acton-commentary-blogimage“What could possibly go wrong with a regulatory power grab by a government agency applying an 80-year-old law to the most dynamic and innovative aspect of the world’s economy?” asks Bruce Edward Walker in this week’s Acton Commentary.

The Federal Communications Commission last week voted along partisan lines for passage of network neutrality regulations. The first two attempts were both defeated in U.S. Circuit Court, and one hopes this third try meets the same fate.

The latest strategy deployed by the FCC is reclassification of the Internet from a Title I information service to a Title II communications service. Whereas Title I prescribes a light regulatory touch, Title II opens the floodgates for the agency to regulate as a utility all aspects of the Internet under the 1934 Communications Act. The 1934 law was devised specifically to police landline phones as common carriers with the unfortunate unforeseen consequence of establishing a decades-long telephone monopoly by creating significant barriers of entry for start-ups and smaller companies.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

ISIS Al-Qaeda Militants Fighting Syrian Civil WarThe rapid rise and threat of the jihadist group Islamic State has confounded the secularist West. The idea that their motivations could truly be driven by religious ideology simply fails to register with those who view religion as an individualistic, private affair.

If we are going to defeat ISIS, though, this will have to change. As Kishore Jayabalan says, it’s time to start taking the relationship between religion and politics seriously:
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lincoln-inaugural-addressThe end of the Civil War was five days away when Abraham Lincoln gave his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865. Yet in his speech, delivered 150 years ago today, Lincoln did not gloat about the impending victory, choosing instead to use the occasion to bring both sides of the conflict together.

As Matthew S. Holland says, the speech reminds us that we must resist the poisonous temptation to see those with whom we disagree as bitter enemies even as we vigorously defend the moral truths that ought to guide our public life:

By the time of his Second Inaugural, Lincoln’s belief in a great human sameness took on an even deeper and theological dimension. Over many years, Lincoln’s early Enlightenment-inspired skepticism and rationalism increasingly gave room to a biblical, if non-denominational, religiosity as intense as any occupant the White House has ever had. By his extensive reading of scripture and long reflection, Lincoln came to conclude that God was both in control of human affairs and ultimately inscrutable by mere mortals. The view that all human beings were plagued with self-interested partialities and limited cognitive horizons produced in Lincoln a generosity toward even his most implacable foes. This also explains why, in such a short speech, and in a context that so lent itself to a Manichean narrative of good versus evil and us versus them, Lincoln employed sixteen references (“all,” “both,” “neither”) that cast the North and the South in almost exactly the same light.

In making his argument argument for mercy and humility, Lincoln’s speech was steeped in biblical language. He was not the first President to consider the place of providence in the life of the nation, notes Daniel Dreisbach, but his speech was “a more nuanced and searching reflection on the role of providence in the affairs of nations.”
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Radio Free ActonOn this edition of Radio Free Acton, Acton Institute Director of International Outreach Todd Huizinga draws on his wealth of diplomatic and international experience to help us understand the history and context of the ongoing financial difficulties of the nation of Greece, and how the nature of the European Union contributes to the unrest we see today in parts of Europe. You can listen via the audio player below.

RootedGod has clearly given us dominion over creation, yet a variety of divisions and distortions persist. Radical environmentalists dream of a world without us, even as hyper-consumerists wield God’s call as justification for undue exploitation and self-seeking.

Getting the relationship right not only impacts our stewardship, but gets to the core of what we believe about God, why he created us, and who he has called us to be. It’s no wonder, then, that Abraham Kuyper begins one of his sermons on the role of the church by examining humanity’s broader role in creation.

In his sermon, “Rooted and Grounded,” Kuyper proclaims that the church must be both rooted”in the “organism” of the Gospel, even while being grounded in various institutional forms. Yet insofar as we are “rooted” in “organic” life, we must ask: Which garden do we intend to cultivate? How do we plan to do it? Why? (more…)

MallOfAmerica3Is the middle-class economically stagnant? And is “middle-class” a misnomer? Should we really be talking about the bottom of the economic pile? After all, isn’t the 1% controlling everything?

Cato Institute Senior Fellow Alan Reynolds says the government’s claim of middle-class stagnation is based on faulty statistics. In Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Reynolds quotes Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), speaking at an AFL-CIO conference: “Since 1980, guess how much of the growth in income the [bottom] 90% got? Nothing. None. Zero.”

Reynolds take on this?

