Posts tagged with: first things

ISIS-2It’s easy to think that ISIS is about religion. They toss around phrases from the Quran, and have announced that their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is now “caliph,” or a successor to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. But ISIS is about as much about Islam as Hitler was to Christianity…which is to say, not much.

R.R. Reno reminds us that bloodthirstiness and an insane drive to power are nearly as old as humanity, in a piece entitled “From Cain to ISIS.” Reno spends some time comparing al-Baghdadi to Hitler, who proclaimed much of his platform was based on Christianity – in an ideological and warped way.

Hitler’s rise to power was aided by many factors that also find parallels in today’s Middle East. His extreme nationalism and his anti-Semitism were widely popular in inter-war Germany. Although most respectable middle-class Germans kept their distance, Hitler’s vision inspired a highly committed core of supporters willing to make great sacrifices. Among the elites he was seen as déclassé and too extreme, but was viewed by many with sympathy and even supported. His radicalism was thought good for Germany—a galvanizing force, a useful counter to communism, a commendable expression of strength.

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
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Texas Easter Prison Visit_6“If Christians cannot help prisoners find meaning behind bars,” wonders Stephen H. Webb, “how can they expect the Gospel to find an audience among those never convicted of a crime?” At First Things, Webb argues that revival of Christianity will only come when we reform America’s prisons:

Prisoners are test cases of how Christians deal with sinners in extremis. I don’t just mean that compassion for the imprisoned can serve as a corroboration of Christian charity, although that is surely true. I mean that the whole experience of imprisonment is absolutely central to the coherence and credibility of the Gospel message. How can captivity, a great biblical theme, have any meaning today if we treat incarceration as nothing more than “serving time”? How can salvation be proclaimed as the ultimate joy even in this life if we live in a society that continues punishing prisoners long after they have been released?

One of the strongest parallels between prisons and theology has to do with our conceptions of the afterlife. For example, many people treat the possibility of rehabilitation behind prison walls with the same skeptical indifference that even devout Catholics now bestow upon purgatory: We can’t even fathom how moral change happens, if at all, in either place, so we leave its remote possibility up to God. Cynicism at home breeds disbelief abroad. Nobody believes that isolation and humiliation reform criminals, just as nobody really believes that a cleansing fire burns away unconfessed sins in purgatory, yet without any plausible alternatives to humiliation or fire, the healing effect of punishment remains as mysterious for the Church as it does for the judicial system.

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pinheiroJohn C. Pinheiro, Professor of History and Chair Director of Catholic Studies at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich. and Acton Lecture Series lecturer, has written a new book, recently reviewed at First Things. Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War argues that virulent anti-Catholicism was the “defining attitude undergirding the early Republic and antebellum years.”

Alan Cornett of First Things calls Pinheiro’s book “fresh” and “convincing.” Pinheiro asks his reader to recall that Catholics were seen as invading a primarily Protestant United States, bringing a superstitious faith with them. Lyman Beecher, the famed abolitionist, began the Native American Party to combat Catholicism:

The new Native American Party gave Beecher’s ideological framework political expression. Casting themselves as a non-partisan and patriotic alternative to the corrupt Democrats and Whigs, the Native Americans pointed to rising Irish Catholic immigration and the influx of Jesuits as dangers from which American republicanism must be protected. (more…)

searching-blindfolded-manIn the latest edition of First Things, Acton’s Director of Research Sam Gregg discusses how adherence to Catholic social teaching does not require a limited economic viewpoint. In fact, such a limited vision, or blindness as Gregg states in the article’s title, is what holds back development in many parts of the world. (Please note that the full article is available by subscription only, but is excerpted here.)

Gregg recounts how the aggressive or “Tiger” economies of East Asia have resulted in positive changes, despite problems such as endemic corruption.

To be sure, not everything is sweetness and light in East Asia. Memories of the region’s severe financial meltdown in 1997 linger. More ominously, China’s mammoth banking system is a hopelessly run extension of its government. The same banks are heavily and rather incestuously invested in propping up thousands of underperforming Chinese state-owned enterprises. That’s a recipe for trouble. Corruption remains an endemic problem, most notably in China and India, which rank an unimpressive 96 and 134, respectively, in the World Bank’s 2014 Ease ofDoing BusinessIndex, while Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand are ranked in the top twenty.

