Posts tagged with: religion

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“Why can’t sane energy policies be developed and effectively implemented without a $30 billion bureaucracy to oversee it?” asks Acton Institute president and co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico in a recent article for The Hill.  Sirico notes that under President-elect Donald Trump some overreaching government bureaucracies could be rolled back or even abolished. Most significantly, Sirico calls for an end of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives:

This well-intentioned subsidy obfuscates the nature of religious charities by incentivizing them to draw a stark line between their faith and their works. What animates believers to care for the poor is precisely their religious belief — not to serve the interests of the state, politicians and their bureaucracies.

Where believers see the human person as a living icon of God, bureaucracies tend to count numbers and see clients. Religious charities often shine best exactly when material help has failed. Believers seek to peer into the disordered soul and bring healing. The government is clueless here.

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As the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world, Christmas produces many things—joy, happiness, gratitude, reverence. And numbers. Lots of peculiar, often large, numbers. Here are a few to contemplate this season:

Christmas Numbers$50.82 – Average amount U.S. consumers spent on real Christmas trees in 2015.

$69.38 – Average amount U.S. consumers spent on fake Christmas trees in 2015.

33,000,000 – Number of real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. each year.

9,500,000 – Number of fake Christmas trees sold each year.

7 – Average growing time in years for a Christmas tree.

350 million – Number of Christmas trees currently growing on Christmas tree farms.

325.1 million – Current population of the United State.

$27.21 — The energy costs of lighting a six-foot Christmas tree, lit 12 hours a day for 40 days, decorated with various light types.

$1,100,000,000 – Estimated value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and September 2016.

$23,800,000,000 – Estimated retail sales by the nation’s department stores (including leased departments) in December 2014. This represents an A decrease of $0.4 billion in retail sales from December of the previous year.

750,000 – Number of new employees hired to compensate for the holiday rush in 2015.

37.5 percent — Estimated percentage of charitable giving that occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

$752 – Average amount people in the U.S. estimated they’ll spent in on Christmas presents in 2016.

108,000,000 — Average number of homes Santa Claus has to visit on December 25 (assuming there is at least one “nice” child in each).

kuyper-2-pro-rege“A human kingship imperceptibly came to power, leaving no place for the kingship of Christ.” –Abraham Kuyper

The West prides itself on valuing freedom – political, economic, religious, and otherwise. For some, this leads to the promotion of a certain brand of libertinism: the freedom to do what we want. For others, such as Lord Acton, “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

For the Christian in particular, true freedom is more than a little paradoxical, involving plenty of constraints and restraints. We know that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” and yet, in keeping with the upside-down economics of the Gospel – “the first shall be last,” “those who lose their life will find it” – it comes with prepackaged with calls to servanthood and obedience. These are good hints that true freedom may have less to do with nitpicking over “choice” and “constraint” and more to do with accurately recognizing the image of God we bear and the responsibility it entails.

In seasons of pain and frustration, the notion tends to feel more clear and less paradoxical, of course. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer,” the Psalmist sings. “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

This is the sound of freedom through dependence, and it’s one that Christians are well familiar with. But it’s a song we also tend to forget and neglect. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
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Statua chrystus królCourtesy Adrian Vermeule at Mirror of Justice, I ran across a word new to me: Kyriarchy. Given the context and my admittedly limited Greek-language skills, I was able to work out the gist of the idea. As Vermeule puts it, “On November 20, the Feast of Christ the King, a coronation ceremony took place at the Church of Divine Mercy in Krakow. The President of Poland and the Catholic Bishops officially crowned Jesus Christ the King of Poland.”

Vermeule goes on to wonder what impact, if any, this might have for Poland’s constitutional order: “Is Poland now to be classified as an authoritarian regime? What is Poland’s small-c constitution, if it still has one?”

Off the top of my head, I would point to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament as a precedent, which is perhaps best understood as a constitutional monarchy, first with Yahweh as the heavenly monarch with judges as the main earthly authorities, and later with a human monarchy subsumed and accountable to that divine rule. Torah was the national constitution, and there was a whole apparatus in place holding various institutions and authorities responsible for various duties.

I don’t think it would be right to call such divine lordship merely “symbolic.” And I don’t see why mutatis mutandis something like that couldn’t also be coherently put in place today.

The Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper had a lot to say about something that might be understood as Kyriarchy in a broader sense, at least. For that, I recommend his three-volume treatment of the lordship of Christ Pro Rege, the first of which is now available in English translation.

It is, of course, one thing to affirm the lordship of Christ over everything, including particular nation-states, and quite another to work out the particular ways that ought to be reflected in a particular political order. As Vermeule rightly notes, this isn’t merely a technical issue of polity, but a more substantive question of political, and even public, theology.

genesis-bible“In our search for economic principles in the Bible, we need to begin with the story of Creation found in the first two chapters of Genesis,” says Hugh Whelchel. “Here we see God’s normative intentions for life. We see life as ‘the way it ought to be.’ Man is free from sin, living out his high calling as God’s vice regent in a creation that is ‘very good.’”

Whelchel lists three major economic principles laid out in Creation, the first being creativity and freedom:

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Blog author: dpahman
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
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These Russian Orthodox cosmonauts get it. Click photo for source.

… Or does religion need Mars? So argues social commentator James Poulos at Foreign Affairs:

What’s clear is that Earth no longer invites us to contemplate, much less renew, our deepest spiritual needs. It has filled up so much with people, discoveries, information, and sheer stuff that it’s maddening to find what F. Scott Fitzgerald called a fresh green breast of a new world — the experience of truly open horizons and an open but specific future. That’s a problem that does suggest a terrible calamity, if not exactly an imminent apocalypse. But by making a fresh pilgrimage to a literally new world — say, red-breasted Mars — we could mark our pilgrims’ progress from the shadows of ignorance and apartness from God.

I’m sympathetic to Poulos’s general point that Mars — and those, like Elon Musk, who want to colonize it — needs religion. (Perhaps even Calvinism in particular!) However, I’m not so sure that Earth has lost its ability to evoke spiritual renewal. (more…)

Appletons' Wesley John.jpg

By Jacques Reich (undoubtedly based on a work by another artist) – Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1900, v. 5, p. 438, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8565386

“You are the spring that puts all the rest in motion; they would not stir a step without you.”

John Wesley (1703–1791) was talking about the slave trade and was impugning the buyers and owners of slaves as equally culpable as those who captured and sold them, those who “would not stir a step” without buyers for their wares.

But his observation applies to all transactions in a market economy, whether morally permissible or impermissible. The customer is king, whether he is buying illegal drugs or organic, cage-free eggs.

Recognizing the primacy of the buyer in the market economy is a key step in making appropriate moral judgments as well as formulating sound public policy.