Posts tagged with: king

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” is the most famous quote by the English Catholic historian Sir John Dalberg-Acton. It also appers to be the overriding theme of the recent teaser-trailer for the movie Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The quote is even stated directly in the trailer in a voiceover (by actress Holly Hunter). Is it applicable in this context? Would Lord Acton agree that absolute power has corrupted Superman? I think he would.

That particular quote comes from a letter to Bishop Creighton in which Lord Acton explains that historians should condemn murder, theft, and violence whether committed by an individual, the state, or the Church. Here is the context:

Blog author: jballor
Monday, January 19, 2015

Earlier this year, UCLA made available for the first time the audio of a speech from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. given just over a month after the march from Selma to Montgomery. On April 27, 1965, King addressed a number of topics, including debate surrounding the Voting Rights Act.

At one point in the speech, King stops to address a number of “myths” that are often heard and circulated, and one of these is of perennial interest, as it has to do with the interaction between positive law, morality, and culture. We often hear, for instance, that law is downstream from culture, and this is true enough. Thus King admits (starting at around the 33:35 mark) that there is some truth in this kind of view as far as it goes. But this does not mean that there is no place for legislation.

As King puts it,

It may be true that you can’t legislate integration, but you can legislate desegregation. It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important also. So while the law may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men. And when you change the habits of men, pretty soon the attitudes and the hearts will be changed. And so there is a need for strong legislation constantly to grapple with the problems we face.


The most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, vol. 17, no. 1, has been published online at our website (here). This issue features an array of scholarship on the foundations and fabric of free and virtuous societies, ranging from David VanDrunen’s examination of the market economy and Christian ethics, offering an unique synthesis between pro- and anticapitalist perspectives, to David Urban’s examination of liberty and virtuous self-government in the works of the seventeenth-century English poet John Milton.

In addition to our regular slate of articles and book reviews, our Scholia special feature offers, for the first time ever in print, a selection from the English jurist Matthew Hale’s treatise on natural law. In his introduction, David Sytsma highlights Hale’s importance in the common law tradition:

The legal history of England and the United States of America is commonly recognized as following a unique path distinct from the rest of Europe. Whereas continental European nations followed the Roman civil law (Corpus iuris civilis) compiled by Justinian, England developed its own body of customary law known as common law. Among legal historians of English common law, Sir Matthew Hale (1609–1676) ranks as one of the most familiar names along with Sir Edward Coke and Sir William Blackstone. After an early career as a lawyer, during which time he served as counsel for the defense at the famous trials of Archbishop Laud in 1643 and Christopher Love in 1651, Hale was appointed Justice of the Common Pleas (1654–1658), and at the Restoration was appointed successively as Chief Baron of the Exchequer (1660–1671) and Chief Justice of the King’s Bench (1671–1676). In the judgment of one historian, he was not only “accounted by his contemporaries the most learned lawyer of the age” but was so well received over the course of centuries of scholarship that he is now known as “one of the greatest jurists of the modern common law.”

Given his importance, it is an honor to be able to offer this selection of his work now published for the first time.

Meanwhile, in the editorial for this Spring’s issue, I offer a primer for peer review in the face of a bit of often not-so-honorable etiquette in academia. The Journal of Markets & Morality has added new policies and practices in order to better serve our authors and reviewers and, where possible, minimize instances of misconduct. I write,

It is in light of this practice that the editors of the Journal of Markets & Morality conceived the idea for this peer-review primer. In the course of research, we have also reevaluated and reaffirmed our policy of double-blind peer review for reasons to be detailed herein. Additionally, certain structural issues enable and can even encourage the poor etiquette in question as well as other issues of quality that have come to our attention. In light of all this, we have added a few procedures with the hope of achieving higher quality reviews, streamlining the review process for everyone involved, and discharging our editorial responsibility with regard to maintaining a cordial and professional academic environment.

As is our standard practice, this issue’s editorial is open access (here).

Furthermore, with the publication of our Spring 2014 issue, our Spring 2013 issue (here), which was a theme issue on the subject of integral human development, is now open access.

