The domestic threat to religious liberty and the global slaughter of Christians around the globe is becoming harder to ignore. It certainly is now one of the most important news stories to follow for the New Year.
Yesterday, I delivered a lecture on the topic of religious liberty to the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. My Acton commentary is an abbreviated version of the portion of the lecture that focused on the current domestic threat. I’ve already talked about how the American Civil Rights Movement might be one model to push back against the rising tide of Christian persecution in this country. It is becoming increasingly clear that churches need to do a better job preparing believers to handle and deal with religious persecution.
We are really living through a dangerous era of historic revisionism, where the agenda to drastically curb the influence of religion and a faith informed virtue from the public square is strengthening. I simply ask in my piece, “What would Western Civilization look like without God, and more specifically the Lord Jesus Christ? Francis Cardinal George warns us that “secularism is communism’s better-scrubbed bedfellow. (more…)
“There is only one effective solution to world poverty,” says theologian Wayne Grudem in a recent lecture on his latest book, The Poverty of Nations, co-authored with economist Barry Asmus. That solution, he argues, is a rightly ordered free market, and such a solution, he goes further, is “consistent with the teachings of the Bible about productivity, property, government, and personal moral values.”
Watch the whole thing here:
Grudem’s primary question, “What causes wealth or poverty in the world?,” is not new, but he approaches it from a distinctly Christian perspective. Assessing the question from three distinct angles — a nation’s economic system, government, and cultural beliefs and values — Grudem and Asmus propose 79 factors that “will help nations escape from poverty and move toward prosperity.” (more…)
At the end of a century that has taught that peace is the greatest weapon in development, we cannot afford to spare any effort to bring about a peaceful resolution of such conflicts.
Nor can we allow anything to detract from the urgent need to cooperate in order to ensure that our continent avoids the negative consequences of globalization and that it is able to exploit the opportunities of this important global advancement.
That means working together to ensure that the legacy of underdevelopment does not leave Africa on the margins of the world economy.
That means finding ways to deal with the world’s highest incidence of AIDS, to advance and entrench democracy, to root out corruption and greed, and to ensure respect for human rights.
It means together finding ways to increase the inward flow of investment, to widen market access, and to remove the burden of external debt which affects Africa more than any other region.
It means cooperating to reorient the institutions that regulate the international trade and investment system, so that world economic growth translates into the benefits of development.
It means finding ways of ensuring that the efforts of countries to put their economies on a sound basis in order to uplift their people are not set back by huge flows of finance as they move across the globe in search of quick profits.
The challenge facing today’s leaders is to find the ways in which the prodigious capacity of the contemporary world economy is used to decisively address the poverty that continues to afflict much of humanity.
As I outline in Ecumenical Babel, this kind of a platform for ecumenical engagement of the issues surrounding globalization would have been much more positive, constructive, and promising than the course that was pursued by the mainline ecumenical organizations. Mandela’s words here provide a much more balanced and nuanced assessment of globalization than is often found in ecumenical pronouncements, including the deliberations that ended up leading to the Accra Confession of 2006.
Arguing for the continuing importance of Christian ecumenism, Jordan J. Ballor seeks to correct the errors created by the imposition of economic ideology onto the social witness of ecumenical Christianity .
I remember reading H. Richard Niebuhr’s The Social Sources of Denominationalism early in my seminary career, and Niebuhr’s analysis made a very strong impression on my admittedly impressionable sensibilities. It was clear to me then, and still is now, that much of what constitutes disunity in the Christian church is imported from the broader culture and has nothing to do with a people in which there is “neither Greek nor Jew.” These concerns for principled ecumenical unity are in large part what animated my later book Ecumenical Babel.
And yet in denouncing the tribalism that is an endemic temptation for all forms of fallen human community, we must be careful not to embrace a simplistic, milquetoast version of Christianity that papers over our real differences, and our uniqueness as individual persons created in the image of God, each one of us with our own perspectives, callings, hopes, fears, and trials.
We need to embrace an understanding of diversity without falling into disunity, a diversity within unity that mirrors in our own creaturely way the call to unity expressed in Jesus’ high priestly prayer. (more…)
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore is one of the Chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Religious Liberty. He recently celebrated what is known as a “Red Mass”, an annual event throughout the church for lawyers, judges, legislators and others in the legal profession, at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Richmond, Va. In his homily, he addressed issues of religious liberty pertinent to Americans today.
First, he stressed the link between sound society and morality:
In his farewell address, George Washington famously said: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.” (more…)
I had the opportunity today to take part in a discussion on the BBC program World Have Your Say, discussing the recent suspension by the Vatican of the Bishop of Limbu, Germany, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van-Elst, known in the German press as the “bishop of bling.” He is under investigation regarding expenditures of 31 million euros (roughly $41 million) for the renovation of the historic building that served, in part, as his residence. This story (which can be read here) served as a springboard for the broader question: Should religious leaders live a modest life?
I have written in the past on Christianity and wealth (here and here), and I think the discussion was quite fruitful and thankfully free of strong contention.
One point I wish had been examined a little more (though it is briefly mentioned at the end) is that of redemption. Much was said of how one needs to handle one’s wealth well, but little was said of what hope there may be for someone who has misused their wealth or even who may simply be overly attached to it. While Christ warned, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” he continues to condition this statement by saying, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:25, 27). As St. Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9) — rich in holiness and virtue, heavenly treasures that do not wear out.
Listen to the interview at BBC World Service here.
While many Americans are struggling to navigate healthcare.gov and some are fighting against the Affordable Care Act’s threat to religious liberty, an estimated 100,000 people are exempt from the legislation as members of a health care sharing ministry (HCSM); these organizations offer the opportunity for individuals with similar beliefs to share their health care costs.
HCSMs are not insurance companies, but nonprofit religious organizations that receive no government funding. Andrea Miller, the medical director for Medi-Share, one HCSM in the U.S., explained in a recent interview with NPR how the ministry works: (more…)
Peter Greer has spent his life doing good, from serving refugees in the Congo to leading HOPE International, a Christian-based network of microfinance institutions operating in 16 countries around the world. Yet as he argues in his latest book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, “service and charity have a dark side.”
As a study from Fuller Seminary concluded, only one out of three biblical leaders finished well, despite the good they accomplished during their lifetimes. How can Christians avoid the spiritual dangers that persist in pursuing the good of our neighbors?
Greer’s book offers plenty of answers, and in an interview with On Call in Culture, he was kind enough to offer a glimpse.
As a young man, you noticed a certain brokenness in the aid industry—manipulation, phoniness, failure to uphold the dignity the human person. Yet you began to recognize these same traits within your own heart. Why does the position of the heart matter? Why isn’t it good enough to get busy?
In 2002, a volcano erupted in Congo. I went to help. Up high on a platform, I handed out blankets to refugees. And a photographer was snapping photos. But I wasn’t thinking about the refugees. My thought was: I can’t wait until people back home see these photos of me.
That moment helped me see how it’s possible to appear to be serving God but actually be making our service all about us. Unless we rediscover why we serve, our service can become a way to promote our image, heightening vanity and pride. (more…)
Often many on the political right believe that reform or change in the country is just one election or another president away. Some declare another Ronald Reagan can fix America’s problems, but entirely miss that there may be no culture left to support a president like Reagan. For almost every problem in this nation, there is not a political solution that will make any lasting impact or change for the better. This point is entirely missed by so many during all the political debates and shouting matches today. Politics is becoming a mere distraction from the deeper problems. Washington D.C. is the obvious and best example of this fact.
Today we are living through the dissolution of the greater truths that once permeated Western Culture. We are living through a repaganizing of the West that was transformed and lifted up by Christendom. It’s odd to think about the fact we are living through this very monumental time in history and most people are missing it or unaware of it entirely.
Only spiritual enlightenment and a recovery of these truths can transform society and culture today. The evangelistic and holiness revivals in 18th century England completely reformed an amoral and unjust culture. Many historians have concluded that it alone prevented another bloody revolution in that nation.
Below are excerpted remarks from then Vice President Calvin Coolidge to the New York State Convention of the Y.M.C.A. in Albany, New York in 1923. The title of the address is “The Place of Religion in National Life.” There is not a full copy of the address online but you can find it in The Price of Freedom: Speeches and Addresses by Coolidge.
If you follow national politics closely today you may find it odd to hear a political leader speak confidently about universal truths when it comes to government, man, and society. Unfortunately, we don’t normally hear this kind of language from American leaders today. But it’s a valuable reminder of the significance of religious revival if there is going to be any change in the culture, institutions, or government. Coolidge powerfully makes the point that culture drives law and politics. Change and progress ultimately is born in the human heart and does not emanate from the halls or palaces of power.
When we explore the real foundation of our institutions, of their historical development or their logical support, we come very soon to the matter of religious belief. It was the great religious awakening of the sixteenth century that brought about the political awakening of the seventeenth century. The American Revolution was preceded by the great religious revival of the middle of the eighteenth, which had its effect both in England and in the colonies. When the common people turned to the reading of the Bible, as they did in the Netherlands and in England, when they were stirred by a great revival, as they were in the days of the preaching of Edwards and Whitfield, the way was prepared for William, for Cromwell, and for Washington. It was because religion gave the people a new importance and a new glory that demanded a new freedom and a new government. We cannot in our generation reject the cause and retain the same result.
If the institutions they adopted are to survive, if the governments which they founded are to endure, it will be because the people continue to have similar religious beliefs. It is idle to discuss freedom and equality on any other basis. It is useless to expect substantial reforms from any other motive. They cannot be administered from without they must come from within. That is why laws alone are so impotent. To enact or to repeal laws is not to secure reform. It is necessary to take these problems directly to the individual. There will be a proper use of our material prosperity when the individual feels a divine responsibility. There will be a broadening scholarship when the individual feels that science, literature, and history are the revelation of divine truths. There will be obedience to law when the individual feels the government represents a divine authority.
It is these beliefs, these religious convictions, that represent the strength of America, the strength of all civilized society.
This encouraging & enlightening book provides us with the direction to achieve our goals & find fulfillment while maintaining our personal freedom & integrity. Dick DeVos, President of Amway, shows us how the values that make America great can be incorporated into our daily lives.
Last week the ruling party of the province of Quebec, Parti Québécois, unveiled a new charter which would prohibit public employees from wearing overt religious garb. The document states:
We propose to prohibit the wearing of overt and conspicuous religious symbols by state personnel in carrying out their duties. This restriction would reflect the state’s neutrality.
Included in their examples of “conspicuous signs would not be allowed to state personnel” is the dastar, the turban worn by Sikh men. The problem with such a prohibition, as Brandon Watson explains, is that banning the dastar makes the religious symbolism of Sikhism even more overt: (more…)