Category: General

knockingondoorThis month marks ten years since I left the Marine Corps. Although I love being a Marine I can honestly say that I don’t miss active duty. In fifteen years of service I sat on the sidelines during three separate wars, and like most Marines, being away from the action drove me insane. Although I had it easy, for some of my comrades, being on the supporting end back in the U.S. was almost as stressful and emotionally draining as being in a combat zone. This post, which I originally wrote in 2003, is for all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in foreign lands—and all of those in the states who wish they were with them.
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downloadOprah Winfrey recently announced her first-ever cross-country tour, “The Life You Want,” which will feature Oprah “like you’ve never seen,” in addition to talks from a series of “hand-picked” gurus, including Iyanla Vanzant, Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Gilbert, and former pastor Rob Bell.

“It’s about living the life you want,” Oprah explains, “because a great percentage of the population is living a life that their mother wanted, that their husband wanted, that they thought or heard they wanted…Start embracing the life that is calling you and use your life to serve the world.”

Today, over at The Federalist, I offer a lengthy critique of the spectacle, arguing that behind all the glory and grandeur, much of this amounts to plain old cultural consumerism:

This is cultural consumerism at both its highest and lowest — humanistic in its instincts, privileged in its priorities, and carefully glazed with all the right marketing to deceive itself that justice is at hand and Neighbor Love has the wheel. It’s as if human desire has grown so weary of natural constraints and so content with its own appetite that it would prefer to label self-indulgence as “self-help” and be done with it.

It’s faux-self-empowerment for the self-centered, heart-religion as a mantle for hedonism.

As it relates to the areas of vocation, calling, and whole-life discipleship, getting first things first is fundamental to all that we do. Service and sacrifice must come before self-empowerment, and obedience to God before that: (more…)

Radio Free ActonWe would all agree that digital technology has made life better in many respects. But in what ways do smartphones, email, social media and the Internet in general bring pressures to bear upon us that diminish human dignity and work against us in the free market, our social connectivity, and the interior life? Douglas Rushkoff has been thinking and writing about these very questions for years. He is a media theorist and author of the book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. He has produced documentaries for CNN and PBS and is regular contributor to the New York Times. He spoke with Acton’s Paul Edwards for this edition of Radio Free Acton.

Amity Shlaes

Amity Shlaes – Graphic Novelized!

In November of last year, we had the privilege of welcoming bestselling author Amity Shlaes for a visit here at the Acton Building while she was in Grand Rapids to speak about Calvin Coolidge at Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. Aside from being a fine author of some very thought provoking books on history and economics, she’s a delightful lady, and it was a pleasure to have an opportunity to make her acquaintance personally. At the time, she was very excited about a project that she had been working on which was soon to be released to the public – a graphic novel adaptation of her best-selling book, The Forgotten Man. Her enthusiasm for the project was infectious, and I’ve been looking forward to its release ever since. (You can pre-order a copy of the book, which is set to be released on May 27.)

But how does one take a nearly 500 page hardcover book that revisits the economic history of the Great Depression and translate it into a visual presentation on the printed page? It wasn’t a simple process. Paul Rivoche is the artist who worked with Shlaes on the project; in this interview at Graphic Novel Reporter, he describes how the original book was reworked in order to create a compelling visual story:

The original book was nonfiction and of course not at all structured to be a graphic novel. It’s an economic history of the New Deal/Great Depression era, described from an alternative viewpoint. It has a huge cast of characters — all real people — and discusses many abstract ideas. To make it work as a graphic novel, we had to find a new structure for the same material; we couldn’t follow the exact arrangement in the print book. For example, there are many jumps in location in the real-life story we tell, and all these characters coming and going. In prose, it worked because you imagine it in your head, stitching it together, following the steady guidance of the author’s voice. In comics form, the same thing was disorienting. We learned that if the visuals change too fast, without enough explanation, the reader easily becomes confused when dealing with such complex events, all these different scenes and faces. To solve this, we decided to introduce a “framing story” using a narrator, Wendell Willkie. In telling the story, he guides us — at times directly, and in other scenes we hear his voiceover narration in captions. Also, we had to make the story as visual as possible, not all “talking heads,” which make for dull comics. Instead, we highlighted interesting locales: the Hoover Dam, the great flood of 1927, Willkie’s famous debate, and many others. In every scene we aimed to introduce as much movement, action, and characterization as possible.

The full interview has more detail on the project; After the jump, you can listen to an August 2012 Radio Free Acton interview with Amity Shlaes on her then-forthcoming biography on Calvin Coolidge.

Paul_Rivoche_The_Forgotten_Man

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indi-patrickAn aristocratic British teenager is kidnapped by pirates, sold into slavery, escapes and returns home, becomes a priest, returns to his land of captivity and face off against hordes of Druids. Here are five facts about the amazing life of St. Patrick, the Indiana Jones of Christian saints:

1. Taken from his home in southern Britain, Patrick was captured by pirates in A.D. 405 when he was only sixteen years old and sold into slavery in Ireland. He would spend over half a decade as a captive in the pagan land of Druids. During his captivity, Patrick embraced the Christian faith of his upbringing, something that had mattered little to him before his kidnapping.

