Archived Posts November 2012 » Page 3 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

Pravmir.com, a Russian site, has published an English translation of an interview given by Archpriest Nikolai Chernyshev, who is identified as “the spiritual father of the Solzhenitsyn family during the final years of the writer’s life.” The interview touches on Aleksandr Solzenitsyn’s upbringing in a deeply religious Russian Orthodox family, his encounter with militant atheism ( … he joined neither the Young Pioneers nor the Komsomol [All-Union Leninist Young Communist League]. The Pioneers would tear off his baptismal cross, but he would put it back on every time). Fr. Chernyshev describes the writer’s later “period of torturous doubt, of rejection of his childhood faith, and of pain.” The priest talks of Solzhenitzyn’s return to the faith after his experience in the Gulag and how “he suffered and fretted about the Church being in a repressed state. For him this was open, obvious, naked, and painful.” Excerpt from the interview:

Today many people remember the writer’s famous “Lenten Letter” to Patriarch Pimen (1972) and say that Solzhenitsyn expected, and even demanded, greater participation by the Church in society. What were his views in this regard at the end of his life?

Fr. Chernyshev: Solzhenitsyn was one of those people who could not remain silent; his voice was always heard. And, of course, he was convinced that the Savior’s words Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature should be fulfilled [Mark 16:15]. One of his convictions, his idea, was that the Church, on the one hand, should naturally be separate from the government, but by no means should be separate from society.

He felt that they are quite different, that they are completely opposite things. Its inseparability from society should become more and more manifest. And here he could not but see the encouraging changes of recent years. He joyfully and gratefully took in everything positive taking place in Russia and in the Church – but he was far from complacent, since all of society had become twisted and sick during the years of Soviet rule. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, November 26, 2012

Every year Black Friday marks the official beginning of two modern American traditions: Christmas shopping and criticizing Walmart.

Critics on both the left and the right have found a common enemy in Walmart. Those on the left hate the company because it isn’t unionized while conservatives complain because it undercuts mom-and-pop retailers. Some researchers even claim that people are prone to gain weight after a Walmart Supercenter opens nearby.

I suspect if the researchers were to conduct a follow-up study they’d also find that there is about a 99 percent chance you will not be starving to death if you live near a Walmart store. But we live in a strange period in history when the idea of affordable food is considered a lamentable condition.

Walmart’s very business model—maintain a large and innovative supply chain that keeps prices low—offends the sensibility of those who think that prices should be raised in order to pay employees a higher wage. The idea that the higher cost should be passed on to consumers is typically made by those who would never actually shop at Walmart. A prime example is The American Prospect‘s Harold Meyerson:

Walmart replaced General Motors as America’s largest private-sector employer. Instead of paying its workers enough to buy new cars, Walmart paid its workers so little they had to shop at discount stores like Walmart.

The reason why Walmart employees—and others on the lower end of the income scale—shop at the stores is because they are, by necessity, price conscience shopper. Meyerson and other elites that spend only about 3.5 percent of their income on food at home can afford to shop at Whole Foods. But households in the bottom quintile, which spend 26 percent of their income on food, are eager to keep food prices as low as possible. (During this holiday season Walmart employees receive an additional 10 percent off most food items.) If Walmart didn’t exist they the company’s employees wouldn’t have higher paying jobs; they’d just be paying more for food and consumer goods.

Growing up in a family that lived below the poverty line,  I can appreciate the value of inexpensive food. That is one of the primary reasons I appreciate the company—and the reason I think other conservatives should appreciate it too. There is admittedly a lot to dislike about the company, but as former low-income rural resident I think there are a number of reasons why conservatives should be more supportive of Walmart (and similar poverty-alleviating corporations).
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Anthony Esolen has written a rollicking piece in Crisis bemoaning the misrepresentation, misuse and mangling of Catholic Social Teaching. In a phrase, he’s sick of it.

I’m sick of hearing that Catholic teaching regarding sex and marriage is one thing, in that old-fashioned trinket box over there, while Catholic teaching regarding stewardship and our duties to the poor is another thing, on that marble pedestal over here.  I’m sick of hearing that Catholic teaching regarding the Church and her authority is one thing, the embarrassing Latinate red-edged tome tucked away in that closet, while Catholic teaching regarding the laity is another, and pass that bread this way!  No, it is all of a piece.  What the Church says about divorce is inextricable from what she says about the poor.  What she says about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is inextricable from what she says about the respects in which all men are created equal—and the many respects in which she insists upon a salutary inequality.  When we fail to see the integrity of the faith, not only do certain truths escape our notice; the rest, the truths we think we see, grow monstrous, like cancers, and work to destroy the flesh they once seemed to replace.

This is the first in a series of articles on Catholic Social Thought. Esolen addresses the issue of “imposing our morality” on our neighbors, what Pope Leo XIII really had in mind when discussing socialism, and why asking Michelangelo to promote porn isn’t a justifiable idea. If the rest of the series is anything like this article, it’ll be a real treat.

In the latest issue of Christianity Today, Wilfred McClay offers six reasons why religion in America really does—and should—enjoy ‘special privileges’:

A third argument for religion’s special place is anthropological: Human beings are naturally inclined toward religion. We are driven to relate our understanding of the highest things to our lives lived in community with others. Whether our “theotropic” impulses derive from in-built endowment, evolutionary adaptation, or some other source, the secular order ought not to inhibit their expression.

