united-by-differenceI can choose between 350 channels on my television, 170 stations on my satellite radio, 10,000 books at my local bookstore, and millions of websites on the Internet. But on my ballot I have only two real choices. I can vote for a Democrat or I can vote for a Republican.

In an age when even ice cream comes in 31 flavors, having only two choices in electoral politics seems anachronistic. But the limitation has an ironically beneficial effect. For as divisive as politics can be, nothing else has such power to unite our pluralistic nation.

From magazines to coffee to houses of worship, our consumer-oriented culture provides us with an unlimited number of choices. Chances are that you don’t watch the same TV shows, listen to the same music, or attend the same concerts as your neighbors. While the range of choices can be individually beneficial, it can be socially atomizing. In the 1950s if you lived in Green Bay you rooted for the Packers — just like everyone else in Wisconsin. Now with satellite broadcast, your favorite “football” team is just as likely to be Manchester United.

The expansion of choices has affected almost all major areas of life, except for one. In electoral politics you are forced to choose between the two dominant political parties. (Technically, other parties are listed on a ballot but the choice is still effectively limited to the two parties. See addendum.) Whether you are a proto-Marxist a theocratic Domnionist or a socially liberal libertarian, your choice of parties is limited to the Democrats or the Republicans. The choice may be nothing more than a vote for the lesser of two evils—Beelzebub rather than Lucifer—but making it requires you to band together with others of varying degrees of unanimity.
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Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
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i-voted-button1I live in a small town. Small enough that everyone votes in the same place.  Small enough that you see at least half a dozen people you know when you vote at 7 a.m.

As I was waiting for the people ahead of me to get their ballots, it struck me that I was truly seeing America. There were farmers, greasy-nailed mechanics, women in business attire. There were moms toting babies in car seats, and dads voting before heading into the office. The polls were manned by retired folk and stay-at-home moms who’d dropped their kids off at school before working the polls.

We were all there to exercise our precious right to vote. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
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Episcopal Church in Michigan passes gun resolution
Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press

By a clear majority, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan … voted recently to approve a resolution calling for universal background checks on all gun purchases, banning all sales of semiautomatic weapons, high-impact ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and making gun trafficking a federal crime.

Cracks in the atheist edifice
The Economist

The rapid spread of Christianity in China is forcing an official rethink on religion.

New HHS rules violate religious liberty
Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Obama administration’s latest rules for its abortion/contraception mandate fail to resolve religious liberty concerns and should be scrapped, Southern Baptists’ lead ethicist Russell D. Moore has told the federal government.

Academic Freedom, Religious Institutions, and the State
Daniel Kuebler, Public Discourse

Government funding of education should not be tied to the beliefs of unaccountable academics. Public support for education should empower students and parents, and the choices they make.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, November 3, 2014
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your_vote_counts_400_clr-300x300Tomorrow millions of Americans will to the polls to cast their votes. And many other millions of Americans will not.

Why bother voting when no individual vote makes a difference in any election or political decision? Why bother casting a vote that has no meaning? ​Micah Watson, director of the Center for Politics and Religion and associate professor of political science at Union University, provides an answer:

The first thing to say about such an objection is that it’s a odd way to think about doing anything with a communal element. I may as well decide not to recycle because my individual effort alone will not clean the environment. Nor will my modest charitable gift solve poverty in my community, let alone my country or the world. Yet the combined efforts of Christians can have a staggering effect when taken together, when individuals do not think of their actions entirely through an individualistic lens.

My country­­­, my state, and my town ask for a relatively minor effort on my part to contribute to the common good by expressing my views in the voting booth. Surely the test of whether I submit to this request cannot turn on whether my decision will by itself determine the entire issue.

And there are other reasons for voting. Voting is one measure whereby we learn what it would mean to promote the common good in our particular community. It’s a small but tangible exercise that can lead to even greater involvement in cultivating a just and merciful society. Moreover, we are in good company when we carry our witness about the good into the public square.

Read more . . .

