Category: Politics

The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political LifeHunter Baker’s latest book, The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life, is now available from Christian’s Library Press, and has received praise from the likes of Robert George, Russell Moore, and David Dockery, among others.

Now, in his Book of the Month review for October, the inimitable Douglas Wilson adds his voice to the chorus, noting that, amid the chaos of secularism and its counterparts, “Baker reminds us that Christians in a society must learn to embrace their high calling”:

Secularism is completely bankrupt, and the more people we can get to talk regularly about this useful fact in public, the better I like it. People used to believe that secularization was part of the inevitable march of evolution. Now the ground has shifted, and people are just acquiescing to certain practical realities brought about by the mere fact of pluralism. But, as Baker points out, “There is nothing about that situation that guarantees a secular future” (p. 54). What the future will look like is always an idea, and unless there is divine inspiration for your eschatology, you need to be a little bit careful about your pronouncements. There is no historical inevitability to secularism at all. Baker is one of the few writers today who is willing to point that fact out.

The subtitle of this book is Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life, and his work ranges between a number of related themes. He talks about the crisis that higher education faces, he addresses whether social conservatives and libertarians can find any common ground, and what relevance the resurrection might have for political theory. Baker is an intelligent observer of the emperor’s parade, and he has the courage to comment on the emperor’s lack of suitable apparel.

Read the full review.

Purchase The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life.

Vladimir PutinOn Tuesday, Acton’s Todd Huizinga took part in a West Michigan World Trade Association panel discussion on “US and EU Sanctions on Russia: How They Affect You.” He was joined by three other panelists who focused respectively on the legal, economic, and political ramifications of the current Russian/Ukrainian conflict and the sanctions it has evoked.

Though each of the panelists focused on a different angle of the conflict, a common thread emerged: the desire of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his political regime to return Russia to a position of dominance on the world stage.

Signaling this desire for increased power was the Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory, Crimea, in March and its military intervention in Ukraine thereafter, among other events. While these are significant actions in their own right, they also serve a broader purpose in drawing attention from the international community. As Huizinga stated, “they test Western resolve to act.”

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religion-politics1Americans are tired of religion influencing politics, right? Apparently not.

According to a new Pew Research Center study released yesterday, a growing number of Americans think religion is losing influence in American life — and they want religion to play a greater role in U.S. politics.

Since 2006, Pew had found falling support for religion in politics, notes the Wall Street Journal. But something changed this year. “To see those trends reverse is striking,” said Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of research. One reason could be that a growing majority—72%, according to the study—say religion is losing its influence in U.S. life, Mr. Smith said, “and they see that as a bad thing.”

“It could be that as religion’s influence is seen as waning, the appetite for it moves in the other direction,” he said.

Here are some of the highlights from the study:

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One of the most profound ironies in our current debates over religious liberty is the Left’s persistent decrying of business as short-sighted and materialistic even as it attempts to prevent the Hobby Lobbys of the world from heeding their consciences and convictions.

Business is about far more than some materialistic bottom line, but this is precisely why we need the protection for religious liberty. If we fail to promote religious liberty for businesses, how can we ever expect the marketplace to contribute to widespread human flourishing — economic, social, spiritual, and otherwise?

In a marvelous talk at AEI’s recent Evangelical Leadership Summit, hosted by Values and Capitalism, Dr. Russell Moore points to precisely this, arguing that we need to cultivate churches, businesses, institutions, and governments whose consciences “are not so malleable that they can be directed simply by the whims of the marketplace or…by government edict.”

Watch the full thing here, which is followed by other insightful speakers, including Brian Grim, whose research on business and religious liberty aptly complements Moore’s thoughts.

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Those of you in West Michigan with a taste for libertarian cinema may want to to join local restaurateur Tommy Brann for a special screening of “Atlas Shrugged 3: Who is John Galt?” Brann is hosting the showing at Celebration Cinema North at Knapp’s Corner tomorrow (Sept. 12) at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7.75 and email tombrann@branns.com to reserve your seat.

Before you go, read Rev. Robert A. Sirico’s essay “Who Really Was John Galt, Anyway?” published at Patheos.com in 2011. Also see the PowerBlog post and video from 2012 in which Rev. Sirico talks about Rand’s “false gospel.”

First-Amendment-Area-490x653The great British statesman Edmund Burke claimed that “to love the little platoon we belong to in society is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections.” Burke was referring to the mediating social institutions that that lie between the individual and the state. These “little platoons” include not only the family but our churches, labor unions, charity organizations, and other voluntary associations.

