What is the connection between private property and conscience rights? “If there is no private property,” says Michael Novak in this week’s Acton Commentary, “there is also no independent leg to stand on in speaking for one’s conscience — and not only one’s individual conscience.”

In Poland and elsewhere, religious communities had inspired and led the nations for hundreds of years. In such places, people were not imprisoned solely in their own individual power, which was little. Sometimes they acted through institutions and associations of their own choosing. Solidarity in Poland, for example, or People Against Violence in Slovakia.

Sometimes they acted through associations and institutions they had been born into, and long been become grateful for. They knew by family history the many ways in which these institutions had nourished, taught, and trained them in the habits of conscience, self-government, and personal responsibility. These institutions had for centuries stood outside the passing follies of the age, and had been the people’s source of independence from the self-centered, decadent, and at times even thuggish “wisdom” of their particular generation.

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

doctor bagMy mother, a registered nurse, worked for years for our small town doctor. She would drive around the countryside, going to check on elderly folks or those who didn’t drive. We had a number of people who came to our house regularly for things like allergy shots. She kept their vials of medication, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls and syringes in our kitchen cupboard. The doctor (who was the sort to exchange his services for things like eggs and fresh meat) gave me my kindergarten physical in his living room.

While this might seem like Norman Rockwell, misty-eyed nostalgia, there’s one thing for sure: this doctor and my mom knew their patients really well. They knew their concerns, their histories: not just medical, but in all aspects of their life. Given a choice, isn’t this the kind of medical care most of us would choose for ourselves and our families? (more…)

For the fourth time in thirty years, well-intentioned but misguided musicians have recorded a new version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” a cheesy Christmas song intended to raise awareness and funds for Africa.

But why don’t Africans every raise awareness and aid for Westerners? Fortunately, one group of Africans has united to save Norwegians from dying of frostbite. By joining Radi-Aid, you too can donate your radiator and spread some warmth in the frozen wasteland of Norway.

Why Africa for Norway?
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Almost twenty years ago I learned an important lesson in Christian ethics from a Jewish writer. In his book, Think a Second Time, Dennis Prager explains a principle from the Talmud about consumer ethics. While I had read several book about business ethics, I don’t recall ever hearing much, if anything, about the ethical obligations of consumers.

Prager helped me see not only how the “shopkeeper’s law” should apply to my consumer choices, but also to many of the relationships in my life. This lesson helped me to understand a practical way of applying the most important principle in Christian ethics (Matthew 7:12).

In the video below, Prager explains the concept and how it shows “the customer isn’t always right.”

Christianity sets forth that humans are made in the image of God — that we have particular God-like characteristics when it comes to creation, cultivation, compassion, relationship, and so on. Such a remarkable truth tells us something deeply profound about the world we live in, as well as how we ought to respond in any number of situations.

In an excerpted video from the PovertyCure series, John Stonestreet explains how the Christian worldview transforms our approach to poverty:

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Roberty P. Murphy at the 2014 Acton Lecture Series

Roberty P. Murphy at the 2014 Acton Lecture Series

On this edition of Radio Free Acton, we talk about sound money with economist and author Robert P. Murphy. What is money? Why does it have value? What happens when a government detaches the value of money from gold or other commodities? We look at these questions, find out what our dollars are really worth, and look at ways to restore the value of our money.

You’ll recall that Murphy was a guest of Acton a few weeks ago and delivered an address as part of the 2014 Acton Lecture Series. You can check out the video of his talk at that link, and listen to the Radio Free Acton podcast via the audio player below.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
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Erdoğan: Disbelief in Muslim discovery of America lack of self-esteem
Today’s Zaman

“Islam had expanded to the American continent before Columbus arrived,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.

Clerical Freedom and Academic Freedom
Anthony Esolen, Crisis Magazine

It’s odd to think that all those boys died at Normandy and Iwo Jima so that men of God could have their sermons confiscated by the government, lest they dare to preach against ambiguous bathrooms.

How the War on Poverty Has Hurt American Marriage Rates
Robert Rector, The Daily Signal

It is no accident that the collapse of marriage in America largely began with the War on Poverty and the proliferation of means-tested welfare programs that it fostered.

Why Christianity and the Middle Class Are Both in Decline
Dave Albertson, OnFaith

As the middle class goes, so goes the church.

The Vatican is currently hosting a three-day inter-faith conference and discussion entitled Humanum. According to their website, it is

… a gathering of leaders and scholars from many religions across the globe, to examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society.

Witnesses will draw from
 the wisdom of their religious tradition and cultural experience as they attest to the power and vitality of the complementary union of man and woman. It is hoped that the colloquium be a catalyst for creative language and projects, as well as for global solidarity, in the work
 of strengthening the nuptial relationship, both for the good of the spouses themselves and for the good of all who depend upon them.

One of the focal points of this gathering is a beautiful set of videos, each centered on a particular aspect of love, marriage, family and commitment. The video below allows young people to voice their concerns and ideas regarding these issues. (Unless you’re a polyglot, you’ll want your closed captioning turned on; just hit the little “CC” button in the lower right of the frame.)

prison reformThe numbers are discouraging: 1 in 28 American children has at least one parent in prison. Even though crime rates have dropped, our prison population has quadrupled; there are now about 2.4 million adults behind bars. It is costing us $80 billion a year to maintain our prison system. At one point, society thought that prison was about reform. We’ve all but dropped any pretense of reform; we’re just warehousing people.

Can we fix this?

One organization is trying. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) would like to see changes in harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws, many of which involve drug cases.

In 1990, Julie Stewart was public affairs director at the Cato Institute when she first learned of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Her brother had been arrested for growing marijuana in Washington State, had pled guilty, and — though this was his first offense — had been sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole. The judge criticized the punishment as too harsh, but the mandatory minimum law left him no choice.

Motivated by her own family’s experience, Julie created Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) in 1991. Though her brother has long since left prison, has a beautiful family and a good job, Julie continues to lead FAMM in the fight for punishments that fit the crime and the offender.

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jerusalem-synagogue-attackWhat just happened in Jerusalem?

Two Palestinian men armed with axes, meat cleavers, and a pistol, entered a synagogue complex in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of West Jerusalem on Tuesday morning and killed four rabbis, one from the UK and three from United States (all had dual-citizenship in Israel). Israeli police killed the assailants in a gun battle that critically wounded one officer. 

According to the New York Times, relatives identified the attackers as two cousins, Odai Abed Abu Jamal, 22, and Ghassan Muhammad Abu Jamal, 32.

What was the motive for the attack?

According to the relatives of the killers, they were motivated by what they saw as threats to the revered plateau that contains al-Haram al-Sharif (known to Jews as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism) and the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel have increasingly been challenging the long-standing ban on Jews praying at the Temple Mount. Since the Crusades, the Muslim community of Jerusalem has managed the site.
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