Posts tagged with: culture

Braekeleer_Ferdinand_de_A_Peasant_Family_Gathered_around_the_Kitchen_Table_Oil_on_Panel-largeWith the expansion of economic freedom and the resulting prosperity, we’ve reached an unprecedented position of personal empowerment and vocational choice. This is a welcome development, and it can be seized for good in any number of ways. But it also comes with its own risks and temptations.

As with any surface-level “freedom,” unless we seek God first and neighbor second, our action will quickly be steered by pleasure, pride, pursuit of power, or plain old personal preference — leading to shackles that may be looser, but remain shackles nonetheless. Such illusions are nothing new, and lurk no matter what the sphere of our stewardship. But if modernity has wielded a tangible, visible blow to one area in particular, it’s that of the family.

Over the last few decades, marriage has increasingly been misunderstood, and our misaligned approaches to business, education, and politics haven’t helped. Rather than a basic starting point, a foundation of a flourishing society, the family has become just another optional perk in the worship of narrow self-fulfillment.

“Oh that? It’s not for me. Not now.”

As a result, marriage is increasingly seen as a mere contractual arrangement, a 50-50 partnership for the purposes of personal pleasure rather than duty and sacrifice. In turn, culture and family have “evolved” accordingly. Fewer and fewer people are getting married, and those who do are doing so later and later and having fewer and fewer kids, if any at all. Divorce is routine. The basic definition of marriage is constantly questioned. (more…)

The Rains Came - Beginning of the Flood Vittorio Bianchini (1797-1880/Italian)No, it’s not a regular flood. It’s a flood of immigrants – some legal, some not. Europe is getting swamped; what’s the damage going to be?

The American Interest reports that the Italian Coast Guard rescued almost 2,000 people over the weekend, bringing the number of immigrants to Italy this year alone to 90,000 (170,000 last year). The financial strain for Italy and other EU nations is becoming more and more apparent.

Many of the migrants keep making their own way to the more economically vibrant north. This in turn creates the kind of dysfunctional political dynamic on display between France and England in recent days, where the migrant crisis festering in Calais has seen as many as 5,000 migrants each day for the last six days try to force their way across the Eurotunnel by hiding in trucks and boarding trains. Eurotunnel authorities warned over the weekend that increased security at Calais, promised by both French and British ministers, would only displace the problem to other, less well-guarded ports.

(more…)

leaders_edition_-_flow letters to exiles1The Acton Institute’s seven-part film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, was created for a wide-ranging Christian audience, whether Baptist or Catholic, Orthodox or Presbyterian. As Andy Crouch says in his review, “this series is marvelously catholic, in the small-c sense,” appealing across political and theological divides while still proclaiming a specific vision of creativity, beauty, and service in the Christian life.

But while the series is highly enjoyable for any viewer, it is particularly suited to more intimate explorations, whether in a college classroom or a church small group. Churches, colleges, discussion groups, and dinner parties have already been using it in this capacity. But now, in order to further empower such explorations, a special Leader’s Edition is now available.

Designed to equip leaders with tools and resources to navigate discussion and education around the themes of the series, the Leader’s Edition includes everything anyone would need to bring this resource to your community, whether to small-group discussions or even sermon bumpers or illustrations.

The Leader’s Edition includes the following:

  • DVD and Blu-ray — All 7 episodes of the film series are included in both formats.
  • Field Guide — This companion Field Guide jump-starts group and individual investigation and includes additional content to enhance the film experience.
  • Extras Disk — The extras disk includes many never-before-released digital resources including:
    • Digital Field Guide broken down into 7 episodes
    • One-page discussion guides for each episode
    • Digital files to help church promote a church-wide campaign or a screening event on social media or produce mailers, post cards, banners, flyers, bulletin inserts, PowerPoint slides, and radio spots.
    • Modular components — Each episode has 5-6 modular components (e.g. All Is Gift). We have lifted these out and put them on the extras disk to be used as teasers, event promoters, and/or sermon illustrations.

Watch the trailer below, and order your copy today(more…)

kindness-heart-image-orgspringSurely, there is not one social conservative or conservative Christian that has not been shaken by the events in our nation over the last week or two. It seems as if everything we know and believe to be true has been cast aside and trampled upon. Should we take the Benedict option? The Buckley option? Should we just put our heads down and go quietly about our lives, hoping no one notices us?

