Archived Posts July 2005 - Page 6 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
By

An article in today’s New York Times confirms the trend in Hollywood to make movies that are faith and family friendly. Sharon Waxman reports that

producers, directors, studio executives and marketing specialists have been looking to either mollify or entice an audience that made its power felt with last year’s “Passion of the Christ.” That film, directed by Mel Gibson, took in an astonishing $370 million at the domestic box office when released by Newmarket Films in February 2004 and – along with the empowerment of a Christian conservative bloc after the last presidential election – helped change attitudes and practices in an industry usually known for its secularism.

Rev. Sirico recently wrote a commentary on this topic, referencing a newly released report by the Dove Foundation on the profitability of various ratings. The Dove study found that G-rated films are 11 times more profitable than R-rated features.

Here’s an illustration that when there is a market for morally upright products, the marketplace responds, despite whatever disagreements vendors may have with such morality. As Taylor Hackford, director of “Ray,” says, “It’s impossible for Hollywood not to reflect the nature of the country, and Bush has made his religion clear…. People in Hollywood aren’t stupid. It flies in the face of what I believe, but you’re still working in the movie industry, not the movie art form.” The purchasing power of moral consumers is where the real strength is in the marketplace.

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
By

Remember what I said about the relationship between charity and evangelism? Here’s a tip: Be careful in Uzbekistan.

Forum 18 relates the story of a woman who runs a charity in Uzbekistan, and has been the target of harassment by the secret police. Marina Kalinkina

rejects accusations that she was conducting illegal religious activity. She stresses that her charity – which is registered with Tashkent’s justice department – helps old people and impoverished families. “On the day the police descended on us, we were celebrating the birthday of an old man to whom we had given financial help,” she told Forum 18. “It was not a religious meeting. Yes, I did pray to God before the meal – but who can stop me doing that in my own home? Nor do I believe that I am breaking the law when I discuss religious issues with my guests.”

The problem according to authorities is that Kalinkina doesn’t draw an artificial line between her “faith” and her “works.”

Begzot Kadyrov, chief specialist at the department for non-Muslim faiths at the Uzbek government’s religious affairs committee, defended the measures taken against her. “Kalinkina’s main problem is that she registered her organisation as a charitable rather than religious enterprise,” he told Forum 18 from Tashkent on 18 July. “There is nothing about religious activity in Dustlig Kuprigi’s statute. Yet in fact Kalinkina is preaching to people. In other words, she is doing the work of an unregistered religious organisation, and that is forbidden under Uzbek law.”

Blog author: jballor
Monday, July 18, 2005
By

Who needs sustainable cities? It appears that China does. Slashdot reports that a leading architect of the sustainable city movement, William McDonough, has been commissioned by the Chinese government to create “a national prototype for the design of a sustainable village, an effort focused on creating a template for improving the quality of life for 800 million rural Chinese.” A quick survey of McDonough’s clients includes Ford Motor Company, Fuller Theological Seminary, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, and IBM Corporation.

In an interview on sustainability, McDonough cites environmental concerns as key. “The goal is a safe, healthy, just world, clean air, soil and power, that is elegantly enjoyed,” he says. “In the 70s we saw the hegemony of fossil fuels. So what would be the next design philosophy we would want to work with?”

McDonough repeats the popular axiom that the Stone Age did not end because humans ran out of stones. Indeed, that something must change in China is increasingly less debatable. A report by the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy identifies China’s horrible pollution situation:

“A report released in 1998 by the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that of the ten most polluted cities in the world, seven can be found in China. Sulfur dioxide and soot caused by coal combustion are two major air pollutants, resulting in the formation of acid rain, which now falls on about 30% of China’s total land area. Industrial boilers and furnaces consume almost half of China’s coal and are the largest single point sources of urban air pollution.”

News media are beginning to recognize the significance of China’s dilemma, since “China accounts for about 12 percent of the world’s energy demand, but its consumption is growing at more than four times the global rate…. The country’s top environmental officials have warned of ecological and economic doom if China continues to follow this pattern.”

A recent USA TODAY story relates the economic impact of China’s worsening environmental situation. Citing Pan Yue, deputy director of China’s State Environmental Protection Administration, the report finds “Environmental injury costs China 8% to 15% of its annual gross domestic product.” It continues, “In the north, encroaching deserts are prompting human migrations that swell overburdened cities. In the south, factories have closed periodically for lack of water…. The World Bank estimates such shutdowns cost $14 billion annually in lost output.”

