Posts tagged with: christianity

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, March 6, 2014
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bible-readingSurveys have found that nearly eight  in ten Americans regard the Bible as either the literal word of God or as inspired by God. At the same time, other surveys have revealed—and recent books have analyzed—surprising gaps in Americans’ biblical literacy. These discrepancies reveal American Christians’ complex relationship to their scripture, a subject that is widely acknowledged but rarely investigated. To understand that paradox, the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture conducted the first large-scale investigation of the Bible in American life.

 The Bible in American Life” is a study whose purpose is to understand better how Americans use the Bible in their personal daily lives and how other influences, including religious communities and the Internet, shape individuals’ use of scripture. The project, according to its researchers, was driven by the recognition that, though the Bible has been central to Christian practice throughout American history, many important questions remain unanswered in scholarship, including how people have read the Bible for themselves outside of worship, how denominational and parachurch publications have influenced interpretation and application, and how clergy and congregations have influenced individual understandings of scripture.

Some of the interesting findings from the report include:
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bieberJustin Bieber is no different than many 20-year-olds in the US and Canada. He is naturally searching for identity, meaning, and purpose — and searching for a community with whom to pursue those things. This is a normal process of transitioning from the teenage years into adulthood. Bieber, like many 20-year-olds, has shown a lack of judgement at times that has landed him not only in the news but also in jail. Many of us remember our own antics in those years and breathe a sigh of relief that we were never caught.

January 23, 2014 was one of those nights for Bieber. He was taken into custody with singer Khalil Amir Sharieff after police busted an illegal street drag race involving exotic cars, according to news sources. The Miami Police are now releasing photos from the custody intake process that put on display Bieber’s many tattoos. What I find interesting is that Bieber not only has a tattoo of Psalm 119:105 and but also one of Jesus. It made me wonder what Bieber’s life would like look if these things were tattooed not only on his skin but also on his heart.

It would be great to have an opportunity to ask Bieber what Jesus and Psalm 119 mean to him with no cameras, no media, no “selfies,” and the like–just to have an honest conversation about how he believes Jesus and Psalm 119 provide direction in his life. According to the Christian Post, Bieber recently tried to get baptized in an evangelical Protestant church.
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By now even many people who didn’t watch the Oscars have seen or heard Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speech for Best Actor. The Texas actor thanked God for all the opportunities in his life, thanked God some more (cut to Academy members squirming in their seats), and then he told a story about when he was a teenager and was asked who his hero was.

The answer he gave at the time: his hero was Matthew McConaughey in ten years. Then when he was asked the same question ten years later, he gave the same answer: himself in ten years; and so on and so on throughout his life because, as he explained, he’ll never achieve the ideal he was striving for, but the important thing is to aspire to the heroic ideal and chase after it.

It’s easy to make fun of this: an apparently narcissistic actor picking his future self as his hero, thanking God while being infamous for the wild oats he has sown, and drifting into theological incoherence at certain points in his speech. And while all that may be worth noting, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. (more…)

HowTheWestWon_FrontCoverSamuel Gregg recently reviewed Rodney Stark’s new book, How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity. Gregg begins by pointing out that discussion of Medieval Europe “is invariably understood as a period of unmitigated darkness–so much so that words like “feudal” are used today, even by many well-informed Catholics, as synonyms for backwardness.” How the West Won seeks to analyze as well as dispel common misunderstandings and myths about how the West developed. Stark begins his argument by warning his readers, “This is a remarkably unfashionable book.”

While there are many studies and books making similar points, Gregg explains why How the West Won offers something new:

What makes Stark’s book different from these and other studies are two things. First, he weaves his arguments about pre-Christian Europe, the medieval period, the Crusades, and the development of capitalism (to name just a few) into an account which dissolves many prevailing conceptual divisions between the pre-modern and modern worlds. Many secular-minded people—but also many Christians—will be surprised at the high degree of continuity, for instance, between minds like Saint Albertus Magnus and Sir Isaac Newton. Sometimes this occurs by Stark pointing to evidence that has hitherto escaped most people’s attention. In other instances, it is a question of looking at the same evidence but through a more plausible interpretative lens.

The second distinctive feature of How the West Won is how Stark shows how particular historical myths have less to do with the facts than with efforts to paint Christianity as a backward regressive cultural force. To give just one example, Islamic Spain is regularly portrayed, Stark notes, as an oasis of tolerance compared to a repressive Christendom, despite the undeniable evidence of the widespread and long-term persecution and subjugation of Jews and Christians by the Moors. (more…)

Ukrainian priest/monks from Kiev stand between protesters and soldiers during recent protests, acting as peacemakers.

Ukrainian priest/monks from Kiev stand between protesters and soldiers during recent demonstrations, acting as peacemakers.

This weekend on Ancient Faith Radio, host Kevin Allen interviewed Metropolitan Antony, primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States about the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine. The bishop offered very good insights into the religious, cultural and political factors at play now in the Ukraine, carefully pointing out that the situation is very fluid and subject to change almost by the hour.

Allen asked the bishop what role the Orthodox and Greek-Catholic churches should play in this crisis going forward.

