Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 15, 2016
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Freedom-of-ReligionThomas Jefferson wanted what he considered to be his three greatest achievements to be listed on his tombstone. The inscription, as he stipulated, reads “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia.”

On Saturday we celebrate the 230th anniversary of one of those great creations: the passage, in 1786, of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.

Each year, the President declares January 16th to be Religious Freedom Day, and calls upon Americans to “observe this day through appropriate events and activities in homes, schools, and places of worship.” One way to honor the day is to reflect on these ten quotes about religious liberty that were expressed by some of our country’s greatest leaders:

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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 15, 2016
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Religious Freedom Day Celebrates Nation’s Pluralism
The Becket Fund

Over two decades ago, Congress declared January 16 as Religious Freedom Day, a day for honoring America’s first freedom. This Saturday, The Becket Fund launches RFRA Central to celebrate the 230th anniversary of the “Virginia Statute Establishing Religious Freedom” – the forerunner of the Constitution’s First Amendment Religion Clauses.

Fact-Checking Obama’s Final State of the Union
Melissa Quinn, The Daily Signal

Despite the president’s claim that more than 18 million Americans now have health insurance—credited to Obamacare’s implementation—the majority of those who gained coverage qualified for Medicaid because of loosened eligibility.

North Korea Gets Competition: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Now Hardest To Be a Christian
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today

Hermit Kingdom losing lead as modern persecution hits record high, according to 2016 World Watch List.

4 ways the lottery preys on the poor
Alvin Chang, Vox

These are the people Osmond pinpointed when he obtained a database from the Connecticut Lottery containing 21 years’ worth of winners. What did he find? They are largely poor, largely minorities, and often addicts. The lottery preys on these people.

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?

0701whitefieldpreachingHow did religious freedom develop in America? It didn’t happen the way most of us were taught in school—whether in elementary school or law school. In fact, notes legal scholar Richard Garnett, the “standard story” about religious freedom in Early America is profoundly misleading:

In my experience, this “standard story” is familiar to most Americans, whether or not they are historians or constitutional lawyers, though lawyers have probably been more exposed to and influenced by it than most. In this account, our sophisticated and “enlightened” Founding Fathers—with far-seeing Virginians like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the lead—took special care to write and design a “godless” constitution so as to spare our new political community and experiment from the superstition and strife that, they knew all too well, had ravaged and torn Europe in the preceding centuries. In this story, the First Amendment was crafted and constitutionalized so as to entrench a principle—a “wall”—of church-state separation and ensure a secular “public” sphere, with religion protected, but confined within, the “private” realm.

This story is not true. In fact, America’s revolution and constitution were shaped not only by the Enlightenment but also by the Great Awakening, by preachers as well as pamphleteers. And, as John Witte describes in Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment, the Founding-era arguments about religious freedom under law included not just “Enlightenment thinkers” but also “congregational Puritans,” “Free Church Evangelicals,” and “Civic Republicans.” It would not have been difficult to identify a consensus in favor of the liberty of religious conscience and a distinction between religious and political authority and office, but this consensus obtained at a high level of generality and allowed for variation and disagreement with respect to many—indeed most—questions and applications. And, it seems very unlikely that the First Amendment was widely seen as embodying, let alone entrenching, much beyond an aversion to a nationally established church, backed and propped up by legal coercion, of the kind they knew existed elsewhere. Hardly anyone, if anyone, thought that the ratification of the First Amendment meant that something called “religion” was now legally barred from the “public” or that, as a result of that provision, the constitutional validity of laws and policies was contingent on a judicial determination that they did not rest on “religious” beliefs or motives.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, January 14, 2016
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How To Raise Children Who Can Handle Freedom
Anna Mussmann, The Federalist

It is not enough for me to teach my children to shoot holes in The New York Times with their favorite sidearm or to deliver impromptu lectures on American history.

Kenya’s Evangelical Alliance opposes registration plan
BBC

Kenya’s evangelical churches have condemned government plans to make it tougher for religious bodies and clerics from all faiths to operate.

But Who Will Stock the Supermarkets?
Barry Brownstein, FEE

What beliefs do we have about the source of order that cause us to rely so heavily on planning and controlling?

All the Money on Earth, in One (Giant) Visual
Shaunacy Ferro, Mental Floss

Large sums of money can be hard visualize. What does it really mean that Uber is valued at $51 billion? What does it mean that Apple, the world’s most valuable company, is worth more than $600 billion? That’s an unfathomable sum of money for most of us. It’s easier to compare that kind of money with all the money in the world than it is to compare it to the money in your wallet.

Recovered

Click to enlarge

“Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” said President Obama in last night’s State of the Union address. Technically, the president is correct: The American economy, as a whole, is not in decline. But for most Americans, the state of the American economy is less important than the economy of their state, county, and city.

“Americans don’t live in a single economic place,” says Emilia Istrate, the director of research and outreach for the National Association of Counties (NACo). “It tells you why many Americans don’t feel the good economic numbers they see on TV.”

Eric Morath reports on a recent study Istrate produced for NACo that finds that six years into the latest economic expansion, 93 percent of counties in the U.S. have failed to fully recover. Only 214 counties—7 percent of 3,069—have recovered to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy, and home values. In 27 states, not a single county had fully recovered by 2014.

What makes this especially troubling is that since 1960 there have been an average of two recessions a decade. Many counties are unlikely to recover before the next economic downturn.

With preparation, though, local churches can find creative ways to help alleviate the economic burdens in our counties. Here are three suggestions for what churches and Christians can do to help our neighbors:
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Prior to opening Alabaster Coffee in downtown Williamsport, PA, founder Karl Fisher was in full-time vocational ministry. For many, that sort of transition happens in reverse, but for Fisher, moving from churchplace to marketplace amplified the scope of his service in new and unexpected ways.

“I have already viewed my life as, ‘How are we bringing the Gospel to the community?’” Fisher says. “But now, in many ways, not being a vocational pastor and being in the marketplace, there are definitely aspects of that that give me a broader platform.”

Struck by Alabaster Coffee’s culture and product, Evan Koons spoke with Fisher about his business and the ways our creative service can spread the Gospel and transform culture:

In a world of accelerating industrialization, society is learning to remember and better appreciate the dynamics of community and craftsmanship in business. As Fisher aptly demonstrates, these are natural priorities for Christians, compounded by something a bit more permanent at the root: a love for people rooted in the love of Jesus.

Christians in creative service have a call to meet economic needs, but we do so by connecting the tangible to the transcendent, the temporal to the eternal.

coffee3Though small and local businesses like Alabaster have a unique way of clarifying these things, such features are not confined to awe-inspiring coffee shops or artisan bookmakers and bakers. The call to creative service spans across culture, from factory workers to farmers, oil riggers to artists, welders to Wall Street CEOs.

“How we do our work, how it’s accomplished, the attitudes that we have to it, is very much an act of worship,” Fisher concludes. “My ability to work and the means to work — the way that I view that should absolutely be joyful and worshipful.”

For more on how creative service connects to God’s economy of all things, see Episode 3 of For the Life of the World.