic understanding of stewardship and what it means to “make the kingdom of God visible and tangible to the world”:

Although Christians across denominational lines often use stewardship language to describe our calling to live out God’s mission in the world, what we mean theologically by “stewardship” varies greatly across religious traditions. Some think stewardship is tithing; others think it means volunteering or living a simple lifestyle. Still others identify stewardship with environmental conservation, social action of some kind or another, charitable giving, or making disciples through evangelism.

Each of these good and necessary activities points to an essential facet of stewardship, but each—on its own—falls shy of capturing the inspiring vision of biblical stewardship as a form of whole-life discipleship that embraces every legitimate vocation and calling to fulfill God’s mission in the world. In this sense, holistic stewardship, transformational generosity, workplace ministry, business as mission, and the theology of work movement all share a common point of origin in the biblical view of mission as whole-life discipleship. In other words, the essence of stewardship is about finding your place—that is, all the dimensions of your many callings—in God’s economy of all things (oikonomia).

Read more . . .

FLOW-gifOver at Capital Commentary, Byron Borger offers some valuable reflections and rather extensive praise for the Acton Institute’s new educational DVD series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a visually enjoyable Christian educational video curriculum,” he writes, “and I know I’ve never seen one so thoughtfully inspiring about a foundational Christian view of creation, culture, social life, and redemption.”

Indeed, FLOW offers a peculiar blend of artistic beauty and educational oomph. FLOW excels and exceeds at both showing and telling, and does so in a way that not only captures the mind, but instills a deeper, meditative longing in the heart for restoration and renewal across all spheres of life.

As Borger aptly captures, the series is unique in the way it unleashes the imagination toward a fuller, more nuanced vision for cultural engagement.

The teaching interviews and bold cinematography are so artfully expressed, though, that the blend of neo-Calvinist and conservative Catholic social theories that form some of the theoretical/theological background of the films are hardly noticeable; they are what Calvin Seerveld would call “suggestion-rich” and allusive. And they are often illustrated, not preached, with curious narratives and fantastic footage in settings as diverse as Makoto Fujimura’s art studio and Dr. Tim Royer’s Neurocore clinic which studies brain-related neurological issues. (more…)