Category: General

Pope-Ecumenical-Patriarch-Bartholomew-2013-03-20-620x320In Crisis Magazine, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg discusses how Pope Francis and the Catholic Church engage other religions and philosophies:

“Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.”

That, according to Pope Francis, is the response he gives when leaders ask him for advice about how to resolve their societies’ internal differences. It is, he recently told a gathering of prominent Brazilians, the only way for societies to avoid the dead-ends of what Francis called “selfish indifference” and “violent protest.”

Throughout the twentieth century, the Church provided powerful examples of how to proceed along this path. A case in point was the manner in which the Catholic Church in Poland in the face of constant—and, at times, extreme—provocation never ceased talking to the Communist regime, despite the fact that the conversation was with people who were generally of ill-will and who supported an evil political system.

Read more . . .

SexTraffickingWould legalizing adult prostitution decrease the demand for child sex slaves? That’s the curious argument made by one of my favorite libertarian economist. Donald J. Boudreaux , a professor of economics at George Mason University, recently wrote:

If men can legally buy sex from women 18 years of age or older, men will have less demand to patronize children. And sex entrepreneurs will have less incentive to ‘supply’ children. With all prostitution being illegal, those who demand as well as those who supply commercial sex are subject to prosecution regardless of the age of the women they patronize or employ. By making adult prostitution legal, however, not only will that trade become more open to public scrutiny, but also the ability of those in the commercial-sex market to avoid prosecution simply by patronizing and employing women aged 18 or older will likely dramatically reduce incentives to turn young girls into prostitutes.

Boudreaux is one of the most astute economists in America, so it’s surprising to find him make such shockingly naïve claims about sexual trafficking.

The theory behind Boudreaux’s idea is based on a basic economic concept: substitute goods. Goods or services that, as a result of changed conditions, may replace each other in use are considered “substitutes.” Two classic examples of substitute goods are margarine and butter and coffee and tea. If the price of coffee or butter rises, people are more likely to choose a suitable substitute, such as tea or margarine.

But what constitutes a suitable substitute can vary considerably. Anyone who has ever been to Starbucks knows that the rise in coffee prices – both as a commodity and a consumer product – has not caused people to give up their mug of java for a cup of Earl Grey. The taste and preferences of coffee consumers tends to be inelastic. For most coffee lovers, the price would have to rise considerably for them to switch to tea.

Boudreaux is implying that adult prostitution and child prostitution are suitable substitutes. Does he really think that pedophiles and hebephiles (people with sexual interest in pubescent individuals approximately 11–14 years old) would become teleiophiles (people with a sexual interest in adults) if only they could get a discount on the cost of sex with an adult prostitute?

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The painting Rembrandts Prodigal Son Revisited, by Jonathan Quist is part of The Larry & Mary Gerbens Collection of Art inspired by the parable of the Prodigal Son. The Jonathan Quist painting Rembrandts Prodigal Son Revisited, is featured in the book The Father & His Two Sons - The Art of Forgiveness“While he was still a long way off…”

On display at Acton Institute in Grand Rapids is an art exhibit centered on the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15. “The Father and His Two Sons: The Art of Forgiveness,” was collected by Larry and Mary Gerbens. It includes a 1636 etching by Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, a painting by American artist Robert Barnum, and a reproduction of Rembrandt’s famous “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” among others. Though the works span six countries of origin and five centuries, each portrays a scene from the well-known parable.

Winds rip trees from their roots. Branches are bent backward against the sky. Chaos rules as the wayward son runs toward his father’s farm in Robert Barnum’s Americanized representation. In the distance, an outhouse flies into the air. The son battles gale-force winds to get back to his father. The viewer can almost feel him being tossed about like a leaf.

Rembrandt takes us 30 seconds later in the story. In his 1636 etching, the son kneels at his father’s feet, but his father reaches to raise him up. The stone steps they stand on are firmly attached to the ground. The foundations of the house are secure. We can see great compassion in the father’s embrace.

Of course, the older brother, who has never rebelled, feels jealous and marginalized. In the Rembrandt, he leans out of the window and looks directly at the viewer as if to appeal to an unbiased fourth party.

And, after the homecoming, his self-righteousness is still palpable. An etching by James Tissot (“No IV- The Fatted Calf”, 1881) shows him complaining that his father has never honored him in the way that he now honors his younger brother. Larry Gerbens pointed out that the older son is just as distant from the family as the younger is; another Tissot etching shows him daydreaming while his brother viciously takes leave of his father. (more…)

In an ambitious essay at Intercollegiate Review, James Kalb attempts to dissect the driving political forces in Western culture today. He says that while we live in a world that touts diversity, the reality is extraordinary uniformity and a distinct christ-of-the-abyssdistaste for anything outside the new norm. We have narrowed our political choices, our educational choices, our recreational and consumer choices. We say we want religious freedom, but only in a very narrow manner.

Our current public order claims to separate politics from religion, but that understates its ambition. It aspires to free public life—and eventually, since man is social, human life in general—not only from religion but also from nature and history. The intended result is an increase in freedom as man becomes his own creator. The effect, though, is that human life becomes what those in power say it is. Western political authorities now claim the right to remake the most basic arrangements. If you want to know the nature of man and the significance of life and death, you look to the political order and its authorized interpreters. That is the meaning of the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions and the transformation of abortion into a human right. Man has, in effect, become God, and politics is the authoritative expression of his mind, spirit, and will.

