Archived Posts September 2013 - Page 10 of 14 | Acton PowerBlog

weinerAnthony Weiner did not win the Democratic Party primary for New York City last night. Leading in the polls at one time, he ended up with 5 percent of the vote. His defiant and circus like campaign appropriately ended with more bizarre theatrics. In a scolding interview, Weiner was called out for his political power addiction recently by Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC. Though O’Donnell sees no need to call him out for his moral behavior and personally he doesn’t feel it is a hindrance for supporting Weiner, it’s the prime reason for Weiner’s collapse in support.

That Weiner really had no shame or misgivings about the extent to which he was willing to embarrass himself and his family says something about his lust for political power and relevance. If you take away the platform for his power, his entourage, the attention he receives, strip him of those things, he is just another common man laid low by sin and addiction. That’s really the correct answer to O’Donnell’s question that is never answered truthfully.

In another recent video clip, where an outraged Jewish voter confronts Weiner about his moral bankruptcy, we again see the depth of his inability to be shamed and get a deeper look at his defense of that behavior. It’s the false notion that pervades much of our society today, that Americans are not allowed to make moral judgements about people and their behavior.

While there are many good and morally straight citizens in public service, I suspect Weiner is more towards the norm than many of us might like to believe. As the culture rots, and accountability wanes, society will reflect the corrupting nature of the world. But we notice it less because spiritual blindness intensifies society’s moral blindness.

We are bombarded by a lot of articles and blogs today, many times from the political right, demanding moral outrage for one issue or the other, but there is so little moral outrage left in our society to give. There was enough in New York City to end Anthony Weiner’s quest for more power and more attention and political relevance. But we can easily point to hundreds of examples that reflect the opposite. Weiner’s sad and bizarre campaign is his own doing, but it also says something profound about the corrupting and addicting nature of power and the people entrusted as the watchmen over that power.

Abbott

Newly Elected Australian Prime Minister: Tony Abbott

On Saturday, Tony Abbott, a member of the Liberal-National Coalition,  was elected prime minister of Australia despite being considered “too religious, too conservative and too blunt” to win a national election. Turns out, he’s an admirer of the work of Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg (Australian born). In 2001, Abbott addressed the role of government in alleviating poverty and reducing unemployment in an issue of Policy Magazine, in a special feature titled, “Against the Prodigal State.” He begins:

The story of the rich young man who was told that perfection meant selling all he had and giving the proceeds to the poor has echoed through Western culture for 2000 years and still haunts debate over welfare policy. Anything that can be sold as ‘generosity’ always seems to hold the moral high ground—even when it turns out to be the kindness which kills. Well-meaning people tend to assume that virtue in individuals is also best practice for governments. Going further, others seem to think that government programmes can substitute for personal responsibilities in a kind of ‘outsourcing’ of moral action from the individual to a prodigal state. Under this ‘social gospel’, political activism becomes more important than visiting the sick or helping a neighbour in need.

He explains the distinction between “ordinary and heroic virtue and the difference between what can be required of people under the law and what might be urged of people in a higher cause.” He goes on:

As commentators such as Samuel Gregg and Michael Novak have pointed out, there is a sharp distinction between private virtue and public duty. The key problem with governments giving ‘their all’ to the poor is that what they have is not their own. The resources of government are collected from citizens, most of whom are far from rich. Governments need to be careful about being compassionate with other people’s money lest they demonstrate not civic virtue but moral vanity. Government giving has none of the ‘going without’ quality of personal charity because the politicians and officials who give are not giving what’s theirs.
Addressing the issues of unemployment, Abbott says,
the most significant compassion anyone can show for the unemployed is to provide work, boost encouragement to work and improve the employability of job seekers. Government programmes that don’t involve an element of self-help patronise the unemployed and can easily end up reinforcing a sense of failure and victimhood… Government agencies are much better at delivering an identical service to whole populations than meeting the specific needs of individual people.
Samuel Gregg address these themes in his latest book, Tea Party Catholic which is now available for pre-order.
Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
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Cradle

Photo Credit: akatrya via Compfight cc

I share Fr. Robert Barron’s concern about many of the attitudes on display in this Time magazine cover story on “the childfree life.” As Barron writes, much of the problem stems from the basic American attitude toward a life of “having it all.”

