Category: News and Events

Blog author: dpahman
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
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Image credit: Randall Munroe. Image linked to the surprisingly prescient source.

In his otherwise excellent work The Problem of Poverty, the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper, as a man of his time (the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), commended the merits of colonialism as if there were not already people in other lands with their own calling to “till the earth” that God had made. While unfortunate for his time and context, recent events may open up a case in which colonization may be the Christian duty Kuyper believed it to be: Mars.

“[W]e must never,” writes Kuyper,

as long as we value God’s Word, oppose colonization. God’s earth, if cultivated, offers food enough for more than double the millions who now inhabit it. Is it not simply human folly to remain so piled up in a few small places on this planet that men must crawl away into cellars and slums, while at the same time there are other places a hundred times larger than our native land, awaiting the plow and the sickle, or on which herds of the most valuable cattle wander without an owner?

To be generous, we might say that at least Kuyper wasn’t exactly an alarmist with regards to the idea of overpopulation. But that would be quite generous.

In reality, that land was the home and those herds were the livelihood of real people, made just as much in the image of God as Western Europeans like the Dutch.

But what if there was a truly uninhabited land, just waiting for human cultivation to serve for the needs of others and the glory of God?

The present-day Dutch believe that Mars is just such a place. According to NBC news, (more…)

When asked by the BBC interviewer what he would say to the terrorists if they were sitting in the studio at that moment, the bishop replied:

I would say that any religion starts from a premise of a sanctity of life. And no matter what differences there are, this doesn’t justify by any means the taking of a life and especially so horrifically. I pray for them and I pray that somehow hearts are touched. I’m sure that not everyone there is this callous. I’m sure people’s hearts must be touched. The only hope we have is a sense of humanity again.

Who are the Copts? from the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre UK.

dead cupidForget the candy hearts, chocolate, the local Cineplex and bistro this weekend. St. Valentine’s Day somehow has been hijacked by Global Disinvestment Day, which means you should protest fossil fuels and encourage shareholders to submit proxy resolutions to leave oil, coal and gas resources untapped. Your significant others are guaranteed to love it because … Gaia.

Behind this movement are nominally religious shareholder activists such as As You Sow, as well as the World Council of Churches, filmdom’s The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and extreme-environmentalist rabble rousers Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. Figuring out the endgame of divestment advocates isn’t difficult – Naomi Klein laid it all out for us in a recent interview in Grist:

Another point I would make, [about] carbon pricing, is that when we make the argument that this is a rogue sector, that their business plan is at odds with life on earth, we are creating an intellectual and political space where it becomes much easier to tax those profits, to increase royalties, and even to nationalize these companies. This is not just about the fact that we want to separate ourselves from these companies, it’s also that we have a right to those profits. If those profits are so illegitimate that Harvard shouldn’t be invested in them, they’re also so illegitimate that taxpayers have a right to them to pay for a transition away from fossil fuels, and to pay the bills for a crisis created by this sector. It’s not just about dissociating ourselves from their profits, but potentially getting a much larger piece of them. [emphases added]

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Blog author: sstanley
Thursday, February 12, 2015
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FIW-Map-01RGB_0Global Democracy and freedom are under attack. Freedom House, a nonprofit organization which monitors freedom and advocates for democracy and human rights just released the 2015 “Freedom in the World” report. The results are not good. In his introduction, Arch Puddington, vice president for research says that “the condition of global political rights and civil liberties, showed an overall decline. Indeed, acceptance of democracy as the world’s dominant form of government—and of an international system built on democratic ideals—is under greater threat than at any point in the last 25 years.” The report offers several examples of how citizen’s freedoms are being trampled. (more…)

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A NASA image released in February 2014 shows a night view of the Korean Peninsula. Apart from a spot of light in Pyongyang, North Korea is mostly cloaked in darkness, with China (top left) and South Korea (bottom right) on either side. -Reuters

North Korea finally decided to comment on the most famous image of the nation. Almost exactly one year ago, NASA released several photos of the earth at night, showing many brightly lit nations and a shockingly dark North Korea. Last week, the Rodong Sinmun (“Workers’ Newspaper”), a state-run North Korean newspaper, ran an editorial that addressed the photo.

