Archived Posts February 2007 » Page 4 of 6 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, February 12, 2007

Most of our talk at Acton about educational choice addresses K-12 programs, i.e., the public schools. There already exists a great deal of choice at the levels of higher ed, and so they are not of the most immediate concern.

But the issues I raised earlier this month about the integration of faith and learning are just as relevant in the realm of higher ed as they are in secondary education. Here’s what David Claerbaut, author of Faith and Learning on the Edge: A Bold New Look at Religion in Higher Education, has to say:

There is a distinctly Christian view of what life is all about, about the nature of humankind, about what our purposes ought to be, and about where we are headed eternally. To dance away from these distinctives is to marginalize faith as an element in the learning process.

Today’s Zondervan>To the Point features this quote as well as a link to this piece from Inside Higher Ed, “Spiritual Accountability.”

Our religious and political rights are uniquely bound up together. Most young Americans, and far too many older native born American citizens, have little or no idea how important this truth really is.

The central idea behind this unique relationship in American political understanding is limited government. This is really what classical liberalism understood and fervently practiced. Modern liberalism has little or nothing to do with this understanding, preferring to stress ideologies that are neither truly liberal nor limited.

The founding fathers fervently believed that we were all created equal, with inherent rights to life and liberty given to us by God. This belief was rooted in both Judeo-Christian beliefs and some elements of Enlightenment philosophy. The securing of these rights was the very basis for a limited government. And a limited government was based upon the understanding that true power arose from the governed who were willing to consent to a just government.

There were some very big differences of opinion among our founding fathers, such as two very different views of America’s future as represented by Jefferson and Hamilton. In some ways these two distinct views clashed in the Civil War, as North and South came to represent these two differing positions. But regardless of these early differences what clearly united the founders was a deep respect for individual rights and for limited government. (more…)

Blog author: dwbosch
posted by on Friday, February 9, 2007

Coming to a stadium near you (HT)

A series of concerts "bigger than Live Aid" is being planned for July, in a bid to put the subject of climate change before an audience of a global audience of 2bn. The event, scheduled for July 7, will feature co-ordinated film, music and television events in seven cities including London, Washington DC, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town and Kyoto, with major broadcasters and media owners aiming to extend the reach of public awareness of global warming. It is understood that former US vice-president Al Gore, whose movie An Inconvenient Truth brought climate change to cinema audiences last year, will announce the event tomorrow in London. The organisers hope to involve up to 2.5m people in events and link-ups at the cities involved, as well as other locations. They are promising a line-up of artists to "dwarf" that of the Live8 and Live Aid concerts, thought to be branded under the name "SOS".

Our Brit friends and Climate Change Now get credit for starting (then stopping) this a year ago, by the way.

Think back a moment. Geldof and his compatriots burned gobs of fossil fuel to raise about $300 million for Ethiopian relief 15 years ago. Not an insiginficant amount. Some went to NGOs. A sizeable chunk went to corrupt governments and military juntas. Recreating Woodstock (a brief environmental nightmare in its own right) on a larger scale really changed Ethiopia, well, not much at all.

Here at home Willie and the boys have done Farm Aid concerts every year or so since then. They raise a couple million at a whack for farmers that are getting billions annually in subsidies.

For you people who accuse me of hating the atmosphere, tell me what a "bigger than Live Aid" event is actually going to do for the climate. Don’t feed me that "raise awareness" hokum; folks in a position (as they say) to do something about it are already plenty aware. How much of what SOSers take in must be spent on carbon indulgences CO2 offsets?

Here’s the inconvenient truth: SOS = A global church service with millions of worshipping faithful, resplendent with choirs, paying of penances, and heaps of fire and brimstone from a shiny-suited, sweaty, purple-faced Al Gore in the pulpit.

And plenty of passing the offering plate.

[Don's other habitat is evangelicalecologist.com]

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, February 9, 2007

I’m a bit behind on this story, but as was reported by numerous media outlets over the past few months, a new trend has begun at some American churches. ATM machines, dubbed “Automatic Tithing Machines,” are appearing at some Protestant churches in the South. The machines are administered by the for-profit business SecureGive, run by Pastor Marty Baker and his wife, who integrated the machines at their Stevens Creek Community Church in 2005.

Proponents point to the transition to a digital age and the convenience of electronic transactions. Stevens Creek Community attendee Josh Marshall said of using the machines, “I paid for gas today with a card, and got lunch with one. This is really no different.”

Amy Forrest said this, “If you give cash, you think about it. And if you swipe a credit card, you don’t. It makes it easier to type that 4-0.”

These attitudes may not be truly representative, but they at the very least illustrate the potential for the convenience offered by these machines to turn faithful giving into something that is unreflective, automatic, mundane, and worldly. That’s certainly not the kind of giving that God wants.

Baker says of his concept, “It’s truly like an ATM for Jesus.” (more…)

In this month’s issue of Christianity Today, John D. Beckett, chairman of the privately held R. W. Beckett Corporation, speaks about his new book, Mastering Monday: A Guide to Integrating Faith and Work.

