Category: News and Events

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Katharine Jefferts Schori

Your author recalls a time when reasonable people could disagree on all types of issues. Unfortunately, that period’s welcoming nature of diverse opinions has receded into vitriolic attacks on opponents’ intelligence, funding, research ethics, morality and religious faith.

Such is the case with this week’s media coverage of Katharine Jefferts Schori, the woman the Guardian labels a “presiding bishop of the Episcopal church and one of the most powerful women in Christianity.” The bishop explained her highly politicized view of both science and religion to the newspaper:

“It is in that sense much like the civil rights movement in this country where we are attending to the rights of all people and the rights of the earth to continue to be a flourishing place,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said in an interview with the Guardian. “It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already.”

In the same context, Jefferts Schori attached moral implications to climate denial, suggesting those who reject the underlying science of climate change were turning their backs on God’s gift of knowledge.

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katy-big-snow-virginia-burton“No work? Then nothing else either. Culture and civilization don’t just happen. They are made to happen and to keep happening — by God the Holy Spirit, through our work.” –Lester DeKoster

As we begin to discover God’s design and purpose for our work, there there’s a temptation to elevate certain jobs or careers above others, and attempt to inject our work with meaning from the outside. Yet as long as we are serving our neighbors faithfully, productively, ethically, and in obedience to God’s will, the meaning is already there.

We can wrap our imaginations around this reality in a number of ways, but one helpful thought experiment is to imagine what would happen if a particular job or task were to be left undone. With our newfound prosperity and privilege, it is sometimes easy to dismiss certain forms of manual or “unglamorous” labor (the plumber, the builder, the garbage collector) in favor of supposedly “higher pursuits.” Yet if any of the workers in these areas vanished, what would happen to civilized society? Indeed, in a way, the simple, tangible nature of such work often provides the clearest illustration of the service and sacrifice God has called us to, bearing fruit we can quite easily taste and see.

I was reminded of this when reading my kids Katy and the Big Snow, the classic children’s story by Virginia Lee Burton (author of another timeless tale about work). Burton tells the story of Katy, a “beautiful red crawler tractor” who was “very big and very strong” and was able to push either a bulldozer or snowplow, depending on the season. (more…)

While in Argentina for Acton Institute’s March 18 “Christianity and the Foundations of a Free Society” seminar, President and Co-Founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico conducted a wide ranging interview with La Nación, the country’s leading conservative newspaper. For more on the event, jointly sponsored with Instituto Acton Argentina, go here. What follows is an English translation of the interview. The original version, titled “Una sociedad con bajos impuestos es más próspera” in Spanish, may be found here.

La Nación: Why did you decide to devote yourself to economics in relation to ethics and religion?

Sirico: In the 1970s, while living in California, I was away from the faith and was involved in a number of leftist social change movements. Someone gave me some books to read on economics, which I did. This set off a chain reaction which resulted not only in rethinking my more socialist activism, but also in my return to the Catholic Church and eventually continuing on to seminary and the priesthood. Once ordained, I continued to write and speak about these matters and eventually formed an Institute which engages many scholars and writers of all religious persuasions to discuss these kinds of ideas. (more…)

A columnist for Al-Monitor who writes under the pseudonym Edward Dark visited Siryan Adeemeh, or Old Siryan, an elevated area in the regime-controlled west of Aleppo, the largest city in Syria. Dark wanted to “gauge the sentiment” of this area, which he describes as a working-class neighborhood home to Christian Arabs of several denominations and also inhabited by a sizable Muslim and Kurdish population. “It’s one of the few areas of Aleppo where churches outnumber mosques, and communal relations had always been jovial and friendly, as could be seen while strolling its maze-like narrow streets, lined with markets, cafes, sandwich shops, bars and liquor stores,” Dark, a resident of Aleppo, recalls.

He interviews Abu Fadi, “a middle-aged man, tanned with silver hair and sharp dark eyes — a striking appearance to match his striking personality. He was the de facto mayor of his neighborhood, the go-to guy for news, stories and gossip, a figure much liked and respected by his Christian community and beyond.”

I asked him how he felt about the warring camps in Syria, whom he supports and why. He answered, “There is no question at all about whom we support: the government, of course. It is the only force protecting us from the jihadists and extremists.” (more…)

CP Headshot May 2014Named after distinguished theologian, Michael Novak, this award recognizes outstanding scholarly research that examines the relationship between religion, economic freedom, and the free and virtuous society. Catherine Ruth Pakaluk, assistant professor of economics at Ave Maria University, is the latest Novak Award Winner.

Pakaluk is Founder-Director of the Stein Center for Social Research at Ave Maria University. This center is an interdisciplinary institute for advanced studies in social science and social thought. It focuses on questions of gender, personality development, marriage and family formation, fertility and demographic change, religious practice, and the formation and education of children. Pakaluk currently works in the areas of demography, family studies, the economics of education and religion, and the interpretation of Catholic social thought. She earned her doctorate in economics at Harvard University (2010), where her dissertation under Caroline Hoxby examined the relationship between religion and educational outcomes. Prior to earning her doctorate from Harvard University, Catherine received a master’s degree in economics from Harvard (2002), and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in mathematics and economics (1998). (more…)

og_apple_watch_editionOver at Think Christian today I examine some of the moral implications surrounding the announced release of the new Apple Watch.

