Category: Public Policy

tusAt the bottom of this storm and tornado roundup from The Weather Channel, there is a powerful slideshow on the devastation in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. The death count in the region stands at 31. Mississippi’s Governor Phil Bryant described yesterday as “The most active tornado day in Mississippi history.”

Some people forget that it is denominational church agencies that often are the first to meet the material needs and bring comfort to the afflicted. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is well known for their rapid response. I covered that agency more in depth in the “The Church and Disaster Relief: Shelter from the Stormy Blast” in the Spring 2011 issue of Religion & Liberty. The article is a good introduction into how church agencies are more efficient and effective than governmental agencies when it comes to disaster response. This is in part due to the fact that they already have built in relationships and organizations on the ground.

The Southern Baptist Church has almost 90,000 trained volunteers—including chaplains—and 1,550 mobile units for feeding. They have chainsaw teams, power generators, shower and laundry facilities, water purification devices, and offer child-care, to name just a few of their services. I saw firsthand how Hurricane Katrina really multiplied the power and commitment of religious agencies to provide lasting hope through a long-term commitment to rebuilding. It might surprise some readers that Christian churches are still sending volunteers and money to the Gulf Coast which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

People who face devastation need to feel like they are not alone. A human touch that has the power to reflect the incarnated Christ who was sent to lift up and resurrect a disordered world is invaluable. The great promise of Christianity is that the Lord is a God of recovery and restoration. While government can offer services and help, it can’t offer the kind of hope that has overcome the things of this world.

tenth-200In our modern era, the ancient sin of covetousness primarily manifests itself in three forms: greed, theft, and arguments about inequality. The greedy selfishly desire to acquire what others have, thieves illicitly acquire what others have, and equality advocates want the government to redistribute what others have.

It would be unfair, of course, to assume that all critics of inequality are driven by covetousness. But if you stripped away that sin as a motivation, the number of people who care about inequality could be fit into an Occupy Wall Street drum circle.

Imagine if we all took a vow to shun covetousness, especially when advocating public policies. Garett Jones suggest we do just that, with his proposal for the creation of the Tenth Commandment Club:
(more…)

DiversityWith its decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ended systemic racial segregation in public education. Now, sixty years later, courts have released hundreds of school districts from enforced integration—with the result being an increase in “resegregation” of public schools.

Numerous media outlets have recently picked up on a story by the investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica about schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. According to the report:

In recent years, a new term, apartheid schools—meaning schools whose white population is 1 percent or less, schools like Central—has entered the scholarly lexicon. While most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest, some 12 percent of black students in the South and nearly a quarter in Alabama now attend such schools—a figure likely to rise as court oversight continues to wane. In 1972, due to strong federal enforcement, only about 25 percent of black students in the South attended intensely segregated schools in which at least nine out of 10 students were racial minorities. In districts released from desegregation orders between 1990 and 2011, 53 percent of black students now attend such schools, according to an analysis by ProPublica.

Why has this resegregation occurred? A forty-year-old experiment on racial diversity might just hold the answer.
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, April 25, 2014

In conjunction with Arbor Day — a day dedicated annually to public tree-planting in the U.S. and other countries CLF - Olmstead Parks— Ashley Evaro offers a brief theological reflection on the role of trees in the story of our salvation:

Christians should care about National Arbor Day (to those who don’t know, that is today). Even if you are not a devoted celebrator of trees, it is worth your time to stop and consider what wonderful things trees are. Not only are they ascetically appealing, they are present in almost any climate, and provide shade and food. Practicality aside, the Bible illustrates many points through trees. The prevalence of trees and tree imagery in the Bible should shed light on other ways to appreciate and consider these majestic pillars of nature. To explore this idea, let us look at some specific examples of trees in the Bible and examine what they ought to signify to the Believer.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, April 24, 2014

cittfcSpeaking of Thomas Piketty, here’s a very helpful and revealing interview with Matthew Yglesias, “Thomas Piketty doesn’t hate capitalism: He just wants to fix it.” (HT: PEG)

A few highlights with some comment:

On the need for a historical perspective in economics:

Thomas Piketty: … It’s not only economists’ fault. Historians and sociologists are too often are leaving the study of economic issues to economists. Sometimes nobody does it.
(more…)

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Most people don’t put “Catholic philosophy” and “ecology” in the same thought, but Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s writing prove that the Church has much to say about ecology. In the newly published The Garden of God: Toward a Human Ecology, the former pope’s teachings about human life, the environment and physical and social sciences are engagingly presented. According to William L. Patenaude at The Catholic World Report:

The timing of this book is particularly good. Of late, environmental scientists are escalating their individual warnings. And the month of April finds a great many Earth Day celebrations taking place across the globe. With the help of The Garden of God, Catholics can better engage the ecological movement by discerning what we share with other environmental advocates and what we don’t.

