Cooperation and creativity are essential for both a well-functioning market and the celebration of the Eucharist, says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary.

As he has done in the past, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his encyclical for the beginning of the Orthodox Christian ecclesiastical year (September 1) meditates on “the ongoing and daily destruction of the natural environment.” Environmental damage is the poisoned fruit of “human greed” and the pursuit of “vain profit,” the patriarch writes. Given our place in creation, human sinfulness results in not only a dissonance within the human heart but also a “turbulence in nature,” fracturing as it does nature’s “crown, namely human existence.” Fallen out of love with God, Bartholomew continues, human existence is fractured, our physical survival is threatened. So profound is our estrangement from nature and nature’s God, that we risk His “imminent wrath.”

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

whitewash cartoonIt seems far too bizarre to be true: an entire town where on-going child molestation continued for years, despite the fact that the molestation was no secret. Children were doused in gasoline and told they’d be set on fire. They were sexually abused, trafficked to other countries, passed around from abuser to abuser. And on and on. For years. Somebody on the Rotherham Borough Council finally had the brains and guts enough to request an inquiry and report.

Council leader Roger Stone said he would step down with immediate effect.

Mr Stone, who has been the leader since 2003, said: “I believe it is only right that as leader I take responsibility for the historic failings described so clearly.”

The inquiry team noted fears among council staff of being labelled “racist” if they focused on victims’ descriptions of the majority of abusers as “Asian” men.

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Blog author: dpahman
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
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I have spoken in the past in favor of net neutrality, writing,

Whoever is responsible for and best at enforcing it, net neutrality had this going for it: it was a relatively stable, relatively open playing-field for competition…. [T]he fact that companies tried to get around it via copyright protection privileges shows that it was, in fact, doing something to enforce freedom of competition. Now, without it, there is an opportunity for concentration of power…. As [Walter] Eucken illustrated, concentration can lead to instability, and instability leads to popular calls for state regulation, which tend in practice toward cronyism. Certainly, such a trajectory is not inevitable, but it is now more likely, giving good reason for pause at the idea that we do not need net neutrality — or something like it — in the future.

This week, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi voiced her support for net neutrality as well. So why would I object? Because the measures that Pelosi proposes give much more power to the government, following the trajectory outlined above in the direction of over-regulation. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
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Obama Administration ‘Doubles Down’ on Fight Against Nuns
Kelsey Harkness, The Daily Signal

The Obama administration has decided to continue its legal battle against Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic charity that objects to Obamacare’s mandate that employee health plans cover contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

Pope’s money man tightens control over the power of the purse
Inés San Martín, Crux

In another milestone along the path to financial reform, Pope Francis’ new “Council for the Economy” met for the third time Thursday, among other things working out details for transfering the Vatican’s power of the purse ever more completely to Australian Cardinal George Pell.

A Humane Economy versus Economism
Ralph Ancil, The Imaginative Conservative

In the past, the emphasis was on the man of leisure who, acting as an independent or relatively self-sufficient individual, was able to spend time contemplating the higher aspects of life out of love for the good.

It’s Hard to be Saints in the City
Steven Malanga, City Journal

A new documentary shows how Benedictine monks make men out of Newark’s boys.

long-spoons“How can we explain this emporiophobia—a fear of markets—given the overwhelming evidence that such institutions provide the greatest wealth, health and happiness for humankind?” When economics professor Paul Rubin asked that question last December he answered by saying that we need to shift the metaphor of markets from “competition” to “cooperation.”

Cooperation isn’t just more important in the economic sphere—it’s also more common. We cooperate with everyone involved in making all the products we buy and sell, millions of people we’ll never know.

[...]
This discussion may seem semantic, but words have meaning and power. People would feel much more favorably toward a “cooperative economy” than a “competitive economy.”

To emphasize the cooperative aspects of the market in order to provide a more accurate perspective requires that we apply new metaphors and symbols when explaining how markets work. A story I believe can be especially helpful is the “parable of the long spoons.” Caritas Internationalis created a video about the allegory that brilliantly emphasizes the utility of cooperation.
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Gammy and her mother

Gammy and her mother

We now live in a world where a child is a commodity. It is an item to be coveted, sought out, assembled and purchased. Found a partner? Check. Got the house? Check. Career going well? Yup. Let’s get a child to complete the package. And like the rest of our lives, we want only the very best. And of course, we have a right to the very best our money can buy.

Does this sound futuristic or dystopian? Tell that to baby Gammy, the little girl who was ordered and purchased (via a surrogate in Thailand) by an Australian couple. The Thai mother became pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl. Gammy, the little girl, has Downs Syndrome. The couple who purchased her also abandoned her in Thailand. They took her brother back to Australia; he had no abnormalities to contend with. (more…)

scotland-independenceWhat’s going on in Scotland?

On September 18, voters in Scotland will vote in a referendum whether they want the nation to become independent from the rest of the United Kingdom.

What is the reason for the push for Scottish independence?

Mainly for political and economic reasons. Scotland is more economically liberal than the rest of the UK and in favor of a broader welfare state. And because of offshore oil resources, many believe an independent Scotland would not only be wealthier than the rest of the UK, but would put the them in the top 20 of countries globally.

What’s the argument against independence?

As the Better Together campaign explains, “We think that the case for staying a part of the UK is a compelling one – and it is based around a simple notion: We have the best of both worlds in Scotland.”

The idea is that Scotland currently benefits from the safety and security of being part of one of the biggest economies in the world. They also have their own Scottish Parliament making decisions about many domestic policy issues, so leaving the UK wouldn’t be much of a benefit for the small country.

Wait, what’s the United Kingdom? Is that the same as Great Britain?
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Os Guinness

Os Guinness

As we head into the fall of 2014, the world seems to be a very dark and uncertain place for those who practice the Christian faith. Between the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria (and the resulting slaughter and displacement of Christians in the middle east) and the seemingly relentless advance of secularism and rejection of traditional Christian values in the West, many Christians are wondering how Christianity can survive and advance in our modern world. In this edition of Radio Free Acton, Acton Institute Co-Founder and President Rev. Robert A. Sirico talks on this topic with Os Guinness, public intellectual and author most recently of Reniassance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times. Guinness reminds us that our generation is not the first generation of Christians to face a world in flux, and gives advice on how Christians should face the uncertain future.

artist Audrey Assad

artist Audrey Assad

I’ve been following an interesting discussion at NRT, a Christian music website, regarding whether an artist is “really” Christian or not. NRT, on its Facebook page, had announced that singer Audrey Assad, known for her hauntingly beautiful Christian music, had made the decision to go mainstream. She gave her reasoning on her own blog. NRT had also commented on the band Switchfoot, who announced they’d be touring with Michael Gungor. Gungor is rather “notorious” in some Christian circles for stating that he does not take all of the Bible literally (for instance, he believes much of Genesis to be symbolic or allegorical in nature.)

Let the backlash begin.

Lots of folks chimed in on the NRT Facebook page with negative comments: “Don’t give me the mess about reaching a wider audience or not being full time into the ministry. Either you are or aren’t.” “To me, leaving Christian music to perform secular music is similiar to a dog going back to his vomit.” “Think I’ll pass until Switchfoot decides whom they serve.” You can read more there if you wish.

This raises an interesting question: must one be in full-time ministry to be a Christian? The answer is, of course not. Most of us Christians are NOT in paid, full-time, ministerial positions. We have regular old jobs: soccer coaches, secretaries, entrepreneurs, wait-staff, lawyers, landscapers. We don’t preach sermons or teach theology. We are active in are churches, sure, but that’s not our job. Why then are these Christian musicians being held to a different standard? (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
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The Catholic casino conundrum
Mathew N. Schmalz, Crux

Gambling is not prohibited for Catholics, but it’s a hard sell under Francis.

Surrogacy Gives Birth to an Unusual Alliance
Christopher White, Wall Street Journal

Ethical concerns about paying for babies bridge the sacred-secular gap.

The Lie Poverty Tells Us
Grace Biskie, Christianity Today

It’s hard for the poor to see that we are not our poverty… but not for Jesus.

What Are the Historical Practices of Christians in the Workplace?
Timothy West, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

We have forgotten the sacred rhythms of work, going back to and beyond the founding of this nation. Sacred work rhythms which Christians have long embraced and have passed along down through the centuries.