The Churches have an “enormous” role and indeed a “primary” role, Metropolitan Antony said. He continued:

We have all along, and so have all the churches in Ukraine have called upon those involved to remember the dignity of the human being, to remember the sanctity of life throughout this whole conflict. The Church and the clergy will be required to refrain from participation in any kind of political maneuvering or machinations, and to simply preach the word of God, and preach the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to overcome the difficulties first and then to begin the process of forgiveness, because this is a process that I believe will go on for some time to come. (more…)

thinkingWe read the same Bible and follow the same Jesus. We go to the same churches and even agree on the same social issues. So why then do liberal and conservative evangelicals tend to disagree so often about economic issues?

To explore that question I recently wrote a series of posts explaining “What Liberal Evangelicals Should Know About the Economic Views of Conservative Evangelicals.” The posts covered 12 principles that generally drive the thinking of conservative evangelicals when it comes to economics:

1. Good intentions are often trumped by unintended consequences.
2. Our current economic and historical context must be taken into account when applying Biblical principles
3. To exploit the poor, the rich need the help of the government.
4. We love economic growth because we love babies.
5. The economy is not a zero sum game.
6. Inequality and poverty in America is more often a matter of personal choice than structural injustice.
7. The best way to compensate for structural injustice is to increase individual freedom.
8. Saddling future generations with crippling debt is immoral.
9. Social mobility — specifically getting people out of poverty — is infinitely more important than income inequality.
10. Jobs that lead to human flourishing are the most important part of a moral economy.
11. Free markets are information systems designed for virtuous people
12. Free markets are the best way to serve free people.

To make it easier to read, I’ve compiled the entire series into a single essay, which can be downloaded in PDF or text format here.

Panel moderator Elise Amyx, blogger Jacqueline Otto Isaacs, panelist Taylor Barkley

Panel moderator Elise Amyx, blogger Jacqueline Otto Isaacs, panelist Taylor Barkley

While acknowledging that the Bible is not a book of political theory, a recent panel hosted by The Institute for Faith, Work and  Economics asked whether or not Christianity and libertarianism were compatible. The panel, moderated by former Acton Institute intern Elise Amyx, was made up of young evangelicals eager to tackle the question. They came up with 5 reasons that Christianity and libertarianism were indeed compatible.

1. Christianity Celebrates Voluntary Action, Value Creation

Jacqueline Otto Isaacs, a blogger at Values & Capitalism, explained that the Christian worldview also supports libertarianism. ‘The message of the Gospel, the good news, is that salvation from our sins is offered through Christ — this salvation is voluntary and individual, and this is the core message of Christianity, Isaacs declared.

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JMM_16 2The most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, vol. 16, no. 2, has been published online at our website (here). This issue’s articles explore a range of subjects from biblical understandings of poverty, Islamic scripture, John Locke, the ills of apathy, an Eastern Orthodox view of the family and social justice, and much more.

In addition, this issue includes our regular symposium of the papers from the Theology of Work Consultation at the Evangelical Theological Society’s 2012 conference.

2013 marked several important anniversaries, as executive editor Jordan Ballor points out in his editorial, (more…)

SharkBloodHOCOver at The American Culture, I have some thoughts about the first season of House of Cards ahead of the premiere of the second season today.

As many have noted, the drop of the Netflix exclusive today coincides with Valentine’s Day, and there have been some serious considerations about how to plan for the contingency that only one of the partners in a couple enjoys the show.

But the question of love is also a helpful analytic device for understanding the show’s protagonist, Frank Underwood. Early on in the show we see that Frank and Claire are well-matched. Frank professes his affection for her in one of his Shakespearean asides to the audience: “I love that woman. I love her more than a shark loves blood.” Frank has a rather curious love for Claire, however. He loves her for what she can do for him, for her shared disposition toward power. When their interests clash, we see what Frank’s priorities really consist in.

In the TAC piece, I draw heavily on Augustine to explore the depth of Frank’s pathological pursuit of power. It’s clear that despite his profession of love for Claire that what Frank really loves is himself and what he lusts for most is consolidating and collecting power. Augustine wonders at this all-too-human tendency: “There are many different kinds of lust, of which not a few have names peculiar to themselves, while others have not. Who, for example, could easily give a name to the lust for mastery, though the evidence of civil wars shows how great a sway it has over the minds of tyrants?”

The tradition does in fact name this desire, the lust for power, the libido dominandi.

At one point Frank makes clear what he seeks in another of his fourth-wall addresses. In speaking of one of his former proteges, Frank bemoans “such a waste of talent. He chose money over power – in this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries.”

As Michael Novak has observed, this kind of lust is far more pervasive and dangerous than more mundane grubbing after money: “Lust for power–superbia–is deeper, more pervasive, and more widespread than lust for wealth–cupiditas.” Here Novak connects pride (superbia) with the lust for power, and it is Underwood’s exceeding self-love that leads to his particular brand of politics without romance.

hildegardThe Acton Institute is pleased to co-sponsor (with Calvin College, Aquinas College, Diocese of Grand Rapids, and Holy Family Radio) the one-woman production, Hildegard of Bingen and the Living Light. Starring Linn Maxwell, the free event will take place on Sunday, March 23 at 6 p.m. at the Acton Building in Grand Rapids.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) is commemorated on both the Catholic and Anglican/Episcopal Calendars, and was declared a Doctor of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI. This one-woman production, featuring music composed by St. Hildegard, also incorporates the saint’s writings.

To learn more about the production, and to make reservations, visit this Acton Event page. To read more about Linn Maxwell’s production of Hildegard of Bingen and the Living Light, visit the singer’s website.

You can also read more about Hildegard of Bingen in the latest issue of Religion & Liberty.