Since 2000, New York City residents have observed the shut-down of 91 Catholic schools. These closures are typically the result of parents’ inability to pay tuition costs. This presents not only a problem to the would-be students, but to the public-at-large. The civic benefits provided through a Catholic education amount to a public good. Graduation rates for Catholic schools top those of public institutions, propelling more students to college, creating future community leaders. A robust civil society such as this is contingent upon strong educational institutions, for which it is critical to incentivize the public to invest.

The Education Investment Tax Credit bill would have curtailed this problem by providing a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for each charitable donation to any private or parochial school scholarship fund, including Protestant and Jewish institutions. However, the mandate perished in the back room of the state legislature, despite support from both parties as summer recess commenced. The use of an incentive structure would have provided up to $300 million to the neediest children in the state of New York. Half of this funding would have been designated to donations to public schools for the arts, music, and athletics so as to eliminate “pay-to-play” costs to parents.

This tax credit would not only have been an investment in the future of at-risk students, but an investment toward a community’s future. In this respect, New York residents would be incentivized to endow education philanthropy, in exchange for lower taxes. Individuals would have the autonomy to support private or parochial institutions of their choosing, empowering the individual to decide what is the best use of their assets. (more…)

When President Obama signed Executive Order 13653 about a year ago, he relabeled the great debate that was known first as global warming and then climate change to “resiliency.” He set up an Interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience with three co-chairs and representatives from at least 30 listed departments, plus appointees. He also created the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which will be made up of more than 2 dozen representatives across the nation including Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell.

The task force “will provide recommendations to the President on removing barriers to resilient investments, modernizing federal grant and loan programs to better support local efforts and developing information and tools they need to prepare” according to the White House.  So it looks like there will be a carrot-and-stick of government funding for local government units.

The task force has already met with President Obama twice, in December and January, to begin working on its recommendations. It is on a tight clock as Obama has asked to get responses within a year to begin working towards implementation. And according to Mayor Heartwell Obama is willing to do whatever it takes to get the recommendations put into motion, “The President made it very clear to us that he expects that what he’s going to get done over the next 3 years will largely be done through executive order”. (more…)

Nahad's baby awaiting burial

Nahad’s baby awaiting burial

Myanmar is a mess. Years of ethnic and religious warfare have left deep scars in both the Buddhist and Muslim communities there. There have been cries of ethnic cleansing charged against Buddhists, but very few are held responsible for crimes against Muslims.

When an issue is this enormous, it is often hard to think about it in human terms. After all, “violence against Muslims” or “ethnic cleansing” isn’t the same as “my friend was killed.” The perspective shifts when there are faces, names, grief and empathy. I don’t know Shamshu Nahad, but I suppose that, like nearly every woman, she was looking forward to holding her baby in her arms, caressing the child’s cheeks, watching the little changes that happen in the first few weeks after birth. But none of this will happen now.

Hours after Shamshu Nahad gave birth to her second child, a beautiful baby girl, her husband was digging its grave.

The tiny corpse, wrapped in white cloth, was placed on a straw mat and lowered into the moist earth, neighbors and relatives bowing their heads as they quietly recited Muslim prayers.

Like the child’s life, the ceremony was brief, over in a matter of minutes.

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, July 8, 2014

FLOW_EXILE (1)Christians are called to be in the world but not of it (John 17:14-15). But what does that mean for how we should live?

At TGC Stephen J. Grabill, the director of programs and international at the Acton Institute, explains why living faithfully in exile and seeking the shalom of our cities are two big ideas that the church needs to embrace in order to recover a robust “in-but-not-of” theology of culture:

God’s people have always been—and are now—living in a permanent state of “in between.” The prophet Jeremiah gives us the essence of living faithfully in this state: “To seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you into exile” (Jer. 29:4-7). In City of God, Augustine builds on this exilic theology. His metaphor of the city of God and the city of man with their different loves and orientations is the archetypal expression of the tension and anxiety that characterizes our “in between” existence.

