Category: Public Policy

Blog author: apienta
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Just one week after the public release of the Catholic High School Honor Roll, positive reactions are streaming in. Many schools have let us know that they have observed a noticeable change because they were named to the Honor Roll. Other schools have used already used this occasion to jump start their advancement engines.

Rev. Ronald Schwenzer, President of St. Thomas High School in Houston, TX, observed the usefulness of the Honor Roll. “Last year we had an inquiry from a family in Ohio that was moving to Houston,” he said. “They contacted us because they saw we were one of the top 50 Catholic high schools on the Honor Roll.” The Honor Roll provides a powerful resource to parents and educators because they want to know which schools best offer a true Catholic education.

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of the Diocese of Lincoln also got word of the news. “It was a joy to receive the information…that Pius X High School in the City of Lincoln, has been commended for its educational excellence and has been named to the 2006 Catholic High School Honor Roll,” he said. “Being recognized nationally is a well-deserved honor for our school.”

Kyle Groos, Principal of O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls, SD, has noticed change. “The positive impact has created opportunities in the way of increased enrollment over each of the last three years, increased academic success and community service, and most importantly the lasting impact on the future of our younger students,” he said. “We are truly blessed to have the opportunity of being named a Top 50 Catholic high school.”

To see a list of the top 50 schools, along with lists of the top 25 schools in each category, please go to

S.T. Karnick, who also blogs at The Reform Club, has some pretty solid and informative musings on popular culture.

One of his most recent gems comes along with the news that Fox has created a new religion and family friendly division for its movie studios, named FoxFaith. It also looks like Disney is phasing out its plans to make R-rated movies.

As Karnick writes, “The best way for Christians to affect Hollywood is not to protest but to go to more movies, make clear their love for the medium, and praise Hollywood for what it does right.” The Dove Foundation has been doing some work for quite awhile that shows how profitable G and PG-rated movies are when compared to R-rated films.

If you take even just a quick look at the highest grossing movies of all time, it becomes pretty clear that the bulk of big-time movies are in the PG/PG-13 range. Note, too, that the highest grossing R-rated movie ever (not taking inflation into account), is The Passion of the Christ.

With these moves by Disney and Fox, it looks to me like the market is starting to seriously respond to the signals that so many Americans are sending.

Michelle Malkin has a report up at HotAir on how God’s been edited out of our favorite cartoon veggies. Mostly a poke at NBC, but apparently Big Idea is running out of big ideas too.

Is it time for a write-in campaign from all you Christian vegetarians out there?

Here’s Big Idea’s explanation for the whole thing:

Recognizing that we are making a difference to Saturday morning TV by bringing programming that is “absent of bad and has a presence of good” to homes across America, would we still prefer to air the un-edited versions of VeggieTales on TV? Absolutely! It’s there where we’re able to share a Bible verse and encourage kids by telling them God made them special and He loves them very much. For now, we’re hoping a new cross section of kids will fall in love with Bob & Larry, go deeper into VeggieTales and eventually fall in love with the God who made them. It’s the same “big idea” we’ve worked on for over 13 years.

Emailing NBC would be fruitless, but you can contact Bid Idea at this email address here and tell them what you think.

I think it’s a mistake, and I’ll tell ya why: We had a yard sale last month that included hundreds of kid videos we’ve collected over the years. The very first to go were all the VeggieTales vids, uncut and full of all that God stuff. There’s no question that people are hungry for the Word, and know it when they see it. Even in a kid’s cartoon.

Ever seen plastic fruit on a dining room table that looked good enough to eat? You can add a plastic Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber to that display now.


I am presently reading Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: Penguin Press, 2006), by Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas E. Ricks. Any one who knows of a critical review of this best-selling book would help me by suggesting where I can find said review. The book is, to my mind at this moment, a powerful and fair-minded critique of much that has gone wrong in our Iraq military adventure. According to Ricks blame for our multiple failures, if we are to assign primary blame, lies with the civilian leadership at the Pentagon. This begins with Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has called most of the shots in this war, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the neo-con genius who has been a principal architect of the philosophical thinking that led us into this conflict.

