Archived Posts 2006 - Page 4 of 71 | Acton PowerBlog

From the new Solzhenitsyn Reader, which I highly recommend (especially if you are behind on your Christmas shopping):

Human society cannot be exempted from the laws and demands which constitute the aim and meaning of individual human lives. But even without a religious foundation, this sort of transference is readily and naturally made. It is very human to apply even to the biggest social events or human organizations, including whole states and the United Nations, our spiritual values: noble, base, courageous, cowardly, hypocritical, false, cruel, magnanimous, just, unjust, and so on. Indeed, everybody writes this way, even the most extreme and economic materialists, since they remain after all human beings. And clearly, whatever feelings predominate in the members of a given society at a given moment in time, they will serve to color the whole of that society and determine its moral character. And if there is nothing good there to pervade that society, it will destroy itself, or be brutalized by the triumph of evil instincts, no matter where the pointer of the great economic laws may turn.

Blog author: jballor
Monday, December 18, 2006
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In this week’s Acton Commentary, Anthony Bradley takes a look at the Spanish economy as it faces a “dilemma,” as he puts it, “simultaneously needing immigrants and seeking to curb them.” Bradley also notes that “institutions like marriage and family seem silly to many Spaniards.”

As APM’s Marketplace reports, shifting trends in Spain might claim another Spanish institution, the siesta. A variety of factors, including increasing competition with labor forces in other nations, are leading some to question the viability of the siesta system in Spain.

The siesta works like this: in the middle of the workday, beginning at around 2pm, offices and businesses close up shop for a few hours, giving workers an extended break. It used to be that employees could go home, spend some time with the family, have a meal, and take a brief catnap, returning fresh to work after the siesta concluded.

But nowadays, the lengthy commutes for urbanites makes a trip home impractical. And many workers don’t like having to stay at work until 9pm in order to get a full day’s work in after the siesta break. What once was a way to create family time is now being seen as contributing to an anti-family work environment. As Jerome Socolovsky reports, “Young parents who want to go home before 9 o’clock to be with their kids can meet with disapproval from the boss.”

One interesting thing about this story is the juxtaposition of the situation in Spain, which seems to be heading away from the siesta model, and the reality in some other industrialized nations, such as Japan, where “power napping” is becoming big business.

In his depiction of the Christian’s daily activities in Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that “the noonday hour, where it is possible, becomes for the Christian family fellowship a brief rest on the day’s march. Half of the day is past. The fellowship thanks God and prays for protection until eventide. It receives its daily bread and prays…”

It strikes me that in the rise of the Japanese power nap and the fall of the Spanish siesta, we’re seeing two extremes come together. Perhaps working 12-hour days, as is common in Japan, isn’t the human ideal. And neither is the extended break during the hottest hours of the day necessary in places where the work being done isn’t manual labor.

Appropriate rest is needed, that is beyond question. But exactly what constitutes the right amount of rest seems to be an open question, or at least culturally contextual to some extent. As Calvin observed, the moral requirements of the fourth commandment concerning Sabbath observance are universal, and include provision for “our servants and labourers relaxation from labour.” This includes the “carnal” labor of daily work, as but a pointer toward “the mystery of perpetual resting from our works.”

Update: Marketplace takes a look at the immigration boom in Spain here. According to one immigration lawyer, a major reason immigrants head to Spain is “the generous welfare system. Illegal aliens get free health care here.”

Blog author: jballor
Friday, December 15, 2006
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Seth Godin wants to know.

Blog author: jcouretas
Friday, December 15, 2006
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The January 2007 issue of First Things features a lengthy review of Stephen Grabill’s new book on Protestant natural law thinking (no link to the review, unfortunately). J. Daryl Charles, an assistant professor at Union University, has this to say about Grabill’s Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics (Eerdmans, 2006):

Grabill’s examination of theological ethics in the Protestant Reformed mainstream is utterly compelling, and it represents a shot across the bow of theological ethics, as it were. Protestants for the past 250 years have found practical as well as theological justification for ignoring or vehemently rejecting natural-law theory. And despite its bewildering diversity, there exists across Protestantism a broad consenus that rejects the natural law as a metaphysical notion rooted in divine revelation. This consensus is mirrored in the fact that one is hard-pressed to identify a single major contemporary figure in Protestant theological ethics who has developed and defended a theory of natural law.

The Charles review, titled “Reforming Natural Law,” goes on to say that Grabill “has performed a valuable service in plumbing the rich texture of Reformed theological ethics.”

For a limited time, the book is on sale in the Acton Book Shoppe for only $20.

Rick Ritchie responds to this New Atlantis article by Peter Lawler, “Is the Body Property?” in a recent post on Daylight.

Lawler discusses the increasingly broad push to commodify the human body, especially in the context of organ sales. Lawler writes of “the creeping libertarianism that characterizes our society as a whole. As we understand ourselves with ever greater consistency as free individuals and nothing more, it becomes less clear why an individual’s kidneys aren’t his property to dispose of as he pleases.”

I myself have written elsewhere and on another related topic challenging the “ultimate right of an individual to his or her own life” and therefore to the body. I make the case that the right of possession over one’s body is not an ultimate or absolute right in any ontological sense, given the status of our relationship to God as creator.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some more relative, less absolute, “political” right of an individual over his or her body. It simply means that libertarian rhetoric needs to be toned down and appropriately tuned to the question of the prudence of political intervention in areas like physician-assisted suicide, kidney sales, and prostitution. This would include some rather less grandiose claims than an “ultimate right of an individual.”

