Archived Posts January 2013 - Page 8 of 20 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DenethorI’m reading through the Lord of the Rings trilogy with my son, and there’s a striking exchange between Gandalf and Denethor in The Return of the King. Gandalf has just arrived with Pippin from Rohan, and the two have been admitted into an audience with the Steward of Gondor.

As Denethor says of himself to Gandalf, “Yet the Lord of Gondor is not to be made the tool of other men’s purposes, however worthy. And to him there is no purpose higher in the world as it now stands than the good of Gondor; and the rule of Gondor, my lord, is mine and no other man’s, unless the king should come again.”

To this Gandalf responds, “Unless the king should come again? Well, my lord Steward, it is your task to keep some kingdom still against that event, which few now look to see. In that task you shall have all the aid that you are pleased to ask for. But I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”

Consider this claim not only in contrast with the decadent stewardship of Denethor, who conflates the particular good of his realm with the common good of Middle-earth, but also with respect to the corruption of Saruman. For as the resurrected Gandalf the White says, “Indeed I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been.”

For a funny look at what Gandalf’s stewardship responsibility amounts to in the LOTR, check out the “Gandalf Problem Solving” flowchart (HT: Jon Acuff):Gandalf Problem Solving Flowchart

Angola Inmates in the Auto Body Shop.

Angola Inmates in the Auto Body Shop.

When I drove into Angola, La., to interview Warden Burl Cain and tour the prison grounds, I wasn’t nervous about talking with the inmates. I had already read multiple accounts calling Angola “perhaps the safest place in America.” The only thing I was a little nervous about was being an Ole Miss football partisan amidst a possible sea of LSU football fans. Even for such an egregious sin in Louisiana, at Angola, I was extended grace and hospitality. It made sense though, because above all else, Angola is a place of contradictions. People are locked away, most of them forever, but I saw and felt genuine hope and compassion. Historically, it was well known as one of the most brutal and violent prisons, but I felt much safer and at home inside the prison than I did in Baton Rouge. I met inmates who had committed horrible crimes, but had equal or more theological and biblical knowledge than I do, a seminary graduate.

I met thoughtful and reflective people who crave authenticity. You can tell a transformation had occurred and honestly the realness of many of the inmates I met was convicting for my own faith and life. Angola can’t but help change you and a big reason for that is Warden Burl Cain. I interview him in this issue of R&L. Cain is helping to encourage and foster the growth of men the rest of the world have long given up on.

There is a lot of great content in this issue. Wesley Gant contributes an essay titled “The Perfectibility Thesis — Still the Great Political Divide.” It’s an excellent overview of ideological divides and the aim and purpose of government. Dylan Pahman offers a review of Ronald J. Sider’s Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement. I review Grant’s Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year by Charles Bracelen Flood.

The “In the Liberal Tradition” tribute honor this issue belongs to President Calvin Coolidge. During his inaugural address today, President Obama challenged Americans to live up to the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. A great study of those meaning and ideals was offered by Coolidge on the 150th anniversary of the founding document. There is more content in this issue, and the next issue will feature an interview with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk.

A new study conducted by Barna Group shows millions of adults—particularly evangelicals—are worried that our religious liberties are being threatened:

First, Americans have a relatively gloomy view of religious freedom in the U.S. Many Americans express significant angst over the state of religious freedom in the U.S. Slightly more than half of adults say they are very (29%) or somewhat (22%) concerned that religious freedom in the U.S. will become more restricted in the next five years. As might be expected, those who are religious are more concerned than those who aren’t—particularly Christians more so than those adherents to other faiths. Practicing Protestants (46% very concerned) are more worried about this prospect than others; yet, 30% of practicing Catholics are also concerned. Barna-defined evangelicals, who meet a series of nine theological criteria, are among the most likely to be concerned about such restrictions (71%).

Not only are most Americans worried about the future of religious freedom, many feel the restraints have already started. One-third of adults believe religious freedoms have grown worse in the last decade. Among practicing Protestants, nearly half (48%) say they perceive freedom of religion to have grown worse in recent years. Three out of five evangelicals (60%) perceive religious freedoms to have grown worse.

Read more . . .

