Here’s another new production from Acton Media – The Effective Stewardship Curriculum. The Effective Stewardship Curriculum is a series of five video lessons, geared toward church small groups or other faith-based educational settings exploring how Christians live out the call to be stewards of our talents, the environment, our fellow man, institutions, and our finances.
Expect the curriculum to be available for sale at the end of this summer. A study guide will also be available to help stimulate discussions and explore the ideas presented in the video lessons. A couple of sample pages from the study guide are available on the Effective Stewardship website. A trailer is available right here, but there are also introductory clips to each lesson that are available on the Effective Stewardship website.
Rod Dreher links to a piece by Cato’s Brink Lindsey, “Culture of Success.” The conclusion of Lindsey’s piece is that familial culture is more important to child success in school and economic achievement than external assistance, in the form of tuition grants or otherwise:
If more money isn’t the answer, what does have an impact? In a word: culture. Everything we know about high performance in all fields of endeavor tells us that, while natural talent is a plus, there is no substitute for long hours of preparation and hard work…. Apply these lessons to doing well in school, and it becomes clear that the class divide in academic achievement is fundamentally a cultural divide. To put it in a nutshell, the upper-middle-class kid grows up in an environment that constantly pushes him to develop the cognitive and motivational skills needed to be a good student; the low-income kid’s environment, on the other hand, pushes in the opposite direction.
Lindsey, to his credit, recognizes the fact that these sorts of trans-generational, cultural and familial concerns typically lie outside the competence of his own libertarian ideological camp:
We insist on the central importance of individual responsibility for the healthy functioning of a free society. Yet, by the time people become legally responsible adults, circumstances not of their own choosing — namely, how they were raised and whom they grew up with — may have prevented them from ever developing the capacities they need to thrive and flourish.
I’m disappointed to find that Lindsey then makes the move to say that on that basis there exists “the possibility that government intervention to improve those circumstances could actually expand the scope of individual autonomy.” I’m not disappointed because the statement is false (it is in fact true), but because the government isn’t the first place we should look to find solutions to cultural problems. What about other institutions, most especially the church?
Dreher’s post is lengthy and worth a read in full, in part because it takes Lindsey’s piece as a point of departure to bring in a number of other insights and sources. Dreher writes of the government’s relation to culture among the poor,
…I don’t believe all the government programs we could possibly imagine will fundamentally change their condition, because their condition is not fundamentally a matter of material deprivation.
Culture is more important than politics, as Moynihan said. But he also said that politics can save a culture from itself. What kind of politics could save inner-city black culture from itself? Ideas? Because we certainly need them in society at large, not just the black inner city.
Dreher also echoes my question: “Here’s what I don’t understand: where are the churches in all this?”
Where are they? If they aren’t actively engaged in responsible urban evangelism, which many are, then they are probably doing (A) nothing or (B) lobbying the government to do something. A is bad and B might be worse.
Dolly Parton was featured on American Idol this week. One of the songs a contestant performed from her body of work was the song, based on her real-life experiences, “Coat of Many Colors,” and it teaches a lesson directly relevant to this topic.
Here’s the last verse, after the children make fun of her for her coat:
But they didn’t understand it And I tried to make them see That one is only poor Only if they choose to be Now I know we had no money But I was rich as I could be In my coat of many colors My momma made for me Made just for me
This bit in this week’s Telegraph nails something I’ve been wrangling with for a while. Maybe you men out there can relate:
Many men believe the world is now dominated by women and that they have lost their role in society, fuelling feelings of depression and being undervalued. Research shows the extent to which men have had to change within one or two generations, adapting to new rules and different expectations. Asked what it meant to be a man in the 21st century, more than half thought society was turning them into “waxed and coiffed metrosexuals”, and 52 per cent say they had to live according to women’s rules. What they apparently want is what some American academics have dubbed a “menaissance” – a return to manliness, where figures such as Sir Winston Churchill were models of manhood.
It’s not a “feminization” thing really, and to push back here isn’t being chauvinistic. Most guys are cool with being softer around the edges especially when we connect it to loving our wives and daughters in ways that are meaningful to them.
But our culture has fallen into the trap of thinking husbands are supposed to love the way they do. We’re supposed to be our wife’s best girlfriend, with a winkie and chest hair added as a bonus. After all, we rationalize, it’s our wives who understand what love is all about, and men who don’t climb on board their way of thinking are dufuses or oafs and are certainly not interested in the relationship…
But that doesn’t really cut it, does it guys.
A girlfriend that sometimes leaves the toilet seat up? That’s not what you really want either, is it gals.
