Archived Posts August 2005 » Page 2 of 10 | Acton PowerBlog

The European Union is running into some problems with its quota policies on Chinese goods:

The European Union will tomorrow put proposals to member states for the release of millions of Chinese garments stacked up at customs warehouses since the EU imposed import limits in June, said EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.

If the proposals are accepted, then about 70 million sweaters, trousers and bras could be released by mid-September, Mandelson said in a British Broadcasting Corp. interview.

Designed to protect European manufacturers from cheaper Chinese clothing, the quotas have led European retailers to complain they may have to find higher-cost suppliers in other parts of Asia or Eastern Europe to avoid shortages.

Kishore Jayalaban, Director of Acton’s Rome office, commented on the political scrambling that is currently underway to end this impasse on Vatican Radio today. You can listen to the report by clicking here (544 kb mp3 file).

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, August 26, 2005

It’s been determined that the view of the human person at work behind “The Human Zoo” exhibit is best exemplified by Agent Smith’s monologue from the original installment of “The Matrix.”

“Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability.”

While Morpheus is held captive, Agent Smith tells him the following:

I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague, and we are the cure.

He continues:

I hate this place. This zoo. This prison. This reality, whatever you want to call it, I can’t stand it any longer. It’s the smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste your stink and every time I do, I fear that I’ve somehow been infected by it.

This comes, of course, from a piece of software representing the machines who view humans as essentially batteries and feed the liquidated dead to the living. It is perhaps not the best anthropological foundation to adopt.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, August 26, 2005

Just in case you were thinking that the rabid anti-human elements of environmental movements had dissipated, take a look at the newest exhibit at the London Zoo.

Titled “The Human Zoo,” the exhibit features 8 people living in “natural” conditions over the course of three days, and is “intended to show the basic nature of human beings,” that is, our inherent animalism.

The world’s first ever human zoo exhibit is unveiled. Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty

In the words of a London Zoo spokesman, “We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man’s place in the planet’s ecosystem.” One commentator notes, “We may be watching evolution in action.”

There are a number of important issues here. The first is the linkage of the view of humans as a “plague species” with the myth of unsustainability of the population explosion. This anti-human perspective is manifested in any number of policies and programs around the world, including PETA and things like the UN’s World Population Day. Now the London Zoo is joining the fray. For a literary movement embodying this position, go here.

Of course, another questions you have to wonder about is why an “ethic” based on a Darwinian philosophy of natural selection should be concerned about a “plague species.” Isn’t it just survival of the fittest?

This soft sentimentality and romanticism of the environmental movement isn’t based on philosophical rationality, of course. If we really are no different than animals, why should our behavior be held to a higher standard? The position is fundamentally self-defeating.

The only perspective that accounts for all of the complex realities of human existence and the rest of creation is one normed by the Bible. The creation accounts, along with the dominion and stewardship mandates, of Genesis 1 and 2 describe both the continuities and discontinuities between humans and the rest of the animal world and our resulting responsibilities.

The fall into sin gives us a basis for understanding how and why humans do negatively impact the world and fracture the created relationships. But the history of redemption gives us hope for a consummated new heaven and new earth…a hope that cannot be approached from a merely naturalistic worldview. It also gives us a reason to be concerned about stewardship of the world (rightly construed).

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, August 26, 2005

An interview at Money & Faith with Dr. Robert Cooley, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, explores the biblical concept of stewardship.

A key quote: “Church leaders need to remember they have an awesome responsibility to manage well the funds the people of God give each Sunday and to maintain the trust of the congregation in the life and work of the church. As stewards, we also need to be reminded that God holds us accountable not only for the giving of our treasure but also for the giving of our time and talents.”

In addition, Cooley gives some bullet points summarizing the “theology of stewardship.” Cooley concludes, “Stewardship is a lifestyle. It requires all of my time, all of my talent, and all of my treasure. All of my work, all of my wisdom, and all of my will are subject to my relationship with God through Christ.”

Biblical stewardship includes a complex of interrelated ideas. The relationship between work, vocation, faithfulness, charity, and love is exemplified in the Heidelberg Catechism’s exposition of the eigth commandment. The positive aspect of this commandment against theft requires “That I do whatever I can for my neighbor’s good, that I treat others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need” (LD 42, A 111).

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, August 25, 2005

“America has never been a Christian nation. America was founded on an attempt to integrate Judeo-Christian values with Enlightenment ideas of self-government. What I’m envisioning is a divine tipping point or critical mass.”

So says Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was discussing his new book, Imagine! A God-Blessed America: How It Could Happen and What It Would Look Like, and was responding negatively when asked whether his book’s thesis is “dependent on America being a Christian nation” (presumably meaning the embodiment of an explicitly Christian political order).

When referring to a “divine tipping point or critical mass,” I can only hope and presume that Land is talking about the largescale conversion of Americans to a dedicated and authentic form of biblical Christianity. This is likely what he means when he says, “We may look back and say that America entered what is either a revival or an awakening sometime in the late 20th or early 21st century.”

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Thursday, August 25, 2005
Aah, the good old days!

In case you haven’t noticed, the price of gasoline has been going up lately. And, with all the predictability of the swallows returning to Capistrano, the cry has gone up from certain quarters of society for the government to do something about the situation. Unfortunately for consumers in paradise, the State of Hawaii has decided to respond to that demand by instituting price caps on gasoline.