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human-sex-traffickingThe combination of poverty, sexual trafficking, and technology has given rise to a new form of slavery: cyber-sex trafficking. As CNN explains, anyone who has a computer, internet, a Web cam, and an exploited woman or child can be in business:

Andrea was 14 years old the first time a voice over the Internet told her to take off her clothes.

“I was so embarrassed because I don’t want others to see my private parts,” she said. “The customer told me to remove my blouse and to show him my breasts.”

She was in a home in Negros Oriental, a province known for its scenic beaches, tourism and diving. But she would know none of that beauty. Nor would she know the life she’d been promised.

Andrea, which is not her real name, said she had been lured away from her rural, mountain village in the Philippines by a cousin who said he would give her a well-paid job as a babysitter in the city. She thought she was leaving her impoverished life for an opportunity to earn money to finish high school. Instead, she became another victim caught up in the newest but no less sinister world of sexual exploitation — cyber-sex trafficking.

Read more . . .

An eagle eyed – well, eagle-eared – customer of the Acton Digital Download Store informed us today of an error in one of the audio files that we made available on the store during Acton University 2013. It turns out that the audio of Rev. Robert Sirico’s opening night address was truncated, ending a little more than halfway through his speech.

This is not good. Not good at all.

As a result, I’ve re-compressed the mp3 file, uploaded a new version to the store, and as a way of making amends, we’re going to let everyone have it for free until July 31st! Just head on over to the audio store and download away! (It’s in the 2013 Evening Lectures section.)

Also, please accept this picture of an ashamed puppy to express my sorrow for the error.

 

SOWRRY!

SOWRRY!

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, July 15, 2013
By

how-the-newsConstantly in search of a sensational story, the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst once sent a telegram to a leading astronomer that read: “Is there life on Mars? Please cable 1,000 words.” The scientist responded “Nobody knows” — repeated 500 times.

I thought of that anecdote when I read Elise Hilton’s post earlier today in which she asks, “You remember ‘news’, don’t you? Every evening, a somber-faced reporter would come into your living room, and deliver the serious stories of the day.” She adds, “We seemed to have decided, as a nation, that ‘infotainment’ is more important to us than news.”

I don’t often disagree with Elise, but I have to register my dissent on this topic – a perennial theme of mine – for the news has been a form of infotainment in America for at least a hundred years (and possibly much longer). And when it comes to the medium of television, news cannot be anything other than infotainment.

As the late media theorist Neil Postman wrote in Amusing Ourselves to Death,

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Is the morality of an act solely based on the intentions of the person acting?  Moviegoers may get some insight into this question when Ender’s Game is released in theaters Nov. 1.

Orson Scott Card’s classic Ender’s Game book series began in 1985 with its most well known first installment, winning the Nebula and Hugo Awards for best science fiction novel.  The book tells the story of an alien invasion, where the world’s population prepares for an imminent second attack by training as many specialized soldiers as possible.  Most of these special soldiers are children, honing their skills on an orbiting space station in zero gravity simulations called “Battle School.”  Ender is a potentially gifted future commander, selectively bred by the International Fleet, the organization combating the alien force.  The book follows Ender’s journey through the beginning of Battle School.

In an interesting essay on Ender as a killer from the International Review of Science Fiction, John Kessel concludes that Ender is far too innocent for someone who commits murder and violent acts in the book (warning: this essay contains many spoilers if you have not read the book).  John makes some good points, illustrating the expertise of Card in encouraging the reader to root for the “innocent killer.”  The book’s story is even more potent when you add the fact that Ender is abused during most of his life, partly because he is a third child when couples are only allowed to have two.  Does the reader root for the “murdering savior,” or is Card content in saying that committing immoral deeds in ignorance is acceptable?  These questions and more are addressed in the rest of the Ender series.

…when you write without deliberately expressing moral teachings, the morals that show up are the ones you actually live by. The beliefs that you don’t even think to question, that you don’t even notice– those will show up. And that tells much more truth about what you believe than your deliberate moral machinations.

–Orson Scott Card

The right’s rhetoric is all about individual liberty, says Michael R. Strain, but love of fellow humans is essential to a functioning society — or policy.

Many on the right correctly emphasize individual liberty, but they do not emphasize what conservatism knows to be true: It is in community that people learn how to be free.

Ryan argued that “the federal government has a role to play” with respect to community, but that “it’s a supporting role, not the leading one.” This is generally true. Government should distance itself enough from the individual that civil society — which exists in the space between government and citizen — can flourish. Speaking generally, government should help support these institutions, but it should not do their work for them.

But this is not to say that a communitarian ethic should be absent from politics and public policy — quite the opposite. Proceeding with a spirit of community would help conservatives formulate and support better policies. Let’s discuss a few.

Read more . . .

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to apply for a Fall 2013 Calihan Academic Fellowship. The fellowships provide scholarships and research grants to future scholars and religious leaders whose academic work shows outstanding potential.

Graduate students studying theology, philosophy, religion, economics, or related fields are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is July 15. Information about eligibility, conditions, the selection process, and application requirements can be found on the Calihan Academic Fellowship page of the Acton Institute website.