Archived Posts May 2014 | Acton PowerBlog

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Like many people, I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Maya Angelou this week. Her voice – both her speaking voice and her literary one – were unique, rich and resonant. I’ve always wondered if God did not grant her such a special voice in order to make up for all the years she didn’t speak, the story she recounts in her classic, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

I had the great fortune of hearing Ms. Angelou speak in person a number of years ago. I still have the notes from that evening. One thing she said was that each of us was a teacher: we were all teaching those around us by the way we lived our lives. She challenged us to make sure that we were good teachers, to show others what it meant to live a good life. It is safe to say that she herself was a good teacher.

Michael Hyatt does a nice job of summarizing some of the most important lessons Maya Angelou taught us. First, she taught us that faith in God was the source of courage:

When I found that … I was a child of God,” Angelou told an interviewer about her faith, “when I understood that, when I comprehended that … when I internalized that, I became courageous. I dared to do anything that was a good thing.”

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Because jobs can serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and communities, they are the most important part of a morally functioning economy. Workers dropping out of the labor force because they’ve grown discouraged is therefore one of the most pressing moral and economic issues in America today. Sadly, it is also one of the most overlooked.

Today, the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee released some stats showing the shocking decline in the male participation in the labor force, particularly men between the ages of 25-54:

Record 1 In 8 American Men In Their Prime Working Years Are Not In The Labor Force_0.preview

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According to the committee members:

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The Acton Institute is proud to sponsor the latest symposium in Econ Journal Watch: “Does Economics Need an Infusion of Religious or Quasi-Religious Formulations?”

EJWEJW editor Daniel B. Klein introduces the theme in a fine Prologue, in which he writes, “our focus is the enrichment of economics: Is economics suffering from an undue flatness? If so, why is that happening? If economics needs an infusion of richer concepts, what are some of the richer concepts? Also, if economics needs an infusion, for what purposes is it that such infusion is needed? What purposes is economics trying, but failing, to serve, because it lacks richer concepts?”

Robin Klay of Hope College and an executive board member of our own Journal of Markets & Morality opens the symposium with a survey of the landscape on these questions with her contribution, “Where Do Economists of Faith Hang Out? Their Journals and Associations, plus Luminaries Among Them.”

EJW has put together another 17 response essays, in which luminaries in their own right weigh in on the theme from a variety of religious and methodological perspectives. Browse this issue of EJW and download the entire issue for your own perusal as well.

And for more reflection on the intersection of theology and economics, be sure to check out the Journal of Markets & Morality. The archived issues are open access, and to get the latest two issues in either digital or hardcopy format, you can get a subscription for yourself or recommend it to a colleague or institutional library. Last month I also lectured at the Henry Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on “A Match Made in Heaven: Why Theology and Economics Need Each Other,” with a substantive and engaging response and discussion afterwards with Stephen Long of Marquette University.

vergara-californiaNine California kids are suing their state over substandard teaching at their public schools. Campbell Brown explains why this case—which few people have ever heard of—may have a huge impact on education:

Win or lose, these students are reminding us of the activism that is born out of the inaction of our leaders and the frustration driven by inequity in education. Children and parents have resorted to acting on their own, finding inspiration in desperation.

Their fight stems from a basic belief that access to highly qualified teachers should be fair and widespread, that classroom safety is paramount, and that equity remains essential.

Vergara v. California takes aim at laws that go directly to the heart of a good education: the ability to have, keep, and respect good teachers and dismiss utterly failing ones. Specifically, the suit challenges California laws that create three sets of problems, all of them undermining a school’s ability to act in the best interest of students.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, May 30, 2014
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The Supreme Court on Prayer
Gerard V. Bradley, Public Discourse

Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Greece v. Galloway is the Court’s best piece of Establishment Clause work in decades—and a happy omen for religious liberty in our country.

Crony Capitalism and the Tyranny of Small Decisions
Andrew Quinn, The Federalist

The word “cronyism” is everywhere you turn. Conservatives are rallying around the argument that government power and corporate power are not enemies, but allies.

Are Millennials Really Leaving the Church? Yes — but Mostly White Millennials
Bob Smietana, OnFaith

All the hand-wringing stories about young adults leaving religion overlooks the vibrancy and growth of multiethnic churches.

Christianity will rise as sceptics die out, geneticist claims
Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph

Growth of Christianity in Africa coupled with population decline in Europe will trigger new resurgence of the religion, UCL academic claims.

Kevin Allen, host of a weekly call-in show on Ancient Faith Radio, interviewed Fr. Michael Butler over the weekend “about how we might address the environmental issues that confront us today by appealing to the authentic Orthodox Tradition.” Fr. Michael is the author, with Prof. Andrew Morriss, of the 2013 Acton monograph Creation and the Heart of Man: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalism.

