For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles is 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 until 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.

Here’s the trailer for episode 4, The Economy of Order.

Visit TGC to get the code for the free rental (you have to apply the code today, but once you do the rental is free for 72 hours).

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, July 28, 2014

When They Set Fire to Our Monasteries
Philip Jenkins, Aleteia

Day by day, we hear new horrors about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Now, believers living under ISIS control in northern Iraq must choose between conversion to Islam, payment of protection money, or death. Ancient churches and shrines are already in flames.

The Blessings of Liberty and the Index of Culture and Opportunity
David Azerrad and Ryan T. Anderson, Public Discourse

Opportunity is not merely the absence of artificially imposed impediments. It is also the capacity to pursue happiness, individually and in community. Adapted from the 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity.

N is for Narzareth
Russell Moore, Moore to the Point

Christians around the world are changing their social media avatars to the arabic letter “n.” In so doing, these Christians are reminding others around them to pray, and to stand in solidarity with believers in Iraq who are being driven from their homes, and from their country, by Islamic militants.

Higher Calling, Lower Wages: The Vanishing of the Middle-Class Clergy
David R. Wheeler, The Atlantic

As full-time pastors become a thing of the past, more and more seminary grads are taking on secular jobs to supplement their incomes.

picedenAs reported by the Wall Street Journal, Iraq’s largest oil refinery for domestic use has been overtaken by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the radical jihadi terrorist group aiming to establish an Islamic caliphate in these two nations. As Iraq’s most lucrative resource is now siphoned off by a radical organization, the global oil market risks destabilization while financially empowering ISIS. Economic stability facilitates greater religious freedom – establishing an ISIS controlled government as detrimental to Iraq’s advances toward a stable and secular democratic state. The Christian population has been a primary target of this fundamentalist movement, with ISIS demanding they must convert to Islam, pay a fine, or face “death by the sword.” It was in here, in ancient Babylon, where political and economic institutions took stead; today these have been condemned while the Biblical story of Exodus is being retold with 50,000 Christians fleeing their homes.
(more…)

gleaners-milletIn recent years, we’ve seen a renewed focus on the deeper value, meaning, and significance of our daily work, particularly across the realm of evangelicalism. Yet as easy as it may be for some to alter old attitudes and begin appreciating the gift of creative service, it can be extremely difficult for others — and often for good reason.

Indeed, until the last few centuries, the bulk of humanity was confined to activities that, while often fruitful, meaningful, and God-glorifying in their basic aim and end, did not leverage individual “giftings” in ways we would deem “fulfilling” or “dignifying” today.

Our economic situation has surely improved in the years since, with vocational opportunities and overall prosperity continuing to expand and improve in profound and unexpected ways. But many still find themselves in positions or careers that are difficult to endure, from the anxieties of a Wall Street executive to those of an underpaid farm hand.

Each of us is going to encounter our own unique challenges, driven by and toward our own particular calling. Although we ought to try our best to improve the alignment of such service in a fallen world, the persistent need for hard and rough work is bound to remain as long as it remains a fallen world. (more…)

bad winePhil Lawler at CatholicCulture.org voices what should be obvious: that by taking federal money and grants, the Catholic Church has put herself in a very awkward place. Money from the government always comes with strings attached, and those strings have tied the hands of too many  Catholics.

Earlier this week, President Obama handed down an executive order that requires the cutting off of government funds from “any organizations that discriminate against homosexual or ‘transgendered’ persons. This executive order is not aimed solely at the Catholic Church; many others will lose federal contracts.” The U.S. Catholic bishops have opposed this move, but since Obama did this as executive “fiat” it is hardly something one can legally oppose. That’s okay, says Lawler.

So how can the Church respond? That’s easy. Stop taking federal contracts. President Obama doesn’t want help from the Catholic Church. Say it’s a deal; don’t give him any.