Nonetheless, the overall benefits of greater economic liberty in East Asia can’t be denied. In 2010, the Asian Development Bank reported that per capita GDP increased 6 percent each year in developing Asian countries between 1990 and 2008. Christians should especially consider how this growth has contributed to the reduction of poverty. The ADB estimated that between 1990 and 2005 approximately 850 million people escaped absolute poverty. That is an astonishing figure.

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media-spoonfeeding-cartoonLet me start by saying you can fill entire football stadiums with things I don’t know. I don’t anything about fly-fishing. I have never figured out how to score tennis. I cannot identify (although my dad tried his hardest to teach me) birds by their songs. I could go on, but you get the idea.

With that said, I’m often called upon by my job to write about things I don’t know much about. I have to do a lot of reading and research, figure out what sources are credible and which are shaky (hello, Wikipedia!) Sometimes, I make mistakes, and readers point them out. I happily make corrections; who wants to be wrong?

Apparently, a lot of folks don’t mind being wrong. And many of those folks occupy the media. And they feed you stuff that isn’t quite right, is misinformed or is downright wrong. In the Wild West that is today’s media, we have to be smart about who we choose as our guides. (more…)

Andrew White, Anglican Vicar of Baghdad

Andrew White, Anglican Vicar of Baghdad

While you’re munching on hot dogs, chasing the kids around the yard with a Super Soaker and generally enjoying a 3-day weekend benefit of the Founding Fathers, remind yourself (at least once) what a gift religious liberty is. Come Friday night, Saturday or Sunday morning, you can (or not!) go to the mosque, synagogue or church of your choice and peacefully enjoy the service. You can sit and be a vaguely interested participant or you can go full-throttle with song and prayer. You can go home and ponder whatever you’ve learned, or not give it another thought. You are free to pray, praise, worship, meditate.

Sometime while you’re doing all of this, think about a man named Andrew White. If (God forbid!) all our religious liberties disappeared this weekend, Andrew White would be the guy who stayed behind to tend to the flock, the faithful who are forced to sneak about to pray and worship. How do I know this? Because that is exactly what Andrew White does for his flock in Iraq. (more…)

VillageGreenChelseaVTIs there any societal reason to protect religion? That is, do we get anything out of religion, as a society, even if we’re not religious, and is that “anything” worth protecting? Mark Movsesian thinks so.

In First Things, Movsesian says religion does do good for a society – a good that is worthy of protection.

Religion, especially communal religion, provides important benefits for everyone in the liberal state—even the non-religious. Religion encourages people to associate with and feel responsible for others, to engage with them in common endeavors. Religion promotes altruism and neighborliness, and mitigates social isolation. Religion counteracts the tendencies to apathy and self-centeredness that liberalism seems inevitably to create.

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rewrittenimageWith everything from the HHS mandate to Duck Dynasty to Sister Wives, there is much in the news regarding religious liberty. What are we to make of it? Is religious liberty simply being tolerant of others’ religious choices?

Michael Therrien, at First Things, wants to clear up the discussion, from the Catholic point of view. He starts by looking at an article quoting Camille Paglia, atheist, lesbian and university professor. In it, Paglia rushes to the defense of Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty star, and his rather crass defense of conjugal marriage. Paglia states that Robertson was wrongly treated by the press and A&E, which owns the rights to Duck Dynasty. (more…)

Last night on CNBC’s The Kudlow Report, PovertyCure director and Acton Research Fellow Michael Matheson Miller joined host Lawrence Kudlow and Rusty Reno, Editor of First Things magazine, to discuss the position of the Roman Catholic Church on global capitalism in light of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium.’ The video is embedded below.

Today at First Things’ On the Square feature, I question the tone and timing of Patriarch Batholomew’s recent message on climate change. While I do not object to him making a statement about the subject in conjunction with the opening of the Warsaw Climate Change Conference, his initial reference, then silence, with regards to Typhoon Haiyan while other religious leaders offered their prayer, sympathy, and support to those affected, is disappointing. I write,

While other religious leaders offered prayer and tangible support, all that has come from the Phanar is an environmental statement. Hurting people need practical and pastoral help, not politics.

An additionally troubling aspect of the problem comes from his clear implication that the typhoon was caused, or at least intensified, by anthropogenic climate change, using this tragedy to advocate for a political cause through a disposition of fear: (more…)