Category: General

In The New Republic, historian Jackson Lears explores the transition from 19th-century communitarianism to 20-century capitalist boosterism in Mormon culture:

The assumption behind much of the “Mormon moment” chatter is that Mormons are especially suited for success in the brave new world of unregulated capital: tanned, rested, and ready. Their abstention from alcohol and caffeine keeps them healthy. Their self-discipline, stemming from missionary work and a strict code of personal morality, strengthens their capacity to compete in a global marketplace. Their attachment to family and community insulates them from the market’s worst abrasions. Their zeal for education in science and technology gets them first-class seats on the cyber-express. And their organizational genius makes them the ideal candidates to steer the lean, mean neo-liberal corporation through the storm-tossed business cycles ahead.

The Mormon Ethic, which bears a strong resemblance to the Protestant Ethic in its Gilded Age prime, has become a powerful constellation of values for our second Gilded Age—perhaps a reassuring counterweight to the feeling that we are sailing into the globalizing future with no moral ballast whatever. Contemporary Mormons, whose ancestors were chased from town to town across the prairie by Protestant mobs, have become paragons of patriotism and icons of success. In 1856, the Republican Party platform declared Mormon polygamy one of “two relics of barbarism” in America (the other was slavery). In 2008, as in every other recent election, Mormons voted overwhelmingly Republican.

What any of this has to do with the Mormons’ religious beliefs is a tricky question. Most journalistic observers are content to characterize the Mormon faith as “weird,” then toss off a few lines about sacred underwear and a quotation from Mark Twain describing The Book of Mormon as “chloroform in print.” Few ask what is Mormon about the Mormon Ethic. How does it differ from an updated version of Victorian Protestantism? Mansfield quotes a cable news pundit’s characteristically profound observation: “Mormons have goofy, mystical ideas that produce wonderful, earthly success.” How this production occurs is anybody’s guess.

Read more . . .

(Via: Religion in American History)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, November 1, 2012
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Taxed for Wearing Their Heads
Anthony Esolen, Public Discourse

The Anti-Federalists’ early fear about Congress’s taxing power—that it would result in a tax on humans’ very existence—are now realized in the Supreme Court’s upholding of Obamacare.

Campaign 2012: What Voting Means
George Weigel, First Things

In the Catholic understanding of these things, politics, for all its tawdriness, still engages questions of right and wrong, good and bad, the noble and the base.

Martin Luther’s View of Faith & Work
Greg Ayers, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

495 years ago today, on October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg. Vocation was one topic Luther covered prominently in his theological writings.

Ryan Makes Case for School Choice
Lindsey Burke, The Foundry

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R–WI) made a strong case yesterday for the need to ensure that every child in America has the opportunity to attend a school of choice.

In 1920, millions of American women exercised their right to vote for the first time. It was the culmination of decades of work by women from varying backgrounds and just as varied goals. However, they all shared a vision that women should be part of the political process in the United States.

One woman was Susan B. Anthony. Described as compassionate and having a keen mind, she was a fierce abolitionist and led the legal crusade to allow women to keep their own property and earnings.  She once said,

Forget conventionalisms; forget what the world thinks of you stepping out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, work your best works, looking to your own conscience for approval.

Her newspaper, The Revolution, extolled the virtues of motherhood and marriage, while maintaining that women needed a political role in helping to define laws that, while not defying moral law, would create a safer society for women and children.

One wonders what Miss Anthony would think of this election season. As Jennifer Marshall notes, we seem to be going backwards on women’s dignity:

Women’s liberation is parodying itself in “The First Time” spot featuring Lena Dunham, 26-year-old creator of the shockingly sexualized HBO series Girls.

“Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody,” Dunham provocatively begins the ad. “You want to do it with a great guy.”

“My first time voting was amazing,” says Dunham. She salaciously describes her vote for Barack Obama as a rite of passage to womanhood, dangling a policy teaser about free birth control along the way.

It is an astonishingly base, sex-centric monologue that degrades public discourse and demeans young women in particular.

