Archived Posts January 2013 - Page 14 of 14 | Acton PowerBlog

Warden Burl Cain (photo by Erin Oswalt)

Warden Burl Cain (photo by Erin Oswalt)

In the next issue of Religion & Liberty, we are featuring an interview with Warden Burl Cain of the Louisiana State Penitentiary. In September of 2012, I made a trip down to Angola, La. to tour the prison and interview the warden. I authored a commentary in October that touched on some of my experiences visiting the inmates and prison staff.

Cain is the longest serving warden in the history of the penitentiary, a position he has held since 1995. The prison is more commonly known as “Angola.” Cain is the most well known prison official in the country. He is the subject of the book Cain’s Redemption and has been featured in documentaries and numerous television programs.

Cain is well known for his work as reformer of prison culture and his promotion of moral rehabilitation. He serves on the board of Prison Fellowship, a ministry founded by Chuck Colson. Below is an excerpt from the forthcoming interview:
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What is the role of the marketplace in the Kingdom of God and in the redemptive process of God’s mission? Join David Doty, Founder and Executive Director of Eden’s Bridge, for an AU Online lecture series to discuss those questions. The Building a Marketplace Theology course is scheduled to begin Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 6:00pm EST.

David Doty will lead a discussion based largely on the book, Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, and material developed subsequent to its publication. The four online sessions will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00-7:00pm EST January 22 through January 31, 2013. Visit auonline.acton.org for more information or to register.

Concentric CirclesJulius Medenblik, the president of Calvin Theological Seminary, passes along an anecdote from Michael Lewis’ new book, Boomerang: Travels in the New World.

Read the whole selection for the entire context. It is worth it.

But I wanted to highlight the upshot in particular, the answer to the question, “How do you change the culture of an entire city?”

The answer? “First of all we look internally.”

You change the culture by starting with yourself, from the ground up. You have your own personal culture; change that first. You have a familial culture; work on that. You have a professional or social culture, as well. Focus on that. If you want to change the culture, this is the only strategy that works.

Hunter Baker put it this way:

The first moves are the most immediate. If you are a child, be a respectful child who wants to learn and grow. If you are an adult, take care of your parents as they age. If you are a husband or wife, stay committed to your spouse. Work on sustaining a stable and peaceful household in which all the members feel heard, cared for, and respected. If you are a parent, focus on loving your child’s other parent, providing financially and emotionally for the child, and encouraging the child in learning. If you are a grandparent, help young parents adjust to the newness of their role and encourage them in the hard work of taking care of children. If you live in a neighborhood, work on getting to know your neighbors and doing favors for each other. If you are a member of a church, focus less on what the church is doing to entertain you and spend time finding out how you can help others both in their quest to know God and by meeting needs in their daily lives. When you engage in business whether as a producer or customer, honor your contracts, pay your bills, and do not take advantage of others. God gives us many offices to occupy in this life. Were we to take all of them seriously, the need (and appetite) for government to fill voids might be far less great.

And then there’s this, one of my favorite sections from Herman Bavinck’s The Christian Family:

All good, enduring reformation begins with ourselves and takes its starting point in one’s own heart and life. If family life is indeed being threatened from all sides today, then there is nothing better for each person to be doing than immediately to begin reforming within one’s own circle and begin to rebuff with the facts themselves the sharp criticisms that are being registered nowadays against marriage and family. Such a reformation immediately has this in its favor, that it would lose no time and would not need to wait for anything. Anyone seeking deliverance from the state must travel the lengthy route of forming a political party, having meetings, referendums, parliamentary debates, and civil legislation, and it is still unknown whether with all that activity he will achieve any success. But reforming from within can be undertaken by each person at every moment, and be advanced without impediment.

star1In an effort to foster goodwill amid fiscal cliff negotiations, Starbucks aimed to send a message to Congress by instructing its D.C.-area employees to write “Come Together” on every cup of coffee sold.

Critiques abound, with this post from Mickey Kaus grabbing much of the attention, asking, “Is Starbucks a cult?”

From Kaus:

“Room for smarm in your latte?”Isn’t there something creepy about Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz having [in Politico's words] “asked his Washington-area employees to write ‘Come Together’ on each customer cup today, tomorrow and Friday, as a gesture to urge leaders to resolve the fiscal cliff”? Did Schultz take a poll of his employees–sorry, “partners,” he calls them–before ordering pressuring asking them to join in this lobbying effort? What if he were, say, the CEO of Chick-fil-A and he “asked” his “partners” to write “Preserve the Family” on the outside of cups and containers?

…if you go to work for a HuffPo outfit like AOL or Patch, that’s the sort of thing you’d expect. But Starbucks?  Maybe Schultz’s baristas came for the (admirable) health benefits, not because they wanted to join him in some mushy Tom Brokawish corporate budget crusade.

