Archived Posts May 2005 - Page 8 of 8 | Acton PowerBlog

Watch Germany fall further into the abyss as it turns its back on both liberalism and Christianity.

Once a staunchly pro-American, global economic powerhouse, the country is now the “sick man” of Europe more ways than one. These recent news items offer proof:

Chancellor Gerhard Schrr lashes out at the “unrestrained neo-liberal system” for his country’s economic woes.

Schrr has been actively courting Russia and China as allies; John Vinocur’s column in yesterday’s International Herald Tribune points to “Schrrism” as the root cause of Germany’s many ills.

In the midst of all their domestic troubles, German intellectuals such as Jürgen Habermas, Günter Grass and Wolf Biermann have decided to nag the French into accepting the European Constitution.

And, to top it all off, despite being the first German Pope in nearly 1,000 years, Benedict XVI is more popular in Poland than in his homeland.

An English-language blog on Germany has regular updates on this depressing yet edifying story.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Here’s a well-balanced story by Steve Greenhouse in today’s New York Times, “Can’t Wal-Mart, a Retail Behemoth, Pay More?”

On this point, refer to an op-ed by Acton staff about the economics and ethics of the “living wage” (PDF).

For a discussion of the fairness of wages and free agreements of employment in Catholic Social Teaching, see “Justice and Charity in Wages,” from Religion & Liberty.

Noting the declining participation in community and civic groups, Jordan J. Ballor assesses a different root cause than has been put forth so far. “The greatest share of blame,” he writes, “Ought to be laid at the feet of the modernist view of individuality, which minimizes the importance of community and social structures.”

Read the full text here.

"In the French revolution a civil liberty for every Christian to agree with the unbelieving majority; in Calvinism, a liberty of conscience, which enables every man to serve God according to his own conviction and the dictates of his own heart."
—Abraham Kuyper, "Calvinism and Politics," Stone Lectures on Calvinism, 1898.

"What the French took from the Americans was their theory of revolution, not their theory of government—their cutting, not their sewing."
—Lord Acton

"The French Revolution ignores God. It opposes God. It refuses to recognize a deeper ground of political life than that which is found in nature, that is, in this instance, in man himself."
—Abraham Kuyper, "Calvinism and Politics," Stone Lectures on Calvinism, 1898.

"The common vice of democracy is disregard for morality."
—Lord Acton

"Therefore in opposition both to the atheistic popular-sovereignty of the Encyclopedians, and the pantheistic state-sovereignty of German philosophers, the Calvinist maintains the Sovereignty of God, as the source of all authority among men."
—Abraham Kuyper, "Calvinism and Politics," Stone Lectures on Calvinism, 1898.

"Liberty has not only enemies which it conquers, but perfidious friends, who rob the fruits of its victories: Absolute democracy, socialism."
—Lord Acton

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Some theologians have taken a troubling interpretation of the Noahic covenant to support a heterodox agenda. The World Alliance of Reformed Churches, in its attempts to call a status confessionis, called various study groups and forums to report on the "global crisis of life."

To this end, both the south-south member churches forum (held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 23-26 2003) and the south-north member churches forum (held in London Colney, UK, February 8-11 2004) affirm that:

God has made an all-inclusive covenant with all creation (Gen 9.8-12).
This covenant has been sealed by the gift of God’s grace, a gift which is not for sale in the market place (Is 55.1). We reaffirm that God made a covenant to liberate from the imperial powers (Babylon and Rome). God’s covenant is over and against any contract, which is the "law" of domination and exploitation. It is an inclusive covenant in which the poor and marginalized are God’s primary partners.

The reduction of the Noahic covenant merely to a covenant made "with all creatures," and the abstracting out from that the working assumption that God places equal value on human and animal life is simply unbiblical, and smacks of neo-pagan pan(en)theism.

The Buenos Aires faith stance also stated that:

We repent from believing that Christians have an exclusive relationship with God. We have excluded people because of their class, race, sex, ethnicity or religion, and in our beliefs about salvation we have excluded people outside the Christian community and also the non-human world.