Subscription information and prices for the Journal of Markets & Morality can be found here.

Today at Ethika Politika, I review The Ox-Herder and the Good Shepherd: Finding Christ on the Buddha’s Path by Addison Hodges Hart:

Addison Hodges Hart, a retired pastor and university chaplain, offers in The Ox-Herder and the Good Shepherd a wonderful exercise in comparative religion, examining the common ground that can be found in spiritual practice between Christianity and Buddhism. Hart focuses on the ten ox-herding icons of Zen, originating in China by the master Kakuan and accompanied by his verse and prose commentary. Hart, then, adds his own Christian perspective on the spiritual journey depicted and described by Kakuan, highlighting in the end his emphasis that outer acts of compassion require a prior, inner transformation.

One such person who was inspired by an inner, spiritual conversion not only to “outer acts of compassion” but also to build a freer and more virtuous society was the Indian Emperor Ashoka.

Lord Acton writes in his address “The History of Freedom in Antiquity,”

But in all that I have been able to cite from classical literature, three things are wanting: Representative Government, the emancipation of the slaves, and liberty of conscience. There were, it is true, deliberative assemblies, chosen by the people; and confederate cities, of which, both in Asia and in Europe there were so many Leagues, sent their delegates, to sit in federal councils. But government by an elected parliament was, even in theory, a thing unknown. It is congruous with the nature of Polytheism to admit some measure of toleration. And Socrates, when he avowed that he must obey God rather than the Athenians, and the Stoics, when they set the wise man above the [civil] law, were very near giving utterance to the principle. But it was first proclaimed, and established by enactment, not in polytheistic and philosophical Greece, but in India, by Asoka, the earliest of the Buddhist kings, 250 years before the Birth of Christ.

Tantalizingly, this is all that Acton says about Ashoka (=”Asoka”). Who was he? Why does Acton single him out? (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Thursday, March 20, 2014

fieryfurnacebw2I have been known to make certain comparisons between the punitive HHS mandate and King Nebuchadnezzar’s infamous power trip — an analogy that casts the Green Family and others like them as the Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos of modern-day coercion subversion.

As I wrote just over a year ago:

As we continue to see Christian business leaders refusing to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s Golden Image—choosing economic martyrdom over secularist conformity—the more this administration’s limited, debased, and deterministic view of man and society will reveal itself. Through it all, even as the furnace grows hotter and hotter, Christians should remember that a Fourth Man stands close by, offering peace and protection according to a different system altogether.

Having already connected such dots, it’s worth noting that, in a recent profile, Hobby Lobby’s CEO seems to be sniffing the same stuff:

Lately, it’s the Book of Daniel that comes often to [Steve Green’s] mind. In Chapter 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would rather face a fiery furnace than bow to an idol at the command of King Nebuchadnezzar.

Green said, “They told the king ‘Our God is able to deliver us.’” (more…)

Matthew 25When discussing the Christian call to service, we often hear references to Matthew 25, where Jesus speaks of a King who separates “sheep” from “goats” – those who are willing from those who refuse.

To the sheep, the King offers the following:

Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

To the goats, the King says, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

It’s all very hearty, but the final line is what seems to stick in popular discourse: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”  (more…)

Royal Coat of Arms of the NetherlandsDrawing on some themes I explore about the role of the church in providing material assistance in Get Your Hands Dirty, today at Political Theology Today I look at the first parliamentary speech of the new Dutch King Willem-Alexander.

In “The Dutch King’s Speech,” I argue that the largely ceremonial and even constitutionally-limited monarchy has something to offer modern democratic polities, in that it provides a forum for public leadership that is not directly dependent on popular electoral support. In the Dutch case, the king broached the largely unpopular subject of fundamentally reforming the social democratic welfare state.

This is in rather sharp contrast to the social witness of the mainline of Dutch church leaders, at least over the last few decades. But the churches, too, have a role in acting as makeweights against democratic majoritarian tyranny.