Category: News and Events

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Institute on Religion and Democracy has issued a background report on the drafting of a new “Social Creed for the 21st Century” by members of the National Council of Churches. As Alan Wisdom and Ralph Webb point out, the “strong ideological tilt” at the NCC (that would be to your left) “contrasts sharply with the careful efforts at balance evident in public policy guidelines produced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals.”

What kind of society does the NCC, the longtime institutional voice of the Religious Left, hope to establish? The 20 goals of the new creed, IRD says, read “like a laundry list of primarily progressive causes.”

The new creed proclaims “a message of hope for a fearful time.” That hopeful message, according to the NCC, is “a vision of a society that shares more and consumes less, seeks compassion over suspicion and equality over domination, and finds security in joined hands rather than massed arms.” What follows is a list of 20 broad social and political goals, ranging from “sustainable communities marked by affordable housing, access to good jobs, and public safety” to “cooperation and dialogue for peace and environmental justice among the world’s religions.”

… There is a call for “an end to the death penalty.” There is a demand for “binding covenants to reduce global warming.” Blessings are pronounced upon “alternative energy sources and public transportation.” Censure is directed at “greed in economic life.” The United Nations must be “strengthened,” according to the new NCC social creed.

On the other hand, the creed makes no mention of any causes usually identified with more conservative Christian viewpoints. There are no echoes of the Hebrew prophet Samuel’s warning against an all-consuming government that levies burdensome taxes (1 Samuel 8:11–18). There is no concern expressed about regimes like North Korea and Iran that repress their own peoples and threaten annihilation of their neighbors. There is no sense of the need for a strong military to deter such threats.

The 2008 creed says nothing about the importance of upholding marriage as a fundamental social institution. (Virtually all NCC member communions define marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman.) While the creed advocates sparing the lives of convicted murderers, it does not speak up for the lives of unborn children being aborted, human embryos destroyed through experimentation, or the old and the infirm vulnerable to euthanasia. In seeking more liberal “immigration policies that protect family unity [and] safeguard worker’s rights,” the creed makes no request for enforcement of laws controlling who crosses U.S. borders.

The new creed also glosses over the deep theological divisions — if not political activism — that divides the NCC member churchs. As IRD notes: “The theology of the new creed is fairly minimal and bent toward a liberal social action perspective. That same combination — theological laxity and political one-sidedness — led the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America to leave the NCC in July 2005. The new social creed does not address the doctrinal or social policy differences between the member communions of the council.”

Writing in 1950, the late historian Henry Steele Commager observed that the Social Gospel movement in the United States naturally de-emphasized theological concerns in favor of a practical humanitarianism. “Americans naturalized God,” Commager wrote, “as they naturalized so many other concepts. Because they were optimistic, they insisted upon His benevolence … No American could believe that he was damned.”

It’s unclear if Commager considered that a positive development. In any case, he wouldn’t be surprised by anything in the NCC’s new “Social Creed.”

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Von Wernich at his 2007 trial in La Plata.

Rev. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, has an article in today’s Detroit News on the recent conviction of Rev. Christian von Wernich, a Catholic priest sentenced to life in prison for his role in supporting the totalitarian regime during Argentina’s National Reorganization Process. Rev. von Wernich, a police chaplain, was accused of sharing the conversations he received with prisoners in the confessional with the police who then used them as evidence against those prisoners and in making further arrests of accomplices.

Sirico explains that the priest was clearly in the wrong to be sharing the secrets of the confessional with the state not only because the Church forbids it, but because there are some aspects of life that the state does not and should not ever control, namely our conscience. Sirico writes:

No matter what the sin is, the priest is under a moral obligation not to reveal it, and never to act upon the information he received. It is more than a secret in a regular sense. The priest in the confessional is acting in the person of Christ, hearing and offering forgiveness not on his behalf but on behalf of Christ. Priests are urged not even to think about what they have heard in the confessional afterwards.

