o-UNEMPLOYMENT-HEALTH-facebookSeries Note: Jobs are one of the most important aspects of a morally functioning economy. They help us serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and for communities. Conversely, not having a job can adversely affect spiritual and psychological well-being of individuals and families. Because unemployment is a spiritual problem, Christians in America need to understand and be aware of the monthly data on employment. Each month highlight the latest numbers we need to know (see also: What Christians Should Know About Unemployment).

Positive news is marked with the plus sign (+) while negative employment data is marked with a minus sign (-). No significant change is marked by (NC).

Overview: While most of the metrics were positive, few jobs were added and a large number of Americans dropped out of the labor for, making this one of the worst jobs report in years.
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, December 2, 2016
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Study finds churches with conservative theology still growing
Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service

Since the 1960s, overall membership in mainline Protestant Christian churches has been dropping in both the U.S. and Canada. But some congregations have continued to grow, and a team of researchers believes it now knows why. It’s the conservative theological beliefs of their members and clergy, according to researchers from Wilfrid Laurier University and Redeemer University College in Ontario.

Why Welfare and Work Go Hand-in-Hand
Tom Rogan, Opportunity Lives

To understand why welfare programs are politically popular, consider the word. Well. Fair. ‘Welfare’ seems to embody something that makes our society healthier, happier and more just. Something inherently moral and deserving of unquestioning support. For decades, supporters of welfare have used this understanding to protect welfare programs from reform.

What Persecuted Syrians Can Teach Us About American Politics
Mindy Belz, TGC

My persecuted brethren have given me important inspiration during a strange and disorienting American election. They have long been aliens in their own culture, though their roots run deeper than those who now torment them. Here in America, it’s not unusual for Christians to feel disconnected in a sometimes-toxic American culture, but it’s disorienting to feel the divisions within the church, over an election, and to see name-calling, insults, and recrimination continue after the votes have been counted.

What Is the Biblical Basis for Human Dignity?
R.C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries

As a Christian, I do not believe that human beings have intrinsic dignity. I am totally committed to the idea that human beings have dignity, but the question is, is it intrinsic or extrinsic?

Paul Bonicelli, Director of Programs at the Acton Institute, appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell on Thursday afternoon to discuss President-elect Donald Trump’s deal with Carrier to keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana, and to offer analysis of the potential economic priorities of the incoming Trump Administration. You can view the interview below.

student-loan-debt-1To reduce the number of people defaulting on student loans, President Obama has been promoting  income-driven repayment plans. The most widely available income-driven repayment plan for federal student loans—the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan—provides payment caps based on a borrower’s family size and income (150 percent of the poverty level). After making 25 years of these reduced payments, the remaining debt is “forgiven.” (If you work for the government or a non-profit the remainder may be forgiven after 10 years.)

This may sound like a way to help those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder from having to pay student loan debt as retirees. But the reality is that the program is aimed more for white collar professionals than the working class. As the Wall Street Journal notes, “Growing evidence suggests many of the most hard-pressed borrowers—college dropouts who owe less than $10,000—aren’t taking advantage of the programs, while workers with graduate degrees, such as doctors and lawyers who don’t necessarily need help, are.”

In a report released this week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that $108 billion will be “forgiven” by the federal government. And that’s just through the current school year. As new students enroll and take on debt they can’t (or simply won’t) repay, the number will increase significantly.

Of course the debt isn’t really “forgiven” since it was already paid to colleges and universities (who have no intention of giving it back. What debt forgiveness means, as economist Don Boudreaux explains in this video is that the debt is merely being transferred to the American taxpayer.
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kuyper-2-pro-rege“A human kingship imperceptibly came to power, leaving no place for the kingship of Christ.” –Abraham Kuyper

The West prides itself on valuing freedom – political, economic, religious, and otherwise. For some, this leads to the promotion of a certain brand of libertinism: the freedom to do what we want. For others, such as Lord Acton, “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

For the Christian in particular, true freedom is more than a little paradoxical, involving plenty of constraints and restraints. We know that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” and yet, in keeping with the upside-down economics of the Gospel – “the first shall be last,” “those who lose their life will find it” – it comes with prepackaged with calls to servanthood and obedience. These are good hints that true freedom may have less to do with nitpicking over “choice” and “constraint” and more to do with accurately recognizing the image of God we bear and the responsibility it entails.

In seasons of pain and frustration, the notion tends to feel more clear and less paradoxical, of course. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer,” the Psalmist sings. “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

This is the sound of freedom through dependence, and it’s one that Christians are well familiar with. But it’s a song we also tend to forget and neglect. (more…)

profit“Money is often seen as intrinsically bad or perhaps a necessary evil in the world,” says Tom Nelson. “However, we must not forget the important role money plays in wealth creation and in facilitating the efficient exchange of goods and services.”

Money and the trade it makes possible further the common good and greatly enhance our ability to love our neighbors — both local and global. Christian philosopher Dallas Willard reminded us, “Business is an amazingly effective means of delivering God’s love to the world by loving, serving and providing for one another.”

The idea of profit can, at first blush, seem problematic, but upon closer reflection, we can see the importance of profit within an economic system.

When property rights are well-defined and contracts are consistently enforced, profits perform important functions within modern economies. Profits provide rewards for technological innovation and resource efficiency in delivering goods and services. In this sense, profits are important incentives for promoting research and development, enabling enterprises to discover superior products and better ways to meet the needs of people.

Read more . . .

Liberty

Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

In a new article for the Catholic Herald, Philip Booth outlines the next battle in the fight for religious freedom. The professor of finance, public policy, and ethics at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, writes that “liberal elites are paying the prices for sidelining” this important freedom.

He argues that while there are definitely threats to religious liberty in the United States, the rights to religious liberty and freedom of association are in far more danger in Europe. He makes this point with three examples.

A couple in Northern Ireland refused to bake a cake with “Support Gay Marriage” written on it and were charged with discrimination:

The judges stated quite clearly that the couple’s action was direct discrimination against gay people. This was so even though they did not know the purchaser was gay and despite the fact that same-sex marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland. In other words, the law is such that people are required to bake cakes with public policy messages on them.

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