Archived Posts 2013 » Page 15 of 167 | Acton PowerBlog

George J Marlin, Catholic author and editor, recently reviewed Samuel Gregg’s latest  book, Tea Party Catholic at The Catholic Thing. He begins by saying  that he knows many members of the Tea Party who are religious, but “because they do not have a consistent public philosophy that serves as the foundation of their civic activism,” they tend to “go off half-cocked and in different directions.” However, he is confident that Tea Party Catholic will “help fill this void:”

Gregg, an heir to the Michael Novak school of democratic capitalism, believes that Catholic economic and social thought has made an important contribution to “the shaping and uplifting of American life and culture.” He further argues that the Church’s “robust commitment to religious liberty. . .is quite applicable to the development of a morally ‘thick’ case for free economy and limiting the government’s economic role.”

Tea Party Catholic spells out the Catholic vision for personal and economic liberty and how “prudential application of the principles of Catholic social teaching can help alleviate the needs of the materially least among us” and help people flourish in society. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Wednesday, November 27, 2013

kidney saleImagine the horror of losing friends and family members. Fleeing your homeland. Scrambling to survive in a refugee camp that is over-crowded and under-sourced.

You are now prey for bounty-hunters. The price: your kidney. Your eye. (more…)

pope with peterPope Francis has released his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). An apostolic exhortation

…is published to encourage the faithful to live in a particular manner or to do something, e.g., post synodal documents offered to the church in summary of a previous synod and hoping the faithful will do something helpful for the life of the church…

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Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows,
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land,
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon,
And foreign mart for implements of war;
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week;
What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
Doth make the night joint-labourer with the day:
Who is’t that can inform me?

–Marcellus, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Human beings, with our diversity of gifts, talents, and dispositions, were created to, as Adam Smith put it, “truck, barter, and exchange.” In other words, we were made to trade.

But we were not created to be constantly trucking, bartering, and exchanging. That’s the central truth about humanity that the commandment concerning Sabbath rest communicates:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Over at The Gospel Coalition today, I expand on the news of Amazon’s new delivery service on Sundays to discuss “Sabbath Rest and the Moral Limits of Consumption.”

Just as we sleep each night to give our bodies rest from daily labors, our souls (as well as our bodies) need rest from mundane and worldly activities. This is the kind of rest that the Sabbath is designed to provide. The Sabbath principle calls us to rest from the gratification of our earthly desires, whether they be morally permissible or not, and whether we consider them to be work or leisure.
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Blog author: rjmoeller
posted by on Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Picking up where we left off last time (in verse 9 of I Samuel 8), the prophet Samuel’s sons have given God’s system of judges a black eye with their corrupt behavior. Not wishing to be upstaged in the “Let’s Disappoint God” department, the people of Israel decide they want to up-the-sin-ante by rejecting God’s order and demanding a monarchy.

It’s now time for Samuel to share with the people what is in store for them should they refuse to course-correct.

In verse 9, at the behest of God himself, Samuel offers a “solemn” warning to his people. I note this at the start because I am of the opinion that it is always a worthwhile endeavor to give someone headed off of a cliff a fair warning. Even if you know they won’t listen, it’s always worth a shot. God knew the people had turned their hearts from Him, and He knew they would reject the council of His appointed mediator, but He told that mediator to warn them anyway.

Samuel’s task was to walk rightly with his God and obediently speak truth to his countrymen. The rest was in Yahweh’s hands. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving and the Constitution
Carson Holloway, Public Discourse

Strict separation of church and state would require us to throw out Thanksgiving as a religious holiday proclaimed by the president. Instead, we should embrace Thanksgiving and throw out strict separationism as a misguided interpretation of the Constitution.

Reducing Poverty and Raising Prosperity
Tom Donohue, Free Enterprise

Though tremendous strides have been made in reducing global poverty, the World Bank estimates that 1 billion people will be living in extreme deprivation by 2015.

Sam Rocha’s Strange and Startling Philosophy of Education
Stephen H. Webb, First Things

Samuel D. Rocha does not just think outside the box. When it comes to education, his thought is downright otherworldly.

This Thanksgiving, Stop Idolizing the Pilgrims
Review by Thomas S. Kidd, Christianity Today

An evangelical historian teaches us how to think critically about the heroes of our past.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Catching Fire

In this week’s Acton Commentary, “Tyranny Is the True Enemy,” I explore the latest film installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, “Catching Fire.” I pick up on the theme that animates Alissa Wilkinson’s review at Christianity Today, but diverge a bit from her reading. As she writes, a major aspect of this second part of the series has to do with fake appearances and real substance, and the need to “remember who the real enemy is.”

Wilkinson is upset with the marketing buzz surrounding the film, arguing that it “declaws” the substantive message of the books themselves. There’s an element of truth to this. It comes home especially when watching an interview like this, in which Jennifer Lawrence seems to embody the idea that for a celebrity in today’s culture, “you never get off this train,” as Haymitch puts it to Katniss and Peeta on their own promotional tour.