On Wednesday our country will celebrate one of our most cherished civic holidays: the beginning of the 18-month moratorium on political advertising.

Although almost everyone hates such ads, every election season we are inundated with political advertising that mocks our intelligence and tests our credulity as politicians trash their opponents. But we can at least be thankful modern electioneering is, compared to the nineteenth century, downright polite. Even the rudest campaign ads of the 2014 midterm elections can’t match the nasty, negative campaigning of the election of 1800.

Blog author: dpahman
Monday, November 3, 2014
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About a week ago, I had the opportunity to be a guest on a radio show, The Ride Home with John & Kathy, on 101.5 WORD Radio, Pittsburgh. The interview was prompted by a little post titled “What is Fasting?” that I wrote for my personal blog, Everyday Asceticism.

Of interest to PowerBlog readers, I was able to share the experience of my first Great Lent as an Orthodox Christian and how fasting transformed my perspective on abundance and consumerism. Thanks again to John and Kathy for having me on the program.

Give the audio a listen below.

We’ve developed a bit of a backlog of audio to release over the course of the summer and fall, so today we begin the process of shortening that list by sharing some recent lectures from the 2014 Acton Lecture Series with you.

On August 26, Acton was pleased to welcome Ron Blue to Grand Rapids for an address entitled “Persistent Generosity.” Ron has spent almost 50 years in the financial services world and the last 35 working almost exclusively with Christian couples. What he has observed is that those who are long term consistent in their generosity exhibit three characteristics that have nothing to do with money: they are content, confident, and able to communicate with each other, their children, and advisors if they use them. In this address, Ron shares his personal experience and impressions drawn from 50 years in the financial sector, gives unique financial advice from a faith-based perspective, and shares the two questions that must be answered and one decision that must be made in order to exhibit the characteristics of persistently generous people.

On October 2, we welcomed Gerard Lameiro to the Mark Murray Auditorium to address an audience on the topic of “Renewing America and Its Heritage of Freedom: What Freedom-Loving Americans Can Do to Help.” In his address, Lameiro commented on what freedom is and what it is not, and then walked through a substantial, solid, and moral case for freedom, acknowledging that God is the author of all liberty and that truth, human dignity, and morality are inextricably linked to freedom. You can find more information on Lameiro and pick up a copy of his latest book (which shares the title of his lecture) at his website, and you can listen to him on the Radio Free Acton podcast right here.

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?
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nunsFor some, the one quality most important for those pursuing a religious vocation is awesomeness. It matters not whether clergy, nuns and other religious adhere to the actual doctrines of their faith, whether they advocate for the poor and powerless and spread the Word of God. Specifically, Jo Piazza, author of the absurdly titled If Nuns Ruled the World, authored an advertisement disguised as a Time opinion piece for her recently released book. The Vatican, according to Piazza, doesn’t fairly recognize the awesomeness of nuns who stray from Roman Catholic doctrine in pursuit of progressive policy goals. And, according to Piazza, that’s bad. Very, very bad indeed. Because, you know, the activist sisters are really pretty darn awesome.

Rather, it’s far better to chase celebrity while sprinkled with the progressive fairy dust of awesome as are so many of the shareholder activist nuns who, in Piazza’s words, “make corporations responsible to the human race.” These selfless and progressive nuns, Piazza gushes, “don’t brag about all of the good that they do or hashtag how awesome they are on Facebook, many people have no idea about the things they accomplish on a daily basis.” (more…)

rosie with babyOn Friday, President Obama was speaking at Rhode Island College. There was a lot of press given to his remarks about women who choose to stay at home to raise their children (it was a doofus remark), but I believe his entire speech was one in which he underestimates Americans.

I know that many of you are working while you go to school.  Some of you are helping support your parents or siblings.

Well, yes, Mr. President, that’s what we do. Many of us choose to support our families, our parents, our siblings. We choose not to rely on the government, but to work hard not only for ourselves but for those we love. We believe it is our responsibility. (more…)