Archived Posts June 2013 » Page 2 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

chaplainThe Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, an organization of chaplain endorsers representing more than 2,000 current chaplains actively serving the armed forces, is concerned about the Supreme Court’s decision today to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Chaplain Alliance calls on Congress to pass enhanced religious liberty protections for all military personnel.

“The court’s unfortunate decision to strike down the federal definition of marriage highlights the need for the religious liberty protections recently passed by the House Armed Services Committee and the full House of Representatives,” said CH (COL) Ron Crews, USAR Retired, executive director for Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “Most of the faith groups in our country firmly hold that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. They strongly believe that children deserve to know their mother and father. Chaplains from those faith groups will continue to minister with those convictions. Chaplains have been protected by DOMA as they minister to service members and their families in a manner consistent with those sincerely held beliefs. That freedom is now at significant risk.”

The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty submitted an amicus brief in support of DOMA explaining how the repeal of DOMA could impact the religious liberty of service members and military chaplains:
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From a June 22 CNA/EWTN news article on the 2013 National Religious Freedom Conference in Washington, sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program.

The Very Reverend Dr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, echoed the Rabbi Cohen’s statements, telling CNA that “I think that there is a clamp-down on religious liberty in this country, but it’s so incredibly simple that we aren’t catching the signs.”

“If one religious identity’s freedoms are taken, then all suffer,” he added.

He warned, however, against over-correction, such as moves by the Russian Orthodox Church to establish Russian Orthodoxy as the official state religion. “There is a problem when the Church relies on the fist of Caesar to protect it rather than the loving hand of Jesus,” he cautioned, although he noted that “the government should guarantee us our freedom to express ourselves.”

Read “Diverse faith leaders unite over religious freedom concerns” at the Catholic News Agency.

Perhaps nothing invigorates the left more than climate change and the exercise of free speech in the political arena – imagine their combined dyspepsia when these two issues converge. This is what is occurring with regrettable frequency as Walden Asset Management, Ceres and the Interfaith Council on Corporate Relations have joined a rogue’s gallery of progressive organizations issuing proxy shareholder resolutions urging a variety of companies to disassociate from the American Legislative Exchange Council.

On June 25, Ernst & Young issued a report titled “Key Developments of the 2013 Proxy Season.” The document states: “Shareholder influence in the boardroom is growing. Investors are using proxy voting and shareholder proposals to challenge a wide spectrum of corporate governance practices – from board diversity, to focus on environmental topics, to transparency around political spending.”

We know from previous reports these past few months that many religious investment groups have mounted the barricades of proxy investment activism to forward progressive causes. And their fingerprints smudge the resolutions submitted to businesses to further agendas far removed from spiritual faith whilst wedded to the latest causes celebre of the left, including eliminating corporate funding of ALEC. (more…)

There is little doubt that America is moving further away from the kind of broad and liberal religious freedom that was championed during the founding period. In terms of intellectual thought, that period was certainly the high water mark for religious liberty around the globe. As Americans celebrate their freedoms and Independence next week, I seek to answer the question in this week’s commentary about America’s ability to remain the land of religious liberty.

Sadly, the outlook is rather bleak, and America will need a fundamental shift in thinking to secure protection for the rights of conscience and houses of worship. It’s evident the significance of spiritual freedom is waning and can’t really be articulated by the wider culture. Spiritual freedom is essential to self-government and self-control. In fact, I make the point in my commentary that the most dangerous detriment to religious liberty is the popular notion that religion and faith constricts liberty. Obviously, just winning mere court cases is not enough. That ship has sailed.

I suspect today’s Supreme Court ruling regarding the Defense of Marriage Act will only complicate matters of religious conscience for churches and dissent from culture and society becomes more dangerous. Secularization of society and the rise of centralized federal power is creating a government that seeks to operate above fundamental truths and the rights of conscience. It seeks to crowd it out and diminish its influence and limiting power upon the state. During his closing address at Acton University, Samuel Gregg explained so well how moral relativism now operates in a dictatorial fashion.

Just before the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776, John Adams wrote a letter to his cousin Zabdiel that I think points to our inevitable path as a nation without a rejuvenated appreciation and understanding of religious liberty. Adams declared,

The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, They may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies.

 

nfcoLast month, I had the pleasure of interviewing the folks at Neighborhood Film Company, a company that melds for-profit with non-profit to train, mentor, and employ adults in recovery through the process of filmmaking.

This week, Tim Høiland has an article for Christianity Today’s This is Our City project that expands on NFCo.’s story, digging deeper into the ins and outs of their business model and further exploring the dynamics of their community-oriented approach. Though big can sometimes be better, the founders of NFCo. believe they are called to orient the process of transformation in their business as they observe it in Jesus’ approach to discipleship.

