Category: Christian Social Thought

Fox News anchor Shepherd Smith in the studio

Yesterday at The Federalist, I examined the claims of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during last week’s GOP primary debate that the “mainstream media” is dominated by “liberal bias.”

While there is some truth to this claim, as I point out in my article, the data paints a more complicated picture: Conservative outlets such as Fox News and (editorially) the Wall Street Journal outperform the closest left-leaning ones, CNN and the New York Times, by wide margins.

I write,

It would be fair to counter that cable news is not the only source on television, and not even the most-watched. Fox has no evening news like ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. The fact that, according to a recent study by the American Press Institute, “Democrats are more trusting of news from the three broadcast networks and the newswires, while Republicans are more trusting of news from cable” suggests the slant there tends to favor the Left.

However, people divide their news consumption today between mediums. That same study notes, “The 24-hour cable channels … are the source most often cited for four of the topics probed: politics, international news, business and the economy, and social issues.” So when it comes to political issues, the most common source, 24-hour cable news, is fairly evenly divided: Fox News generally has a Nielsen rating about equal to CNN’s and MSNBC’s combined.

A bit later on, I return to this point: (more…)

Hand On Well Used Old Bible Under Painted Light“If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people?” The Apostle Paul asked the church in Corinth. “Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world?” Paul continues,

And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!

Paul’s mandate is clear: matters between Christians should be mediated within the Church. This should be a rather uncontroversial standard, at least for Christians. And yet aren’t we more surprised when Christians attempt to handle legal disputes in this manner?

Since we don’t often respect the value of Christian mediation we should not be surprised to find secular outlets that find the practice unreasonable. Take, for example, the recent New York Times article, “In Religious Arbitration, Scripture Is the Rule of Law.” The authors can barely hide their contempt that some Americans might actually put their religious faith ahead of the legal system:
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The BBC reported today that China is ending its one-child policy, providing the following overview:

  • Introduced in 1979, the policy meant that many Chinese citizens – around a third, China claimed in 2007 – could not have a second child without incurring a fine
  • In rural areas, families were allowed to have two children if the first was a girl
  • Other exceptions included ethnic minorities and – since 2013 – couples where at least one was a single child
  • Campaigners say the policy led to forced abortions, female infanticide, and the under-reporting of female births
  • It was also implicated as a cause of China’s gender imbalance

Before everyone celebrates, China did not, however, eliminate all limits but changed the limit to two children. Certainly this is a huge improvement and a step in the right direction, but it is not without its own economic, ethical, and political problems. (more…)

consumptionNote: This is the latest entry in the Acton blog series, “What Christians Should Know About Economics.” For other entries in the series see this post.

The Term: Consumption

What it means: Consumption is the use of goods and services by households.

Why it Matters: Consumption is an ugly word for a beautiful concept.

Since the Middle Ages, the word “consumption” has referred to wasting diseases, such as tuberculosis, which “consume” the body. More recently, consumption has often been confused with consumerism, a useful and related term that has regrettably taken on a wholly negative connotation.

But in its most basic economic sense, consumption is a purely neutral term that refers to the use of goods and services by households. If you arrange for a babysitter to watch your toddler so that you can eat a steak dinner with your spouse, you are “consuming” both goods (the steak) and services (the babysitter’s time and attention). While you pay for these goods and services it’s merely their use that marks them as “consumption.” (We’ll come back to that point in a moment.)

Consumption is arguably the first (or maybe second) economic concept mentioned in the Bible. After creating Adam and Eve and giving them the cultural mandate (“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”), God says to them,
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During CNN’s Democratic debate, presidential candidate, senator from Vermont, and self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders promised that if elected he would work to “raise the [federal] minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

From an economic point of view, this policy would run the risk of sparking a wage/price spiral, where wages are tied to a cost-of-living index and their increase, in turn, raises the cost of living, sending inflation out of control and ultimately working against the intended goal of helping low-wage workers.

The Neo-Calvinist theologian Abraham Kuyper, however, offers a challenge not just to the economic consequences of such a policy but to its consistency, in principle, with another of Senator Sanders’ positions: his support for unions. (more…)

blase cupichA week ago, we reported here the puzzling remarks made by Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich regarding Catholic membership in labor unions. Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, has plenty more to say regarding Cupich, the formation of one’s conscience and membership to unions. In Crisis Magazine, Gregg first tells readers what Cupich recently said when questioned about someone being in the state of sin and receiving Communion:

While recently discussing the question of whether those who have (1) not repented of sin and/or (2) not resolved to go and sin no more may receive communion, Archbishop Cupich stated: “If people come to a decision in good conscience then our job is to help them move forward and to respect that. The conscience is inviolable and we have to respect that when they make decisions, and I’ve always done that.” Referring specifically to people with same-sex attraction, he noted that “my role as a pastor is to help them to discern what the will of God is by looking at the objective moral teaching of the Church and yet, at the same time, helping them through a period of discernment to understand what God is calling them to at that point.”

Gregg refers to this sort of thinking as “subjectivity of truth:” it’s hedging with a smidgen of truth in an attempt to please everyone. Cupich did much the same when speaking about labor unions:

Alongside a defense of religious liberty, most of the Archbishop’s address simply reiterated Catholic social teaching about unions. Perhaps it wasn’t the occasion to say such things, but absent from Archbishop Cupich’s remarks was any reference to the numerous caveats stated by popes—such as those detailed by Blessed Paul VI (who no-one would describe as a gung-ho anti-union capitalist) in his 1971 apostolic letter Octogesima Adveniens (no.14) and Saint John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens (no.20)—concerning the very real limits upon what unions may do. Unfortunately, modern America is awash with examples of what happens when unions (in collusion with business executives who go along to get along) ignore those limits, as broken cities such as Detroit know all too well.

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-SPA-SPAGLOBELOGOCalling a political candidate a “socialist” used to be a political slur. In almost every U.S. election over the past hundred years there have been conservatives who have claimed a major political party candidate running for president was—whether they admitted it or not—a socialist. But our latest presidential race includes someone who calls himself a socialist, Bernie Sanders.

Faced with the prospect, albeit unlikely, that an avowed socialist may actually become the Democrat’s nominee for president, many apolitical Christians are asking what they should think of socialism. Is it compatible with Christianity?

For Catholics the answer has been rather straightforward. Since the mid-1800s every pontiff—from Pius IX to Benedict XVI—has forthrightly condemned socialism. But Protestants don’t have a single leader to make that judgment call. Instead, we have to turn to Scripture to determine whether socialism is compatible with biblical principles.

Theologian John Piper attempts to answer the question by considering what the Bible has to say about property and coercion:
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