2. Patrick managed to escape Ireland and make his way back to his home in Britain. Inspired by a dream, he sensed God’s call to return to Ireland in order to share the gospel with the pagans. Patrick assumed he’d meet his demise in Ireland, yet never feared. “Daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises,” he said. “But I fear nothing, because of the promises of heaven.”

3. Pagan kings and warlords felt threatened by Patrick’s missionary work. But Patrick was able obtain the favor of local leaders and to gain safe passage by paying bribes to authorities in Ireland. Of the bribes he paid, Patrick said, “I do not regret this nor do I regard it as enough. I am paying out still and I shall pay out more.”

4. A legend often associated with St. Patrick is that he drove the snakes out of Ireland and into the sea during one of his sermons. But snakes are not actually found in post-glacial Ireland because of the country’s geographical position. Some historians believe the snake imagery in the legend alludes to Patrick banishing Druids from Ireland.

5. Though we can’t be sure when Patrick died, tradition holds that he lived into his seventies and died on March 17 in the latter half of the fifth-century A.D. In twenty-five or thirty years of evangelistic work, he led thousands of Irish pagans to Christ and was responsible for Ireland’s becoming one of the most Christian nations in Europe. For this reason he is called “the apostle of the Irish.”

Dennis Prager at Prager University reminds us that big government makes everything else (goodness, charity, self-reliance) smaller. Big government also creates a sense of entitlement amongst citizens, creating ingratitude and resentment – hardly what one wants in society.

amnesiaWhy, when I realize that journalists misrepresent topics that I know something about — such as religious liberty — do I trust them to accurately cover issues that I don’t know much about?

I’ve thought about that question for years but didn’t realize that the late novelist Michael Crichton coined a related term for this: the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.
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Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Wednesday, February 19, 2014
A priest stands on the front lines in Kiev

A priest stands on the front lines in Kiev

Reuters: Downtown Kiev

Downtown Kiev: Reuters

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defiantIn an age where words like “courage” and “bravery” are often tossed about casually, a new book captures the immense heroism and resolve of 11 American POWs during the war in Vietnam. Alvin Townley closes his new book Defiant with these words, “Together, they overcame more intense hardship over more years than any other group of servicemen and families in American history. We should not forget.” Townley easily makes that case by telling their stories and expanding on previous accounts by including the battle many of their wives waged to draw attention to their plight back home.

Defiant focuses on the Alcatraz 11, captured servicemen who were isolated by the communist North Vietnamese in a prison they nicknamed “Alcatraz.” Like many early POWs, these men were tortured. But they faced unimaginable cruelty with steely resistance. Before they were moved to Alcatraz, they were all pivotal leaders at Hoa Lo Prison, reinforcing the Code of Conduct and communicating through the tap code. At a staged propaganda news conference in 1966, Naval pilot Jeremiah Denton was able to blink out in Morse Code the letters T-O-R-T-U-R-E, allowing the American government to know for the first time the horrific conditions inside the prison. The aviators were beaten with fan belts, kept in stocks and leg irons, tortured with medieval rope devices, and locked away in isolation for years. In his book, When Hell Was in Session, Denton proclaimed, “We can add our testimony to that of great heroes like Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov, who have vividly related what Communism is really about.”

Townley’s book does a masterful job of weaving the stories of these men together to portray how their courage and resistance exemplified, to the highest degree, the principles of freedom. James B. Stockdale, the senior officer of the 11, like other tortured prisoners, was permanently crippled by his captors. His defiance continually inspired those imprisoned with him. Stockdale quoted Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim about the men under his command, “A certain readiness to perish is not so very rare, but it is seldom that you meet men whose souls, steeled in the impenetrable armour of resolution, are ready to fight a losing battle to the last.” (more…)

overpopulationThe Nordic philosopher and priest Anders Chydenius (1729-1803) — the “Adam Smith of the North” — once asked:

Would the Great Master, who adorns the valley with flowers and covers the cliff itself with grass and mosses, exhibit such a great mistake in man, his masterpiece, that man should not be able to enrich the globe with as many inhabitants as it can support? That would be a mean thought even in a Pagan, but blasphemy in a Christian, when reading the Almighty’s precept: ‘Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth.’

Unfortunately, this mean and blasphemous thought was soon popularized as an obvious and incontrovertible fact by Chydenius’ contemporary, the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus. In An Essay on the Principle of Population Malthus argued that excesses in population are held within resource limits by two types of checks: positive checks (hunger, disease, war) raised the death rate while preventative checks (abortion, birth control, postponement of marriage) lowered the birth rate.
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