Archived Posts April 2013 » Page 7 of 13 | Acton PowerBlog

Samuel Gregg, Director of Research at Acton, discusses Blessed John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth) in a new article in Crisis Magazine. Entitled, ‘Veritatis Splendor: The Encyclical That Mattered’, Gregg makes the claim that this encyclical may become one of the greatest in history. Why?

For one thing, Veritatis Splendor was the first encyclical to spell out the Catholic Church’s fundamental moral teaching. Catholicism had of course always articulated the moral dimension of Christ’s message. Never before, however, had a pope provided a formal systematic outline of Catholic moral doctrine. That alone makes the encyclical a perennial reference-point for Catholic reflection.

Second, Veritatis Splendor provided what’s now widely recognized as a powerful response to the crisis into which Catholic moral theology fell after Vatican II. In many respects this crisis was precipitated by the debates surrounding Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. But more deeply, Veritatis Splendor was a rejoinder to many Catholic theologians’ attempt to do three things.

Gregg goes on to state that this encyclical reminds the world of the truth that will set us free:

Herein lies Veritatis Splendor’s importance for anyone who wants to preserve and promote civilization. Not only does it insist that particular acts are eternally unworthy of man. It also affirms that human reason can identify what the encyclical calls certain “fundamental goods” that transcend the particularities of the here-and-now.

In that sense the encyclical reminds us that avoiding evil isn’t enough. As Veritatis Splendor’s unfolding of Christ’s encounter with the rich young man illustrates, the prohibitions contained in God’s moral law are supposed to be a spring-board toward human flourishing. 

Read Veritatis Splendor – The Encyclical That Mattered’ at Crisis Magazine.

dad-baby-bjorn1With the expansion of economic freedom and the resulting material prosperity, we’ve reached an unprecedented position of personal reflection and vocation-seeking. This is a welcome development, to be sure, but as I’ve written recently, it also has its risks. Unless we continue to seek God first and neighbor second, such reflection can quickly descend into self-absorbed and unproductive naval-gazing.

Thus far, I’ve limited my discussion to the ways in which privilege and prosperity can impact our views about work outside of the home, but we needn’t forget the side effects that modernity might foster in an area that often consumes the rest of our daily lives: the family.

Just as most of our ancestors had few choices about where they glorified God in business (toiling for the feudal landowner), they also had few choices when it came to raising families (who they married, how many children they had, etc.). Whether due to lack of contraception, more practical material/financial concerns, or any number of other factors, for most families, children were simply a given.

Today, much like in our approaches to job-seeking, child-bearing has come to involve a significant degree of choice, and the overriding choice of the day seems definitive. As Jonathan Last points out in his book, What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster, birthrates in the Western world are in a free fall, with more and more adults opting for fewer and fewer kids, if any at all. Last offers plenty of nuances as to why this is happening, pointing to a “complex constellation of factors, operating independently, with both foreseeable and unintended consequences.” But on the whole, he concludes that “there is something about modernity itself that tends toward fewer children.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Work Is the Best Way Out of Poverty, Most Americans Agree
Ashley Shelton, The Foundry

Most Americans believe “work is the best solution for poverty,” according to a recent Rasmussen Report. A full 80 percent of Americans agree with this statement (9 percent disagree and 11 percent are undecided).

Transform This
John Rottman, Comment

Could revival possibly come through the prison system?

The Unthinkable Reality of Human Trafficking and What You Can Do About It
Erin Straza, Christ and Pop Culture

“We may not see this sort of slavery in the open, but it is there, lurking in shadows and on the fringes of society, quietly engulfing its victims for an estimated $32 billion in profits worldwide annually.”

How Margaret Thatcher Brought Economic Freedom to Britain
Ira Stoll, Reason

Of all the possible ways to remember Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — victorious cold warrior, pioneering woman politician, resolute American ally — the one that’s probably most relevant today is the way she transformed Britain’s domestic policy and economy.

At last night’s plenary dinner at the Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE) conference, William Easterly of New York University was awarded the association’s highest honor, the Adam Smith Prize.

In a powerful speech, Easterly juxtaposed the contrary visions of economic development represented by the two laureates of the Nobel Prize in economics in 1974, Friedrich Hayek and Gunnar Myrdal.

As Easterly put it, Myrdal’s views on development won the day, and there never was any debate with Hayek’s perspective. Myrdal emphasized the need for economic “experts” in the developed world to work with governments in the Third World to effectively plan the economics of these nations. Hayek, by contrast, favored an approach which would provide liberties to billions of individual “problem solvers” to address the challenges confronting them in their own unique contexts.