The price caps, which will be instituted on September 1, are the result of a process that began with the passage of Act 77, which was enacted in June of 2002. Implementation of the act was delayed, however, in order for enough time to pass for a more comprehensive study of Hawaii’s gasoline market to be undertaken. One might ask whether it might have been better to do that before passing price control legislation, but I suppose we should be thankful that the legislature required this inquiry at all.
(more…)

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, August 25, 2005

My sense is that the balance between political activism and personal evangelism among American evangelical leaders is often out-of-whack. A perfect example is the fight over FCC regulation of decency in the media.

A huge cadre of evangelical leaders seem to rely primarily on political intervention and lobbying to fight indecency. This puts the cart before the horse.

“Indecency” nearly always means some perceived illicit sexual content, so let’s look at how evangelical Christians are fighting pornography as a prime example. There’s been a lot of hubbub over proposed “.xxx” domain registration for adult Internet sites (here’s a good critical review from CEI).

The politically activist evangelical model views government coercive force as the primary means of achieving the desired end, in this case media decency. In extreme cases, what might otherwise be viewed as a secondary means, such as personal evangelism and conversion, can be completely overshadowed and even explicitly denounced.

So in the case of X3Church, a Christian pornography ministry aimed at consumers and producers of pornography, evangelical leaders criticize or distance themselves from the effort. At the same time Pat Robertson is busy pontificating on US foreign policy, he is rebuking X3Church. According to Robertson, while Jesus would not go to a porn convention, he might be in favor of assassination of a foreign political leader.

A scheduled appearance by X3Church leaders at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University has apparently been cancelled because of concern about the propriety of the ministry (as reported in the X3Church newsletter. The relevant blog post at the x3blog has been removed).

Christians should not refrain from making their moral judgments heard in public debates about policy issues. But political means should be viewed as secondary means to achieving desired ends and they should certainly never displace evangelism as the primary means of the inbreaking of God’s kingdom (see the Great Commission).

As I’ve said before, a far better way than coercing others to adhere to objective standards of morality is to convert them to those standards. It is ultimately only through proclamation of the Gospel that the culture and the nation will be redeemed. For the church is to engage the world not with the sword of the government, but with “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17 NIV).

For a rather different view on this, especially with respect to the FCC, and more relevant reading, see yesterday’s BreakPoint commentary from Charles Colson, “Shaking in their Boots.”

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Thursday, August 25, 2005

The National Council of Churches has had a rough ride in recent months with its Orthodox Christian constituency. The Antiochian jurisdiction has formally pulled out, citing a politicized agenda, and the Orthodox Church in America, which traces its roots to the Russian church, has been debating a similar move.

In an article on Front Page magazine, Rev. Johannes Jacobse takes a detailed look at the hard-left politics of the NCC and its long history of supporting communist despots. In “United Churches of Castro,” Fr. Hans, the editor of OrthodoxyToday.org, writes about the NCC’s track record of supporting “liberation” movements all over the world:

Like many of its left-wing counterparts, the NCC displayed a slavish devotion to Marxist ideas and anti-American cant. It strove to become the official dispenser of religious respectability to those who adopted either. Dispensing respectability made NCC bureaucrats feel important and offered the rationale that justified the NCC’s existence.

“Liberation Theology” was the dominant fad in the late 1960’s and 1970’s – a patchwork of ideas that claimed that the Christian obligation to care for the poor was synonymous with Marxist social dogma. Liberation Theology dressed Marxist ideas in the Christian moral lexicon convincing gullible activists that Christ was really a crypto-Marxist. The ideology swept through the religious left like wildfire. The NCC was front and center.

When he was hired to run the NCC in 1999, Rev. Bob Edgar said he had “no issue” with the group’s history. And what is the NCC doing today to further the goal of Christian unity? It is organizing opposition to the Iraq war, camping out with Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, Texas, opposing private Social Security accounts, stumping for the Kyoto protocol, etc., etc.

Blog author: kjayabalan
posted by on Thursday, August 25, 2005

There have been countless analyses of Pope Benedict’s recent trip to World Youth Day in Cologne. But when it comes to looking at what the Pope actually says and does, no one compares to Sandro Magister, who writes for the Italian publication L’Espresso.

Check out his latest post, “After Cologne: The Remarkable Lesson of Professor Ratzinger” here. It concludes with links to the texts of the Pope’s speeches, all of which are worth reading.

Unlike most other journalists, Magister focuses on what the Pope wants us to focus on: the Eucharist and Jesus Christ as the Truth. And he does it without any ironic smart-quotes or snide asides.

Must reading for those who want to keep up with Vatican happenings.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, August 25, 2005

I’ve talked before about the complexities of government funding before with regard to the abstinence-program called the Silver Ring Thing.

Now, on the heels of an ACLU suit, SRT is being faced with a cut-off in federal funding. The AP reports that the SRT may be in violation of Department of Health and Human Services regulations for not adequately separating “worship, religious instruction or proselytization” programs from the government-funded services.

A letter signed by Harry Wilson, associate commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau, states “Our review indicates that the (Silver Ring Thing) may not have included adequate safeguards to clearly separate in time or location inherently religious activities from the federally funded activities.”

According to The Washington Times, SRT leaders feel they will be able to assuage the questions of government regulators. “We don’t think there will be any problem,” said Denny Pattyn, leader of SRT. “If we’re not doing it perfectly or correctly, or it needs to be tweaked, then HHS will instruct us and we will tweak it,” he said.

But instead of attempting to meet the government’s requirements, this may be a great opportunity for SRT to wean itself off of government support, ending its state dependency. The false dichotomy between faith and works represented in the HHS guidelines should be criticized rather than accepted by Christian groups.