If believers sense a general willingness to acknowledge their legitimate role in public life, they will likely feel a stronger and deeper loyalty to the American experiment. But if they encounter instead a rigid insistence upon a rigorously secularist public square, the result could very well alienate religious subcultures, whose sectarian disaffection could become so profound as to threaten the very cohesion of the nation. Secularists who worry about religion taking an outsized role in public life would be better advised to give a little strategic ground on that issue, and acknowledge the spiritual dimension in our makeup, even if they think it an all-too-human shortcoming.

Read more . . .

Global poverty and its alleviation are often subjects of heated debate. Join us for an AU Online lecture series that explores the theme of human flourishing as it relates to poverty, globalization, and the Church in the developed world. The Globalization, Poverty, and Development series is scheduled for December 6 through December 13, 2012. Online sessions will be held at 6:30 p.m. EST on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Visit auonline.acton.org for more information and to register.

You should also check out the newly released 6 episode DVD series from our friends at PovertyCure that explores human flourishing and their creative capacity.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, November 26, 2012

The Information Gap & Donation Dumping
Elise Amyx, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

What does it really mean for Christians to care for “the least of these?” This is one of the most imperative questions when thinking about the integration of faith, work, and economics.

Our Enemy, the Payroll Tax
Ross Douthat, New York Times

Payroll taxes are a relic of New Deal Machiavellianism: by taking a bite of every worker’s paycheck and promising postretirement returns, Franklin Roosevelt effectively disguised Social Security as a pay-as-you-go system, even though the program actually redistributes from rich to poor and young to old.

What Are American Traditions?
Russell Kirk, The Imaginative Conservative

Everyone seems to be enthusiastic about tradition nowadays—especially the people who denounce most things established in morals and politics.

Stripping the Constitution
Justin Dyer, Public Discourse

Adam Freedman’s stark proposal in The Naked Constitution that we strip our founding document of its modern and academic glosses shows us that we need to take structural reforms to our Constitution seriously.

Making the case for religious liberty for those with ultra-short attention spans.

Ed Morrissey also provides a 30 second argument:
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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, November 23, 2012

The Miracle of the Supermarket
Wesley Grant, Values & Capitalism

Without capitalism, the world as we know it would be fantasy. One of the most inspiring demonstrations of this is the modern supermarket.

I Will Gladly Vouch for School Vocuhers
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, Indiana Barrister

Voucher opponents argue that any public money that goes to private, religious institutions is a benefit to the school and therefore violate the Indiana Constitution.
Not so fast.

Religious Institutions and Modern Society
Greg Forster, Hang Together

The immediate challenge is to the religious freedom of we who practice a social religion. The nones fail to understand that other people’s religions – ours, for instance – presuppose institutional embodiment.

Outside Reflections on Distributism
Andrew Haines, Ethika Politika

In a word, as an alternative to free market capitalism, socialism—or even utilitarianism, more generally speaking—Distributism is a tough sell. Not because it lacks substance, but because it requires too much.

I just finished re-reading through C.S. Lewis’ “Space Trilogy” and have a Holiday book recommendation for you: the third title in this series, That Hideous Strength.

Certainly all three are fantastic and important reads that incorporate thematic elements relating to theology, philosophy, history, politics, economics and astronomy. It’s “Science Fiction,” but only in the same way that the Bible is “just a bunch of God’s rules.” These three books are bigger than any one genre and the Sci-fi label should not deter a single one of you from digging in.

But the reason I choose to highlight That Hideous Strength here at the blog of an organization dedicated to the advancement of limited government and “the free and virtuous society” is because Lewis tackles these very things in its pages. The novel’s various sub-plots give it its depth and richness, but the “A-story” is that of one progressive organization’s - The National Institute of Coordinated Experiments (or N.I.C.E) – rise to power under the guise of “we simply want to help humanity move forward by centralizing power and allowing our philosopher-kings and experts to run things.”  Sound familiar?

The deification of science. The religion of progress. The manipulation of the electorate via the press. The group-think of intellectuals at prestigious institutions of learning. The bizarre combination of insisting that you speak for the “common man” while at the same time despising him for his common and unsophisticated ways. The mockery of patriotism. The undermining of the Church and the family.

And at the heart of it all: mankind’s pride and defiant, fallen nature. The desire to supplant the Almighty and do what we can to avoid His holy gaze.

I’m telling you, That Hideous Strength is the most important novel you’ve never read. If you care about the things that The Acton Institute cares about, this is your book.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

IMGP2668The estimable Mollie Hemingway has a post up at Ricochet that examines the curious spillover of Black Friday into Thanksgiving Thursday. She writes, “Do Target executives have the right to make employees leave their families to open stores on days when they’ll be home with their families? Of course they do. Should they? Of course not!” Her concern is “that some people are so addicted to shopping that they can’t even take three days off a year.” I think she’s right to conclude that “if you are in any way inclined to shop on Thanksgiving instead of waiting a day for your fix, consider seeking help.”

About this time last year I wrote a piece on this phenomenon, in which I argued that consumers ought to realize the implications of their spending choices: “A variety of polls have shown that the public generally thinks that stores should be closed on Thanksgiving, but they may not always recognize what their shopping habits require of retailers. Shoppers need to realize that they cannot have it both ways. Our decisions have real consequences for the lives of those who work in retail and a host of other industries.”
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