The One Campaign, an advocacy group formed by international relief agencies that is promoting greater U.S. spending on foreign aid, has drawn support from prominent evangelical Christians and a pack of celebrities including U2’s Bono. But Anthony Bradley observes that the campaign, with its focus on greater governmental action rather than personal sacrifice, “promotes a depersonalized and sterile form of help characteristic of the secular appeal to radical individualism.”
For its All-American Council in Toronto next month, the Orthodox Church in America has issued a study paper on its relations with sister Orthodox churches and the wider ecumenical community. While the paper is advertised as nothing more than "fodder for deliberations," it nonetheless makes a strong recommendation for cutting the ties with the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. Chiefly, the OCA notes that this pull-out makes sense in light of the "liberal advocacy role" of the ecumenists.
The OCA, the former North American mission diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, is merely acknowledging the obvious: The National Council of Churches has become so partisan, so political, that it cannot hope to influence the Christian faithful who haven’t already adopted its left-liberal ideologies. The NCC has become a sort of para-church organization for people who believe the Gospel is a blueprint for big government solutions, pacifism and eat-the-rich economics. It’s the type of thing Howard Dean would have been attracted to had he gone to seminary.
The OCA notes (see p. 13 and following) that "it is not enough to be ‘against’ the distortions we see in the present ecumenical environment. It is important to present a vision of Christian unity we are ‘for.’" Amen. The church goes a step further, noting that "ecumenical Christian relations should be sought with conservative Christian bodies." It will also exercise caution that any ties to conservative groups should not put it into the same predicament it has now with the NCC: identification with a partisan political group.
Let’s hope this is the first of many such reassessments by Orthodox churches in the United States about their disastrous involvement with the NCC. The Orthodox have been used by the NCC as a decorative window dressing, a bit of First Millennium authenticity, which lends its efforts a patina of moral legitimacy. The Roman Catholics, the Pentecostals, and many other Protestant denominations have had the good sense to stay out of this embarrassing mess.
For more insights on the NCC’s shameless political agitation, see OrthodoxyToday.org’s NCC Resource Page.
On this day, 790 years ago, the rule of law was affirmed in Britain. On June 15, 1215, King John of England signed the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Viewed as the basis of English common law, which greatly influenced the foundations of American society and government, the Magna Carta recognized a law greater than the will of the king. As Winston Churchill spoke of “a law which is above the King and which even he must not break,” Lord Acton too said similarly, “Socrates taught a law independent of the state and superior to it.”
The Magna Carta can be viewed, in Churchill’s words, as a “reaffirmation of a supreme law and its expression in a general charter,” which “is the great work of Magna Carta; and this alone justifies the respect in which men have held it.”
You scored as Reformed Evangelical. You are a Reformed Evangelical. You take the Bible very seriously because it is God’s Word. You most likely hold to TULIP and are sceptical about the possibilities of universal atonement or resistible grace. The most important thing the Church can do is make sure people hear how they can go to heaven when they die.
What’s your theological worldview?
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No real surprises here, I suppose, although I would have liked the categories to be a little cleaner, and more representative of the breadth of Christian traditions (Eastern Orthodoxy doesn’t seem to be an option, for example). If you’re interested, please take the quiz and feel free to post your results below.
He also intimated that churches could never hope to match the $40 billion pledged recently to cut aid debt for African nations.
Tell that to all the people and companies that gave a record $249 billion to charity in 2004. Religious organizations got the biggest portion of that number $88 billion.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think he’s giving the Church enough credit. Why beg for scraps at the government’s table when you could build your own?
After SpaceShipOne was awarded the Ansari X Prize last year, Paul G. Allen became "the best-known member of a growing club of high-tech thrillionaires, including the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who find themselves with money enough to fulfill their childhood fascination with space," reports John Schwartz in today’s New York Times.
The success of private space flight is built on the broken dreams of the government’s space program. Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, a co-founder of the X Prize, says, "There is sufficient wealth controlled by individuals to start serious space efforts." But under NASA’s tenure, "The dreams and expectations that Apollo launched for all these entrepreneurs have failed to materialize. And in fact, those who look into it realize that the cost of going into space has gone up and the reliability has, effectively, gone down."