When asked, “Do you think churches still don’t understand business as a calling?” Beckett responds,

I do. Relatively few churches and pastors are reinforcing the legitimacy of a call into so-called “secular work.” I have colleagues with tremendous business influence who are starving spiritually in their local churches. There’s zero feeding; there’s zero reinforcing of the call they have in the marketplace.

There’s still much work to be done. Check out the trailer for Acton’s forthcoming documentary, “The Call of the Entrepreneur” here.

This year’s Super Bowl was widely hailed as an advance for black Americans because, for the first time, two black coaches faced off in the game. But, as Anthony Bradley observes, coaches Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith pointed to an even greater achievement: They did it “the Lord’s way.”

Read the commentary here.

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Make trade, not war? In an excerpt from his new book “The Commercial Society,” Sam Gregg examines the long held view that nations engaged in trade are less likely to wage war. He notes that nations which are busy with commercial pursuits, instead of war making, may also be more vigilant about “protecting the fabric of freedoms upon which commercial societies depend.”

Read the commentary here.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Wednesday, February 7, 2007

I mentioned a long time ago that this book, with its provocative and interesting thesis, was in the works. Stepping Out of the Brain Drain: Applying Catholic Social Teaching in a New Era of Migration, by Michele Pistone and John Hoeffner, is now available from Lexington Books. The blurb:

Catholic social teaching’s traditional opposition to “brain drain” migration from developing to developed countries is due for a reassessment. Stepping Out of the Brain Drain provides exactly this, as it demonstrates that both the economic and the ethical rationales for the teaching’s opposition to “brain drain” have been undermined in recent years, and shows how the adoption of a less critical policy could provide enhanced opportunities for poor countries to accelerate their economic development.

The story of a Confessing Church pastor and his family who welcomed in two prisoners who escaped from the Buchenwald concentration camp is told in, “Seeing the Other Side-60 Years after Buchenwald” (RealMedia).

The short film, about 14 minutes, is based on Mona Sue Weissmark’s Justice Matters: Legacies of the Holocaust and World War II.

Why did Pastor Seebaß and his family help the prisoners and in the process endanger themselves? “It was all about loving your fellow man.”

Last month Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) reintroduced legislation from the previous Congress, this time as the Global Online Freedom Act of 2007, or GOFA (HT: Slashdot). According to the commentary on Slashdot, “GOFA would create a U.S.-government-designated list of ‘Internet restricting countries’ and would in most cases prohibit U.S.-based companies from censoring content or turning over users’ information to the governments of those countries.”

This law directly affects the situation of companies like Yahoo!, Google, and MSN who have been pretty roundly criticized for their practices in markets like China. Awhile back I discussed the complexity of these kinds of situations, attempting to recast the discussion within the context of this question: “What is the best way to move China toward economic, political, and religious freedom?”

Rep. Smith has repeated the oft-heard criticisms: “By helping dictators stifle free speech and spy on dissidents, American IT companies are putting profits before principles.” The Slashdot commentary notes that the major impact of the legislation is not likely to come in the area of censorship of Internet sites, but rather “where the law could make a difference is in the prohibition against turning over users’ personal data to law enforcement in censoring countries.” The piece also outlines why U.S. Internet companies might actually endorse such regulation, since it would give them bargaining power in negotiations with oppressive regimes.

Meanwhile, Google exec Sergey Brin has admitted that their policy of censoring web searches in accord with the demands of the Chinese government was ‘a net negative’ for their business, given the critical reaction from Western consumers and damage to the company’s reputation (HT: Slashdot).

Of course, given Google’s massive profit in 2006, including a fourth quarter near-tripling, the company can probably handle some short term negatives. And there’s speculation that Google’s growth may be a little too “hot” and so perhaps the fallout from Google’s practices in China, a net negative as it may be in itself, has done the company some good. After all, Google has now got a toehold in a hugely developing market.

Still, foreign companies have not been hugely successful so far in competition with domestic Internet companies in China, “partly because of regulatory restrictions that favor homegrown companies, but also because foreign companies often do not understand China’s Internet market, which is geared primarily to entertainment and mobile phones.”

What is clear is that the rise of economic freedom in China presents a multi-faceted challenge to the West to show how economic, religious, and political freedom are interwoven. Calvin College has received a $2 million grant from the Templeton Foundation to educate Chinese scholars about “how philosophy, science, morality, economics and religious belief have interacted in the West.”

Other efforts are trying to include concerns about religious freedom within the broader context of human rights. The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom is advocating that the U.S. government use the economic leverage represented by the Olympic Games, which come to China in 2008, to “pressure Beijing into reforming” its human rights practices (HT: ENI).

Joseph Loconte, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes in an extended essay in the current issue of Christianity Today, that “evangelicals could lobby for the creation of a U.S. Commission on Human Rights, in the same way they rallied in the 1990s for a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.”

Perhaps adoption of the GOFA would be one small step in showing China just how the West views the relationship between freedom in various spheres of human activity.