The state has no right to access the confessional. Christ, not the state, has the first claim on the conscience of the individual. The sad story of von Wernich is again a reminder of the lesson of the Gospel that some things, but not all things, belong to Caesar; some aspects of life belong to God alone.

An assortment of radical socialist chums gathered in Caracas, Venezuela for a lively discussion on the issue, “United States: A possible revolution.” The event was part of the third annual Venezuela International Book Fair on November 9-18, and featured the usual campus radicals, anti-American crusaders, and Marxist activists. As usual among committed Marxists, the main target of evil and oppression in the world is the United States.

Writing a summary of events for the Militant, Olympia Newton’s article is titled, “Venezuela forum debates prospects for revolutionary change in U.S.” The Militant describes itself as “A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people.” Rebuffing the claim that America has a revolutionary past at the event was Richard Gott, a British author and defender of Hugo Chavez and his government. Newton quoted Gott in her article:

“There has never been a revolution in the United States, and anyone who thinks there has been is ignorant of their own history,” responded panelist Richard Gott, a British author and journalist. Gott said the American Revolution, which defeated British colonial rule, could not be considered a revolution. Rather, it was a war to take land from Native American tribes, whose territory, he said, was being protected by the British royal army.

“No, a revolution is not possible in the United States,” said Gott. “It is conservative and reactionary. The only hope is Latin America.”

Newton also quoted Black activist Amiri Baraka who is known for his 9/11 poem, “Somebody Blew Up America.” Amiri Baraka suggested some reforms to help spark the revolution:

“That revolution has never been completed,” Baraka said. “There is still no democracy for Blacks.” He proposed that Blacks and Latinos, including the “progressive” Black bourgeoisie, unite around a program to abolish the electoral college; establish a unicameral parliamentary system; ban “private money” from election campaigns; make voting compulsory; and restore voting rights to felons. Such constitutional reforms, he said, would shift power towards “people’s democracy” in the United States. Revolutionary goals could then be put on the agenda.

If you recognize these ideas, some of the thoughts such as repealing the electoral college, felons voting, and banning private money in elections has found its way into the mainstream of American political debate.

So while the prospects for a Marxist revolutionary change in America are not bright, radical ideas are found in many mainline denominational churches. I remember attending a Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church for The Institute on Religion and Democracy and seeing many copies of Fidel Castro’s book, War, Racism and Economic Justice: The Global Ravages of Capitalism prominently displayed by the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church.

Hugo Chavez, a voice of authority and leader for many of the politically oppressed in Hollywood, has also found passionate supporters among some entrenched in leadership of mainline churches. It’s a reminder of their past love affair with Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas and the old cliche, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, November 21, 2007

There’s no better time to re-examine the legacy of the Puritans than on the Thanksgiving holiday, which is so closely associated with the Pilgrim’s exodus to America in 1621. With that in mind, here are a few resources for understanding the worldview that Max Weber called a “worldly asceticism.”

Pat Sangimino wrote an article for the Wichita Business Journal titled, “Documentary seeks to dispel negative images of entrepreneurs ” (subscription required). A premiere of The Call of the Entrepreneur took place in Wichita, Kan., on November 14th. Sangimino noted in his piece:

Some consider Wichita to be the Midwest’s cradle of entrepreneurship. Evidence of that is the original Pizza Hut building, which was moved to the Wichita State University campus in 1984 to serve as a reminder of what can happen to those who dare to dream and are willing to take a chance.

The screening was sponsored locally by the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy. The Center is a think tank dedicated to the constitutional principles of limited government, open markets, and individual freedom and responsibility.

