Archived Posts November 2012 - Page 10 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
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I have been duped. I thought, along with my husband, that we were doing a good thing by raising our children in a household that valued traditional marriage and saw our children as gifts from God. I chose, for more than a decade, to work at home raising our children because I could not imagine a more important job during their formative years.

According to Laurie Shrage, I’m quite mistaken.

 Wives who perform unpaid caregiving and place their economic security in the hands of husbands, who may or may not be good breadwinners, often find their options for financial support severely constrained the longer they remain financially dependent. Decades of research on the feminization of poverty show that women who have children, whether married or not, are systematically disadvantaged when competing for good jobs. Marriage is neither a recipe for economic security nor responsible parenting.

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In an essay for Big Questions Online, a site that examines questions of human purpose and ultimate reality, Rev. Robert Sirico considers whether morality is intrinsic to the free market:

Is a hammer intrinsically moral?

Your reply would most immediately be: “It depends on what it was used for. If employed to bash in the heads of people you do not like, the answer is no. If employed to help build a house for a homeless people, your answer might be yes. In either case, the precise answer is to say that the hammer is neither moral nor immoral; it is the person who chooses its use that can be evaluated morally.

Attending to these Big Questions will enable us to more deeply evaluate the economic organization of society. So the real issue here is not a financial one, but an anthropological one: What is man? Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What are my responsibilities to myself and others? How we answer these kinds of questions will have an enormous impact on every facet of our lives, including how we work and buy and sell, and how we believe such activities should be directed— in other words, on economics.

Read the rest of the article and join in the conversation at Big Questions Online.

Today is November 6th, and we’re supposedly going to elect a new President of the United State of America by the time Charles Krauthammer goes to bed early tomorrow morning. But for those of us who can’t help but think “big picture” every second of every day, what does November 7th look like – regardless of who wins? What about November 8th? How about a year from now?

Anyone who values liberty, limited government, and the free enterprise system knows that even if the more-conservative Mitt Romney wins, there are miles to go before we sleep.

Many miles, in fact. Like, as many miles as the Keystone Pipeline should have been.  Maybe even more.

My point here is  simple: the battle for the hearts and minds of my generation, and the ones that will follow, is still up in the air.  The tide away from planned economies and social engineering can still carry water with millions of impressionable minds. The arguments for economic freedom and de-centralization of power are compelling. When explained in straight-forward and interesting terms, they can stick in your head like a catchy TV ad jingle (just ask George Costanza).

One such example is nationally syndicated talk show host Dennis Prager’s 5-minute video-course at the “Prager University” website entitled “The Bigger the Government the Smaller the Citizen.”  Take a look by clicking here.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes that people “need to be reminded much more than they need to be instructed.”  Let’s remind each other of Prager’s mantra for the next four years (and beyond) no matter who wins this evening.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
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Why Should Christians Care to Vote?
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

One way we answer the call to serve our communities is by voting. When we cast our vote, we contribute to the people and policies that will shape our communities and their ability to flourish or wither.

Principles for Voting
R.C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries

As a Christian you have obligations opposed upon your conscience that in some sense other people don’t have, although they should have. And the first thing is this: You have to understand what a vote is.

Why Politicians Are Encouraged to ‘Flip Flop’
James R. Rogers, The Gospel Coalition

Ideological purity may be emotionally satisfying, but it typically doesn’t win a lot of elections.

Constantine’s Mixed Legacy
Fr. Raymond J. De Souza, National Post

How one views Constantine’s conversion and victory depends very much on how one thinks about Christendom.

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
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A prayer “For the Nation,” from the BCP:

Lord God Almighty, who hast made all the peoples of the earth for thy glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with thy gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

There is an utter disconnect between what I hear other people – mostly in the media – say about evangelical conservatives, and what I’ve experienced living in and among them for nearly three decades on this planet. I hear how intolerant and close-minded this group supposedly is, and I sit and absorb such attacks with a blank look on my face. They bear no resemblance to the environment I was reared in.

The people who instilled in me the values of tolerance, compassion, service, and justice were the same who taught me personal responsibility, the wonder of free enterprise, the importance of private charity, and the sobering implications of living in an imperfect, fallen world.