The New York Times’ David Brooks has an idea worth pondering. First, he says (as have many others), we must realize we live in a post-Christian culture. (I think most of us have gotten this point, loud and clear.) Perhaps though, Brooks opines, we are now in a post-cultural war culture as well. It’s over – at least to a point.

Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution.

Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.

(more…)

PrintChristina M. Weber thinks so. She says that Christian women have been trail-blazers in showing us how to balance family life, work and worship. In the 20th century, Weber says that political ideologies tried to break down family life.

Marxists and communists promoted disconnection between children and their parents with incompatible work schedules. They also destabilized marriages with the encouragement of promiscuity and lust.

The agenda—dependence on the state above family and God — fueled the economic and political goals of their leaders.

But women know better. They know that family is the key to society, and keeping that in the forefront of their minds as they built businesses set them apart. (more…)

slackerWhat does it meant to be happy, and is our culture getting that all wrong? Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, thinks that may be the case.

A prolific author and speaker, Spitzer explores what happiness means in his latest book, Finding True Happiness: Satisfying Our Restless Hearts. First, we seek happiness in external material possessions. This can range from acquiring that sought-after gadget or enjoying a fabulous meal. There’s nothing wrong with this type of happiness, but it’s fleeting.

The second level of happiness relies on self-awareness.

We can actually be aware of being aware of our awareness, because of that we create our own inner world, inner universe. You juxtapose it to the outer universe,” he said. “You want the locus of control to be in you, not outside, so you want to be better … we’d like to be smarter or we’d like to be more athletic.”

It’s at this phase — one that involves the ego — that people begin to compare themselves to others, competing and finding worth in trumping their peers. It’s something that Spitzer said can “become an end of itself” — and he believes that it’s rampant in the current culture.

(more…)

In this short video, Allan Carlson of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society describes the importance and centrality of the family to a health society. Families that work together in some endeavor tend to be healthier, are able to care for themselves and thus become the foundation of a sound economy and society.

lonely-workerWhen it comes to free trade, critics insist that it hurts the American worker — kicking them while they’re down and slowly eroding the communal fabric of mom-and-pops, longstanding trades, and factory towns. Whether it comes from a politician, labor union, or corporate crony, the messaging is always the same: Ignore the long-term positive effects, and focus on the Capitalist’s conquest of the Other.

Trouble is, the basic logic of such thought leads straight back to the Self.

I recently made this point as it pertains to immigration, arguing that such notions of narrow self-preservation give way to our basest instincts and are bad for society as a whole. But it’s worth considering a bit more broadly, as well. For if the point is to defend the Small and the Local for the sake of The Great and Enduring Bubble of American Industry, at what point is this community of workers too big, too specialized, and too diversified for its own countrymen?

At what point are the Texans getting “unfair” growth compared to the Californians, or the Californians compared to the Oklahomians? If this is all as dim and zero-sum as we’re led to believe, what must we do to prevent our fellow productive citizens from harming their fellow countrymen via innovation and hard work? What bleak, self-centered reality dwells at the end of such logic? (more…)

090806-N-6220J-004President Obama remarked that he would like faith organizations and churches to speak to poverty solutions “in a more forceful fashion” at a Georgetown University summit in mid-May. The meeting included faith leaders from Catholic and evangelical denominations, and included political thinkers Robert Putnam of Harvard, and the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks.

Putnam said the voice of the faithful in the U.S. is critical to alleviating poverty.

Without the voice of faith, it’s going to be very hard to push this to the top of the agenda,” said Putnam, co-author of “American Grace,” and “Our Kids,” a book about the widening gap between rich and poor children in America.

If religious observance includes an obligation to the poor, the religious can be a powerful force for positive action and social justice, said Putnam.

Rev. Robert Sirico, co-founder of the Acton Institute, commented on the summit’s call for more involvement by churches in meeting the needs of the poor. (more…)

Have you been inspired and influenced by the Acton Institute’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles? What have you learned? How has it changed your perspective on work, culture, and whole-life discipleship?

As Evan Koons explains, we’re interested in hearing your stories:

Your story may get used in a blog post or a video, and if it does, you may even get some free stuff! (more…)