Over at the Hang Together blog, Greg Forster says not so fast, arguing that although many businesses “don’t currently do a good job of stewarding their cultural role,” it’s largely because “we’ve spent more than half a century trying to teach businesses to pretend they’re not moral and cultural.”

For Forster, we should “set businesses free to be culture makers,” not tie them down. As cheesy, ineffective, or “creepy” as the Starbucks campaign may be (it’s all of the above, in my opinion), only when we’re comfortable with the inherent cultural purpose of business will we be able to “re-humanize” companies accordingly. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, January 3, 2013
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Should government coerce charity?
Joel J. Miller, Patheos

When it comes to the question of social justice, there is more at play than the needs of the poor. Charity requires not only a recipient but also a giver, and that increases the issue’s moral complexity.

Protecting the Poor
St. Basil the Great, Preachers Institute

This great saint reminds us that it is the responsibility of individual Christians to care for the poor.

Can You Fight Poverty With a Five-Star Hotel?
Cheryl Strauss Einhorn, Foreign Policy

The story of how the World Bank’s investment arm hands out billions in loans to wealthy tycoons and giant multinationals in some of the world’s poorest places.

Business as Culture Making: Starbucks Comes Together
Greg Forster, Hang Together

Starbucks isn’t a religious institution, but it did something over the break that illustrates the basic point: it asked employees in its Washington, DC area stores to write “Come Together” on drink cups during the fiscal cliff negotiations.

The BBC News reports that 1 out of 10 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 are struggling to cope with life. The main culprit: despair related to unemployment. The survey of 2,000 teens and young adults was conducted by The Prince’s Trust Youth Index.

The survey commentators seem surprised that education and training opportunities alone are not enough to provide hope for unemployed young people. Young people rightly want to know why they are training for jobs that do not exist. This has been particularly difficult for Northern Ireland where 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds cannot find employment. From the BBC:
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Note: This is the second in a series on developing a Christian mind in business school. You can find the intro and links to all previous posts here.

Before we move on to how to think Christianly in business school, we should first discuss how to think Christianly about the decision to go (or not go) to b-school.

For many Christians—particularly my fellow evangelicals—the concept of thinking Christianly about decision-making is reduced to a simply-stated yet deeply confused question: “Does God have a specific plan for my life?”

The answers is yes—and no. Yes, God has a specific plan for our lives. But no, God doesn’t expect us to discern his secret, hidden-from-us will before we make a decision about the direction of our life. As pastor and theologian Kevin DeYoung explains,
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Christian’s Library Press has released the third book in their Work & Economics series, Flourishing Churches and Communities: A Pentecostal Primer on Faith, Work, and Economics for Spirit-Empowered Discipleship by Charlie Self. Dr. Self is director of PhD studies in Bible and theology and associate professor of church history at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.

Previous books in the series were Flourishing Faith by Chad Brand and How God Makes the World A Better Place by David Wright.

While Pentecostal Christianity is just over a century old its impact in that time as an evangelistic force for Christ has been astonishing. One foundational scriptural understanding of the Pentecostal movement is that the Spirit empowers us to carry out the work of the gospel.

Regarding Flourishing Churches and Communities, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary President, Dr. Byron Klaus says:

“Dr. Self offers a clear witness to theological reflection that portrays the Pentecostal tradition in light of twenty-first-century realities. This volume clearly affirms that the empowerment of the Spirit, focusing on the continuing  redemptive mission of Jesus Christ, also can infuse our communities to prosper when we acknowledge Christ’s kingdom rule over all of creation.”

This book is available online from Christian’s Library Press here. Additionally, the Kindle edition is available here.

In the German newsmagazine Spiegel, Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati says that foreign aid to Africa is doing more harm than good:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa…

Shikwati: … for God’s sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
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A Response to L. Rockwell’s “The Economic Lessons of Bethlehem”
Fr. Gregory, Koinonia

While I am in basic agreement with Rockwell regarding things like free market economic and limited government, I think his defense of them in the linked essay is poor.

Pizza magnate wins temporary ruling on contraception coverage dispute
Bill Mears, CNN

The billionaire founder of Domino’s Pizza has won a temporary court victory, with a federal judge blocking enforcement of part of the health care reform bill requiring most employers to provide a range of contraception and reproductive health services.

Work-Ethic vs the Cell Phone and Computer; stealing and lying
Etheldredasplace

What has happened is that the Millennials have lost the work-ethic. No offence, but my generation knows how to work. And, it is one reason why we learn how to pray.

Are We Helping Poor Americans?
Jennifer Marshall, The Foundry

At the end of the year, many people take time to make charitable donations. But caring for those in need is a year-round responsibility—and when it comes to public policy, conservatives have an important opportunity to articulate an effective response to poverty and social breakdown in America.