These faith stances played a large part in the formation of the task force report to last year’s WARC General Council in Accra, Ghana. The task force report reads, in part:

In the covenant, God put God’s own self into all creation. In the covenant that God has made with the whole of creation, all members of creation are put into one another’s place.

In the context of life threatened, communities dismantled and the truth distorted, we must reaffirm and renew the covenant that God made with all creation, that Christ made new and promised would never be broken, and that the Holy Spirit continues to renew even today.

The context of the entire passage surrounding the Noahic covenant is critical to proper interpretation.

Over the course of the past few months, many leaders on the left have been ramping up their rhetoric against the influence of the much-maligned “religious right” in American politics. The most recent high-profile example came from Democratic Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado, who described James Dobson and his Focus on the Family organization as “…the Antichrist of the world” in response to their strong advocacy against the filibustering of judicial nominees. Salazar later retracted his statement in the face of mounting criticism, but it is indicative of the state of things in America today that a major politician can so thoughtlessly condemn a major Christian organization using such inflammatory language.

Now comes word of a new effort by secular humanists and leftist activists to counter the “growing political threat from Christian conservatives.” (Link here, registration required.) The meeting, held in New York, seems to have produced little more than overheated rhetoric like this:

“This may be the darkest time in our history,” said Bob Edgar, general secretary of the left-leaning National Council of Churches and former six-term Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania. “The religious right have been systematically working at this for 40 years. The question is, where is the religious left?”

…and this:

The United States is “not yet a theocracy,” Joan Bokaer, founder of, said Friday night, but she argued that “the United States is beginning to fit the model of a reconstructed America.”

There you have it, friends. America is teetering on the brink of falling into a pit of theocratic oppression. And what evidence is given to back up this contention?

Tax cuts combined with increased funding for faith-based social programs and decreases in welfare spending, Ms. Bokaer said, were examples of “the theological right … zealously setting up to establish their beliefs in all aspects of our society.”

She compared the Federal Communications Commission’s threatened crackdown on indecency on television with the Taliban, the repressive Islamic rulers of Afghanistan who harbored Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network until toppled by a U.S.-led invasion.

“Indecency police are a major part of theocratic states,” Ms. Bokaer said, flashing a picture of Islamic women covered head to foot under the title, “Taliban: Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.”

Let’s leave aside the absurd contention that the public outcry over indecency on broadcast television and the resulting response of regulators is in any way similar to the Taliban’s ideas about maintaining law and order.

What is more interesting is the dogged devotion to the idea that the government must be the primary agent in society to care for the poor and downtrodden. This belief persists in spite of the fact that mountains of evidence exist showing governmental intervention and assistance not only don’t solve the problem of poverty, but in many cases actually exacerbates it. Those who question this assertion would do well to pick up a copy of Marvin Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion, which addresses this topic in much greater detail.

It seems more likely that the real threat of “theocracy” comes not from the religious right, but from the religious left – a movement that places its faith in the government, adheres to a failed doctrine of collectivism, and is willing to demonize anyone who stands in the way of its drive to impose it’s belief system on all of us.

Hat tip: Captain’s Quarters

The Center for Effective Compassion has opened its 2005 Samaritan Award applications. The survey and instructions are available from May 2 through June 30.

First prize is $10,000; nine runners up will receive grant writing assistance, information technology support, Web site support, and much more from nationally-acclaimed consultants.

All Samaritan Award applicants will be listed in the new Web based Guide to Effective Compassion, the first online information resource to provide transparency and accountability data for privately funded U. S. charities that demonstrate Marvin Olasky’s effective compassion principles.

Visit the Samaritan Award homepage to view information about last year’s honorees.

Blog author: jballor
Monday, May 2, 2005

On May 2, 1810, the future Pope Leo XIII, 257th Roman Catholic pope (1878-1903), is born. For a survey of the legacy of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum and the initiation of Catholic Social Teaching, as well as his confluence with the thought of Abraham Kuyper, read this article by Mark A. Noll, “A Century of Christian Social Teaching: The Legacy of Leo XIII and Abraham Kuyper.”

The end of April marks the conclusion to the first month of operation for the Acton Institute’s PowerBlog. Thanks to all the commenters and readers who have made this outreach effective.