Posts tagged with: united states

Charles Malik. Photo credit: LIFE Magazine.

In today’s Acton Commentary, I highlight a little book by the Lebanese diplomat, philosopher, and theologian Charles Malik, Christ and Crisis (1962). With regard to its continuing relevance, I write,

Malik would urge us to have the courage to take up our crosses today, each in our own capacities and competencies, putting the life of the spirit first, not settling for easy answers and scorning all distractions. “There are three unpardonable sins today,” wrote Malik in 1962 — but just as relevant now — “to be flippant or superficial in the analysis of the world situation; to live and act as though halfhearted measures would avail; and to lack the moral courage to rise to the historic occasion.”

Above all, Christians can never be ashamed of Jesus Christ. “To be fair, to be positive, to be thankful — these are highly desirable Christian virtues today,” wrote Malik. But he did not stop at that commendable fairness, cautioning, “And of course you are not fair at all if, in trying to be fair to others, you are so fair as to cease to be fair to Christ Himself — Christ who was much more than just fair to you and me when He took our sins upon Himself on the Cross.”

Malik’s impressive work deserves more attention than it has received in recent years. And his record speaks for itself: In addition to co-drafting the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, sitting as president of the U.N.’s General Assembly in 1958, acting as Lebanese ambassador to the United States, and dedicating his life to fighting communism and defending human rights, Malik was also a philosopher and theologian and served as vice president of the United Bible Societies from 1966 to 1972 and president of the World Council on Christian Education from 1967 to 1971. Such monumental work for both the common good and the kingdom of God ought not to remain obscure to Christians today.

You can read my full commentary on his 1962 work Christ and Crisis here.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

If I were to publicly announce a Bible study meeting at the local public library, one can imagine the hue and cry from secularists fretting about a looming right-wing theocratic takeover of America. Change the subject to Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on climate change, however, and all you hear are crickets chirping from the separation of church and state crowd. (See comments on the encyclical here from Acton’s Kishore Jayabalan)

It’s interesting to note that – when not attempting to eliminate religious considerations altogether from the public square – progressive groups leap at the opportunity to embrace a religious leader when he or she shows sympathy for their pet causes. Already one can anticipate the swoon of secularists in anticipation of Pope Francis weighing in on climate change, a document they’ll more than likely never read in full but will selectively quote to buttress their liberal interpretations.

The fact remains that no one – outside the Vatican at least – yet knows what Pope Francis will say about climate change in his upcoming encyclical. But that hasn’t stopped the Citizens Climate Lobby, a national astro-turfing outfit with local “grassroots” chapters throughout the United States, including one in your writer’s own backyard in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Last weekend, CCL local chapters gathered to listen to national broadcast presentations by Lonnie Ellis, associate director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, and Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt, the book upon which the recently released film documentary is based. The CCL chapter in my hometown congregated in the local public library annex to listen to the podcast recorded earlier that afternoon. I’m pleased to report our Republic has yet to establish a religion, but I’m not of the sort who worries about such things. (more…)

unknown artist from Japanese internment camp

unknown artist from Japanese internment camp

It is a disturbing part of American history: the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent and Japanese who were legally living in the U.S. during World War II. About 120,000 people were placed in internment camps in the western part of the U.S.

Life in the camps was harsh. The only furnishings were beds. There was no privacy. Many people lived in metal huts, which provided no protection from heat or cold. However, many of those interned were resourceful, and determined to make the very best of their situation.

Prisoners were denied any belongings coming in, and the barracks were furnished only with beds. There were no luxuries like tools, tables, chairs, or curtains for privacy. Later, they could order modest items by mail. But their ethic was of tremendous resourcefulness. Nothing was wasted. Onion sacks were unraveled and woven into baskets and cigarette cases. Tiny shells on the ground were collected for brooches for special occasions like weddings and funerals. Toothbrush handles were cut off and repurposed. An ugly stub of iron sewer pipe was incised with a bird and blooming plum branches to fashion a vase. A ring was made from a peach pit.

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ferguson-shootingSince last August, federal prosecutors and civil rights investigators have been investigating whether the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson was a civil rights violation. In an 86-page report released Wednesday, the Justice Department cleared the officer of any criminal wrongdoing or violation of civil rights in the shooting. Here are some highlights from that report.

• FBI agents independently canvassed more than 300 residences to locate and interview additional witnesses. Federal investigators also collected cell phone data, searched social media sites, and followed up on tips from citizens in order to investigate all sources of information. (p. 4)

• “The evidence, when viewed as a whole, does not support the conclusion that Wilson’s use of deadly were “objectively unreasonable” under the Supreme Court’s definition.” (p. 5)

• The investigation uncovered forensic evidence that confirms Brown reached into the police officer’s vehicle and punched and grabbed Wilson. Brown also grabbed Wilson’s firearm and attempted to wrestle control of it from the police officer, suffering a bullet wound to the hand during the altercation and leaving DNA evidence inside the vehicle. (p. 6).