The question I would like to pose about the philosophy that is behind this war is quite simple. President Bush and his advisors have consistently argued (since 9/11) that democracy is an inherent desire that lies in the heart of people. By this argument the Iraqi people deeply desire to live under some form of democracy and we are there to build a nation that allows this desire to be expressed politically. This argument is based upon several intellectual arguments that have been presented by influential thinkers in and out of this administration.

My question: Is the desire for political freedom a value or an instinct? Bush and his advisors argue that it is an instinct. (And on this basis they are seeking to build a democratic nation in Iraq that will become a beacon of hope to other peoples in the Middle East.) I think the desire for political freedom is clearly a value. And it is a value that took us centuries to develop. We value democracy in the West only because of the influences that have come into our way of thinking through both Christian social thought and Enlightenment insights, neither of which is an influence on Iraq at all. Even in the West it took us a long time to come to our present understanding and commitment to democratic values; e.g., we fought a Civil War to define these values less than a hundred and fifty years ago. I do not see a biblical or philosophical basis for arguing that a desire for democracy is instinctive to the human heart. If this is true then how do you explain the people of God under the Old Covenant? And how do you explain the ancients who settled, except for a limited experiment in Greece, for something less? And what about the Middle Ages? There just seems to be little evidence for this argument thus I think it should be challenged in the court of public debate. This challenge does not constitute a capitulation to the far left. Many social and political conservatives have made it before me.

Let it be noted that I personally believe in democracy. I believe it is the best system of government that we know for a people like ourselves, a people with our values and influences. What I question here is the assumption that it is the right, or best, system for all other people. I also seriously question how a Muslim country can truly understand and embrace democracy. Certainly the democracy that we have already introduced is extremely limited given the religious expressions in the Iraqi Constitution.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

Call it something like an anthropological Rorschach test. What do you see when you look at the picture above? Do you see more than just a ‘carbon footprint’?

It’s a fair question to ask, I think, of those who are a part of the radical environmentalist/population control political lobby. It’s also a note of caution to fellow Christians who want to build bridges with those folks…there is a complex of interrelated policies that are logically consistent once you assume the tenets of secular environmentalism.

Some worldviews just aren’t compatible with others.

Rev. Richard Cizik, the point-man on environmental policy for the National Association of Evangelicals, said in a speech earlier this year to the World Bank:

I’d like to take on the population issue, but in my community global warming is the third rail issue. I’ve touched the third rail . . . but still have a job. And I’ll still have a job after my talk here today. But population is a much more dangerous issue to touch. . . We need to confront population control and we can — we’re not Roman Catholics after all — but it’s too hot to handle now.

Just how much has secularist misanthropy already infiltrated our thinking?

For more on the connection between the climate change lobby and population control, see the newly released joint paper from the Acton Institute and the Institute on Religion & Democracy, “From Climate Control to Population Control: Troubling Background on the ‘Evangelical Climate Initiative'” (PDF here).

Many people that I know go out and vote to elect Congress members, U.S. senators, and all sorts of local officials. But I don’t know of that many people who are able or willing to go out and see what their elected officials are actually doing.

I recently discovered a website — a project of The Washington Post — that helps you keep track of just that, although only on the Federal level. The “Votes Database” lets you follow what’s going through Congress, and how everyone is voting. It lets you see what the party vote was, and also how individual elected officials voted.

For those who don’t like visiting websites every day, you can get RSS feeds for each member of Congress and monitor their work from your favorite RSS reader. This is a great way to get a little bit more proactive about knowing what’s happening in the government.

According to Census Bureau estimates, the population of the United States will hit 300,000,000 sometime in the next couple weeks.

Discussion of the significance of this demographic milestone, such as the latest issue of US News & World Report brings to mind a related topic: social security. Having harped on social security reform for some time, I gave it a rest for a while. But the issue hasn’t gone away. All the dire projections of a shortfall in social security—and other entitlements tied to the aging of America’s population, such as Medicare—have simply become clearer and more certain over the course of the last couple years.