Another noteworthy quote from the article:

The documentary’s three examples of business success could easily be compared with those of Dan and Frank Carney and Pizza Hut, Tom Devlin and Rent-A-Center or Jack DeBoer and his hotels, among others — tales that have become part of Wichita’s enterprise lore.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, November 16, 2007

After the jump is the (hyperlinked) text of a column I filed last week from GodblogCon. Here are some related items worth exploring:

I’ll also add that I discussed this topic with Hunter Baker, a columnist for ChristianityToday.com and contributor to Redstate and the AmSpec blog. Here’s what he said,

My own feeling is that Mayor Giuliani is probably the most thoroughly tested and proven politician in the United States today and that he is well-equipped for the job. However, I do not support his bid, despite his clear competency. I feel a Giuliani nomination would be a major setback for pro-lifers in the sense that neither of the major parties would have a pro-life candidate at the top of the ticket, something that hasn’t happened for over a quarter of a century. In a time when we are considering something that seems to me to be a unique form of cannibalism (embryonic stem-cell research), I don’t want to see the Republican party back off on the life issue. Rather, I’m looking forward to a time when pro-life is a given stance among candidates just as racial equality is today.

(more…)

The Pew Research Center released a new report stating: “African Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and nearly four-in-ten say that because of the diversity within their community, blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race.”

Here are the key findings:

• Asked whether blacks can still be thought of as a single race, given the increasing diversity within the black community, 53% of blacks say they can, but 37% of blacks say they cannot.

A 53% majority of African Americans say that blacks who don’t get ahead are mainly responsible for their situation, while just three-in-ten say discrimination is mainly to blame. As recently as the mid-1990s, black opinion on this question tilted in the opposite direction, with a majority of African Americans saying then that discrimination is the main reason for a lack of black progress.

• Blacks and whites concur that there has been a convergence in the values held by blacks and whites. On the popular culture front, large majorities of both blacks and whites say that rap and hip hop have a bad influence on society.

• Blacks and whites express very little overt racial animosity. As they have for decades, about eight-in-ten members of each racial group express a favorable view about members of the other group. More than eight-in-ten adults in each group also say they know a person of a different race whom they consider a friend.

The most newsworthy African American figure in politics today – Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama – draws broadly (though not intensely felt) favorable ratings from both blacks and whites. But blacks are more inclined to say that his race will detract from his chances to be elected president; whites are more inclined to say his relative inexperience will hurt his chances.

• Three-quarters of blacks (76%) say that Obama is a good influence on the black community. Even greater numbers say this about Oprah Winfrey (87%) and Bill Cosby (85%), who are the most highly regarded by blacks from among 14 black newsmakers tested in this survey. By contrast, just 17% of blacks say that rap artist 50 Cent is a good influence.

• Over the past two decades, blacks have lost some confidence in the effectiveness of leaders within their community, including national black political figures, the clergy, and the NAACP. A sizable majority of blacks still see all of these groups as either very or somewhat effective, but the number saying “very” effective has declined since 1986.

• On the issue of immigration, blacks and whites agree that most immigrants work harder than most blacks and most whites at low-wage jobs. Also, blacks are less inclined now than they were two decades ago to say that blacks would have more jobs if there were fewer immigrants.

This report is not telling us anything new. Here’s why:

(1) Blacks have always been heterogeneous. In previous generations blacks were all forced to live in the same neighborhoods during segregation so the profound diversity among the black community was masked. This Pew report should remind America of the fact that all blacks do not think alike and never have. Therefore, using language like “the black vote” is as silly as using a phrase like “the white vote.”

(2) The report should awaken us to the fact that blacks are so heterogeneous that to talk about “black leaders” is brutish and primitive. Are there “white leaders?”

(3) The only people who seem to pimp the idea the lack of black progress in 2007 is due to white racism are the black elite. It seems that people on the street, Juan Williams, Bill Cosby, and others seem to understand that the lack of black progress, in some sectors, is the fault of individuals not taking advantage of the freedoms granted by the blood, sweat, and tears of their ancestors.

(4) The black middle-class are analogous and have the same materialistic worldview as middle-class whites but more hypocritical in some ways. While middle-class whites seem to despise “white trash,” middle-class blacks despise “ghetto” black folks, doing nothing to help them other than writing occasional checks during black history month or during the holiday season–as they live in gated communities, drive luxury vehicles, and send their kids to private schools– many middle-class blacks are oddly the first to come out and defend communities and lifestyles that they refuse to embrace themselves. Many middle-class blacks who defend the 6 boys in Jena, Louisiana would never live in the neighborhood from which the boys came.