This editorial, “Right in Front of Our Eyes” is fairly typical propaganda, telling North Korean citizens that they should wholeheartedly follow and respect Kim Jong Un in order to “build a great nation.” The Wall Street Journal’s Korea Realtime Blog summarized it, saying that it makes only two points about the photo: “(1) let’s not get too hung up about having a functioning electrical grid, and (2) the photo actually represents the future of the U.S.” The editorial assures its citizens that “[North Korea’s detractors] clap their hands and get loud over a satellite picture of our city with not much light, but the essence of society is not on flashy lights.” Essentially, this brutal dictatorship equates a basic human need such as electricity to something “flashy” and denies that this photo is any sort of proof of failure. (more…)

Blog author: sstanley
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
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MoneyRollAre you a professor interested in free market principles? Do you know of one? The Acton Institute is offering mini-grants between $1,000-$10,000 for faculty at colleges, universities, and seminaries in the United States and Canada. The purpose of these mini-grants is to enhance the effectiveness in the teaching and scholarship of market economics. In the past, these mini-grants were only available for business and economics faculty at Christian schools, but this year any faculty (in the U.S. and Canada) working with free market principles are eligible.

The Acton Institute invites proposals from faculty in one or more of the following broad categories:

  • Course development —specifically adding new courses or strengthening existing courses in the curriculum which address the nature, morality, function, and purpose of free-market economics. This may include courses that deal with religion and economics, microeconomics, macroeconomics, political economy, ethics and economics, the history of economic thought, or other related subject areas.
  • Faculty scholarship —identifying scholarly projects which show promise for advancing the understanding of free markets, particularly in light of globalization.

Ideal proposals will demonstrate how the free market relates to Judeo-Christian faith and ethics. The deadline for applications is March 15, 2015 and winners will be notified by April 15,2015. (more…)

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Santosh working as a tailor. From BBC News.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day,” wrote Maimonides. “Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” With all due respect to Maimonides, much has happened since the 12th century. Among those changes is inexpensive, plentiful energy which powers refrigeration, which frees a man from the burden of fishing every day and allows him to engage in other worthy pursuits. That is only if the progressive crusade to strand fossil fuels in the ground is seen as folly, as well as their efforts to replace current energy production completely with far costlier and extremely less reliable renewables.

Modern conveniences have improved life immeasurably to the extent that 99 percent of the world’s population in developed countries takes such everyday amenities as refrigeration for granted. For those living in developing countries, writes Sanjoy Majumder in the BBC News Magazine, up to 35 percent live without a means to safely, inexpensively and efficiently preserve their food from spoilage.

The growing number of those availing themselves of refrigeration is a testament to the immeasurable good technology has brought to the world – and especially the world’s poorest. Majumder relates the story of Santosh Cowdhury, a native of the Indian village of Rameshwarpur, who recently joined the ranks of the 25 percent of Indians owning a refrigerator. The tailor is the first in his village of 200 people to purchase a refrigerator, which has electricity, cell phones and televisions. (more…)

Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin

Just say no to fracking!

For all of their wailing and gnashing of teeth about transparency, some in the American progressive movement certainly turn a blind eye toward the funding of their own pet causes. Last week, The Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay reported that millions of dollars from unknown sources have been passed through a company in Bermuda and transferred to American nonprofits who oppose hydraulic fracturing and, it seems, any industry involved with fossil fuels. Among these nonprofits are several established groups of religious shareholder activists.

Markay quotes a Senate Minority Staff report released last summer by the U.S. Committee on Environment and Public Works (CEPW):

This report articulates several possible reasons for the convoluted and secretive structure of the far-left environmental movement; yet, at the end of the day, we are still asking – why? Why [are billionaires and millionaires] going to such extreme lengths to hide their generous support of supposed charitable causes?