In the background of my thinking was a TEDxPuget Sound talk by Simon Sinek that focuses on identifying the “why” of organizations. It’s important to ask the “why” of our consumption as well, which is why I want to know of moral justifications for purchasing something like a $10,000 gold Apple Watch.

Please pass along your suggestions in the comments section.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, March 12, 2015
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Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) is celebrating its twentieth anniversary. First Things, whose first publisher Richard John Neuhaus was a founding ECT member, is hosting a variety of reflections on ECT’s two decades, and in its latest issue published a new ECT statement, “The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage.”

Abraham KuyperThe first ECT statement was put out in 1994. But as recalled by Charles W. Colson, another founding member of ECT, the foundations of evangelical and Roman Catholic dialogue go back much further. The Dutch Reformed theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a major influence on the thinking of Colson, and as Colson argues, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together, which created such controversy, was launched actually by Kuyper a century ago. It is not new.”

Colson made this bold claim in a speech in 1998, at a conference at Calvin College (co-sponsored by the Acton Institute), on the legacies of two great modern representatives of these traditions, Kuyper and Leo XIII.
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Members of  the “Acton Club” of West Catholic High School

Members of the “Acton Club” of West Catholic High School

Culture has either an overly optimistic view of youth culture, or an overly dour and depressing one. However, neither view is entirely true, nor are such disparate opinions very helpful.  The unavoidable truth is this: younger generations will have to bear increasingly more difficult levels of financial, and societal responsibility in the coming years. To put it mildly their future will not be an easy walk in the park.

However, in my experiences at Acton, I am witnessing a renaissance, a flowering of maturity in which young men and women are not waiting for someone to offer them a free hand-out, but rather are seeking a better version and a more compelling vision for their future. Certainly the root of this renaissance has been occurring over the past ten years with college students at Acton University, but the flowering I am talking about is happening amongst high school students.

In the spring of 2014, a group of students from West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids made an appointment to tour our offices and to learn more about Acton’s work. After the tour, I expected the students to simply say, “thank you” and then depart, but the leader of this intrepid band said, “Mr. Cook, we have a core group that are serious about our Christian faith, and we want to be successful, ethical and virtuous business leaders. We want to learn how we can live our faith as Christian business leaders in our world today.” Then he said something really amazing.

“Do you think it’s possible for us to start an ‘Acton Club’ in our high school?’

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis

If I were to publicly announce a Bible study meeting at the local public library, one can imagine the hue and cry from secularists fretting about a looming right-wing theocratic takeover of America. Change the subject to Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on climate change, however, and all you hear are crickets chirping from the separation of church and state crowd. (See comments on the encyclical here from Acton’s Kishore Jayabalan)

It’s interesting to note that – when not attempting to eliminate religious considerations altogether from the public square – progressive groups leap at the opportunity to embrace a religious leader when he or she shows sympathy for their pet causes. Already one can anticipate the swoon of secularists in anticipation of Pope Francis weighing in on climate change, a document they’ll more than likely never read in full but will selectively quote to buttress their liberal interpretations.

The fact remains that no one – outside the Vatican at least – yet knows what Pope Francis will say about climate change in his upcoming encyclical. But that hasn’t stopped the Citizens Climate Lobby, a national astro-turfing outfit with local “grassroots” chapters throughout the United States, including one in your writer’s own backyard in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Last weekend, CCL local chapters gathered to listen to national broadcast presentations by Lonnie Ellis, associate director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, and Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt, the book upon which the recently released film documentary is based. The CCL chapter in my hometown congregated in the local public library annex to listen to the podcast recorded earlier that afternoon. I’m pleased to report our Republic has yet to establish a religion, but I’m not of the sort who worries about such things. (more…)

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The Schiebel CamCopter S-100 Drone

Drones can be used for great evil, but they can also save lives. In the past decade, more than 20,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Desperate people work with smugglers and board overcrowded and hazardous boats, attempting to escape war-torn and dangerous countries in the Middle East. Christopher Catrambone, an American living in Malta has decided to use one of the most controversial tools of the 21st century to try and save these people.

Forget the politics for a second, these are hundreds of thousands of men, women and children taking to the sea aboard what are often unsafe, overcrowded vessels that catch fire and sink and on which they may have inadequate access to food, drinking water and medical supplies.

Catrambone and his wife, Regina, purchased a ship, inflatable boats, and drones and put them in the hands of former government and military officials and medical experts, creating the operation: Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS). They believe that “no one deserves to die at sea.” The drones scan the common routes of smugglers, going up to 150 mph and searching for 6 hours before needing to re-charge. If the drones find vessels that need help either the main ship, the Phoenix I, responds or the Italian Coast Guard is called. From the MOAS homepage: “It is dedicated to preventing loss of life at sea by providing assistance to migrants who find themselves in distress while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe vessels.”

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