This article in The New Atlantis by Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, a space advocacy group, "Getting Space Exploration Right," gives an excellent in-depth review of NASA’s shortcomings over the last thirty years. Unfortunately, Zubrin does little to discuss the possibilities of private initiative in space flight.
As shown by the success of the Ansari X Prize, NASA is not the only option. You can read my further reflections on the implications of space travel here, "Stewards of the Cosmos."
A contentious energy bill passed by the House is scheduled to be taken up by the Senate today. House Republicans are calling for swift passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, but some Senators are threatening to put off a vote until their concerns about offshore oil drilling are met.
Energy policy has become a high-profile topic in recent days, due to skyrocketing gasoline prices, as well as the impending summer strain on electricity. The bill would deal in part with the nation’s electricity grid, nearly two years after a massive blackout hit the eastern U.S.
“Wind Farms Costly for Kansans, New Study Finds: Consumers would pay higher bills, reap few green benefits,” by James M. Taylor, Environment News, May 1, 2005, The Heartland Institute.
Via the highly recommended Evangelical Ecologist.
From Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Black Cat, first published in 1843:
And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart—one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness…this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself—to offer violence to its own nature—to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only…
This is one of the better prosaic descriptions of the theological doctrine of total depravity, commonly identified as one of the five characteristic teachings of Reformed theology.
The label “total depravity” can be somewhat misleading, however. For as Poe’s narrators tend to embody the worst possible traits to the greatest possible degree, the doctrine is more about the comprehensive effects of sin than it is about the qualitative corruption. That is, the doctrine of total depravity means most properly that no area of the human person or human life is unaffected by sin. It does not mean that every area of human life is as bad as it could possibly be. This latter misunderstanding of the doctrine of total depravity is apparently the one which C. S. Lewis works with, when he states in his The Problem of Pain,
I disbelieve that doctrine [Total Depravity], partly on the logical ground that if our depravity were total we should not know ourselves to be depraved, and partly because experience shows us much goodness in human nature.
The Wall Street Journal editorializes today on the latest thuggish brutality from one of Africa’s saddest stories – Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe (subscription required):
One of Africa’s poorest countries, Zimbabwe, is suffering through a brutal forced relocation reminiscent of the Khmer Rouge’s “ruralization.” Hundreds of thousands of people in and around the capital, Harare, have been evicted from their homes, which are then bulldozed under the order of dictator Robert Mugabe, the poster child for Africa’s governance problem.
The United Nations says that in less than four weeks at least 200,000 people have been displaced; other estimates are closer to one million. On one night alone, May 26, more than 10,000 people in a north Harare community called Hatcliffe Extension reportedly lost their homes.
Zimbabwe is probably the worst example of the type of corruption that keeps African economies from developing and turns well-intentioned foriegn aid into an expensive failure. Robert Mugabe seems to be uniquely gifted in the dark arts of corruption and brutality:
Mr. Mugabe is the same leader whose theft of land from white farmers nearly pushed his once-thriving nation into famine. He calls this latest exercise in social engineering “Operation Murambatsvina,” or “Drive Out the Rubbish.” And it’s not only residents who are being shooed away: Street vendors are also banished, even though most Zimbabweans are out of work.
Cleaning up urban blight is not Mr. Mugabe’s real objective, however. By sub-Saharan African standards, many of the condemned dwellings were more than adequate. The evictees’ crime was living in areas that are increasingly opposed to Mr. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, an unacceptable challenge to the man who has misruled Zimbabwe for 25 years. The cash-strapped government also wants to reduce the size of the black market — the only part of the country’s economy that still functions with some efficiency.
If only the barbarism of the Mugabe government could be put aside, Zimbabwe could be the breadbasket of Africa. Unfortunately, the same sort of situation plays itself out on a smaller scale across the heart of Africa. Those who call for vast increases in the amount of government to government aid for Africa need to keep this fact in mind: until a solid foundation of civil society is built and corruption is greatly reduced, increasing aid to African governments will probably not help. Indeed, it will be like building a house on the sand – foolishness.
For more information on the tragedy unfolding in Zimbabwe, be sure to check out the This is Zimbabwe blog.
Update: New link for This is Zimbabwe here.