As my favorite writer G.K Chesterton would put it: I did not create a conservative worldview – God and Western Civilization made it, and they made me.

I wanted to share with you a compilation of pro-Romney/Ryan “blurbs” that I’ve assembled from some of the best and brightest evangelicals that I personally know.  It’s not meant as a definitive, case-closed, “See, we’re not all lock-step knuckle-draggers” argument in favor of evangelicals everywhere.  It’s simply a sampling of the evangelical world I know and am proud to claim a stake in.

You can read the entire list here, but I’ll leave you with a portion of one in particular (from my second favorite writer, Mark Steyn):

I don’t know whether Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan can fix things, but I do know that Barack Obama and Joe Biden won’t even try – and that therefore a vote for Obama is a vote for the certainty of national collapse. Look at Lower Manhattan in the dark after the storm, and try to imagine what America might look like after the rest of the planet decides it no longer needs the dollar as global reserve currency. For four years, we have had a president who can spend everything but build nothing. Nothing but debt, dependency, and decay….In different ways the response to Hurricane Sandy and Benghazi exemplify the fundamental unseriousness of the world’s superpower at twilight. Whether or not to get serious is the choice facing the electorate Tuesday.”

 

In 1977 a pro-life Jesse Jackson compared the pro-choice position to the case for slavery in the antebellum South:

There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of higher order than the right to life. I do not share that view. I believe that life is not private, but rather it is public and universal. If one accepts the position that life is private, and therefore you have the right to do with it as you please, one must also accept the conclusion of that logic. That was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private …

When Jackson prepared to run for president as a Democrat, he dispensed with his pro-life position. I’m convinced this was a grave error, but I sympathize with Jackson’s dilemma. When I was in college, I was frustrated at having to choose between politicians who defended the rights of the unborn (usually but not always Republican) and, on the other hand, politicians who supported abortion rights but who seemed ready to do so much more to help the poor.

I eventually came to see a couple of things that resolved the dilemma for me. First, I realized that a prudential judgment to leave more charitable work in the hands of private initiative was not morally equivalent to choosing not to protect the life of the unborn—was not morally equivalent, in other words, to viewing the matter as “above my pay grade,” as President Obama put it. That is, I came to realize that the decision to neglect the government’s core role of protecting the life of some of its citizens (the unborn) was vastly worse than the decision to push for less government involvement in helping the poor.

The other thing that helped me resolve my love-the-poor/love-the-unborn dilemma—and this came into focus only as I began to connect my good intentions with a study of economic history—was this: The well-intended government poverty programs from the 1960s and ‘70s have had many unintended consequences, consequences that have done much to hurt poor communities over the long-term—whether in inner cities or in places like rural Appalachia. If you believe in the sanctity of all human life, including the life of the unborn, but you hold your nose and support pro-choice candidates who support current or even increased government levels of federal spending on welfare programs, I urge you to watch this six-minute video featuring experienced Christian poverty fighters. It’s entitled “How Not to Help the Poor.”

Watch it. Pray about what you see and hear. Then allow whatever you find insightful there to inform and guide you as you discharge your duty as a citizen of a nation dedicated to the proposition that all humans are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

The first presidential election I remember was the Ronald Reagan – Walter Mondale race in 1984. My kindergarten class in the Philadelphia suburbs held a mock vote that Reagan overwhelmingly won. It of course reflected the way our parents were voting. I can remember at the age of five, John Glenn was one of the Democrat candidates seeking the nomination and I knew he was a famous astronaut. The truth is, I’ve always been fascinated by presidential elections and Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms by Ed Rollins and Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater by John Brady are two political books that deeply influenced my thought. Both books remain relevant and offer valuable lessons today.

Frank Hill, who directs The Institute for the Public Trust, has a solid post discussing Robert Kennedy, self-government, and tomorrow’s election. Hill quotes Lord Acton in his essay as well. He cites Kennedy’s “Day of Affirmation Address” in South Africa in 1966. It was a striking address, touching on the universal truths recognized by the West. Below is a great line from Kennedy’s speech that day:

At the heart of that Western freedom and democracy is the belief that the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit. Therefore the enlargement of liberty for individual human beings must be the supreme goal and the abiding practice of any Western society.

Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign and Ronald Reagan’s 1976 campaign are probably the two campaigns that offer the most mystique and magic for liberals and conservatives. One campaign ended with a tragic assassination and the other left conservative activists heartbroken by a narrow defeat. Both candidates were treated to adoring fans and followers and shook up the political landscape. While they represented different ends of the political spectrum, they were both visionary presidential campaigns. Those two campaigns caused a lot of young people to get excited not just about politics or power but deeper ideas about government and the human person.

Tomorrow is a big election. We’ve rightfully placed a heavy emphasis on the limits of politics here at the Acton Institute. Politics will not solve the deeper issues and problems facing this nation. The topic was the overarching theme of Rev. Robert Sirico’s 2012 Annual Dinner address. Jordan Ballor and I hosted an Acton on Tap addressing that very question in 2010. But elections and politics are important and serve a purpose. There are clear philosophical differences between the candidates and the peaceful transition of power reflects well on the foundations of our country.

At Acton we’ve always tried to raise the discourse and talk about higher truths. In a country that now faces crippling debt, moral chaos, and threats to religious freedom, we would be wise to draw upon some words James Madison used to close a letter he penned to a friend in 1774. Madison, concerned about persecuted Baptists in Virginia wrote, “So I leave you to pity me and pray for Liberty and Conscience to revive among us.” I would think most of our readers would agree and wish that much would be so.

I was recently invited to write an essay on the importance of interdisciplinary studies for the Calvin Seminary student publication Kerux. In my essay “The Truth is One,” I reflect on the famous quote of Abraham Kuyper,

[N]o single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!”

To this, I add a philosophical observation:

[I]f we truly believe that the Truth is one and indivisible, then we ought to acknowledge that all disciplines of study are essentially interdependent, because all ultimately seek to study the same thing—the Truth. And for this reason, I argue that, whenever possible, theological education ought to be augmented with insights from the vast treasuries of other disciplines (and vice versa).

Despite this philosophical orientation, the essay is largely practical. With my target audience of seminarians at my Alma Mater in mind, I offer a few suggestions for how to go about broadening one’s theological education with insights from other disciplines, including the following:

[T]ake the time to read Christian authors of the past who have endeavored to wrestle with the unity of the Truth in the diversity of academic disciplines, such as Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Abraham Kuyper, or Vladimir Solovyov. Such great minds offer thoughtful, Christian models for broadening our worldviews, whether or not we end up agreeing with their conclusions all the time.

In light of this, I would like to take this opportunity to shamelessly promote some of the work that Acton has been doing, specifically through our imprint Christian’s Library Press, translating the work of some great thinkers who model this broader perspective. (more…)

Jim Shaw at the Catholic Herald has written a provocative piece that suggests one of the best ways to fight poverty is to support Catholic religious orders. He writes about his experiences in Africa: the lack of rule of law, the petty corruption that eats away at the poor, how lack of infrastructure obstructs progress for farmers and other businesses. The density of these issues seem insurmountable.

The sheer intractability of these problems should serve as a warning against utopian solutions to world poverty. It may also remind us of the true basis of solidarity between human beings, which is spiritual and personal, not technical or economic. As Pope Benedict XVI has written, we cannot help the poor if we regard their problems in exclusively material terms. Lack of bread and abuse of power are real and must be addressed, but they arise in a human – that is, a spiritual and moral – context.

If we try to fix material problems in isolation, Pope Benedict argues, without recognising the “ordering of goods” which places God at the centre of human life, we will end up replicating the dystopian nightmare of Marxism or the relativistic nihilism of the contemporary West.

Shaw then goes on to suggest that one group of people has remained a fixed and steady influence for progress against poverty: religious orders.

Religious orders’ vows of poverty protect them from the tendency to make a good living out of helping others in distress. Most fundamentally, the fact that their work arises out of, and is constantly renewed by the sacramental life of the Church, means that the poor are not seen as a problem to be solved or an opportunity to be exploited. From the point of view of Catholics living in the West, the missionary orders offer virtually unlimited opportunities to participate in their work.

Read “If you want to help the world’s poor, support religious orders” at the Catholic Herald UK here.

This piece is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.