China’s pollution illustrates as well the fundamental flaws in the Kyoto Protocol. As a developing nation, China is exempt from the constraints of the agreement, despite it’s enormous and growing population, and it’s huge share of global pollution. Robert Mendelsohn, professor in the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, wrote that “Kyoto is consequently a complex country-by-country agreement that includes everything from nothing to extreme measures. It is no surprise that the USA did not finally agree to Kyoto as it was negotiated.”

For more reading about the legitimacy of governmental roles in promoting sustainability, see the Controversy between Charles C. Bohl, Director of the Knight Program in Community Building at the University of Miami, and Mark Pennington, Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of London, in the Journal of Markets & Morality issue on the New Urbanism, “To What Extent and in What Ways Should Governmental Bodies Regulate Urban Planning?”

Blog author: jballor
Monday, July 18, 2005
By

Cigar Jack passes along this story about “faith leaders” soliciting the government to place tobacco regulation under the auspices of the FDA. The proposed legislation, which has twice been left languishing in the U.S. House of Representatives, “would give the FDA authority over the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products.”

These faith leaders, like Rev. T. Randall Smith, pastor of Deer Park United Methodist Church and president of Texas Conference of Churches, represent a faction of Christianity that is radically different than that is historically ensconced in European culture. I have remarked on this before, specifically with reference to the “the Dutch-American culture of West Michigan.”

Moments like these seem to show that public opinion is generally in favor of the government restriction and prohibition of smoking. Even something as traditionally suspect as poker has succumbed to the cultural sanitization, as at the 2005 World Series of Poker completed last week, “There’s no cursing, no smoking and no mercy at the tables in a windowless hangar-like room,” though there is “a choking haze of cigarette and cigar smoke in the hallway.”

And to think that government is an impartial arbiter of justice in cases like this, as the aforementioned “faith leaders” seem to think, is to be more than a bit naive. A case in point: Despite bitter and contentious debate about the state’s budget woes, Republicans and Democrats in Michigan can at least agree on one thing–there’s a consensus to “sell off part of the state’s future tobacco settlement for a $3 billion upfront payment.”

Blog author: jspalink
Friday, July 15, 2005
By

policy_forum“In the first nationwide study that specifically measures how faith relates to the organization and delivery of human service programs, initial results indicate that faith-based or religious charities do indeed conduct their operations in ways that markedly set them apart from secular organizations.”

This is the first of several studies highlighting results from the 2004 Samaritan Award survey. This study looks at the role that faith plays in non-profit organizations that participate in human service programs. The study, written by Calvin College researchers Beryl Hugen and Fred De Jong, and Karen Woods of Acton’s Center For Effective Compassion, methodically reviews the history of faith based programs in the United States and then moves on to clarify what is meant by “faith-based.” The authors also offer an analysis of the effects of faith on various types of programs, and how that faith is — and is not — communicated to program participants.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, July 14, 2005
By

“We don’t want you to give your money. We’ll just take it instead.”

That commercial, the one where all the celebrities and guys in collars and habits are talking about raising your “voice” for the world’s poor, has been nominated for an Emmy award for best TV commercial.

It’s the one that ends with the voice of Tom Hanks saying, “We’re not asking for your money. We’re asking for your voice.”

In one sense, that is totally true. If those behind the ONE Campaign had their way, they wouldn’t “ask” for your money. They would just have the government take it. It really is all a bit duplicitous.

So they aren’t up front about it…they really do want your money: “If the USA agreed to commit an additional ONE percent of it’s budget, or 25 billion dollars per year, it would cost every American 23 cents a day. I’m ready to do that if it saves lives…are you?” There’s more than one hypothetical in that statement.

But even so, it doesn’t matter what you might answer to that rhetorical question. Even if you aren’t willing, if the ONE Campaign has its way, your money will be taken and used anyway.

Maybe the slogan should be: “We don’t want you to give your money. We’ll just take it instead.” This adds a whole new dimension to the idea of charity.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, July 14, 2005
By

On this date in 1789, citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille prison, sparking the French Revolution. Here’s a quote from Lord Acton comparing the American and the French revolutions: “What the French took from the Americans was their theory of revolution, not their theory of government — their cutting, not their sewing.”

He also says of France, “The country that had been so proud of its kings, of its nobles, and of its chains, could not learn without teaching that popular power may be tainted with the same poison as personal power.”

For more, see “Lord Acton on Revolution” by Russell Kirk.

“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”