Archived Posts January 2013 - Page 5 of 20 | Acton PowerBlog

Just after the Presidential inauguration several leaders raised questions about whether or not President Obama should have sworn the oath of office by placing his hand on the Bible. Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church—a Protestant mega-church in Seattle—after seeing Obama sworn in said, “Praying for our president, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.” Driscoll’s comments stirred up a firestorm of controversy across the country and the Internet.

From a different angel, Dr. Cornel West, professor of Religious Philosophy and Christian Studies at the Union Theological Seminary, reacted strongly against President Obama placing his has on the Bible of Martin Luther King, Jr. in particular. From West’s perspective President Obama had no business placing a hand on King’s Bible for any reason. Obama is no King, suggests West:

There’s an old proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Life is often difficult, full of challenges, trials, and travails. But it is a testament to the human spirit, created in the image of God to mature and develop morally, spiritually, and intellectually, that in the face of such troubles human ingenuity often wins out. Brad Morgan, a dairy farmer turned fertilizer magnate featured in the documentary The Call of the Entrepreneur, put it this way: “You put your butt in the corner, you’ll be surprised what you can achieve.”

I was reminded of this insight in reading a story this week about a local company, National Nail Corp., whose recent experience embodies this reality. As Jim Harger writes, “When the bottom fell out of the home building industry in 2008, the National Nail Corp. was forced to regroup and diversify, says W. Scott Baker, president and CEO of the employee-owned company.”

One of the new products is called Camo, which “created a new way to nail down deck boards without having nails or screw heads poking through the surface to create slivers, pop up or discolor a deck surface.” As Baker puts it, “Camo was birthed when we found ourselves in a place where no one would have willingly gone.”

I’m not very handy, but Camo looks pretty cool to me.

When your butt is in a corner, you’ll be surprised what you can achieve.

This is an important lesson to remember, especially in the midst of economic turmoil and fiscal crisis. Yes, we live in an age of dizzying change, but with these changes also come new opportunities. God has given human beings the august responsibility to be moral agents, to work productively in service of others. Rather than bemoaning our fate when adversity comes, we ought to look forward in hope and creatively exercise those talents God has given us to find innovative new solutions to the myriad challenges facing the world today.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 25, 2013

Canary in the Coal Mine: Mounting Religious Restrictions in Europe
Roger Trigg, Religious Freedom Project

On January 15, 2013, the European Court of Human Rights issued judgments on four cases of great significance for the cause of religious freedom. What they say could well have repercussions beyond Europe itself.

Message to Obama Council: Economic Freedom Leads to Global Development
Helle Dale, The Foundry

We already know what leads to higher living standards in the developing world. It is not developmental aid; it is economic freedom, including free trade—not the strongest suit for the Obama Administration.

Russian ‘police state’ erodes religious liberty
Baptist Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin has created a “police state” and imposed new laws to progressively erode religious freedom, according to an annual report compiled by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

John Calvin’s Contribution to the Biblical Doctrine of Work
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

During the Reformation, John Calvin, along with Martin Luther and others, helped Christians rediscover the biblical doctrine of work.

Guidelines for nonprofits are often misunderstood, says Dimitri Cavalli, and they are sometimes misrepresented by those seeking to quiet churches:

Every so often, there are calls for the federal government to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches. The most common arguments made for taxing churches are that exemptions deny the government important sources of revenue to pay its bills, and that many churches (usually the ones that continue to teach traditional sexuality morality such as the Catholic, Evangelical, and Mormon churches) often abuse their tax-exempt status by violating IRS guidelines that prohibit them from engaging in political activity. The chronic obsession with the activities of the churches in the public square has obscured the fact that they are only a part of the overall nonprofit sector. According to data collected by the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are over 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations (with combined total assets of nearly $5.7 trillion as of August 2012) in the United States today—many of which are nonreligious institutions and organizations that, like churches, seek to influence public policy despite being tax-exempt.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, January 24, 2013

Life of Michael Angelo, 1912 - The Prophet JeremiahWhy do the wicked prosper? This plaintive query is a consistent cry from the psalmist and the prophets. As Jeremiah puts it, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?”