• Brown was not shot in the back and there is no evidence he was shot while running away. Brown ran 180 feet away before turning back and advancing on Wilson. Wilson fired a total of 12 shots, 2 in the vehicle and 10 on the roadway, but only hit Brown 6-8 times, including the shot to the hand. Brown fell to the ground with his uninjured hand balled up in his waistband. (Wilson testified he thought Brown was reaching into his waistband for a weapon.) Evidence proves that Wilson did not touch Brown’s body after the shooting. (p. 7)

• All credible witnesses established that Brown was moving toward Wilson—“charging”, “moving slowly,” “running,” etc.—when he was shot. Although some witnesses state Brown held his hands up at shoulder level with his palms facing outward for a brief moment, these same witnesses describe Brown as dropping his hands and “charging” Wilson. (p. 8)
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religious-hostility-AMERICALiberty Institute, a legal organization in Plano, Texas, has released the report, “Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America, 2014 Edition,” featuring more than 1,300 cases of religious hostility, persecution and/or Constitutional violations of rights in the United States.

According to the report,

Hostility to religion in America is still growing. Because religion is so vital to a free and well-ordered society, our goal is to expose and document this growing hostility to help Americans confront and reverse it. The hostility is growing in the “Public Arena” of public places, government, and the workplace. it is growing in the “Schoolhouse” of education, from K-12 through higher academia. it is growing in the sector of “Churches and Ministries” where one might expect it to be safest. And it is growing in the areas of society that encompass the “Military,” which includes our veterans. The growth of hostility is undeniable and it is dangerous.

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Blog author: jballor
Thursday, February 19, 2015
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Graeme Wood’s excellent piece in The Atlantic has justly been making the rounds for the past week or so. It is well worth reading with a number of insights and points that strike at the heart of the contemporary conflict between modernity and religious violence. I commend “What ISIS Really Wants” to your reading. (Rasha al Aqeedi’s “Caliphatalism,” which looks more closely at the situation in Mosul, makes a great companion read.)
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The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America has published a new report on Orthodox Monastic Communities in the United States (here). The report contains a lot of great information (“great” for nerds like me, anyway), including a whole section entitled, “‘Monastic Economy:’ Ownership of Property and Sources of Income in US Orthodox Monasteries.”

According to the report,

In summary, the three most common sources of income in US Orthodox monasteries are:

  • Occasional private donations including bequests and offerings for performed sacraments (87% of all monastic communities mentioned this source of income);

  • Sale of religious items (except candles) that are not produced by monastery (52% of all monastic communities mentioned this source of income);

  • Production and sales of candles (24% of all monastic communities mentioned this source of income).

Thus, after private donations, the top two sources of income are through commerce: 52% sales of items not produced by the monastery and 24% candles produced by the monastery. Income from other items produced by monasteries, such as books, devotional items, and food items, was also significant. Our Merciful Saviour Russian Orthodox Monastery in Washington state, for example, lists sales of their “monastery blend” coffee as their primary source of income.

This does not come as a surprise to me.

The most recent volume (vol. 8, 2014) published by the Sophia Institute, of which I am a fellow, includes a paper by me entitled, “Markets and Monasticism: A Survey & Appraisal of Eastern Christian Monastic Enterprise.” While my paper is not a comprehensive history, it does include a section on modern Orthodox monasteries in the United States.

I write, (more…)

anglosphere-300x150Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, asks whether or not the Anglosphere nations (Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States) continue to be a viable political force in the world today at the Library of Law and Liberty.

Gregg begins with his unique Anglosphere experience:

Given that I am of Scottish and English descent, grew up in Australia, did my doctorate in Britain, and now live and work in America, I am about as much a product of what is often called “the Anglosphere” as it gets. That such a sphere exists, culturally speaking, has never seemed in doubt to me, even beyond the common linguistic and historical connections to the British Isles of this grouping of nations.

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The largest initiative to combat poverty by funding public schools has occurred in Camden, New Jersey, the poorest small city in America. New Jersey spends about 60 percent more on education per pupil than the national average according to 2012 census figures, or about $19,000 in 2013. In Camden, per pupil spending was more than $25,000 in 2013, making it one of the highest spending districts in the nation.

But as Reason.com notes, all that extra money hasn’t changed the fact that Camden’s public schools are among in the worst in the nation, notorious for their abysmal test scores, the frequent occurrence of in-school violence, dilapidated buildings, and an on-time graduation rate of just 61 percent.

As Bridget Cusato-Rosa, Principal of Freedom Prep Charter School, says in the mini-documentary about the effort,

A lack of resources is not our problem. I actually despise that argument. I think it’s a scapegoat. ‘We need more money. If we had more money, we could do this, or do this.’ It’s just a Band-Aid for the problem. Why not address the real issue, which is what’s broken right in front of you?

School-Desks--Empty-Classroom--GENERIC-HD--1-9-09---18449637Back in October I offered five guidelines on “how to be a better guesstimater,” ways to hone your skills at guessing and estimation — guesstimation — that will help us minimize innumeracy.

A recent Washington Post article—“Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty”—shows how applying these five tips could prevent people from falling for obviously inaccurate reporting. Here is the main claim of the article:

For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.
The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.

Are those numbers accurate or even plausible? Let’s see how we could apply the tools of guesstimation to this claim.
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