President Bush’s talk of reform gave hope to some, but the reality has been little more than treading water (conceding that there have been other pressing concerns with which the administration has had to deal). As the analyses at the Institute for Policy Innovation (see “Entitlement Reform”) show, the problem can’t be ignored forever.

Blog author: jballor
Friday, September 29, 2006

Our week-long series concludes with a reflection on the implications of the great biblical theme of the consummation of creation into the new heavens and the new earth.

Consummation – Revelation 22:1–5

To the extent that we are able in this life, Christians are called to the path of holiness. This path begins with the recognition of the boundaries God has set up, in the created and preserved world and in his law, both in its divine and natural promulgations. We can be sure that there will be an eschatological reality in which “no longer will there by any curse” (Revelation 22:3 NIV).

And this assurance gives us the hope to spur us on to more wholeheartedly work for the good during our time on this earth. One way in which we can begin to live out this calling is to work against the effects of sin and evil in the world.

Attitudes which reduce animals (or humans) to having merely instrumental value reflect sin and corruption, not righteousness and restoration. Creating mice with human brains so that they can be killed in utero violates the value conferred upon animals as sharing with humans “the breath of life.”

But even more seriously, these actions violate the created dignity of human beings who bear the image of God. Both the perpetrators and victims are effected negatively.

Quite simply, human beings, as God’s image-bearers, are placed in a position of unique authority over creation, but also bear in themselves inherent dignity which places the worth of human beings as far greater than that of plants, or even animals. This doesn’t devalue the rest of creation; but it rightly orders creation with humanity at its head. This inherent and overarching value of the human person is what Jesus points to when he states, “You are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31 NIV).

The possible “benefits” from the research in human-animal cellular and genetic mixing do not provide justification for crossing the boundaries that God has set up. Such pragmatic arguments are inadequate.

Simply because Adam and Eve could take the fruit and eat did not mean that they should. Simply because people could build a “tower that reaches to the heavens” did not mean that they should. And simply because we humans are able to create chimeras does not mean that we should. Indeed, the Bible gives us good reasons that we should not.

Blog author: apienta
Thursday, September 28, 2006

In case you missed it, there is a great discussion brewing on Amy Welborn’s blog about the Honor Roll. Specifically there is reference to the examination of civic education as a criterion, specifically regarding a school’s teaching of economics, business, and Catholic social teaching. Go to her blog to follow the discussion.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, September 28, 2006

The penultimate installment of the series on the biblical/theological case against chimeras focuses on the impact and significance of redemption.

Redemption – Romans 8:18–27

Flowing out of our discussion on creation and fall, it is the recognition that there still are limits on human activity with regard to animals that is most important for us in this discussion.

The apostle Paul notes that “the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:20–21 NIV).

Here we have a hint at the reversal of the curse on the human-animal-plant relationships. Paul continues in this section to address the “firstfruits of the Spirit” which believers have received after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our task as believers is to bear witness to the saving work of Jesus Christ. This work has begun to reverse the effects of sin and the curse, first and especially in the lives of believers, but also through the grateful work of believers, who are seeking to live up to their calling as faithful stewards.

The original purpose of plants was simply to provide sustenance for life, as is illustrated in Gen. 1:29-30. With the redemptive work of Christ in view, Christians are called to, in some way at least, attempt to realize and bring out the goodness of the created world. With this in mind, conclusions about the genetic manipulation of plants are not necessarily the same as that with respect to animals and humans.

The created purpose of animals was one that was different from plants. Animals, in sharing the status of beings with the “breath of life,” possess a level of importance that is not reducible to merely instrumental or pragmatic value.

The reduction of animals to pragmatic use as a source of food is a result of sin, illustrated in Genesis 9. But even here, at the depths of sin’s corruption of relationship, there remain limits and boundaries.

We should view the possibility of interspecies mixing and the creation of human-animal chimeras as just this sort of limit, because it undermines and violates the created order, which distinguishes between plants, animals with the breath of life, and humans created in the image of God.

That humans have the ability to make certain things has never been a valid argument for actually making them. God confirms in the case of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) that humans are capable of a great many, seemingly limitless, accomplishments.