Høiland summarizes:

Numbers are intentionally kept small; there are currently three apprentices, with plans for three more next year. “For us, the philosophy is shrinking our focus to people with names and faces and stories that we know,” says Dan Walser, 29, executive director of Working Film. “This is what we see when we look at Jesus and his ministry with his disciples.”

By working with a limited number of trainees at a time, NFCo. and Working Film can personalize the program while holding each apprentice to a high standard of excellence. “We tell our guys, ‘Look, the bottom line is that we need to run a company. So if you can’t cut it as an employee, there are plenty of nonprofit programs that will babysit you,’ ” Staub, 29, says. “That may seem harsh, but if I start looking at you like you can’t be the best, I’m not giving you full human dignity…” (more…)

HermanBavinckBigThe Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck has some wise words for reform of cultural institutions, notably marriage and family, in his exploration of 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.

We often take the liberty necessary for such reformation for granted. Will the world continue to be open for such reformation? Will there still be circles of Christian influence that will allow us to live out the realities of the gospel everyday?

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Atheist SupermanLast time the Superman franchise was rebooted, I reacted pretty negatively to the messiah-lite qualities of Clark Kent’s alter ego. In this fine piece over at Big Think, Peter Lawler analyzes the nature of this tension in the context of the new film quite aptly:

The film also has all kinds of Christian New-Agey imagery that you can grab onto if you’re not much of a reader. Superman is compared in some ways to Jesus; he begins his mission at age 33, for example. But that kind of comparison doesn’t really hold up that well. Superman is only here to help us, not redeem us, certainly not to save us from our sins or from death. And he doesn’t have any deep insight into the meaning of life or love. His life, like each of ours, is shaped by choice and chance. He has extraordinary power that falls way short of omnipotence. He’s a man born to love and die—not a god. Superman’s Kryptonian father predicts that the people of our planet would regard his only begotten son as a god, but that we did not do. We’ve never become so Nietzschean or whatever that we’ve come to think a merely Superman can replace our need for God himself.

I haven’t yet seen Man of Steel, but Lawler’s examination has roused my hopes for the reboot. The imperial dynamics of Kryptonian technocracy look to be a fruitful vehicle for examining salient dimensions of our own experience today.

As Lawler concludes, “Krypton’s inevitable decline and fall is a victory of natural evolution over the effort to provide a conscious and volitional replacement for it. It’s not true that human liberty is defeated by evolution; the truth is that we are ‘hardwired’ for choice and chance and can’t flourish without them” (emphasis added; HT: Prufock).

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Behind Evangelical Politics: Abraham Kuyper
Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed

It would as easy to exaggerate his influence as it is for some to ignore his influence, but at least a major voice behind all of evangelical political action . . . is the Dutch theologian, journalist, pastor, and politician Abraham Kuyper.

40 years later, time has not been kind to The Limits to Growth
Mark J. Perry, AEI Ideas

In 1972, the Club of Rome released the mother of all apocalyptic forecasts, The Limits to Growth, which provided alarming predictions that devastating collapse from overpopulation and resource depletion was just around the corner.

House Hearing on Religious Minorities in Syria
Mark Movsesian, First Things

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives held a joint subcommittee hearing on the situation of religious minorities in Syria, Religious Minorities in Syria: Caught in the Middle.

The Entrepreneur Next Door
Brian Baugus, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Who is an entrepreneur? We often think of businessmen like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates as entrepreneurs, but is it possible there might be an entrepreneur living next door?

The passage of Obamacare in 2010 remains one of the most contentious legislative battles in recent memory. It was such an “attractive” bill that in order to garner the final few votes needed for its victory President Obama had to promise certain senators that their states would be exempt from its regulatory measures. It was unpopular when it passed. It’s unpopular today.

But members of the progressive-Left in this country possess two specific qualities that enable them to move forward with their political and cultural agendas, regardless of the political or cultural climate:

1) They understand that messaging is everything

2) They’re willing to fight the “long war” for what they believe in (more…)

Health_Shetty-MainIndia’s best-known heart surgeon was interrupted during surgery to make a house call. “’I don’t make home visits,’ ” said Devi Shetty, “and the caller said, ‘If you see this patient, the experience may transform your life.’ ” The request came from Mother Teresa, and the experience did change his life. Shetty’s most famous patient inspired the cardiac surgeon and healthcare entrepreneur to create a hospital to deliver care based on need, not wealth.

In 2001, Shetty – who the Wall Street Journal has given him the title of Henry Ford of heart surgery — founded Narayana Hrudayalaya (NH), which Fast Company magazine describes as “Walmart meets Mother Teresa.” Today, NH is one of India’s largest multi-specialty hospital chains and has created a record of performing nearly 15,000 surgeries on patients from 25 foreign countries. The hospital group believes it can soon cut the cost of heart surgery to a mere $800 per procedure.

If it can be done in India, why can’t it be done in the U.S.?

It could — maybe — but we’d need to learn the following lessons from India’s most innovative hospital:
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