Real personal consumption per person has tripled since 1968 and doubled since 1980, according to the BEA. Are all those shopping malls, big box stores, car dealers and restaurants catering to only the top 10%? The question answers itself. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
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Vatican security chief confirms ISIS is a threat to Pope Francis
Meghan DeMaria, The Week

Domenico Giani, commander of the Vatican’s security forces, told Italy’s Polizia Moderna that ISIS presents a significant threat to Pope Francis and the Vatican. Giana added, though, that there isn’t indication ISIS is planning an attack directed at the pope.

Iran’s Spiritual Challenge to American Christians
Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism

Nine years ago liberal American religious activists like pacifist Jim Wallis of Sojourners created a “Words, Not War, With Iran” coalition to organize against decisive U.S. action against Iran’s nuclear program.

Bill to slash slavery gains quickly in Senate
Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A new effort to help end human trafficking and slavery worldwide has quickly gained momentum in Congress.

State Legislatures Pit Religious Freedom Against Civil Rights
Sarah Barringer Gordon and Nomi Stolzenberg, Religion & Politics

The debate over last summer’s Hobby Lobby decision has a new source for conflict: state legislatures. The Supreme Court decision, which expanded corporate religious liberty, rested on an interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal statute that Congress passed in 1993.

Assyrian Fighters in Syria

Assyrian Fighters in Syria

The fate of more than 200 Assyrian Christians kidnapped by ISIS in northern Syria remains unknown (19 have been released), but fears of “a slaughter of major proportions” are well founded. The Assyrian International News Agency posted a plea from an Assyrian Christian fighter with the picture you see above from the front lines of the battle against ISIS.

In Tel Hurmiz our militia gave a heavy response to ISIS when they entered the village. Our fighers fought bravely, which made our people proud. Our militia fought until the ammunition was exhausted. When the ammunition ran out our fighters retreated.

Now we are trying to take back our villages but the enemy has a lot of soldiers. I have a call for all Assyrian and Christian people. Our peoples villages are being occupied and the women taken away. Until when will we stay like this? Until when will we stay in the Diaspora?

Every Assyrian must come back to his homeland and defend his people. No one can defend us but ourselves. Our martyrs have become a call for every Assyrian and Christian to fight back and defend all of Mesopotamia.

AINA also said that “it has been reported that ISIS has executed at least 12 Assyrian fighters who were captured, two of them women.”

In Foreign Policy, the article “Syria’s Christians Fight Back” places the Assyrians within the larger Christian population:

Assyrians, an ethnic minority, represent one small faction of prewar Syria’s 1.8 million Christian population. The Syrian government, to the exasperation of Assyrians, has never regarded the Assyrians as a separate ethnicity, instead classifying them as Arab, while Assyrians consider themselves a separate ethnic group with roots in the region dating back more than 4,000 years. Their identity is closely associated with Christianity, the faith Assyrians have followed since shortly after the religion’s beginning. Historically oppressed and underrepresented in political life, the Assyrians in northern Syria have armed themselves in an effort to protect their identity amid the chaos of civil war.

AUI have confession to make: I don’t like conferences. I don’t like seminars or conventions, either. I also don’t like colloquiums, symposiums, forums, or summits. I love people (really, I do) and I love discussions about ideas. But something happens when you put them together into a “conference” that causes my introverted tendencies to spike. I’m just not a conference-going kinda guy.

That’s probably an odd admission to make, especially in a post in which I try to convince you to come to Acton University. But it puts my praise for AU in perspective. Even though I don’t like most conferences I still have to go to several every year. All of the ones I attend are excellent, engaging, and fruitful—but they aren’t the sort of thing you’d go to if you aren’t a fan of conferences. AU is different. It’s the only conference-type event I can unreservedly recommend to people who don’t like conferences. Here are four reasons why:
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Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
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Leonard Nimoy as Spock

Leonard Nimoy as Spock

Leonard Nimoy, best known for his role as Spock in the Star Trek television series and movies, passed away last week. For many of us, it was a sad event. Nimoy had created a memorable character that is an enduring and endearing part of our pop culture lexicon. While my colleague Jordan Ballor took a look last week at Spock’s “live long and prosper” tagline, I’d like to refer to the more human side of Spock and the world of Star Trek.

Stephen D. Greydanus at the National Catholic Register reflects on what Nimoy and Star Trek taught us about humanity. The series creator, Gene Rodenberry, envisioned a world where poverty had been eliminated, money was unnecessary, and creatures of very different origins learned to work together for peace and mutual respect. (more…)