Overall, this report confirms what many of us have always known: black America is divided by class just like the rest of America.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Saturday, November 10, 2007

Day 2 marked the end of GodblogCon 2007. A highlight of the day was LaShawn Barber’s talk which provided both concrete advice for clear and concise writing, as well as testimony to how blogging can become a profession. The latter depends on the former, of course. She closed with the mandate: “Be bold, confident, and passionate.”

We concluded the day with a large roundtable discussion including the forty or so Godbloggers who persevered to the end. John Mark Reynolds facilitated a lively discussion about the promises, perils, and the future of blogging and new media. We closed the roundtable by going around and having each person make a bold statement or prediction. Mine was “Bloggers will soon be the new webmasters: everyone is going to need one on staff or have ready access to one’s expertise.”

Much like the practice of blogging itself, GodblogCon is a meeting, or fellowship, rather, that is still in its infancy. The conference went very smoothly and was excellently coordinated. But much like the new media itself, GodblogCon has a great deal of promise and potential. I hope that I personally and Acton as an institution can become more involved as the “Godblogosphere” continues to mature.

Spontaneous and peaceful celebration of Berlin Wall collapse

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall served as a powerful contrast between free people and ideas, against a system of government that imprisoned its citizens through totalitarian control and intimidation. It also serves as a reminder of the nations and leaders who stood up to Soviet aggression bent on world domination.

A grave situation for Berlin developed in 1948, when the Soviet Union cut off all land and rail access to the city. In what was the greatest humanitarian airlift in world history, U.S. and British pilots kept German citizens fed and supplied. The Berlin Airlift, expected to last a couple of weeks, lasted for 15 months until the Soviets finally capitulated. Amazingly, at the height of the airlift a plane landed in Berlin every minute. The airlift sparked a deep friendship between the German people and the U.S. and British military. The Germans just a few years ago saw many of these same pilots dropping bombs on them. It also showcased the willingness of free countries and free people to sacrifice for the freedom of others. Eighty American and British soldiers were killed during this miraculous humanitarian endeavor.

In 1961, the East German government erected a massive wall with defense structures turned against its own people. The wall tore apart families and the German people, and became an iconic symbol of the Cold War and Soviet oppression. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate and sternly delivered the line, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Just a few years later, with freedom on the march across Eastern Europe, in a memorable moment, the German people peacefully crossed the physical divide in Berlin.

At the Acton Institute annual dinner in Grand Rapids on Oct. 24, our keynote speaker was former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar. In his remarks, Laar talked emotionally about the Estonian resistance while their nation was held captive by Soviet domination. He also added, “When we forget our values, and the West is not following its values, it means a big danger to all of us.”

An important value is standing with and defending those who are weak and oppressed. In fact, many readers of the Bible strongly identify with the biblical narrative of deliverance. It’s important to remember today all those humans in the world who are enslaved by ruthless regimes and tyrants. It’s also essential to counter and be vigilant of the eroding freedom in our own nation. Unfortunately, too many Christians today misunderstand the significance of political and religious freedom from a growing and intrusive government. From the beginning, which we learn from our lesson in Genesis, it’s faith in our creator and rule of law under God, which powerfully contrasts with the rule of man, preached and practiced by the socialist overseers.

A few essential article/editorials on the collapse of the Berlin Wall:

Dinesh D’Souza: Why the Berlin Wall Fell

George Allen: World Freedom Day


Kenneth T. Walsh: Memorable presidential speeches are few and far between. But Ronald Reagan’s words in Berlin two decades ago will live on

David Crossland: New Find Evokes Horrors of the Berlin Wall

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, November 9, 2007

On Hugh Hewitt’s radio show yesterday, he hosted a roundtable discussion with folks at this year’s GodblogCon (link here). After Hugh interviews Mark Steyn, Hugh has Michael Medved, Al Mohler, John Mark Reynolds, and Mark D. Roberts to discuss the conference and the significance of new media for Christian cultural engagement.