Archived Posts July 2012 - Page 3 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

Hugh Whelchel and Anne Rathbone Bradley explain why removing the work requirements to welfare undermines both human dignity and the nature of work:

From a Judeo-Christian perspective, we see that people are designed to work. In the Book of Genesis we read, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). Wheaton College professor Leland Ryken comments on this verse: “Here human work is shown to have worth and dignity as a service to God and as something that gives purpose to human life.”

And because the Bible teaches that men and women are made in God’s image, we are endowed with creativity and uniqueness. We all have special gifts and talents that differ in degree, kind, and combination. Being a good steward of these talents, we are to package them and offer them to the world through our work, whether we as a CEO or janitor.

Read more . . .

Coptic icon of St. Anthony the Great and St. Paul of Thebes

Earlier today, Dwight Gibson, Acton’s Director of Program Outreach, gave a presentation for the Acton Lecture Series on “The New Explorers.” While in the nineteenth century being an explorer was a vocation, the twentieth century saw a certain stagnation; geographically, at least, most of the exploring was finished. Furthermore, the common mindset was changed from the hope of what could be discovered, on all frontiers, to the idea that now we know so much—to the point that today it can sometimes be politically incorrect to admit one’s ignorance about anything.

This is not to say that there was no exploration in the twentieth century or, furthermore, that there is none today. Rather, being an explorer—with a broader definition of that word—is still a valuable vocation. As distinct from a consultant, explorers are people who help others get from point A to point B when there is no known and established process for doing so. They are rare people and naturally gifted to take the risks necessary to blaze new trails for others to follow with ease. Listening to the lecture today, it occurred to me, as a student of Church history, that while this is a needed perspective for the future, it is also a helpful hermeneutic for the past. (more…)

There are some misleading statistics that never die. Take, for example, the claim that “American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.”

For decades economists and pundits have explained why that figure, even if accurate, doesn’t tell us what we think it does (e.g, that woman are being discriminated against in the workforce). But many people are still confused by such claims, so it’s encouraging to hear Anna Broadway explain what such statistics fail to account for:

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Last week, CBS Radio Philadelphia host Dom Giordano took to the airwaves to address President Obama’s “You didn’t get there on your own” speech. The speech, which garnered plenty of discussion at Acton and elsewhere, drew varied responses from Giordano’s radio audience. Among those responses were several callers who recommended Rev. Sirico’s latest book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, as a useful corrective to the President’s speech. This prompted Giordano to read the book and invite Sirico, who was in Hong Kong at the time, on his show. What followed was a fruitful discussion on entrepreneurship, capitalism, and free enterprise. Excerpted below is the answer Sirico gave to the question “Why is the free enterprise system moral?”:

It’s moral because it reflects human nature. Human beings are several things simultaneously. Human beings are individual and yet we’re in relationship. From the first moment of our existence, we’re a unique biological entity. But we’re also in relationship with our mothers in the womb but later on with friends and neighbors. You can’t have a market economy without a society. …

But the second thing we are–and this gets to the moral dimension of it–we are physical, obviously, but we also transcend our physicality. We know innately that we’re more than the sum total of our material parts. When you blend these things together, you have a market economy that is productive, that is social, that can be moral. …

We’re never really satisfied when we’re acting beneath our capacity to be beings of destiny, beings of purpose, noble beings that can create. The very act of the creation involves working with other people as well.

Full audio here:

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Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

So what brought you to this blog today? What were you doing 10 minutes before you clicked on this link and started reading these words? Do you have a sense for why you were doing that task or thinking those thoughts?

Most of the time we can’t answer questions like this with much clarity or definitiveness. Instead we find ourselves coasting through the day letting the world act on us. The events of the day happen and we respond. Sometimes out of self-defense and other times out of sheer exhaustion.
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Blog author: jballor
Monday, July 23, 2012
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Over at the Christian Post, Napp Nazworth does a good job summarizing some of the political jockeying that has been going on ahead of and now in the midst of the release of the latest Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises.” He includes the following tidbit:

Chuck Dixon, the comic book writer who created Bane in the 1990′s, did not like the idea of comparing his villainous creation to Romney. Calling himself a “staunch conservative,” Dixon said that Bane is more of a “Occupy Wall Street type” and Romney is more like Bruce Wayne, a billionaire philanthropist out to save his city.

Advocates of the rhetoric of class warfare have their work cut out for them in trying to use “The Dark Knight Rises” to turn the masses against the 1%. Bane becomes what I call a kind of “Che Guevara on steroids” in this film.

My own take on “The Dark Knight Rises” is up over at the Comment magazine site, “Batman from Below,” and I explore how Batman/Bruce Wayne represents the 1% in a variety of ways, making him “a remarkably apt vehicle for reflection on the dynamics of contemporary society and an image for sacrificial love.” Economically Batman is even in the 1% of the 1%!

