Category: News and Events

screen_shot_20150330_at_12.32.27_pm.png.CROP.rtstory-large.32.27_pmFormer Oklahoma University student Levi Pettit and his friends did a terrible thing. The frustration and anger at the very racist chant about the lynching of African Americans by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity is understandable and justified. However, in light of Levi Pettit’s act of public repentance, our response reveals how we understand a key aspect of Easter. Those who painfully forgive Pettit demonstrate a central pillar of the Passion of Christ whereas those who refuse to forgive Pettit inadvertently render the death and resurrection of Christ meaningless.

Torraine Walker’s op-ed at Huffington Post is a great example of an anti-Easter response to Pettit. Walker says that he is not buying Pettit’s apology. “Why are people of color expected to automatically forgive a racist who hasn’t proven themselves changed? These apologies always feel so fake and inauthentic.” Walker says that Pettit’s response is an example of a “Racial Apology Ritual” because it was manufactured and fake. Walker concludes,
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President Cristina Kirchner and Oliver Stone (Wikimedia Commons/Presidencia de la Nación Argentina)

Earlier this month, Acton and Instituto Acton Argentina hosted a daylong conference exploring the relationship between religious and economic freedom. Scholars from around the world, including Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg, traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to discuss the ways in which Christianity has contributed to building the foundations of freedom. In a new article for the American Spectator, Gregg discusses some issues he observed while visiting the country:

The first thing I noticed while recently lecturing in Argentina was just how much conditions had deteriorated since my last visit in 2010. The center of Buenos Aires is an impressive mixture of Art Deco, Baroque, nineteenth-century Parisian, and colonial styles alongside often surprisingly tasteful modern architecture. Amidst those same streets, however, it’s hard not to observe the increased number of beggars, the people befuddled by drink and drugs, the prostitutes, and the numerous homeless sleeping in doorways and the many elegant parks. Moreover, once you drive a few miles away from Buenos Aires’s center, you quickly encounter shanty towns that are no-go areas for the police.

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Writing for The Federalist blog last week, American Energy Alliance Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Dan Ziegler remarked:

The environment isn’t getting worse—it’s rapidly improving, even as our economy grows and our energy use increases. The EPA recently released new data on air quality showing that total emissions of the six major air pollutants have dropped by 68 percent since 1970. This is all the more impressive considering that during this same period, America’s population has grown by 54 percent, we’re using 44 percent more energy, we’re driving 168 percent more miles in our cars, and our economy has grown by 238 percent.

It goes from impressive to astounding when you consider that natural gas, coal, and oil have driven this growth. Technological innovations have made obtaining these energy sources smarter, safer, and more efficient than ever before.

In other words, we don’t have to wreck our economy to save the planet—an important realization which casts the green lobby’s preferred policies in a new light. There’s also the very real possibility that such policies would provide very little environmental benefit and even harm the environment. [Emphasis in original]

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BroadwayUMC-naveIn the early 2000s, Broadway United Methodist Church had a series of outreach programs, including a food pantry, after-school program, clothing ministry, and a summer youth program that served up to 250 children per day. Today, these programs are completely absent, and it’s no accident.

“They’ve been killed off,” writes Robert King in a fascinating profile of the transformation for Faith and Leadership. “In many cases, they were buried with honors. But those ministries, staples of the urban church, are all gone from Broadway. Kaput.”

“One of the things we literally say around here is, ‘Stop helping people.’” says Rev. Mike Mather, the church’s pastor. “I’m serious.”

Although Mather was the first to initiate many of these programs, with some efforts going back as far as the late 1980s, after a series of circumstances, including a series of community tragedies, he began to believe that a new approach was needed. “I started paying attention to what they really cared about,” he says. (more…)

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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.