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Blog author: jcouretas
Monday, January 26, 2015
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It gets really interesting now in the wake of Syriza’s stunning victory in yesterday’s Greek elections, widely interpreted as a populist rejection of austerity programs that could spread to other indebted European Union basket cases. All eyes on are Alexis Tsipras, the newly-sworn in prime minister (in a highly unusual secular ceremony), with a lot of unanswered questions about how his party will govern. (Syriza is the transliterated Greek acronym for Coalition of the Radical Left). I’ve been following this story – indeed the long gut-wrenching meltdown of the Greek economy – in recent years with more than casual interest. I grew up in a Greek immigrant household and have retraced my grandparents’ steps back to the family villages (I’m what real Greeks refer to as a “two week Greek”).

On the Forbes site, Charles Calomiris paints a picture of what is in store for Greeks if Tsipras follows through on his promises to magically wish away debt (176 percent of GDP), go after “the rich” (Greek shipowners) and give away more free stuff (electrical power, health care, higher minimum wage, etc.) paid for with other people’s money:

… the likely consequences for Greece of Sunday’s election are a chaotic future of bank runs, devaluation, capital flight, and even more worrying, new radical leftist policies to respond to the economic collapse produced by the crisis (e.g., huge expansions of government spending, and nationalizations). Nothing can be ruled out when someone like Mr. Tsipras is in charge – a European version of Hugo Chavez.

Calomiris concludes by observing that “although it is likely that Mr. Tsipras’s victory will soon be regarded as a major electoral error by Greeks, it could be a helpful wake up call for the rest of Europe.” (more…)

Last Friday at Religion Dispatches, Kara Loewentheil explored the recent story of a Denver bakery that is being “sued for refusing to bake a homophobic cake.” She calls into question the legitimacy of the request:

It’s a snappy inversion of the now-classic example of bakers who refuse to provide wedding cakes for gay marriage or commitment ceremonies (or florists who refuse to provide flowers, photographers who refuse to photograph the ceremony, etc.). And that’s probably not an accident; if I were a betting woman, I’d bet heavily that a pro-religious-exemption think tank or law firm, like the Becket Fund, had come up with this plan and recruited a plaintiff to set it in motion.

Joe Carter has recently noted this case here at the PowerBlog as well, writing,

Whether the request was serious or a stunt done to make a political point, I find the viewpoint expressed to be loathsome. Assuming the words were indeed “hateful” they should have no association with a symbolic representation of the Christian faith. I also believe Ms. Silva should not be forced to use her creative skills in a way that violates her conscience.

This case is interesting, as Loewentheil put it, as “a snappy inversion of bakers who refuse to provide wedding cakes for gay marriage or commitment ceremonies.” And to her credit, despite her suspicion that the cake is a lie, she goes on to consider the implications by sharpening the question with a further hypothetical situation:

But what if there was no speech involved, or even no image at all? Just a customer who comes in and says “I want to order a cake to be used at my Church prayer group, where we plan to pray that God will smite anyone in a same-sex marriage or who has had an abortion. We will bless the cake and serve it in celebration of this holy purpose.” That’s a reasonable analogy to the gay couple that requests a cake for their wedding ceremony, I think, for the purposes of separating out identity from action, although it’s an imperfect one given the social and spiritual and legal significant of a marriage. But still, it’s a worthwhile foil for thinking through the argument. So does the fact that I find the prayer service purpose hateful or objectionable, or in conflict with my own principles, change its legal implications?

She explores several possible answers, but comes down undecided in the end:

Another interesting thought experiment is to imagine that you have an anti-marriage equality baker who is willing to bake cakes for gay customers in general, even knowing they are gay, but is not willing to bake one for a gay marriage. If that is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, then how do we think about a baker who would be willing to bake a cake for religious Christians in general, but just not if it is to be used at an anti-abortion or anti-marriage equality prayer service?

I’m not sure what the answer is here. But one of the things I find really interesting about this example is the way it highlights the blurry boundaries between politics and religious values.

I have been hesitant to comment on these cases myself for precisely this reason. In fact, I think the boundaries are even blurrier. (more…)