Category: News and Events

Jesus Christ the Apple TreeToday is the 70th anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the Flossenbürg concentration camp. I’m privileged to offer a brief reflection on Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy over at Public Discourse.

I’ve been working on Bonhoeffer’s thought for over a decade now, and I’m often struck by the depth of his conviction and insight in such troubled times. One of the things about him that I try to highlight in the Public Discourse piece is how Bonhoeffer’s courageous action for the world today was rooted in hopefulness for the world to come. As so many others have often pointed out, and rightly so, Bonhoeffer’s theology and biography are intimately related.

For example, in principle Bonhoeffer affirmed God’s institution of marriage: “Through marriage human beings are procreated for the glory and service of Jesus Christ and the enlarging of Christ’s kingdom.” But even when faced with the dangers of resistance to Hitler and the travails of war and social discord, he took the step of proposing to Maria von Wedemeyer. Planning to marry her was an act of courage, a concrete form of affirming and accepting God’s will for this world.

There is an apocryphal saying attributed to the sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther, that “if I knew the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.” As Scott Hendrix writes, this saying (although it has precedent in a story attributed to Francis of Assisi) actually arises from the Nazi era in Germany: “Scholars believe it originated in the German Confessing Church, which used it to inspire hope and perseverance during its opposition to the Nazi dictatorship.”

Bonhoeffer lived out his own form of that insight through his engagement to Maria in 1943, shortly before his arrest and eventual execution. May Bonhoeffer’s life and work continue to inspire hope and perseverance even in the midst of our suffering and confusion.

gvsu_logo_blueNo sooner had your writer reported on the metastasis of the sustainability movement from universities to the religious community than it came to his attention that activists were doubling down on efforts to bankrupt the economy and sentence capitalism to the dustbin of history. Because: Social Justice.

This latest head scratcher is scheduled to take place in the Acton Institute’s own Grand Rapids’ backyard, and will feature a sustainability event in a Grand Valley State University facility named after an Acton Board Member. The Rapidian – a Grand Rapids web site for “citizen journalism” – reports:

An activist panel, breakout sessions, lunch, skill building sessions and a general activist assembly will be held at the John C. Kennedy Hall of Engineering in Grand Rapids on Saturday, April 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the local community as well as students and staff.

Two of the key points that will be discussed at the event is that “green” capitalism is not a solution to climate change and that collective climate justice must be achieved through the development of strategies and the use of tactics that rely on direct action.

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51httEIaoPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The fossil-fuel sustainability and divestment movements began with colleges and universities. Over the past two years, the movements have gained momentum from faith-based activists intent on stranding oil, coal and natural gas in the ground. At the same time, they’re pressing their religious communities to endorse impossible fossil fuel reduction goals.

Progressives in the sustainability and divestment movements must assume that if Big Oil is brought to heel, then Big Renewable will immediately fill the void. Never mind that there exists nothing today to replace the growing need for oil, coal and natural gas. Will we one day have an efficient and affordable replacement? Not if we bankrupt advanced, technologically rich economies with sustainability policies.

Additionally, mounting evidence suggests that sustainability efforts in the academic industry, which includes fossil-fuel divestment, have inflicted economic harm on colleges and universities (and taxpayers) without providing a scintilla of benefit for the environment.

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??????????????????????????Amidst the hubbub surrounding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the owners of Memories Pizza, a local family-owned restaurant, have been the first to bear the wrath of the latest conformity mob.

We knew they’d come, of course. “They” being fresh off the sport of strong-arming boutique bakeries and shuttering the shop doors of grandmother florists (all in the name of “social justice,” mind you).

The outrage is rather predictable these days, and not just on issues as hot and contentious as this. A company does something we don’t like and we respond not through peaceful discourse or by taking our services elsewhere, but through direct abuse and assault on the party in question (self-righteous tweets included). When Patton Oswalt points out these instincts in defense of an anti-semitic comic, the mob may temper its tone for a season. But alas, there are small businesses to bully, and this is about sexuality, an idol well worth the blood. (more…)

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J.C. Huizenga Photo from Mlive

Employees of the Huizenga Automation Group got a great surprise earlier this week. According to Mlive, after selling the company, owner J.C. Huizenga gave away $5.75 million in bonuses to his employees at two manufacturing companies that were part of the Automation Group. Huizenga acknowledged that his success was due to the work of his employees so he wanted to share his profits with them: “We all worked together at J.R. Automation and Dane Systems” and the companies “had amazing success. It was the right thing to share with everybody.” Bonuses were based on years of service and responsibilities:

The bonuses ranged from $500 for new employees to more than $50,000 for those who had worked at the company the longest, Huizenga told MLive and The Grand Rapids Press…

“It was our intention that everybody from the latest hire to those who were there the longest all participated so everyone got something,” said Huizenga, adding that he was seeking fairness.

Around $5 million was split up among 500 employees at J.R. Automation, while 70 employees at Dane Systems received around $750,000.

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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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Blog author: sstanley
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
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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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