The panda cam at the Washington, D.C. zoo is down. The IRS is still taking our money, but not refunding anything. Barricades are up around open air monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial and the WWII Memorial. Only 15 people, instead of the usual 90, are looking after the First Family. There are a number of government employees, such as the National Weather Forecasters, who aren’t getting paid. (By the way, the weather forecaster is South Dakota went to work anyway, because of a massive snowstorm. They are stand-up folks.) During this government “shut-down” only 17 percent of the federal government is really shut down. Most of us are going about our daily lives feeling very little effect (except perhaps a news-induced headache.) (more…)
Christians are frequently accused of conflating politics and religion. And not surprisingly, Christians like me are often frustrated by such claims. Whenever I hear such slurs my first inclination is to push back by asking who exactly can rightfully be accused of such confusion. Can they name even one person who does that?
And then I remember, “Oh yeah, there’s Jim Wallis.”
In the 2004 presidential election season, Wallis’ group, Sojourners, put out a bumper sticker with these words: “God Is Not a Republican, or a Democrat.” Wallis frequently repeats that claim yet he always makes it sound like God is a moderately pro-life Democrat. Take, for instance, his most recent claim that the government shutdown is “unbiblical.”
Wallis claims that those who support the government shutdown are “against government per se. They want to destroy the House.” The most generous thing that can be said about such a claim is that it is idiotic. But I can’t be that generous to Wallis because I know he is an intelligent gentleman. He’s not an idiot, he’s just dishonest. He knows that supporters of a government shutdown (and for the record, that does not include me) are not anarchists. Yet that is exactly what he is claiming. He knows it’s a lie and yet repeats the claim anyway.
His second claims is equally stupid. He says, “Because the government has a Biblical responsibility to care for the poor, they are against poor people. They get hostile to the poor because they are hostile to government. That’s also wrong. It’s unbiblical.”
By Wallis’ logic, opposition to the government of the Soviet Union was unbiblical since hostility toward a government is hostility toward the poor.
(It’s rather telling that Wallis has no problem with the government providing funding for abortions or forcing citizens to pay for abortifacients, yet thinks that laying off non-essential government workers is “unbiblical.”)
With Obamacare (the Affordable Health Care Act) set to begin on October 1, many companies are changing their employee health care. For some, it’s a change in what benefits employees will receive; for others, employees will be losing health care all together and told to sign up under Obamacare.
The Wall Street Journal did a “round-up” of companies who’ve announced changes. Walgreens is the largest employer yet to disclose employee health care changes.
[T]he drugstore giant disclosed a plan to provide payments to eligible employees for the subsidized purchase of insurance starting in 2014. The plan will affect roughly 160,000 employees, and will require them to shop for coverage on a private health-insurance marketplace. Aside from rising health-care costs, the company cited compliance-related expenses associated with the new law as a reason for the switch.
In The Mystical as Political, Aristotle Papanikolaou seeks to construct a political theology rooted in the Orthodox Christian conviction that all of creation, and humanity in particular, was created for communion with God. He begins by offering a helpful survey of political theory in the Orthodox tradition, focusing especially on Eusebius of Caesarea, Saint John Chrysostom, the Emperor Justinian, Vladimir Soloviev, and Sergius Bulgakov, inter alia (chapter 1). In the following chapters, he addresses the relationship between church and state (chapter 2); personhood and human rights (chapter 3); divine-human communion and the common good (chapter 4); and honesty, forgiveness, and free speech (chapter 5). In the process, and refreshingly for an Orthodox writer, he also engages Western theologians and philosophers — including William Cavanaugh, Jacques Maritain, Stanley Hauerwas, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, to highlight only some of the more prominently featured — acknowledging their genuine insights while, nevertheless, criticizing what he sees to be various shortcomings. The Mystical as Political represents a careful and irenic, though not uncritical, Orthodox Christian approach to political theology, ultimately offering a positive appraisal of liberal democracy and human rights. Although essential reading on the subject with much to commend it, it has several shortcomings of its own.
In particular, I hone in on “an overemphasis on the particular over against the general, the dynamic and the uniqueness of persons over against the static and the common nature of humanity.” As this is a continuing interest of mine and a subject I have explored in the past here on the PowerBlog, as well as elsewhere, my review is offered as open access to anyone who may be interested in the subject here.
I previously explored the subject of Orthodoxy and natural law here.
Obamacare, the popular name for the Affordable Health Care Act, continues to find opposition from both individuals and states. The act is scheduled to take effect on October 1, 2013 for most of the country, but a USA Today/Pew Research poll finds that 53 percent of Americans polled oppose Obamacare. The numbers are even lower when one accounts for political parties.
Overall, just 13% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents approve of the law while 85% disapprove. Fewer than half of all Republicans and Republican leaners (43%) want elected officials who oppose the law to do what they can to make it fail; 37% say they should try to make it work as well as possible.
53% disapprove of the health care law, the highest level since it was signed; 42% approve. By an even wider margin, intensity favors the opposition; 41% of those surveyed strongly disapprove while just 26% strongly approve. Fifty-three percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of health care policy, an historic high.
Poland’s prime minister, Donald Tusk, announced Wednesday that the government would attempt to cut government debt by taking money from its citizens’ private pension funds. Poland currently has a two-fold pension system: mandatory contributions are made to the state pension fund and then to private funds. It is the state funds, known as ZUS, that the Polish government plans to “transfer” money from. According to Reuters:
…Prime Minister Donald Tusk said private funds within the state-guaranteed system would have their bond holdings transferred to a state pension vehicle, but keep their equity holdings.