What would that mean, practically speaking? It would mean things would get really messy, especially in terms of health care, human services, and services to the poor. (more…)

155150979_read_the_bill_postcard_xlarge“I’m still floored that it’s controversial or debatable to say that politicians should read and understand bills before voting them into law.”

That quote, from a tweet by Washington Post writer Radley Balko, might provoke sympathetic nods of agreement or sneers of derision from Americans familiar with D.C. politics. But sadly, he’s right. It is controversial—and has been for at least a decade. In fact, you are more likely to hear people make the argument that they shouldn’t waste their time reading the bills they vote on.

A prime example is an article Slate political correspondent John Dickerson wrote in 2009. The subhead of Dickerson’s piece says it all: “The case for not reading the legislation you’re voting on.” The gist of his rationale—which is shared by many people in the legislative branch—can be boiled down to these five points:
(more…)

Oskar Zepeda when he was active military.

Oskar Zepeda when he was active military.

It takes a special person to serve in the military. It takes a special person to come to terms with and overcome profound injuries caused in the line of duty. It takes a special person to track down child pornographers. It takes unbreakable men.

Aptly dubbed “HERO,” the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative is being developed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Special Operations Command in conjunction with the National Association to Protect Children. The idea grew out of a chance conversation between a child advocate and an FBI agent about equipping wounded elite soldiers with high-tech computer forensics training and law enforcement skills to assist federal agents in their fight against online child sexual exploitation.

The intensive training kicks off with four weeks at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, followed by six weeks of computer forensics training in Virginia and an embedded internship assisting HSI special agents with criminal cases and prosecutions.

(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, July 25, 2014

When They Set Fire to Our Monasteries
Philip Jenkins, Aleteia

Day by day, we hear new horrors about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Now, believers living under ISIS control in northern Iraq must choose between conversion to Islam, payment of protection money, or death. Ancient churches and shrines are already in flames.

Sudan Christian Woman Spared Death Sentence Meets Pope in Rome
Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times

Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman whose death sentence in Sudan for refusing to renounce her faith set off an international protest, arrived in Rome on Thursday morning to a hero’s welcome and a private audience with Pope Francis.

The FAQs: Persecution of Christians in Iraq
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Last Friday, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gave Christians in Mosul an ultimatum: convert to Islam, leave the area, or die.

Need Some Summer Reading? Check Out These Five New Faith, Work & Econ Reads
Greg Ayers, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

A lot of rich, thoughtful books on faith, work, and economics have been published this year. Here’s five you’ll want to add to your summer reading list.

SurveillanceAs surveillance technology continues to cost less, we live in a world in which our activities are being increasingly monitored. And it’s not just the NSA doing it–even employers are utilizing surveillance technology in the workplace. The basis for this surveillance has been to catch employees abusing work time (e.g. scrolling through Facebook posts), to protect against sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits, and to discover if any company secrets are being leaked. It also helps deter workers from breaking the rules if they know they are being watched. Workplace surveillance is something that all employers will have to carefully consider. Take Ryan Tate, for example, the CEO of a Christian publishing firm who fired 25 employees over an anonymous email. In a recording of a business meeting that was leaked, Tate can be heard threatening to use electronic records to discover those involved.

Could employers, even Christian ones, be going too far in some cases? What happens if your employer discovers personal information that doesn’t have anything to do with work? And is this surveillance even legal, or is it an invasion of privacy rights? (more…)

Paul-Ryan-at-AEISocial mobility is a “key tenet of the American Dream” yet relative upward mobility has been stagnant, says Rep. Paul Ryan in his new 73-page proposal for reforming federal anti-poverty programs. Ryan acknowledges that there are many individual and social factors that affect upward mobility (e.g., family structure) but adds that “public policy is still a factor, and government has a role to play in providing a safety net and expanding opportunity for all.”

Expanding Opportunity in America includes recommendations for reform in reform five areas: the Earned Income Tax Credit, education, the criminal-justice system, regulation, and research on poverty policy. Listed below is a summary of Ryan’s recommendations for each of these areas:
(more…)