Ritchie gets at this latter point very well in his analysis of the typical response to “creepy libertarianism,” that is, “creepy statism.”

“To try to make an inhuman state the tool for humanizing our world is to fail to see what the modern state is. If you believe in bodily integrity, use your own body to persuade your neighbors not to sell their kidneys. And then be prepared to listen to them as they explain why they wish to do what they plan to do,” he writes.

Stephen Grabill delivers his address at today’s Lord Acton Lecture Series Event

Stephen J. Grabill, Acton’s Research Scholar in Theology, delivered an address today based upon his new book which explores the complex and often-overlooked relationship between Protestantism and natural law.

In Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics, Grabill calls upon Christian ethicists, theologians, and laypersons to take another look at this vital element in the history of Christian ethical thought. He appeals to Reformation and post-Reformation era theologians such as John Calvin, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Johannes Althusius, and Francis Turretin, who carried over and refined the traditional understanding of this key doctrine. If you weren’t able to attend today’s lecture in person, you can hear it by clicking here (7 mb mp3 file).

Blog author: dwbosch
Thursday, December 14, 2006
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In December of last year I had a great back and forth on the topic of Christian dominionism with fellow green blogger Elsa at Greener Side.

A friend wrote recently asking about those posts and my take on dominionism specifically. After letting him know we were safely in the anti-dominionism camp, I said I thought there were more folks in progressive/secular circles that saw Christians as dominionists than Christians who actually bought into this trash.

I liked his response:

It sounds absolutely right to me that there’s a bigger need to quash dominionist thinking in non-Christian circles, and I think the research would agree, too. It’s similar to the common criticism of religion, especially of Christianity, that tags it as uniquely violent and warring (and then the crusades are invoked), when if you look at modern history, more people have died for secular causes in secular wars (and at the hands of atheists and despots) than from all the religious wars combined. It’s such an amazing play of jujitsu – and somehow the secular humanist intelligentsia have foisted this notion onto the minds of many folks, and much of academia perpetuates it, sometimes unknowingly. The forces set against the truth and against faith are not to be taken lightly…

Indeed.

For those of you new to the whole notion of destroying the earth to hasten Christ’s coming, I’ve reposted my note to Elsa below. Her links (and excellent blog) are still up too, including her follow up post.

[Don's other habitat is The Evangelical Ecologist] (more…)

“Christian consumption has gone far beyond the book as millions use their buying power to reinforce their faith and show commitment to the Christian community,” reads an article in the current edition of USAToday (HT: Zondervan>To the Point)

According to the piece, “Nearly 12% of Americans spend more than $50 a month on religious products, and another 11% spend $25 to $29, according to a national survey of 1,721 adults by Baylor University, out in September.”

There has been a great deal of media attention paid to the Bible market in particular in the past few weeks. Here are some examples from Publisher’s Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker (HT: Reformation21).

Much of this phenomena flows from the affluence of the North American church, which itself entails a responsibility to be good stewards of those resources. As Ron Sider has poignantly reminded us, the way the church approaches the responsibilities and opportunities of wealth and affluence shouldn’t mirror the broader culture’s.

Reading through the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 the other day, I was struck by the danger of the third type of seed, that which “fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” In Jesus’ explanation, “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” Let us pray that the church in North America doesn’t fall prey to the temptations of the penultimate, but rather produces an abundant harvest for God.

If you’ve read any of David F. Wells’ books on this subject, such as God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams, you know that he shares these concerns.

Blog author: kschmiesing
Thursday, December 14, 2006
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Geoffrey Norman at NRO offers a delightfully sarcastic discussion of the move by a couple of Michigan state senators to use the BCS title game controversy as an opportunity for political grandstanding. “Keep your hands off our football,” is Norman’s message to government.

In point of fact, however, there is a long history of government intervention in American sports. An early and famous example is the Supreme Court’s 1922 decision granting Major League Baseball an exemption from antitrust laws. The financial stakes and cultural importance of athletics are too great a temptation for participants not to seek advantage through political maneuver.

Blog author: jspalink
Thursday, December 14, 2006
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In a recent open letter to immigrants to the United States, Jennifer Roback Morse expands on the words of Emma Lazarus engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Lazarus wrote: “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” Morse goes one step further, asking immigrants to give their hearts as well.

What Morse explains is that America values immigrants. In fact, almost all Americans are descended from immigrants. But a trend that Morse observes is a segregation between new immigrants and “native” citizens. New immigrants come to America, but leave their hearts abroad. Morse implores new immigrants to embrace the United States, to accept it as their home. “If you are going to be here, we want you to become Americans. Not just citizens, but Americans in every way,” writes Morse.

Immigration into the United States is by no means an absolute right (for more on that see here). It is a privilege, granted to some and not to others; sometimes for good reasons, and sometimes not. There are certain obligations that should be met when becoming a citizen of a new country, or even for being allowed to live and work in another country.

Those obligations include, but are not limited to, following the laws of that land and being sensitive to the customs of that land. They could extend as far as learning the language. It seems to me that these are just requests in exchange for the privilege of being in a place that benefits both you and your family.

And if you seek to become a citizen, your allegiance is required. You trade your own loyalty to the government in exchange for protection and the opportunity to seek “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” at least here in the States. For immigrants, this contract is voluntary. If you happen not to agree with or like the exchange, you may leave. Should you choose to stay, you should do so whole heartedly, embracing the freedom and liberty that the United States can provide you with.