A brother in our church’s men’s group stuck a copy of Emerson Eggerichs Love & Respect in my hands a couple months ago. Was up most of the night reading it. Also listened to an audio interview by James “What Wives Wished Their Husbands Knew About Women” Dobson, who essentially smacked himself in the forehead for promoting the husbands-must-think-like-wives mantra for so long that he missed the obvious.
It’s the point that the Telegraph’s reporterette finally gets to at the bottom of her article cited above:
Harvey Mansfield, a Harvard professor and America’s best known political philosopher, who tackles the topic in his book Manliness, says the issue is ignored. “A man has to be embarrassed about being a man. I am trying to bring back the word manliness. It’s not respected,” he said.
Men, says Eggerichs, are built for honor and respect. It’s as much our “love language” as when our wives wish we’d listen to them talk about their day or – hubba hubba – do the dishes or laundry.
Morse, an Acton Senior Fellow in Economics, described how the socialist ideal of equality has played an independent role in the breakdown of the family, arguing that socialism has attacked the family directly, and has adopted policies that have led to demographic collapse. By contrast, Christianity and capitalism offer more appealing solutions to the problems socialism claims to solve, and a more humane approach to dealing with issues of family and gender.
If you weren’t able to attend in person, you can download the audio here (11 mb mp3 file). And don’t forget to set aside some time on February 14 to attend the next Acton Lecture Series event, featuring Dr. Glenn Sunshine’s talk on “Wealth, Work and the Church.”
Jennifer Roback Morse takes a look at The War Between the State and the Family, a book that examines some of the family unfriendly social policies of the United Kingdom. The state, she finds, is in the process of atomizing the family into a loose association of persons with easily separated relationships. “Decomposing society into nothing but a collection of unattached individuals has been destructive of individuals and society alike,” Morse writes.
And just in case you thought that libertarians have no appreciation for social bonds whatsoever, here’s the conclusion of the piece: “Underlying this free-market philosophy, however, is a film that is unabashedly moving, demonstrating that true happiness does not lie in the accumulation of property alone, but in having someone to share the joy of good fortune. Without someone to tell, someone to care, good fortune is just a pile of paper.”
VideoScan’s numbers indicate that during the seven days between Jan 7 and Jan 14, Blu-ray managed to close the gap of total discs sold since inception with HD DVD by over seven percentage points, suggesting that if the current trend continues, the two formats could be at disc sales parity within weeks.
And in news that might make the PS3 even more competitive, a senior exec at Sony said that “further slashing prices may be in store for the just-launched video game machine” (HT: Slashdot).
Along the same lines as my earlier post, The Weekly Standard argues that putting the needs of parents first, can form a more stable foundation for an alliance between fiscal and social conservatives.
Both fiscal and social conservatives should put themselves in the shoes of the parenting class and focus on advancing competition and choice while also encouraging the growth and strength of the two-parent family. In health care, for instance, conservatives have consistently failed to approach things from that point of view….Conservatives should also look beyond the horizon and see that long-term care for the aged is about to become the next major concern of the parenting class…. In education, it is well past time to have another serious go at school choice, which can appeal to the parenting class both as a solution in their own children’s lives and as a call to conscience.
A Free and Virtuous Society needs to respect autonomy and importance of the social sphere, especially the family. Kudos to Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center for writing this article, and to the Weekly Standard for publishing it.
According to AgapePress (courtesy of The Church Report), “‘Christians in Hollywood’ and ‘Writing for the Family Film Market’ are the titles of two panels slated for what is billed as the world’s largest conference and trade show for screenwriters’.”
“Christians in Hollywood” is briefly described in the catalog (PDF) as a chance to “Meet the players—and the prayers—in the Hollywood Christian Community, and learn how to find your audience.” That session is scheduled for Sunday at 10 am…placed conveniently enough to conflict with most Sunday morning worship services.
Later that day at 2 pm, “Writing for the Family Film Market,” asks, “What does a family film look like in the 21st century? This panel will feature experts in the theatrical, television, and home entertainment worlds of family film.”
In his second epistle to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul sets down a moral principle: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” But Paul’s words seem also to imply the opposite positive principle, something like, “If you will work, you should eat.”
Even so, I argue, it does not follow that the government should be the guarantor of this reality. Drawing in part on the thought of Abraham Kuyper, I find that “the civil government has a role in justly and fairly enforcing the contractual relationship between employer and employee. It does not, however, have the absolute right to determine the specific nature of this relationship in any and all circumstances.”