More recently, people like David Kim and James Davison Hunter have used the concept of exile to articulate an understanding of culture that takes a long-view of engagement, vocation, and public discipleship—that is, the concept of exile retires the church’s short-term, winner-take-all, scorched-earth, culture-war approach to addressing the hostile forces of secularization that are working to eradicate the imprint of Christianity in the West.

Being in “exile” means that God’s people live somewhere other than their true home. For example, God’s people were in “exile” when they were banished from the Garden, lived as slaves in Egypt, and were carted off to Babylon. Similarly, after the resurrection of Christ, God’s people were scattered throughout the world to live as “sojourners and exiles” (1 Pet. 2:11). So, too, for Christians today.

Read more . . .

Today’s edition of Prufrock (subscribe here!) notes the forthcoming release of Paul Hammond, Milton and the People (Oxford, July 29):

Who are ‘the people’ in Milton’s writing? They figure prominently in his texts from early youth to late maturity, in his poetry and in his prose works; they are invoked as the sovereign power in the state and have the right to overthrow tyrants; they are also, as God’s chosen people, the guardians of the true Protestant path against those who would corrupt or destroy the Reformation. They are entrusted with the preservation of liberty in both the secular and the spiritual spheres. And yet Milton is uncomfortably aware that the people are rarely sufficiently moral, pure, intelligent, or energetic to discharge those responsibilities which his political theory and his theology would place upon them. When given the freedom to choose, they too often prefer servitude to freedom. Milton and the People traces the twists and turns of Milton’s terminology and rhetoric across the whole range of his writings, in verse and prose, as he grapples with the problem that the people have a calling to which they seem not to be adequate. Indeed, they are often referred to not as ‘the people’ but as ‘the vulgar’, as well as ‘the rude multitude’, ‘the rabble’, and even as ‘scum’. Increasingly his rhetoric imagines that liberty or salvation may lie not with the people but in the hands of a small group or even an individual. An additional thread which runs through this discussion is Milton’s own self-image: as he takes responsibility for defining the vocation of the people, and for analysing the causes of their defection from that high calling, his own role comes under scrutiny both from himself and from his enemies.

In the latest edition of the Journal of Markets & Morality, David V. Urban provides a thorough examination of “Liberty, License, and Virtuous Self-Government in John Milton’s Writings.”

A famous representative quote representing Milton’s anthropology of liberty, particularly as expressed in the distinction between liberty and license, comes from his 1649 treatise The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates: “For indeed none can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.” As Urban writes,

Milton’s understanding of license inevitably includes the idea of abusing freedom to pursue some sort of fleshly indulgence, whereas his concept of genuine liberty focuses on the freedom for the moral person to live a virtuous life and pursue virtuous goals under the strictures of his own conscience in spite of the temptations and roadblocks offered by intemperate persons, stifling custom, or an interfering state. Significantly, Milton’s explicitly Christian ideal of genuine liberty emphasizes the need for virtuous self-government to characterize the truly free individual.

Subscribers can read the rest of Urban’s article now, and if you aren’t a subscriber to JMM, become one today.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Right to Be Wrong
Ryan T. Anderson, Public Discourse

The right to religious freedom is for everyone, not just those with the “right” beliefs.

How the South Came to Rise Again: The Civil Rights Act of 1964
John Steele Gordon, The American

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed one of the most significant pieces of legislation in American history.

Coming to U.S. for Baby, and Womb to Carry It
Tamar Lewin, New York Times

In an era of globalization, the market for children crosses national borders; witness the longtime flow of Americans who have gone overseas to adopt babies from South Korea, China, Russia and Guatemala.

Free Contraception v. the Constitution
Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary

The decision that granted Wheaton College the right to avoid even the appearance of complicity in the use of such drugs provoked a particularly angry response from the court’s three female members.