As Ms. Marshall points out, we’ve gotten to a point where women are allowing their sexuality to be objectified for political purposes. Rather than thinking our best thoughts and speaking our best words, some women seem to be satisfied with titillating campaign videos and innuendo for electoral purposes. She concludes, “To sexually pander toward the youth vote is to degrade the sober calling of citizenship. And to so trivialize female sexuality is to deal a setback to the dignity of women.”

I can’t help but think Susan B. Anthony would agree.

Read Jennifer Marshall’s “Backward on Women’s Dignity” here.

Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson says everyone seems to understand that the private sector creates jobs. Everyone, that is, except the New York Times. Samuelson calls the Times’ decree of government job creation “simplistic” and that it has a “flat-earth quality”.

He explains that if the government adds jobs – expands government – it comes at taxpayer expense.

But if the people whose money is taken via taxation or borrowing had kept the money, they would have spent most or all of it on something — and that spending would have boosted employment.

Job creation in the private sector is mostly a spontaneous and circular process. People buy things they need and want. Or businesses and private investors take risks by investing in new products, technologies and factories. All this spending, driven by self-interest and the profit motive, supports more jobs. In a smoothly functioning market economy, the process feeds on itself. By contrast, public-sector employment grows only when government claims some private-sector income to pay its workers. Government is not creating jobs. It’s substituting public-sector workers for private-sector workers.

With knowledge of how the developing world struggles to create jobs, Juan José Daboub, former Managing Director of the World Bank, concurs: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
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Reformation Day Reflections on Calvin and Calvinism
Jordan Ballor, Touchstone

While the concern might simply be with a broader kind of Augustinianism, it would do us well I think to reflect a bit on the term Calvinism and it’s theological and historical usefulness (or lack thereof).

Free Speech on Campus & ‘Unlearning Liberty’
Greg Lukianoff, The Volokh Conspiracy

The first and most dangerous harm is that speech codes and ridiculous “free speech zones” make students far too comfortable with restrictions on their freedom of speech.

The Best Business Plan? Relationships
Ellen O’Gorman, Christianity Today

If Phoenix Christian Jade Meskill’s success is any indication, collaboration and investing in employees isn’t pie-in-the-sky idealism. It’s just smart business.

What Can Evangelicals and Orthodox Learn From One Another
Pravmir.com

The early Christians used to say unos christianus, nolos christianus—one Christian, isolated and cut off from the others, is no Christian. We can extend that saying—una persona, nula persona—one person, cut off, isolated from others is not truly a person.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
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Victory in Federal Court for Monks Threatened with Prison for Selling Caskets
Saint Joseph Abbey and Seminary

The monks of Saint Joseph Abbey have won again. On October 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a decision stating that restricting the monks’ right to sell their handmade caskets was either unconstitutional or an abuse of power unauthorized by Louisiana law.

A Christian Vision for Kingdom Politics
Joshua D. Hawley, Philosophical Fragments

Eric Voegelin was a German-American émigré who wrote several volumes of high-toned philosophy in the 1950s which were read by approximately zero members of the American public—save a certain William F. Buckley, Jr.

Answering the Call to Creativity Through the Four Chapter Gospel
Art Lindsley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

Answering the call to creativity requires a shift in the way we view the gospel and our role in transforming culture. The concept of the four-chapter gospel provides the framework for this change in our thinking.

Why the IRS Has Stopped Auditing Churches
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today

Decision on who can authorize investigations of churches that influence voters is frozen for foreseeable future.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, October 29, 2012
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In the Western world there are conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals, says David T. Koyzis, but all adhere to the basic principles of liberalism:

The liberalism of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Of Thomas Jefferson and John Stuart Mill. After all, the Declaration of Independence is a liberal document, unquestioningly accepting that popular consent stands at the origin of political authority. As Alasdair MacIntyre has put it, in the Western world there are conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals, but all adhere to the basic principles of liberalism.

So what accounts for the differences between Democrats and Republicans, between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? What separates them is that each represents a different stage in the larger development of liberalism. Those who do not like what liberalism has become in recent decades have not repudiated it as such but have tried instead to hold onto it and return it to an earlier form—one thought to be purer and closer to its original meaning. I believe liberalism can be traced through five stages of development.

Read more . . .