Thus, Barron observes, “Whereas in one phase of the feminist movement, ‘having it all’ meant that a woman should be able to both pursue a career and raise a family, now it apparently means a relationship and a career without the crushing encumbrance of annoying, expensive, and demanding children.”
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quebec charterParti Québécois and Bernard Drainville, minister of the newly proposed charter, announced yesterday that a new plan would ban overt religious symbols to be worn by “judges, police, prosecutors, public daycare workers, teachers, school employees, hospital workers and municipal personnel.” These symbols would include large crosses or crucifixes, turbans, hijab, and kippas. Smaller jewelry (such as Star of David earrings) would be allowed.

This proposal has caused uproar, both in the Quebec government and in the public. Here are a few reactions: (more…)

The other night, I sat down with my kids to read one of my favorite Rudyard Kipling poems, “The Camel’s Hump,” a remarkable 19th-century takedown of 21st-century couch-potato culture.

With typical color and wit, Kipling takes aim at idleness, decrying “the hump we get from having too little to do” — “the hump that is black and blue.” Kipling proceeds to elevate labor, noting that hard work refreshes the soul and reinvigorates the spirit: “The cure for this ill is not to sit still / Or frowst with a book by the fire / But to take a large hoe and a shovel also / And dig till you gently perspire.”

The illustrations in my 1949 version of the poem offer additional flair to Kipling’s contrast, aptly showing what can happen, physically and spiritually, if we do or don’t get our hands dirty. But don’t let the boy’s youthfulness fool you: “We all get the hump / Cameelious hump / Kiddies and grown-ups, too!”

camel

Page-2-Camel

 [The above pages are taken from Volume 2 of the 1949 Childcraft collection, Storytelling and Other Poems.]

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
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Assault on Christian Town in Syria Adds to Fears Over Rebels
Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, New York Times

For Syrian rebels fighting in recent days around the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, any gains made in battle could be wiped out in the war of perceptions.

Conscience Freedoms Denied by Liberal Courts
Anthony Esolen, Crisis Magazine

Two recent court cases illustrate the incoherence and remarkable intolerance of “liberal” views regarding conscience.

The Necessity of Distinguishing Relief and Development
Matt Perman, What’s Best Next

In both cases, the goal is to help the person back to self-sufficiency. But the strategies in each case are different — often profoundly so.

Five Insights About Private Property from Aquinas
Andrew Spencer, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Reading church history often provides answers to what appear to be novel questions in our own day (Ecclesiastes 1:9), to support and explain what Scripture teaches. Thomas Aquinas provides a solid argument for private property in his Summa Theologica.

choiceopportunityfront1Last week, as the country was remember MLK’s dream of children being judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, Attorney General Eric Holder was suing the state of Louisiana because he’s more worried, as the Wall Street Journal says, about the complexion of the schools’ student body than their manifest failure to educate.

Late last week, Justice asked a federal court to stop 34 school districts in the Pelican State from handing out private-school vouchers so kids can escape failing public schools. Mr. Holder’s lawyers claim the voucher program appears “to impede the desegregation progress” required under federal law. Justice provides little evidence to support this claim, but there couldn’t be a clearer expression of how the civil-rights establishment is locked in a 1950s time warp.

Passed in 2012, Louisiana’s state-wide program guarantees a voucher to students from families with incomes below 250% of poverty and who attend schools graded C or below. The point is to let kids escape the segregation of failed schools, and about 90% of the beneficiaries are black.

During the 2012-13 school year, about 10% of voucher recipients came from 22 districts that remain under desegregation orders from 50 or so years ago.
For example, says the complaint, in several of those 22 districts “the voucher recipients were in the racial minority at the public school they attended before receiving the voucher.” In other words, Justice is claiming that the voucher program may be illegal because minority kids made their failing public schools more white by leaving those schools to go to better private schools.