Sennacherib Exiles Lachish of Judah, British Museum

Sennacherib Exiles Lachish of Judah, British Museum

The treasures of Iraq have been repeatedly looted. Historical and artistic artifacts that span centuries are gone – obliterated. And the mess continues. Iraqi National Museum Director Qais Hussein Rashid says his staff cannot withstand terrorist strikes or take preventative measures. Terrorists, of course, are not interested in hanging tapestries on their walls; they use these artifacts as income. Known as ISIS or ISIL, the terrorists have proclaimed themselves a new caliphate or kingdom.

We as Iraqis are incapable of controlling the situation by ourselves,” Abbas Qureishi, director of the “recovery” program for the Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, told me. It’s not just a matter of the museums, he said. Mosul is in the middle of 1,791 registered archeological sites, including four capitals of the Assyrian empire. “The Iraqi army will be obliged to conduct operations next to these archeological sites,” said Qureishi. The jihadists “will destroy them and say the Iraqi army bombed these sites.”

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Exodus36As economic prosperity has increased, and as the American economy has transitioned from agrarian to industrial to information-driven, manual labor has been increasingly cast down in the popular imagination.

When our youth navigate and graduate from high school, they receive pressure from all directions to excel in particular areas and attend a four-year college, typically in pursuit of “white-collar” work. The trades, on the other hand — including brickmasons, plumbers, butchers, and carpenters — are not high on the minds of many, whether parents, pastors, teachers, or politicians.

In the latest issue of Christianity Today, Chris Horst and Jeff Haanen offer a challenge to this trend and the supporting stereotypes, arguing that the church has a particular precedent to build on when it comes to the ways we approach “work with the hands.”

Not only does a thriving economy and society need craftspeople, but the Bible elevates these occupations as filled with worth and dignity. Craftspeople are image-bearers, they argue, reflecting “the Divine Craftsman who will one day make all things new”:

Craftspeople (harashim)—masons, barbers, weavers, goldsmiths, stonecutters, carpenters, potters—are replete in the Bible. The first person Scripture says was filled with the Spirit of God was Bezalel, who was given “ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze” (Ex. 31:1–5, ESV). Passages like these suggest God cares about craftsmanship, above all in his most holy places. From the tabernacle to the temple, what was built was meant to reflect and reveal God’s character. The temple was not just a majestic building; it spoke powerfully of his holiness. (more…)

AHB with tank.jpgThe Great War began 100 years ago last week.

From an economic perspective (from Pulitzer Prize economist Liaquat Ahamed) the European nations paid for WWI not with taxes, but with massive debts financed largely by America. The warring nations could not pay their way out of debt so many resorted to the easier route: inflation. But that inflation destroyed the savings of the middle class and that did not make European nations more stable.

Germany finally defaulted on its war debts after the 1929 crash. The international financial system also collapsed. Of course, German people listened to Hitler’s ideas about blame and solutions, while France, half destroyed by the war, looked at Germany (where few battles were fought) and wanted the Germans to pay for that destruction. The Depression made each nation more economically isolated which added to the misery as trade shrank. Europe was ripe for WWII.

WWI could be taken as a lesson on the perils of excessive debt. Governments have discovered three nasty advantages:

  1. They can borrow beyond emergencies (war) to pay for anything.
  2. Government pensions (more debt) are excellent ways to buy votes with the vague idea that ‘future growth’ or ‘future generations’ will easily cover the massive pension obligations.
  3. Governments have more recently seen that they can lower interest rates and ‘print money’ without being held accountable as they will be bailed out by other countries through central banks which will do, as Mario Draghi famously said, “whatever it takes.” These financial gimmicks look like serious plans because the men wear suits and because their ideas work, at least until the office holders retire.

However, as with WWI debt and the Crash of 1929, a severe crisis will come and prove that these leaders (while possibly not as incompetent or corrupt as the political leaders of Detroit) were wrong.

FLOW_with_mailbox“What is our salvation actually for?”

This is the question at the center of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, a 7-part series from the Acton Institute that seeks to examine the bigger picture of Christianity’s role in culture, society, and the world. Each Monday — from July 7 to August 18 — The Gospel Coalition (TGC) is highlighting one episode and sharing an exclusive code for for a free 72-hour rental of the full episode:
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