Archived Posts April 2013 - Page 2 of 19 | Acton PowerBlog

Emperor Theodosius Forbidden by St Ambrose To Enter Milan Cathedral (Anthony van Dyck, 1620)

In the latest issue of Renewing Minds, a journal of Christian thought published by Union University, I examine two different visions of religious liberty. They are roughly analogous to the two versions of the “empty shrines” of secularism described by Michael Novak and George Weigel, respectively, as well as to the visions of the American and the French Revolution. One has to do with the freedom of the church from state control, and the other has to do with freeing the public square from religion.

My piece, “Principle and Prudence: Two Shrines, Two Revolutions, and Two Traditions of Religious Liberty,” is one of the freely accessible preview articles available at the journal’s website. Check out the rest of the contents for this theme issue on religious liberty, and consider subscribing for the rest of the fine content.

After examining some of the premodern history of religious liberty, I pivot with a query about the relevance of Neuhaus’ law:

Given the developments since the sixteenth century, we might wonder if there is a secular corollary to that axiom from Richard John Neuhaus, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.” Neuhaus wrote this in 1997, and was talking specifically about orthodox doctrine within the context of the church. As he concluded, however, “Almost five hundred years after the sixteenth-century divisions, the realization grows that there is no via media. The realization grows that orthodoxy and catholicity can be underwritten only by Orthodoxy and Catholicism.”

As a devotee of neither Orthodoxy nor Catholicism but who is deeply concerned with orthodoxy and catholicity, I am inclined to wonder if Neuhaus’ Law, as it has come to be called, applies only to Protestantism. In fact, given the secularization that both Kuyper and Gregory point to in their own ways, it seems worthwhile to consider whether Neuhaus’ Law might be applicable outside the church, to the liberal political order as such. If so, the recognition that there is no via media might well apply to the purported neutrality of the secular state.

I conclude that these two visions of religious liberty are, in the end, irreconcilable: “We are faced then, with two competing and ultimately antithetical visions of religion and society. One is the way that leads to life and the other the way that leads to death.”

Read the whole thing at Renewing Minds.

“Anytime you are going to throw money up in the air,” says Abraham Carpenter Jr., a farmer in Grady, Arkansas, “you are going to have people acting crazy.” Although “throwing money up in the air” is increasingly one of the main functions of the federal government, Mr. Carpenter is referring to a specific case in which the Agriculture Department “opened the floodgates to fraud.”

The compensation effort sprang from a desire to redress what the government and a federal judge agreed was a painful legacy of bias against African-Americans by the Agriculture Department. But an examination by The New York Times shows that it became a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees. In the past five years, it has grown to encompass a second group of African-Americans as well as Hispanic, female and Native American farmers. In all, more than 90,000 people have filed claims. The total cost could top $4.4 billion.

From the start, the claims process prompted allegations of widespread fraud and criticism that its very design encouraged people to lie: because relatively few records remained to verify accusations, claimants were not required to present documentary evidence that they had been unfairly treated or had even tried to farm. Agriculture Department reviewers found reams of suspicious claims, from nursery-school-age children and pockets of urban dwellers, sometimes in the same handwriting with nearly identical accounts of discrimination.

Yet those concerns were played down as the compensation effort grew. Though the government has started requiring more evidence to support some claims, even now people who say they were unfairly denied loans can collect up to $50,000 with little documentation.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, April 29, 2013

Is There a Distinctively “Christian” Way to Be a Bus Driver?
Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition

My sense is that often a singular question is being asked but multiple questions are being answered. The result is more confusion than clarity.

USCIRF Report on Religious Freedom in Syria
Mark Movsesian, First Things

Last week, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a report, Protecting and Promoting Religious Freedom in Syria, that describes the religious contours of Syria’s civil war and makes recommendations for US policy with respect to the conflict.

Rethinking Religious Liberty
Benjamin Wiker, Catholic World Report

Why religious liberty cannot mean the right to believe whatever we want.

Orthodox Bishops Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry
Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops

We, the Members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, kindly bring to your attention the urgent and very serious plight of the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Paul Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim, who were abducted this past week by “a terrorist group” in the village of Kfar Dael as they were carrying out humanitarian work.

Ronald Davis is homeless and living on the streets of Chicago. In this video clip he shares how he feels about the way other people treat him.

“No matter what people think about me, I know I’m a human first.”

When we see people like Mr. Davis on the streets our first tendency is often to wonder how he got into this situation or what, if anything, can be done to help him out of his plight. But Davis shows there is an even deeper need that is as powerful and as urgent as food or shelter: the need to be treated with dignity.

All too often we see the Ronald Davis’ of the world and our thoughts turn to big-picture policy questions (e.g., What can be done about homelessness in America?). But while such concerns should motivate us to find responsible solutions, that shouldn’t necessarily be our first thought when we are face to face with the men and women in our world like Davis.

We can think about the “homeless problem” when we’re in our cars or at our desks. While we’re on the street, confronted with a cup-shaking panhandler, we should be wondering how we can show them that we recognize their dignity. We should seek to let them know we realize they too were made in the image of Creator of the universe. We need to show them that whatever else they’ve lost—job, home, family—they still have their dignity. And that no matter what we might think of them, we know they’re a human first.

(Via: 22 Words)

There is such powerful interest in sports being a way out of poverty for many low-income males, especially black males, that we tend to forget about other things, like wisdom, that contribute to success. For many young men and women sports has given them and their families amazing new opportunities to quickly go from subsistence to wealth. However, for many athletes the lessons of stewardship, which are first modeled in the home, were never properly cultivated, resulting in them losing all of their earnings within a short time. Here are just a few recent ones from

A recent CNBC article by Mark Koba notes the bleak outlook for 2013 college grads looking for work:

A survey released last week from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that businesses plan to hire only 2.1 percent more college graduates from the class of 2013 than they did from the class of 2012.

That’s way down from an earlier NACE projection of a 13 percent hiring rate for 2013 grads.

There is good reason for this bad news, however. As Koba notes, “One reason there may not be so many grads hired is that many employers don’t believe college graduates are trained properly.” He goes on: (more…)

Americans continue to be fed the false narrative that poverty causes crime rates to rise. While it is true that not having material needs met makes people vulnerable to do things like steal—even the Bible teaches that (Proverbs 30:8-9)—the ongoing reduction of morality and materiality is doing nothing but setting the stage for the failure of well-intended programs because we are missing core moral issues. One such idea is a New Haven, Connecticut plan to reduce crime rates by giving more welfare. The problems there were recently introduced in a New Haven News article: