Good art is more than just something pretty. It touches the soul; it brings something of the Divine to life in a new way. Artist John Dunne paints from this perspective. Dunne had already developed a substantial career when he felt called to explore more sacred themes, particularly with Eastern influence. He says when he paints, he is “listening to the work.” He says that meditation on the part of both the artist and the viewer is absolutely necessary.
More groups are beginning to notice the hypocrisy of nuns advocating for progressive causes, including and especially their stumping for campaign finance disclosure. Over at Juicy Ecumenism, the blog published by the Institute of Religion & Democracy, guest writer T.J. Whittle echoes what loyal PowerBlog readers will recognize as a familiar theme. Namely, the nuns are working in league with leftist organizations interested only in stifling their opponents’ political speech.
In his essay, “Nuns in Glass Buses,” Whittle, a research assistant at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes:
After helping to re-elect President Obama in 2012 and advocating for immigration reform in 2013, Sr. Simone Campbell and the Nuns on a Bus have returned for the 2014 midterm elections. Sr. Campbell, who heads the progressive Catholic group NETWORK and spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, has warned in her typical populist tone that “Our election campaigns are now awash with big money.”
On Tuesday, voters in Alabama passed a ballot measure that, among other things, forbids courts, arbitrators, and administrative agencies from applying or “enforcing a foreign law if doing so would violate any state law or a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States.” Such measures (other states have passed similar laws) are often dubbed “anti-Sharia” measures since preventing the encroachment of Sharia is usually their primary objective.
Sharia is the moral code and religious law of Islam that deals with topics addressed by secular law, including crime, politics, and economics, as well as personal matters such as sexual relations, hygiene, diet, and prayer. The two primary sources of Sharia law are the Quran and the example set by the founder of Islam, Muhammad. The introduction of Sharia across the globe is a longstanding goal for Islamist movements.
Opposing Sharia law may appear to be commonsensical measure. But such laws are unnecessary since state law and the Constitution already trump foreign law. They also can’t be written to oppose only Sharia (that would be religious discrimination) so they are written in a broad way that has unintended consequences.
Indeed, there is a compelling reason why Christians should be leery of joining in supporting anti-Sharia legislation: By helping to push the idea that religious beliefs should be kept private, anti-Sharia laws are a threat to all of our religious liberties. As the Catholic legal scholar Robert K. Vischer explained last year in First Things:
The Acton Institute will hold the second of five conferences in the international series, “One and Indivisible? The Relationship Between Religious and Economic Freedom” in Washington on Nov. 10. These events are designed to explore the concept of expanding government in the Western World and its impact on religious liberties and freedoms.
The Washington conference, titled “The Relationship Between Religious and Economic Liberty in an Age of Expanding Government,” will examine how the Christian conception of religious liberty limits the state’s exercise of power, the manner in which the expansion of economic freedom creates new opportunities and challenges for believers, how social welfare policies can inhibit or facilitate religious activity, and the effects of growing government upon the ability of Christians and Church.
Speakers include Cardinal Robert Sarah (Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’), Prof. Russell Hittinger (The Catholic University of America), Mr. Michael Novak (Author and former Ambassador), Dr. Jay W. Richards (The Catholic University of America) and is co-sponsored by The Catholic University of America’s School of Business & Economics.
The conference is scheduled to start on Monday Nov. 10 at the Catholic University of America at noon. For those unable to join, there will also be a live streaming event at Acton’s headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich as well as live broadcast available online.
To join the conversation online use the Twitter hashtag #DitchtheDivide.
We are expecting a great turn out as we seek to “ditch the divide” between religious and economic liberty. For more information, to register for the conference, or to access the live stream (available the day of the conference) visit the conference website www.acton.org/DC2014
In his reflections on art and common grace, Abraham Kuyper affirmed that “the world of beauty that does in fact exist can have originated nowhere else than in the creation of God. The world of beauty was thus conceived by God, determined by his decree, called into being by him, and is maintained by him.” Beauty is, in this deep sense, a creational good, and even though beauty is often pressed into the service of evil, beauty, like all good things, is a creation of God.
During last week’s symposium at Calvin College on common grace and business, Dr. Vahagn Asatryan of Redeemer University College presented on marketing and common grace. To open his paper, Dr. Asatryan used this advertisement. Be sure to watch to the end and pay special attention to the message at the conclusion of the commercial:
Asatryan noted the deep beauty of the story told in this piece, and yet ultimately it depicts a situation that conflicts with God’s will for human social life. In the old days it was referred to as “living in sin.” What might a marketing piece that is more affirming of God’s common grace as reflected in his will for the human institution of marriage look like?
Is the murder rate in the U.S. increasing or decreasing? What percentage of teen girls will give birth this year? What percentage of Americans are Christian or Muslim? What percentage are immigrants?
If you guess wrong, you’re not alone. A new global survey, building on work in the UK last year for the Royal Statistical Society, finds that most people in the countries surveyed were wildly wrong. For instance, Americans guess wrong on each of the following questions:
• What Percentage of Girls Age 15-19 Give Birth Each Year? (Avg. guess: 24 percent; Actual: 3 percent)
• What Percentage of People Are Muslim? (Avg. guess: 15 percent; Actual: 1 percent)
• What Percentage of People Are Christian? (Avg. guess: 56 percent; Actual: 78 percent)
• What Percentage of People Are Immigrants? (Avg. guess: 32 percent; Actual: 13 percent)
• What Percentage of People Voted in the Last Major Election? (Avg. guess: 57 percent; Actual: 67 percent)
• What Percentage of People Are Unemployed and Looking For Work? (Avg. guess: 32 percent; Actual: 6 percent)
While these examples may seem relatively trivial, they highlight that when it comes to numbers that shape policy and politics, many Americans are extremely confused. Ideally, before making a decision about how to vote or stressing about the latest health threat, we’d research the numbers to develop an informed decision. But the number of issues we face each day often prevents us from doing more than making a “best guess.”
Fortunately, there are ways we can hone our skills at guessing and estimation — guesstimation — that will help us minimize our innumeracy. Here are a few tips for making better guesses about numbers related to politics, policy, and demographics:
As we head into the fall of 2014, the world seems to be a very dark and uncertain place for those who practice the Christian faith. Between the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria (and the resulting slaughter and displacement of Christians in the middle east) and the seemingly relentless advance of secularism and rejection of traditional Christian values in the West, many Christians are wondering how Christianity can survive and advance in our modern world. In this edition of Radio Free Acton, Acton Institute Co-Founder and President Rev. Robert A. Sirico talks on this topic with Os Guinness, public intellectual and author most recently of Reniassance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times. Guinness reminds us that our generation is not the first generation of Christians to face a world in flux, and gives advice on how Christians should face the uncertain future.
I’ve been following an interesting discussion at NRT, a Christian music website, regarding whether an artist is “really” Christian or not. NRT, on its Facebook page, had announced that singer Audrey Assad, known for her hauntingly beautiful Christian music, had made the decision to go mainstream. She gave her reasoning on her own blog. NRT had also commented on the band Switchfoot, who announced they’d be touring with Michael Gungor. Gungor is rather “notorious” in some Christian circles for stating that he does not take all of the Bible literally (for instance, he believes much of Genesis to be symbolic or allegorical in nature.)
Let the backlash begin.
Lots of folks chimed in on the NRT Facebook page with negative comments: “Don’t give me the mess about reaching a wider audience or not being full time into the ministry. Either you are or aren’t.” “To me, leaving Christian music to perform secular music is similiar to a dog going back to his vomit.” “Think I’ll pass until Switchfoot decides whom they serve.” You can read more there if you wish.
This raises an interesting question: must one be in full-time ministry to be a Christian? The answer is, of course not. Most of us Christians are NOT in paid, full-time, ministerial positions. We have regular old jobs: soccer coaches, secretaries, entrepreneurs, wait-staff, lawyers, landscapers. We don’t preach sermons or teach theology. We are active in are churches, sure, but that’s not our job. Why then are these Christian musicians being held to a different standard? (more…)
Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, recently wrote about ‘Our Sentimental Humanitarian Age’ at the American Spectator. He argues that “soft liberalism is incapable of confronting the evil in man.”
Sometimes, however, an event occurs that highlights the more fundamental crises that bedevil a civilization. The rise of a movement as diabolical as ISIS, for instance, has surely underscored the bankruptcy of what might be called the sentimental humanitarian outlook that dominates so many contemporary shapers of the West’s cultural consensus.
Sentimental humanitarianism has several features. One is the mind-set that reduces evil to structural causes. “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains,” proclaimed Rousseau in his Du contrat social. From this, many concluded that evil would disappear if the right people were put in charge to change the structures.
Sentimental humanitarianism also assumes that all religions are more-or-less the same and, given the right conditions, will vacillate their way towards something as innocuous as today’s Church of England. But as a wise recently retired pope once wrote, a major failure of imagination since the 1960s has been the disinclination to concede that there are “sick and distorted forms of religion.” (more…)
“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.