The basic conflict between Bane and Wayne is the central dynamic of the film, as Wayne and Batman have withdrawn from their larger public responsibilities. As I conclude, “Bane becomes the demon that haunts a society that forgets this fundamental lesson, and Batman becomes the only one who can exorcise this scourge on Gotham City.”

But how Batman accomplishes this, and what it means for everyone, is what is really worth considering. “‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is in fundamental ways about the profoundly destructive consequences of individuals, whether of the 1% or the 99%, thinking that they do not have positive social obligations towards their neighbors,” I write.

Or as Ben Domenech writes, “There’s always something you can do.”

Read the whole piece, “Batman from Below,” over at the Comment magazine site (are you a subscriber?).

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, July 23, 2012
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The Conservatives vs. the Intellectuals?
Peter Lawler, Big Think

Arguably, the biggest change since the time of Socrates is the idea of the free person—one introduced into the world by Biblical and Christian thought. When our deterministic scientists deny the real existence of the free person, they, today’s conservatives often object, are asserting more they they really know.

Does teacher merit pay work? A new study says yes.
Dylan Matthews, Wonkblog

There’s very good evidence that teacher quality matters a lot in terms of student performance in school and success later on in life.

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Last month, a Christianity Today editorial noted some of the intellectual foundations for ecumenical efforts in the public square, particularly relevant to evangelical and Roman Catholic cooperation against the HHS mandates. The editorial focuses on Chuck Colson, and says “you can credit Colson, who died on April 21, for a major part of evangelicals’ reduced anxiety about relations with Roman Catholics.”

The editorial goes on to describe how Colson’s ecumenism and broader theological foundations were inspired by “key evangelical theologians,” particularly

the words and deeds of the great Dutch theologian and politician Abraham Kuyper (died 1920). Kuyper carefully articulated the doctrinal and philosophical differences between Rome and his beloved Geneva. Yet he admired Romanism’s vigor in countries where it became disestablished. Kuyper believed that in the fight against modernism, Protestant Christianity could be effective only if it partnered with Roman Catholics.

In the course of filming the last interview given before his death with the Acton Institute, Colson describes the influence of Abraham Kuyper on his work in his own words:

For more, check out Colson’s concluding plenary address, published as “How Now Shall We Live?” in the proceedings of “A Century of Christian Social Teaching: The Legacy of Leo XIII and Abraham Kuyper,” held at Calvin at Calvin College in October of 1998, in which Colson discusses “the remarkable and still controversial idea of Calvinists and Catholics coming together.”

In 1973, a pair of Supreme Court rulings helped convince many evangelicals and Catholics to align as co-belligerents in the struggle against abortion. In 2012, an executive branch mandate is having a similar effect, this time bringing the groups together to defend religious liberties.

A new level of cooperation occurred last week when Wheaton College, a leading evangelical liberal arts school, joined with The Catholic University of America in filing a federal lawsuit opposing the Health and Human Services “Preventative Services” mandate. As the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty notes, “This alliance marks the first-ever partnership between Catholic and evangelical institutions to oppose the same regulation in the same court.”

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Over at Y’all Politics, Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel penned an excellent essay on conservatism and the moral order. Deeply influenced by Russell Kirk, McDaniel’s words are worth the read. They are a reminder that sustainable political liberty has to have a proper moral order and foundation for society to flourish. Below is an excerpt of his essay:

The embrace of Judeo-Christian morality is an indispensable component of American life and conservative ideology, particularly in the State of Mississippi.

It is the acceptance of an astute understanding shared by the founders — a belief that moral truths exist and are necessary for people to responsibly self-govern their own affairs.

Although we are all imperfect, Mississippi conservatives believe that moral limits to human behavior are intertwined into our nature, not simply accidents of history. We regard such limits as something that must be conserved to protect character from avarice, envy, unhealthy ambition and destruction. As Russell Kirk noted in his masterpiece, The Conservative Mind, we have a “belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience.”

We recognize, as he did, that “political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.” Consequently, we do not reject moral certainties; we accommodate them, understanding that good individuals make good citizens.

Self-government and moral order are intertwined. Without moral order, notions of liberty often slide into chaotic license, and expanding government rushes in to fill the void and reestablish order. The result is a corresponding and often devastating loss of personal liberty.

And yet, contrary to other political philosophies which embody the might of centralized authority, we do not propose that it should be the mission of government, by force of law, to dictate to others how they must live or to remake authority in an effort to micro-manage every individual’s whims and desires.

Continue reading “Self-Government and Moral Order are Intertwined.”