Decades of Myrdal-inspired “development” have left the basic condition of much of the world unchanged. According to Myrdal, economic liberty was a luxury that might be possible and debated in the developed world, but that all such elite “experts” in the West held that no such freedoms could be granted to those in developing nations.

Liberty became a privilege denied to the poor.

Such a perspective amounts to a denial of the dignity of the human person, created in God’s image, and endowed by him “with certain unalienable rights, among which are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The dominant paradigm of intervention, however well-meaning, has had real world, life and death consequences. In many cases it has amounted to the practical collusion with tyrannical regimes and despotism. Easterly pointed to the case of a land grab in Uganda encouraged and promoted by the World Bank, in which farmers’ homes and crops were burnt and their livestock killed. An eight-year old boy was also killed in the fires:

Residents were given until Feb. 28, 2010, to vacate company premises while soldiers and the police kept surveillance. Company officials visited, too. From time to time a house would be burnt down, villagers said. Then came Feb. 28, a Sunday.

“We were in church,” recalled Jean-Marie Tushabe, 26, a father of two. “I heard bullets being shot into the air.”

The New York Times exposed this incident, and the World Bank promised to investigate.

Three years later we are still waiting for the investigation, and four decades later the developing world is still waiting for liberty.

We’ve almost all seen some of the creepy messianic videos associated with President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. If you’re in need of a refresher there are examples here and here. It isn’t solely a problem of the political left though. Throughout history there has been varying belief in political saviors of different ideologies. There are many on the right who firmly believe that political changes alone will transform our culture and institutions.

However, as government dependency continues to grow to record levels, we are reaching new heights in state worship and adoration. I wrote more about this topic in “As Secularism Advances, Political Messianism Draws More Believers,” a commentary I published last year.

Currently, I am reading Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became our State Religion by Benjamin Wiker. The book offers some good insights on the assaults on religious liberty, increased secularism, and political messiahs. Here’s an excerpt from his new book:

Modern political utopianism, as we shall see, is an attempt to discard the necessity of grace (and hence of the church), even while state power replaces grace as the instrument for perfecting man. Liberalism is more than the rejection of Christianity; it is the absorption and transformation of its doctrines. Before the Christian doctrine of grace, no one would have dared think about perfecting the whole human race–a few, select individuals, a small group or clan or class of society, yes, but not the whole human race. With Christianity, God’s grace is indeed open to all, and so all may share in the perfection of holiness, but this offered grace takes full effect only in the Kingdom of God, that is, only in heaven. Liberalism takes the church’s salvific mission and makes it a merely political goal, one to be achieved in this world by human power alone, a heaven brought down by force to earth, where we become the authors of our own salvation.

And finally, here is a look at the somewhat comical yet sad end result of state and leader worship in North Korea:

[Note: This is the second in a three part series. You can read the introductory post here and part three here.]

How Bitcoin Works (The Simplified Version)

In order to use the Bitcoin system, a user installs a “wallet” on their computer or mobile phone. Once installed the wallet generates a Bitcoin address (similar to an email address) that allows the user to send and receive payments. Bitcoins are divisible to 8 decimal places yielding a total of approx. 21×1014 currency units. This allows a person to spend a fraction of a Bitcoin (the current exchange rate as of April 15, 2012 is 1 Bitcoin = $95.36000). Unlike standard e-commerce and money transfer system, Bitcoin transactions are irreversible.

How Bitcoin Works (The More Complicated Version)

understand

A Bitcoin is merely a chain of digital signatures attached to a transaction log. In the very first transaction of the system, Nakamoto’s computer program (which is open source and distributed across a peer-to-peer network) created 50 Bitcoins. When Nakamoto spent some of the coins, it created a new transaction that subtracted the amount from his account and credited it to the recipient’s. All such transfers entail the owner digitally signing a hash (a numerical value created by an algorithm) of the previous transaction and providing the public key for the encryption to the next owner. Both items are then added to the coin’s transaction log. A payee can verify the signatures to verify the chain of ownership, which prevents double spending of the same coins.

This transaction—and all subsequent exchanges—is distributed to the entire network for verification. Collections of transactions, known as “blocks,” are deemed valid when another computer on the network creates a transaction log for it that matches the previous blocks. To prevent the falsified logs from being accepted, the system must provide a means of verification that is prohibitively costly to any individual user, but relatively cheap for the network as a whole. As explained in The Economist:
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The Kermit Gosnell trial is about a form of live-birth murder known as infanticide, a crime that the overwhelming majority of Americans rightly oppose.