National Review Online invited Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg to contribute to a roundup of opinion on the inauguration of a second term in office for President Barack Obama. Gregg, the author of the just-published Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future, was also featured yesterday on Ed Driscoll’s blog on Pajamas Media. Driscoll linked his New York Post column on “eurosclerois.

Here’s Gregg’s contribution to NRO’s “Inauguration Day Survival Guide”:

Time is a precious thing, and I, for one, don’t intend to waste it watching the hubris-filled extravaganza and tedious acclamation of identity politics that’s likely to occupy much of the media’s attention over the next few days.

A far better investment of time for those worried that the republic is slowly entering the twilight world of failed states such as California and Illinois would be to forget about the ins and outs of policy debate for a few days, dust off some of the classics of the American Founding, sit down, and, yes, actually read them.

Plenty of people — and not just conservatives and free-marketers — know there’s a more-than-serious risk that the next four years will take the United States even closer to the nadirs of political Detroitification and economic Europeanization. But for all the endless introspection that apparently grips the Right these days, we don’t need to reinvent the philosophical and political principles for the way forward. For although they didn’t agree about everything, the basic agenda for a resurgence of conservative America was penned by those present at the creation in places like Mount Vernon and Philadelphia over 230 years ago. Remembering that is worth more than all the polling and focus groups in the world.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future (Encounter Books, January 2013).

Rick-Warren-PhotoIn response to the Hobby Lobby lawsuit, Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church, has released a statement at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty:

…The government has tried to reinterpret the First Amendment from freedom to PRACTICE your religion, to a more narrow freedom to worship, which would limit your freedom to the hour a week you are at a house of worship. This is not only a subversion of the Constitution, it is nonsense. Any religion that cannot be lived out … at home and work, is nothing but a meaningless ritual.

Some flippantly say ‘A business cannot be a Christian’ but the truth is, every business is either moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, depending the values they base their business on. When the government starts coercing businesses to violate their religious, moral, and ethical values, that is a flagrant violation of our Constitution.

I predict that the battle to preserve religious liberty for all, in all areas of life, will likely become the civil rights movement of this decade…Regardless of your faith, you should pay attention to this landmark case, and pray for a clear victory for freedom of conscience.”

Read the full statement here.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, January 21, 2013

While The civil rights movement was led by Christians, it is easy to forget how many believers—particularly in the South—did not support the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On this day set aside to honor the civil rights leader we should read his best work, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, and reflect on how his words are applicable to us today.

BoycottFor many of us who were born after that era, our knowledge of Dr. King begins with his “I Have a Dream” speech and ends with his assassination in Memphis. We tend to forget the small yet momentous events that sparked the civil rights movement in America. To help fill in some of the gaps in our education I would highly recommend viewing the superb Boycott.

Because the movie came out on HBO and was about a boycott of public busses in the 1950s, it’s not hard to see why it slipped beneath most people’s radar. But the inherent drama of this true story is as exciting as anything you’re likely to see in the theaters this year. Watching it will make you wonder why we seem to rarely muster the same will to fight injustice today.

(Note: The movie Boycott focuses solely on the role King played in his most praiseworthy effort—ending racial segregation. There are many other aspects of King’s mission, however, that are not so laudable. For instance, King supported radical economic proposals that would—and did—harm those in poverty and hinder the economic freedom of all Americans. While that should be neither forgotten nor ignored, it should also not prevent us from applauding his efforts to promote the dignity and expand the liberties of African Americans.)

AU Online’s four part series, Building a Marketplace Theology: From Conception to Execution of an Evangelistic Marketplace Practicum, begins tomorrow, January 22. Enrollment is now open.

Dave Doty, author of Eden’s Bridge, will be speaking on four key issues related to his book and experience. Doty spoke to PovertyCure about the book and the issues it raises.

My aim is to let marketplace Christians know that their vocational calling in the marketplace is ordained of God and that they have a vital role in His mission in the world, the missio Dei.

The natural extension of that, at least to me and given our calling to minister to the world, is to ask ourselves pointed questions: How does my vocation participate in Kingdom building? How do I clarify and enhance my role? How can I, even in my limited spheres, creatively address economic instabilities in the world by the use of my calling, skill sets, and knowledge?

You can read the entire interview at the PovertyCure blog.