Posts tagged with: virtue

cracked-flag-fragment-america-dividedThe fabric of American society is tearing at the seams. Whether witnessed through the disruptive insurgencies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders or the more mundane fissures of pop culture and daily consumerism, Americans are increasingly divided and diverse.

Yet even in our rash attempts to dismantle Establishment X and Power Center Y, we do so with a peculiar nostalgia of the golden days of yore. You know, those days when institutions mattered?

This is particularly evident in the appeal of Mr. Trump, whose calls to burn down the houses of power come pre-packaged with a simultaneous disdain for the power of bottom-up diversity and the liberty it requires. Once the tattered castle on the hill is torched to the ground, we’re told, we will receive a greater castle on a higher hill with a far more deserving king. The scepter will be yuge, and with power restored to the hands of a man shrewd enough to exploit it, surely we will “win” again. (more…)

Angel of Mercy and Lady JusticeIn a new essay for the Catholic World Report, Samuel Gregg discusses why it’s dangerous to to overemphasize any one facet of Christian teaching at the expense of a different teaching. No matter what is overemphasized, this will distort the Gospel. The focus of this essay is “mercy” and how mercy leads “to the ultimate source of justice–the God who is love–and thus prevents justice from collapsing into something quite anti-human.”

Gregg describes the three ways mercy can be distorted: as sentimentalism, as injustice, and as mediocrity. When describing mercy as injustice, Gregg warns that “it quickly undermines any coherent conception of justice.”

Back in 1980, John Paul warned in Dives in Misericordia that “In no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence towards evil, towards scandals, towards injury or insult. In any case, reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness” (DM 14). If that sounds tough-minded, that’s because it is. Remember, however, that the Jesus Christ who embodies mercy isn’t the equivalent of a divine stuffed animal. Whenever the Scriptures portray Christ offering mercy to sinners, his forgiveness is always laced with a gentle but clear reminder of the moral law and the expectation that the sinful acts will be discontinued.

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edmund-burkeThe Republican Party is fracturing on the topic of trade. Alas, in the same corners where free and open exchange was once embraced as a propeller for economic growth and dynamism, protectionism is starting to stick.

In response, free traders are pushing the typical arguments about growth, innovation, and prosperity. Others, such as myself, are noting that the trend has less to do with economic illiteracy than it does with a protectionism of the heart — a self-seeking ethos that wants “economic freedom” only insofar as it poses no threat to the preferred wage, vocation, or plot of dirt.

We have forgotten that work is not about us. It’s about serving others, and adapting that service when the signals say, “yes.”

On this, the “communitarian” wing of conservatism tends to push back, accusing free traders of being overly comfortable with social disruption and displacement, prioritizing efficiency and cheap widgetry over “stability” and “social well-being.”

Such critics would do well to heed Edmund Burke, one of the movement’s heroes. Burke was a staunch supporter of free trade not because he was indifferent to disruption, but because the alternative would cause much, much more.  (more…)

generosityMost Americans believe that it is very important for them to be a generous person. Yet almost half did not give to charity in the past year, and less than a quarter gave more than $500.

That’s the latest findings in a new Science of Generosity survey. An even more disconcerting discovery is that quarter of Americans were neutral on the importance of generosity and 10 percent disagreed that generosity was not a very important quality.

As David Briggs of the Association of Religion Data Archives notes,
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hannington1 - CopyBishop Hannington longed to see an awakening to generosity in his town of Bundibugyo, Uganda, where many viewed giving more as a matter of duty than heartfelt joy.

Yet what at first seemed like a significant challenge soon grew even steeper. After fleeing their town for two years due to the chaos of civil war, the community returned to Bundibugyo to find their homes completely destroyed.

“The houses had been torn down, the farms had nothing in them, churches had been demolished, schools had been devastated,” Hannington explains. “So we started from scratch.” With no money, shelter, aid, or resources, the people didn’t know what to do, and surely the temptation to look inward and “protect my own” pulled stronger than ever.

But then Hannington remembered: They did indeed have resources.

Rather than turn to the West or others outside their community for aid and assistance, Hannington encouraged his neighbors to look in their own hearts and hands. God had already given them what they need, and that, too, was designed to be poured out yet again.

Hear their remarkable story:

As Hannington explains, he encouraged them to connect and apply their God-given gifts to the God-given spheres of culture and creation that surrounded them:

I asked, “How soon can my people raise to the challenge of funding, not only their immediate needs, but their futures as well. I told the people at that time that God has given us everything we need to rebuild our community. And what he needed was for others to make themselves available to him and he was going to use us. And those of us who are mechanics, and those of us who are business people, they can use their gifts and trade they have to build their community.

Slowly and steadily, transformation happened. Churches and schools were rebuilt, generosity continued to spread, skills and resources were shared and invested, wealth was created, and the community began to revive.
It’s a powerful example of how transformational our stewardship can be when it’s rooted not in self-interest or self-preservation – the wisdom and pleasures of which shall surely wither and fade – but in the divine generosity of a heavenly father who so loved the world that he gave.

If war and destruction could not stop the servanthood and generosity of Bundibugyo, what’s stopping us?

Happy Star Wars day!

The new Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, opened across the US and worldwide today, and I can’t tell you anything about how well it’s doing. I’ve been avoiding Googling it because I’m a huge nerd and I don’t want to accidentally uncover any spoilers. (I haven’t seen it yet.) But I do know that the presales were over $100 million. So even if people end up hating it, it’s already done pretty well.

(Not that kind of spoiler.)

Eric Boehm, who is the national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org and who I had the pleasure to meet at a conference last April, read my post this past Monday on Lando Calrissian as a Star Wars entrepreneur, and asked me to join him for a Star Wars-themed discussion of freedom and virtue for their regular podcast.

The podcast is up today. My interview comes up in the second half, but the whole show is worth your time. You can find it here.

And — okay, okay, I’ll say it — may the force be with you.

children1With our newfound economic prosperity and the political liberalization of the West, we have transitioned into an era of hyper consumerism and choice. This involves all sorts of blessings, to be sure, but it brings its own distinct risks.

Whether it be materialism or a more basic idolatry of choice, such distortions will be sure to diminish or disintegrate any number of areas across society. But the deleterious effects on the family and children are particularly pronounced.

Throughout most of human history, children were most often the brightest light in an otherwise bleak existence of poverty, toil, and high mortality. For those with little freedom, few resources, and zero opportunity, children were a blessing and a bounty: a gift (and not just for the labor). Now, however, presented with a range of vocational options and the wealth and leisure to support them, our priorities have significantly shifted. We are prodded toward career or education or adventurism first, teased by a platter of technological tools to further prevent a child’s intrusion into our planned prospects. (more…)