And that is what the case is about: Well formed babies that Dr. Gosnell is alleged to have removed from women by inducing delivery or “precipitating,” as he called it. Then, because they were alive and breathing, he or members of his staff would plunge scissors into the back of the neck and sever the spinal cord. He is charged with doing this seven times, but it is thought he may have done it to hundreds of infants.

The murder trial is also loaded with compelling, newsworthy moments. So why, asks documentary filmmaker Phelim McAleer, is the mainstream media largely ignoring it?

… all TV serial killers seem to collect mementos from their victims. In reality those who take trophies often take scarves, driver’s licenses, or pieces of jewelry.

But it seems that Dr. Kermit Gosnell collected babies’ hands and feet. And he kept them in jars in the kitchen of his clinic. And the jars were transparent. So when you reached up for the coffee as you heated up your panini during lunch, you would have to brush past around 20 jars with the tiny severed hands and feet stored there.

Ms Baldwin would ask Dr. Gosnell about the jars. He told her they were for research, but she never saw any researchers collect them.

I could go on and on and on. And I only spent a few days at the trial. Every minute seemed to throw up new horrors….

But the case also has a sense of unreality because there has been almost no media coverage of the evidence. There has been almost no analysis or comment regarding a man and his staff who may have taken part in one of the largest mass murders in American history. I find myself questioning my notes because there are almost no other reports verifying what I am now writing. It seems that if a mass murder occurs and no one reports on it it starts to appear as if it never really happened.

Ed Morrissey covers the debate over the media coverage and non-coverage here.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, April 15, 2013

Leadership as Stewardship, Part Two
Albert Mohler

Convictional leaders are called to fulfill a stewardship of breathtaking proportions. The knowledge that our calling is the stewardship is both liberating and limiting.

MSNBC Host Who Said Kids Belong To Community Also Says Education Funding Desperately Inadequate
Tom Gantert, Michigan Capitol Confidential

United States spends more per pupil than any country in the world; 30 percent more than a decade ago

Why newspapers need to hire more Christians
Matt K. Lewis, The Week

For starters, it would help rebut conservative concerns about media bias.

New Barna Study Explores Trends Among American Donors
Barna Group

In a new poll from the Barna Group, more than half of Americans said they have donated money or items (or both) to a cause they cared about during the last year.

President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships has released its recommendations to the president on Building Partnership to Eradicate Modern-Day Slavery. Here are some things you need to know.

  1. The Council recommends that the Department of Health and Human Services oversee the Administration’s work against human trafficking. This is the same agency that brought you the HHS Mandate.
  2. They would like to use religious organizations to raise awareness regarding human trafficking, support survivors and curb demand for products produced by slave labor. This comes after the Obama Administration cut over $5 million dollars from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ efforts to help human trafficking victims.
  3. The Council includes Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori. Also serving is Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, president of the Leadership Conference of Catholic Women. The Council’s make-up leans heavily towards liberal religious leaders whose ideas regarding morality run afoul of traditional Biblical values.
  4. It is estimated that human traffickers make a profit of at least $32 billion annually.
  5. Those who are trafficked can be from any nation or ethnicity. Women and children are most at risk. The greatest indicator that one will be trafficked: living in poverty.

Over at the IFWE blog, Elise Amyx takes a look at Brian Fikkert’s argument about the origins of the modern American welfare state:

According to Fikkert, the evangelical church’s retreat from poverty alleviation between 1900 and 1930 encouraged the welfare state to grow to its size today. Church historians refer to this era as the “Great Reversal” because the evangelical church’s shift away from the poor was so dramatic.

In Faithful in All God’s House: Stewardship and the Christian Life, Gerard Berghoef and Lester DeKoster make a similar case. They argue that “the church is largely responsible for the coming of the modern welfare community.” They also cast the hopeful vision that another reversal might occur: “The church could be largely responsible for purging welfare of its faults and problems if enough believers caught the vision.”

While Fikkert is largely drawing on the early twentieth century in America for his argument, Berghoef and DeKoster examine more broadly the Christian perspective on the relationship between faith and works of charity. This dynamic is, after all, is a perennial challenge for Christian social engagement, and the interaction between the Social Gospel and evangelicalism in America is just one example. Another is the reversal over the last century or so in the Netherlands, where there has been a move from Abraham Kuyper’s claim that “all state relief for the poor is a blot on the honor of your Savior” to the church’s plea “for social security that is not charity but a right that is fully guaranteed by government.”
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