The concern in large part has to do with injustice; why do those who are so morally and spiritually bankrupt enjoy such great temporal blessings?

Over at the IEA blog, John Meadowcroft passes along an answer, at least insofar as it relates to the political structures of social democracy. Drawing on Friedrich Hayek, Geoffrey Brennan, and James Buchanan, Meadowcroft writes that “we should expect that the people most willing to work to attain political office will be those who expect to gain the most from holding it.” And it turns out that quite often those who stand to gain most from political office are those who, in the words of Brennan and Buchanan, “place higher values on the possession of such power.”

Meadowcroft concludes by invoking Hume’s “dictum that political institutions should be designed as if every person was a knave with no end other than his or her own private interests, even though we know that not all people behave knavishly.” The lesson for political power is that it ought to be limited such that the knaves who seek it for their own selfish ends (or those who are turned into knaves by the exercise of their power) ought to have their ambitions blunted by the constrained scope of their authority.

In the context of political power, the wicked tend to prosper, that is, they tend to become powerful precisely because it is so important to them to become powerful. The truth of this insight from public choice theory can also be applied more generally to the prophetic concern.

Why do the wicked prosper? The answer is in part, at least, because the wicked under examination here are the ones who are so attracted to material or temporal gain that they are willing do to pretty much anything to get it. They often achieve their goals, and thus prosper in this limited sense for a season. But in enabling them to achieve what they so desire, God allows their desire to become its own judgment.

A corollary to all this is that there is an obligation on the part of the church and other morally-formative institutions to do their best within their mandates to encourage and promote the development of those who might seek to exercise authority (whether political or otherwise), not as selfish knaves but as suffering servants. Since there are no systems or structures that are incorruptible, it is perhaps just as important to develop non-knavish leaders as it is to limit the scope of any particular leader’s power.

Hobby-Lobby-StoreJustice Antonin Scalia caused quite the stir by attending President Obama’s inauguration ceremony wearing a custom-made replica of the painter’s hat depicted in a famous portrait of St. Thomas More, the well-known Catholic statesman and martyr.

Whether Scalia intended it or not, observers quickly translated the act as a quiet game of connect-the-dots between the administration’s punitive HHS mandate and Henry VIII’s executioner, leading conservatives to applaud while progressives don their own less fashionable bonnets of protest.

Although I don’t expect actual heads to roll anytime soon, the symbolism is fitting indeed. This an administration that seeks to lure Christians away from their consciences through threats of economic penalties and pain. If your religious beliefs happen to clash with the coercive methods and materialistic aims of this administration, blood shall be spilt on the altar of “access.”

The irony abounds. Keep in mind that President Obama ran a campaign that ridiculed Mitt Romney as an Ebenezer Scrooge who clings to his coins without empathy for others and without regard for ethics and morality (all despite Romney’s strong record of charitable giving, might I add). Then and now, this same President seeks to persecute good people like Hobby Lobby’s CEO through economic penalties in the millions of dollars, all for the abonimable sin of caring about and believing in something before and beyond the dollar.

If the great secret of capitalism is its power to leverage and channel the human spirit toward more transcendent ends, the great irony of progressivism is its propensity to take on the image of its own materialistic critiques. (more…)

The Acton Institute has again been named a leading think tank by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program. Writing about this new, 2012 ranking, Alejandro Chafuen, explained what constitutes a good think tank on the Forbes website:

A “market-oriented” think tank is grounded on the reality that respect for private property within a context of rule of law with limited government has been the path for  the wealth of nations. Think tanks that are not market-oriented study how to redistribute wealth, how to increase taxation, or  the optimum rate of monetary debasement. Governments have typically relied on their own internal think tanks for that research, and complemented it by research from state-subsidized universities. Market-oriented think tanks focus on finding private solutions to public problems.

Chafuen is president and chief executive officer of Atlas Economic Research Foundation and board member of the Acton Institute. You can read his full article, “Thinking About Think Tanks: Which Ones Are the Best?” at

The full news release from the Acton Institute follows:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Jan. 24, 2013)—The University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program ranked the Acton Institute among the top social policy and top U.S. think tanks with the release of its 2012 Global Go-To Think Tanks Report. In addition, Acton was cited for having one of the best advocacy campaigns.