(more…)

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Tuesday, April 22, 2014

North_America_from_low_orbiting_satellite_Suomi_NPPIt is becoming increasingly common for theologians to recommend asceticism as a more eco-friendly lifestyle, as Fr. Michael Butler and Andrew Morriss note in their recent monograph, Creation and the Heart of Man. And that, no doubt, it can be.

However, as Butler and Morriss point out, it is very important, from an Orthodox perspective at least, to understand precisely what asceticism is. Rightly understood, they note, “to be ascetic is to learn to live rightly on the earth with God, our neighbor, and creation.” (more…)

FeaturedImageOn this Earth Day, says Pierre Desrochers, we should spare a thought for the profit motive, an unheralded but long-standing champion of the environment. “The search for increased profitability,” ntoes Desrochers, “has long delivered both economic and environmental improvements by promoting the evermore efficient use of material resources.”

With Earth Day near (this Monday), we hear the usual annual litany of laments from environmentalists, urging us to mend the errors of our industrial ways. Greed and profits, we are told in no uncertain terms, inevitably result in unmanageable pollution problems, the depletion of non-renewable resources, habitat and species destruction, and a regulatory “race to the bottom” among competing jurisdictions.

[. . .]

Typically missing from this debate, however, is the notion that the search for increased profitability has long delivered both economic and environmental improvements by promoting the increasingly efficient use of material resources, or, in other words, the creation of ever more economic value while using ever less physical stuff. While this notion is obvious in an age where whole libraries can be stored on small electronic devices, perhaps the best statement on the subject still belongs to Jonathan Swift, who argued nearly three centuries ago in Gulliver’s Travels that whoever “could make two Ears of Corn, or two blades of Grass to grow upon a Spot of Ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of Mankind, and do more essential Service to his Country than the whole Race of Politicians put together.

One small quibble: Desrochers’ otherwise fine article is marred by the title’s equating of the profit motive with “greed.” While I’m sure the term was merely used for rhetorical effect, the promotion of free enterprise is always harmed by the unnecessary association with the sinful and destructive motive of greed.

dunce capPerhaps you’ve seen this: the 8th grade test from Bullitt County Schools in Kentucky, circa 1912. Here are a few questions the 8th graders were expected to be able to answer:

  • Define latitude and longitude
  • Locate the Erie Canal. What waters does it connect, and why is this important?
  • How does the liver compare in size with other glands in the human body? Where is it located? What does it secrete?
  • Define the following types of government: democracy, limited monarchy, absolute monarchy, republic. Give an example of each.
  • Who invented the following: magnetic, telegraph, cotton gin, sewing machine, telephone, phonograph

102 years later, and education is now in the hands of education researchers. According to Max Eden, these folks study very different things that the 8th-graders of yore. Eden, writing at National Review Online, says he eagerly dug into the report of the American Educational Research Association, twenty-thousand of whom descended upon Philadelphia a few weeks ago. (more…)

Leonardo Da Vinci Horse and RiderToday is Earth Day, a great opportunity for Christians to confess with the Psalmist, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1).

An immediate corollary to this confession that the world belongs to God is that whatever we have is entrusted to us by him. We therefore have a responsibility as stewards over those aspects of creation that we have control over, most notably our bodies, souls, and property.

Over at The Federalist, I take on Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s conception of stewardship, particularly as applied in the case of the Keystone pipeline. “Tutu’s depiction aligns with a view of the environment as a pristine wilderness which must be preserved rather than cultivated and developed, and is in this way the antithesis of responsible stewardship,” I argue.

One particularly fruitful discussion of the stewardship responsibility of the Christian is contained in Abraham Kuyper’s reflections on the Eighth Commandment in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism. We published these remarks in the latest issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality:
(more…)