Since the dawn of modernity, intellectuals and politicians have been hostile to mediating structures since they put barriers between the individual and the State. As Brad Lowell Stone has noted, “Hobbes, Rousseau, and Bentham each envisioned an ideal condition in which the state guards the rights and fulfills the needs of unencumbered, desocialized individuals.”

Along with Hobbes, Rousseau, and Bentham we can add Senator Tom Udall (D-NM). Sen. Udall is the sponsor of a resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that would limit the power and influence of certain mediating structures by ending the First Amendment protections of political speech.

The second of the proposed amendment’s three sections reads:

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Blog author: dpahman
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
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I have spoken in the past in favor of net neutrality, writing,

Whoever is responsible for and best at enforcing it, net neutrality had this going for it: it was a relatively stable, relatively open playing-field for competition…. [T]he fact that companies tried to get around it via copyright protection privileges shows that it was, in fact, doing something to enforce freedom of competition. Now, without it, there is an opportunity for concentration of power…. As [Walter] Eucken illustrated, concentration can lead to instability, and instability leads to popular calls for state regulation, which tend in practice toward cronyism. Certainly, such a trajectory is not inevitable, but it is now more likely, giving good reason for pause at the idea that we do not need net neutrality — or something like it — in the future.

This week, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi voiced her support for net neutrality as well. So why would I object? Because the measures that Pelosi proposes give much more power to the government, following the trajectory outlined above in the direction of over-regulation. (more…)

agitateAccording to Thomas McCraw, who is the author of American Business, 1920-2000: How it Worked, “More people in the U.S. workforce were getting their first job at McDonald’s than at any other employer, including the Army.” By the end of this 80 year period, McDonald’s employer turn over rate was just over 200 percent per year. It was a temporary job, primarily for students.

This factor has changed somewhat. I remember in an ethics class in seminary we had to watch a documentary titled Fast Food Women. The film about workers in Eastern Kentucky projected an angle that the viewer should feel sorry for the workers who were forced to toil at their jobs. Many of the women were working there to help out their families because jobs in the coal mines, which paid substantially more, and were worked by men, were not as readily as available as in the past. While the video portrayed somber music and footage, many of the women on camera said positive things about their jobs and the opportunity it afforded them.

The Wall Street Journal and The Wire both offer excellent write ups on the union led political agitating going on now with the fast food worker strike. See also Anthony Bradley’s Acton commentary “On Wages, McDonald’s Gets it Right.” (more…)

Todd Huizinga, Acton Institute’s director of international outreach, was a guest analyst recently on Newsmakers, a public affairs program produced by WGVU television in Grand Rapids, Mich. Episode description from Aug. 22: “As tensions heighten between Russia and Ukraine, what is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s worldview and what role does Ukraine play in it? How has the shoot down of Malaysia Airline flight 17 killing 298 on board changed the dynamics of the conflict? We explore the internal and external factors in play.” Run time is 26:45.

Blog author: dpahman
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
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City Summer 2014In the most recent issue of The City, I have an essay on Orthodoxy and ordered liberty. I argue that Orthodox theological anthropology, which distinguishes between the image and likeness of God and two forms of freedom corresponding to them, fits well with the classical understanding of ordered liberty.

In particular, I examine these freedoms with regards to the family, religious liberty, political liberty, and economic liberty, arguing that the Orthodox ascetic tradition has much to offer to modern Christian social thought with regards to how best to order the freedom we have by virtue of being created after the image of God toward that freedom from passion and sin that finds its fulfillment in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Of interest to our readers here, with regards to economic liberty, I write,

We are created with a capacity for freedom, autexousio, to be used for the purpose of the moral freedom of theosis: eleutheria. Thus, just as we ought to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices to God (cf. Romans 12:1), so also we are to offer up God’s creation to him through our labor. God has given us the earth in order “to tend and keep it” in a paradis[ai]cal state (Genesis 2:15). Thus, acknowledging … our propensity for failure, we nevertheless have a duty to make of God’s creation what we can, imitating the creativity of God and exercising the dominion he gave us (Genesis 1:26).

We must, then, have liberty in society to freely cultivate the resources of the earth for the sake of the higher good of self-sacrificing love. Helen Rhee affirms in Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich, her study of wealth and poverty in the early Church, the consistent patristic teaching of both the affirmation of private property rights and our moral duties to use our property for the good of others (what is known in the West as the “universal destination of goods”)….

You can read the full article online here.

And while you’re at it, take the time to subscribe to The City. It’s free and published in print and online three times a year. Subscribe here.