Read more . . .

Peter Greer has spent his life doing good, from serving refugees in the Congo to leading HOPE International, a Christian-based network of microfinance institutions operating in 16 countries around the world. Yet as Greer argues in his latest book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, “service and charity have a dark side.”

The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, Peter Greer

Pointing to a study by Fuller Seminary’s Dr. J. Robert Clinton, Greer notes that “only one out of three biblical leaders maintained a dynamic faith that enabled them to avoid abusing their power or doing something harmful to themselves and others.” From King David’s power trip with Bathsheba and Uriah to Jonah’s end-of-life anger and selfishness, the Bible is filled with examples of self-destruction amid service.

“When I looked to Scripture for guidance, what I found troubled me,” Greer writes. “Men and women who had heard from God—who even performed amazing miracles—were just as likely to blow it as everyone else.”

And alas, in all of our discussions about how to best serve our neighbors, how often do we focus on surface-level externalities to the neglect of the human heart? How often do we narrow down our “metrics for success” to exclude any discussion or contemplation about the motivations driving our actions or the potential for pitfalls along the way? (more…)

Reading the 2013 results of proxy shareholder resolutions orchestrated by various leftist organizations affiliated with “religiously” oriented investment groups, a colorfully descriptive phrase came to mind to describe both: Whatever its derivation, useful idiots is employed as “a pejorative term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.”

For the purposes of this post, we’ll grant groups with purported religious and socially conscious authority such as Walden Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management, As You Sow and the Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility the benefit of the doubt. We’re not questioning the quality of their faith or the depth of their social concern. But their political agitation is fair game for a thorough critique. And it is clear that these groups have a major blind spot when it comes to financier George Soros.  Soros, one may recall, is the Hungarian-born multibillionaire responsible for funding radical leftist causes, including the Center for Political Accountability, Common Cause, Media Matters, Planned Parenthood and ACORN and various and other sullied causes. The man, it should be noted, also amasses vast wealth by, in part, heavily investing in the energy sector.

It is the Center for Political Accountability, however, upon which I focus today. As noted previously, CPA’s Bruce Freed authored many of the shareholder resolutions introduced by faith-based activist shareholders gathered together to quiet corporate political speech as well as derail profits and place expensive speed bumps in the paths of companies in direct competition with Soros’ financial interests. Doubt it? Herewith from Ceres’ website:

Investors achieved noteworthy victories during this year’s shareholder proxy season, with a near record 110 shareholder resolutions filed with 94 U.S. companies on hydraulic fracturing, flaring, fossil fuel reserve risks and other climate – and sustainability – related risks and opportunities….

Filers of the resolutions include some of the nation’s largest public pension funds, such as the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the New York State and New York City Comptrollers’ Offices; socially responsible investors such as Green Century Capital Management and Trillium Asset Management; and religious, labor and other institutional investors, who collectively manage more than $500 billion in assets.

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With a bit of breathless excitement (“a progressive theological current“), there is news in Rome that Pope Francis is welcoming liberation theology back into the Vatican. On Sunday, Sept. 8, the Vatican announced a meeting between the pope Vatican Popeand Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Mueller has co-authored a book with Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian who is considered the founder of liberation theology, and the two will present the book to Pope Francis.

Liberation theology came out of Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, emphasizing a preferential option for the poor, but with strong ties to Marxist ideals as well. In 1984, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) noted that liberation theology began with the premise that all other theologies were no longer sufficient, and a new “spiritual orientation” was needed. Further, Cardinal Ratzinger said of this theology,

The idea of a turning to the world, of responsibility for the world, frequently deteriorated into a naive belief in science which accepted the human sciences as a new gospel without wanting to see their limitations and endemic problems. Psychology, sociology and the marxist interpretation of history seemed to be scientifically established and hence to become unquestionable arbiters of Christian thought.

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