In their April 23 commentary “Christian Environmentalism and the Temptation of Faux Asceticism” the authors note:

The ascetical tradition of the Orthodox Church includes many practices: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, keeping vigil, inter alia. They are the active part of the spiritual life, our voluntary cooperation with the grace of God. As such, it is important that we not be tempted to use the ascetical practices of the Church for ends they were not designed to serve. Thus, we need to be careful of “environmental consciousness” masquerading as authentic spiritual practice. Moreover, we must keep in mind that it is the believer’s practice of asceticism, not asceticism qua asceticism, that is important. (more…)

economyNote: This is the latest entry in the Acton blog series, “What Christians Should Know About Economics.” For other entries in the series see this post.

The Term: ‘The Economy’ (aka Gross National Product)

What it Means: When people refer to “the economy” they are usually referring to a particular idea—Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—which is itself simply an economic metric. GDP is often used as a single number that “measures” the economy. Imagine you wanted to put a price tag on the value of all the final goods and services produced by every sector of the economy (all of the crops grown, all of the lattes served at the coffee shop, all of the hours billed by lawyers, etc). The total number you’d put on the price tag is the GDP.

Why it Matters: Humans have seemingly unlimited wants and needs—but a limited amount of resources. This is known as scarcity, and it’s the fundamental problem in economics. The primary way we solve this problem is through market exchanges: you make something I want or need and I give you something you want or need in return (we do this indirectly through the use of money). The occurrence of all of these exchanges is what we call “the economy,” which is why we can use the metric that measures the sum of all of these exchanges—GDP—as a synonym. When we say the economy is growing/shrinking, we are saying the total value of the goods and services being exchanged (GDP) is increasing/decreasing.

An economic unit (whether a family, country, etc.) is generally better off when everyone is able to meet all (or nearly all) of their material needs and many of their material non-necessary desires. That is why economic growth is so important. While the issue is complex and requires some nuance to fully explain, the simplistic answer is that economic growth matters because people continue to have babies.
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N_GodDollar_400pxNote: This is the introductory post to a series that explains economic terms and concepts from a Christian perspective. You can find the most recent list of entries listed below under “Latest entries.”

I call it the “Dow Conundrum.” At least once a week, for as long as I can remember, I’ve heard about the Dow Jones Industrial Index (DJIA). But I didn’t really know what it meant or why it mattered. So a few years ago, I decided to ask a range of people, from entrepreneurs to teenagers, if they had heard of the DJIA (all had), if they knew what it measured (most knew it had to do with the stock market), and why it mattered so much that it was mentioned in news reports every day (none of them – not one — could explain it’s significance).

And it’s wasn’t that I picked a particularly economically illiterate sample for my experiment. A couple of years ago Adam Davidson of NPR’s Planet Money wrote,

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In a short video that recently went viral, Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington offers some spontaneous career advice to a group of young actors.

Although the setting is informal and his remarks are off-the-cuff and unrefined — sure to beg questions among theological nit-pickers — his general view aligns rather well with a healthy approach to Christian stewardship.

Watch the video here:

In keeping with the theme of “All is Gift” that runs throughout Acton’s new series, For the Life of the World, Washington emphasizes that we are created to be gift-givers, and that our gifts are not to be neglected due to our own idleness and fear, and neither are they to abused for our own personal privilege or gain: (more…)

pacifierAlana Newman knows the pain caused by the fertility industry. She is a donor-conceived child (via sperm donation) and an egg donor. Newman is also the founder of AnonymousUs.org, which focuses on shedding light on the fertility industry.

Newman has written “Creating A Marketplace of Children: A Donor-Conceived Woman Explains the Harms of Third-Party Reproduction,” in which she shares the questions she had as a child about her own conception, and the painful reality of egg donation. She explains that one reason she chose to donate her own eggs when she was 20 years old was that it was “open:” the child conceived via her eggs could contact her in the future is he/she so wished. Of course, that “openness” only went one way; the woman donating her eggs would never be able to anything more than whether a boy or girl had been conceived via her “donation.”

Of course, Newman admits, the money was a big draw as well. She responded to a Craigslist (Craigslist!) ad:

Because I was young, and without any other marketable skills, the $8,000 advertised by the fertility clinic made selling my eggs outrageously more attractive than other job options. I believed that if I sold my eggs as an open ID donor, I would improve the system and make the world a better place. I also envisioned what I could do with that kind of money—record an album or visit Europe. It seemed like a needle-length journey to a whole new social class.

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