With Christmas just around the corner, we at the Acton Institute would like to pause and share with all of you our warmest wishes for a blessed Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year to all of our friends and supporters. Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico recorded this personal Christmas greeting, and we’re pleased to share it with you now.
OK, this is going to be a tough call. But Acton Research Fellow Jordan Ballor has bravely stepped up with his nominee for the “Worst Christmas Song Ever” in a piece for Patheos. His pick? Band Aid’s syrupy “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” Ballor reminds us that the song …
… was released in 1984 as part of Band Aid, an effort organized by Bob Geldof in response to a famine that struck the east African nation of Ethiopia. The song certainly captures the spirit of the season, as its charitable aims are noble enough. The problem, however, is in how these good intentions are translated into word and deed. The song describes Africa largely as a barren wasteland, “Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears.” It continues in this vein. Africa, the onetime breadbasket of the Roman Empire and home of the Nile River is a land “where nothing ever grows, no rain nor rivers flow.” The title question likewise plays into the supposed desperation of the continent. The only “Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom.” The response to this call is supposed to be charity from the affluent West, to “feed the world” and thereby “let them know it’s Christmastime again.”
In this depiction of Africa, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” perfectly encapsulated the patronizing approach to international development that dominated the twentieth century and is still largely with us today. On this account, rich people in Europe and North America have a duty to help those who cannot help themselves in Africa, a place destitute not only of material resources but also spiritual and intellectual assets as well. As development economist William Easterly has argued, this attitude evinces a kind of tyrannical neo-colonialism, where the power, knowledge, and wealth lies entirely with the “First World” and those in the developing world are reduced to a kind of vassalage.
Agree with Ballor? Give us your pick for the worst Christmas song ever in the comment boxes below.
On November 19, the Acton Institute was pleased to welcome Marina Nemat to the Mark Murray Auditorium as part of the 2015 Acton Lecture Series. Marina was born in 1965 in Tehran, Iran, in what was at the time a relatively secular and free nation. (Granted, she lived under the dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – the Shah of Iran – but as we were reminded a couple of weeks ago by Jay Nordlinger, when it comes to dictators you have to grade on a curve.) After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, she was arrested at the age of sixteen and spent more than two years in Evin, a political prison in Tehran, where she was tortured and came very close to execution.
Since 1991, Marina has lived in Canada. Her memoir of her life in Iran, Prisoner of Tehran, has been published in nearly 30 countries, and has been an international bestseller. In 2007, Marina received the inaugural Human Dignity Award from the European Parliament, and in 2008, she received the prestigious Grinzane Prize in Italy. In 2008/2009, she was an Aurea Fellow at University of Toronto’s Massey College, where she wrote her second book, After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed. Marina regularly speaks at high schools, universities, and conferences around the world and sits on the Board of Directors at CCVT (Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture) and on advisory boards at ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) and PEN Canada. She also teaches memoir writing, in Farsi and in English, at the School of Continuing Studies at University of Toronto and writes book reviews for The Globe and Mail.
In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis appeals for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” (n. 14) The encyclical also calls for “broader proposals” (n. 15), “a variety of proposals” (n.60), greater engagement between religion and science (n. 62) and among the sciences (n. 201), and bringing together scientific-technological language with that of the people (n. 143).
In this spirit of dialogue and engagement, the Acton Institute is organizing a half-day conference around the question, “Can free markets help us care for our common home?” The first session will examine the theological and philosophical foundations of Laudato Si’ while the second will look at specific economic, social and environmental issues from various perspectives, such as finance, agriculture and natural resource management. The conference will attempt to carry out the encyclical’s call for open and honest discussion of these and related areas, taking into account the principles of Catholic social teaching, Christian anthropology and stewardship, and the insights of natural and social sciences.
Below, Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico offers his personal invitation to the conference, which takes place in Rome at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross on December 3, 2015.
Although popular in his own day, C.S. Lewis has become even more influential since his death on November 22, 1963—52 years ago yesterday. One of the most enduring of Lewis’s works is his book Mere Christianity, which started out as a series of radio lectures that aired on the BBC during World War II.
A YouTube channel called CSLewisDoodle contains a number of videos that illustrate some of Lewis’s selected essays to make them easier to understand. The video below is from the third radio talk (Chapter 4 of Mere Christianity) in which Lewis explains what lies behind the moral law.
Reality has no shortage of enemies. In America alone there are millions of people who will throw away common sense, empiricism, and established economic principles when it conflicts with their pet political ideology. Oftentimes the best we can hope for is that the reality-denying does not tip over into outright advocacy of evil.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened at a one of my favorite online publications. Since its inception, The Federalist has been churning out a steady supply of fresh, often funny, and indispensable content from a conservative perspective. The work being done by the editorial staff, several of whom are my friends, is nothing short of amazing.
The article not only promotes the evil of prostitution, but it display an almost total lack of understanding about the topic of prostitution. I don’t mean that as an insult, but as an accurate description of the almost complete lack of research that was done on the subject. For example, the article not only denies that prostitution hurts women, but implies that there is little to no connection between prostitution and sex trafficking. (more…)