But in focusing on the distracting nature of commercial merchandising of the films, I argue that Wilkinson ends up distracted from who the real enemy is. There is much that is morally problematic about the way that the Capitol operates. Wilkinson rightly shows the shallow consumerism and sensuality of Capitol couture. But the fact that this isn’t the real enemy, so to speak, can be shown by a bit of thought experiment.

Suppose that the consumption habits of the Capitol were far less odious to our moral sensibilities. Suppose the citizens all lived chaste, upright, and responsible lives in their city. Their oppression of the districts would be no less troublesome for all their virtuous consumption. The decadence of the Capitol only puts the real tyranny over the districts into sharper relief. John Tamny argues that to read Catching Fire as “anything other than a polemic against communistic, brutal government is a certain act of willful blindness.”

I won’t go quite that far, and I don’t agree that the film/book has nothing at all to do with critiquing consumerism, but I do think that such alternative readings often forget who the enemy really is. As Tamny (mis)quotes from Catching Fire, Katniss herself identifies the enemy as the one “who starves and tortures and kills us in the arena. Who will soon kill everyone I love.”

In the opening sequence of “Catching Fire,” Katniss is illegally hunting in an attempt to provide much-needed protein for her family. At one point, Katniss and Gale come across a flock of wild turkeys. This image is especially striking at the release of this film during the Thanksgiving season.

Far from promising a “turkey in every pot,” President Snow has no regard for the welfare of anyone in the districts. The citizens of the Capitol are all that matter, to the point that people like Katniss have to resort to illegal hunting and the black market for basic necessities like medicine and food.

There is a connection between hedonism and what might be called a “soft” form of tyranny characteristic of the vicious circle between the citizens of the Capitol and the government. And while tyranny in all its forms is to be rejected, the real enemy in the Hunger Games is the hard tyranny of President Snow and his jackbooted thugs. Everything else is, in the end, a distraction.

Blog author: bwalker
posted by on Tuesday, November 26, 2013

macbethbloodEarlier this month, the Fairfield Mirror reported on a speech given at Fairfield University in Connecticut:

Many consumers are content in turning a blind eye to the injustices that save them cents on their dollars. While it may be challenging to understand the social responsibilities that affect the world’s most powerful corporations, one group of investors is constantly directing these corporations to increase their social responsibility: the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

Senior economics major Arturo Jaras Watts and Fairfield University’s Proactive Investment Club organized an event on Nov. 6 to explain how to invoke social justice in corporations through financial investment. The lecture was open to all but was mostly attended by economic and business majors.

Patricia A. Daly headlined the event at this Jesuit school. Sr. Daly, readers will recall, is executive director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, billed on its website as “an alliance of Roman Catholic institutional investors primarily located throughout the New York metropolitan area” and “the largest regional member of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).”

The Mirror quotes Daly:

[F]eatured speaker Patricia A. Daly knows the consequences that can come from certain companies’ financial choices.

She believes investors must know who they are investing in.

‘If you’re not engaged, then you might as well sell the stock if it’s really a problem … If it’s making money, then that’s blood on your hands,’ she said. (more…)

contraceptive-mandateThe Supreme Court has agreed to hear a pair of cases that challenge the HHS mandate requiring many private companies to insure contraceptive and abortifacients. The Obama administration asked the high court to review the issue after a federal appeals court in Colorado found in favor of Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based crafts franchise. The court will combine the Hobby Lobby case with lesser-known case involving Conestoga, a Pennsylvania company that lost earlier bids for relief from the mandate.

If you haven’t been following the controversy, here’s what you need to know about the mandate:

What is this contraception mandate everyone keeps talking about?

As part of the universal health insurance reform passed in 2010 (often referred to as “Obamacare”), all group health plans must now provide—at no cost to the recipient—certain “preventive services.” The list of services includes sterilization, contraceptives, and abortifacient drugs.

If this mandate is from 2010, why are we talking about it in 2013?

On January 20, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that that it would not expand the exemption for this mandate to include religious schools, colleges, hospitals, and charitable service organizations. Instead, the Administration merely extended the deadline for religious groups who do not already fall within the existing narrow exemption so that they will have one more year to comply or drop health care insurance coverage for their employees altogether and incur a hefty fine

Is there a religious exemption from the mandate? If so, who qualifies for the exemption?
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burden-bearingOver the past year, public discussion about the Affordable Care Act has led many Christians to question the proper roles of government and business in providing healthcare. Too often, though, the question left unexamined is what role the church should have in responding to the medical needs of the community.

Throughout the history of the church, Christians have been actively involved in the provision and funding of health and medical resources. But for the past 50 years, these functions have been treated as political problems reserved for the state rather than matters to be addressed by the church.

Some Christians though, are beginning to reassert this biblically mandated role by participating in health care sharing ministries (HCSM). HCSMs are not insurance companies, but nonprofit religious organizations that help members pay for medical treatments.

As the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries explains, “A health care sharing ministry (HCSM) provides a health care cost sharing arrangement among persons of similar and sincerely held beliefs. HCSMs are not-for-profit religious organizations acting as a clearinghouse for those who have medical expenses and those who desire to share the burden of those medical expenses.”
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