He said that what remained in citizens’ pension pots in the private funds will be gradually transferred into the state vehicle over the last 10 years before savers hit retirement age.
Anthony Weiner did not win the Democratic Party primary for New York City last night. Leading in the polls at one time, he ended up with 5 percent of the vote. His defiant and circus like campaign appropriately ended with more bizarre theatrics. In a scolding interview, Weiner was called out for his political power addiction recently by Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC. Though O’Donnell sees no need to call him out for his moral behavior and personally he doesn’t feel it is a hindrance for supporting Weiner, it’s the prime reason for Weiner’s collapse in support.
That Weiner really had no shame or misgivings about the extent to which he was willing to embarrass himself and his family says something about his lust for political power and relevance. If you take away the platform for his power, his entourage, the attention he receives, strip him of those things, he is just another common man laid low by sin and addiction. That’s really the correct answer to O’Donnell’s question that is never answered truthfully.
In another recent video clip, where an outraged Jewish voter confronts Weiner about his moral bankruptcy, we again see the depth of his inability to be shamed and get a deeper look at his defense of that behavior. It’s the false notion that pervades much of our society today, that Americans are not allowed to make moral judgements about people and their behavior.
While there are many good and morally straight citizens in public service, I suspect Weiner is more towards the norm than many of us might like to believe. As the culture rots, and accountability wanes, society will reflect the corrupting nature of the world. But we notice it less because spiritual blindness intensifies society’s moral blindness.
We are bombarded by a lot of articles and blogs today, many times from the political right, demanding moral outrage for one issue or the other, but there is so little moral outrage left in our society to give. There was enough in New York City to end Anthony Weiner’s quest for more power and more attention and political relevance. But we can easily point to hundreds of examples that reflect the opposite. Weiner’s sad and bizarre campaign is his own doing, but it also says something profound about the corrupting and addicting nature of power and the people entrusted as the watchmen over that power.
In a new article at Intercollegiate Review, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg looks at the current state of “idea conservatives” and their place in the broader context of American conservative thought encompassing an amazing diversity of ideological subspecies. But it is ideas and core principles, more than anything else, that informs conservatism and its various movements, despite the many fractures and fissures. Gregg makes a compelling case for rooting “conservatism’s long-term agenda” in the “defense and promotion of what we should unapologetically call Western civilization.” His article is the first contribution to ISI’s symposium, “Conservatism: What’s Wrong with it and How Can We Make it Right?” Excerpt from the Gregg article:
… as the French theologian Jean Daniélou S.J. once observed, there is no true civilization that is not also religious. In the case of Western civilization, that means Judaism and Christianity. The question of religious truth is something with which we must allow every person to wrestle in the depths of their conscience. But if conservatism involves upholding the heritage of the West against those who would tear it down (whether from without and within), then conservatives should follow the lead of European intellectuals such as Rémi Brague and Joseph Ratzinger and invest far more energy in elucidating Christianity’s pivotal role in the West’s development—including the often complicated ways in which it responded to, and continues to interact, with the movements associated with the various Enlightenments.
Such an enterprise goes beyond demonstrating Christianity’s contribution to institutional frameworks such as constitutional government. Conservatives must be more attentive to how Judaism and Christianity—or at least their orthodox versions—helped foster key ideas that underlie the distinctiveness of Western culture. These include: (more…)
Gregg has three competing stories to tell. First he wants to explain how a Catholic can responsibly defend limited government and the free market in accordance with Catholic teaching. This remains a crucial argument to make; since the 1980s, the welfare state has only expanded. As the financial and housing crises of 2008 show, many still look to government to control the economy, and bail out entire industries. Second, he wants to defend the substance of those teachings against both liberal Catholics and other sorts such as libertarians. Catholicism is not capitalism, and its defense of free-market exchanges and limited government is rooted in a certain view of the human person that is not the same as a secular liberal one. The Catholic view promotes human flourishing, but holds that flourishing must be consistent with the natural law and the ends of human life, such as the cultivation of virtue and the common good. Third, he wants to reconcile Catholicism specifically with the American form of republicanism. Gregg argues that the example of Catholics in America shows that the two are compatible, and that indeed the American experiment is consistent with the long tradition of Western liberty inaugurated by the Church.
As noted here last week, Obamacare is seen by some as an elitist system of health care, rather than the equalizing force it purports to be. This week, the news is that the nation’s unions aren’t happy with how Obamacare is shaping up for them, and the Obama administration is scrambling to find new ways to entice them to publicly support the Affordable Health Care Act.
Richard Trumpka, president of the AFL-CIO (the nation’s largest labor union), is saying that the Obamacare plan wasn’t thought through well enough, and is stepping back from fully backing the plan. He wants to see the 30 hour work week endorsed as full-time under the plan, mainly to help workers in industries like fast food. According to The Washington Times:
Critics of the law say the 30-hour cutoff has forced fast-food chains and other employers to trim employees’ hours to keep them at part-time status and avoid penalties tied to the law’s employer mandate, which requires companies with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health coverage or pay fines.
“That is obviously something that no one intended,” he [Trumka] said during a wide-ranging interview hosted by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington.