indiana-religiousfreedomThere is something about religious freedom that causes some folks, including many journalists, to lose all sense of reason and objectivity. Last year Mollie Hemingway wrote a blistering critique of reporting on the issue in which she said, “we have a press that loathes and works actively to suppress this religious liberty, as confident in being on the ‘right side of history’ as they are ignorant of natural rights, history, religion and basic civility.”

The recent religious freedom legislation in Indiana has proved Hemingway’s point. In an attempt to clear up some of the number of “misconceptions and unwarranted concerns about the proposal,” Notre Dame law professor Richard Garnett explains,
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Whole Foods Founder John Mackey

Whole Foods Founder John Mackey

There are those who decry the infusion of faith in business; after all, why should the bakers down the street be able to turn down the account for the gay wedding? But many entrepreneurs – in many industries and with many different beliefs – intertwine their beliefs and their business … and it’s not always what you think.

Christ Horst at Values & Capitalism says faith (of many different types) plays a role in business in our country. Whether you agree with it or not, many business people live out their faith life with their business life.

For instance, many faithful business folk practice charity through their businesses because of their religious beliefs. Manoj Bhargava, the creator of the wildly-successful 5-Hour Energy, spent years as a monk in India. He predicts his company will give away $1 billion in the next 10 years. David Neeleman, of JetBlue, offers his company’s services to the Mormon church. (more…)

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Katharine Jefferts Schori

Your author recalls a time when reasonable people could disagree on all types of issues. Unfortunately, that period’s welcoming nature of diverse opinions has receded into vitriolic attacks on opponents’ intelligence, funding, research ethics, morality and religious faith.

Such is the case with this week’s media coverage of Katharine Jefferts Schori, the woman the Guardian labels a “presiding bishop of the Episcopal church and one of the most powerful women in Christianity.” The bishop explained her highly politicized view of both science and religion to the newspaper:

“It is in that sense much like the civil rights movement in this country where we are attending to the rights of all people and the rights of the earth to continue to be a flourishing place,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said in an interview with the Guardian. “It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already.”

In the same context, Jefferts Schori attached moral implications to climate denial, suggesting those who reject the underlying science of climate change were turning their backs on God’s gift of knowledge.

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ym-mapWhat just happened in Yemen?

Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, has been in a state of political crisis since 2011 when a series of street protests began against poverty, unemployment, corruption. In recent months, though, Yemen has been driven even further into instability by conflicts between several different groups, pushing the country “to the edge of civil war,” according to the UN’s special adviser.

Yesterday, to prevent further instability, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched air strikes against Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, saying it is “defending the legitimate government” of US-backed president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. There are conflicting reports about whether Hadi has fled Yemen or who is in control of the government.

Egyptian military and security officials told The Associated Press that the military intervention will go further, with a ground assault into Yemen by Egyptian, Saudi and other forces, planned once airstrikes have weakened the capabilities of the rebels.

Why did Saudi Arabia get involved?

Saudi Arabia (comprised of mostly Sunni Muslims) and Iran (comprised mostly of Shi’a Muslims) are in a sort of “Cold War” conflict and in direct competition for influence in the region. Saudi Arabia considers the Houthis are an Iranian proxy and believe they need to take action to prevent an Iranian client state from developing on their southern border.

Do Sunnis and Shi’ite have the same beliefs in common?
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Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, March 26, 2015
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dyslexiaMost of us take reading for granted. We learned how to do it when we were very young and we can do it with ease every day. However, for people with dyslexia (as much as 17 percent of the population) reading is a constant struggle. Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence, but it makes reading (and therefore learning) difficult.

Aside from difficulty with pre-literacy learning like rhyming and letter recognition, the most common sign is when a child fails to learn to read and this failure is unexpected based on his or her other abilities. Letter and number reversals past age 7 or 8 are a common warning sign. Dyslexics may also experience hardship copying from the board or a book and they may exhibit disorganization in their writing. Children with dyslexia may also appear uncoordinated and have difficulty in an organized-game setting. Symptoms may also manifest in auditory problems—the dyslexic may not be able to remember all of what he or she hears, especially sequences or multi-faceted commands. Oftentimes, the dyslexic may speak missing parts of words or sentences or use the wrong word entirely.

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Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia recently gave a speech at a seminary. That – an archbishop addressing his seminarians – is in itself hardly noteworthy. However, Chaput had some profound and substantial things to say regarding freedom and faith.

Our public discourse never gets down to what’s true and what isn’t, because it can’t. Our most important debates boil out to who can deploy the best words in the best way to get power. Words like “justice” have emotional throw weight, so people use them as weapons. And it can’t be otherwise, because the religious vision and convictions that once animated American life are no longer welcome at the table. After all, what can “human rights” mean if science sees nothing transcendent in the human species? Or if science imagines a trans-humanist future? Or if science doubts that a uniquely human “nature” even exists? If there’s no inherent human nature, there can be no inherent natural rights – and then the grounding of our whole political system is a group of empty syllables. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, March 26, 2015
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A Catholic School Removes Teacher for Defending Faith
Anne Hendershott , Crisis Magazine

In the past few weeks, there has been an escalation of the attacks against the Church in places like the Archdiocese of San Francisco where Sam Singer, the head of a high priced Public Relations firm, was hired to wage war on Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone because of the archbishop’s strong defense of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Evaluating the Moynihan Report on the Negro Family 50 Years Later
Greg Weiner, Library of Law and Liberty

A half-century after its publication, the Moynihan Report—The Negro Family: The Case for National Action—endures. It does so for many reasons, its prescience and courage chief among them. But the Report is more than a faithful contemporaneous portrait, and deeper than an accurate projection.

How Religious Institutions Can Bridge Class Gaps to Support Families
David Lapp and W. Bradford Wilcox, Family Studies

If religious groups wish to help strengthen families, they’ll have to reach out to people who aren’t in the pews.

The power of being able to do a good job at tedious, detail-oriented work
James Pethokoukis, AEI Ideas

There is a growing body of research on the importance of determination, of grit, of stick-to-itiveness in kids becoming successful adults.

Archbishop Damaskinos

Archbishop Damaskinos

This is a doubly significant day in the nation of Greece in that not only is the Annunciation of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) observed but also Independence Day. March 25 commemorates the start of the War of Greek Independence in 1821 against the Ottoman Empire and the tourkokratia or Turkish rule that is traced back to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The occasion is marked with much pomp, parades and speech making in Greece and where large numbers of Greek immigrants have settled all over the world. This week also marked the anniversary of another stirring witness to freedom and human dignity, this one by a heroic churchman.

On March 23, 1943, during the Nazi occupation of Greece, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, Damaskinos, signed his name on a letter addressed to the collaborationist Prime Minister K. Logothetopoulos. The letter, composed by the poet Angelos Sikelianos, was a courageous defense of the Greek Jews who were being rounded up and it was signed by other prominent Greek citizens. “The Greek people were rightfully surprised and deeply grieved to learn that the German Occupation Authorities have already started to put into effect a program of gradual deportation of the Greek Jewish community of Salonika to places beyond our national borders, and that the first groups of deportees are already on their way to Poland,” the archbishop wrote. “The grief of the Greek people is particularly deep … ” When the Germans continued with the deportations, Damaskinos called the police chief of Athens, Angelos Evert, to his office and told him, “I have taken up my cross. I spoke to the Lord, and made up my mind to save as many Jewish souls as possible.” (more…)

islam_christianityOne of the hot new trends in religious opinion today is to advocate for an “Islamic reformation.” This past weekend the Wall Street Journal ran two articles on the subject: “Islam’s Improbable Reformer” and “Why Islam Needs a Reformation.” Presumably, the assumption is that an Islamic Reformation would bring about the same beneficial changes as the Protestant Reformation.

As a committed Protestant (Reformed, Evangelical, Southern Baptist) I believe the Reformation was indeed one of the most significant, and largely beneficial, events in world history. But I imagine it must irk my Catholic friends to hear the implied claim that modern radical Jihadism is similar to the Catholic Church of the early Renaissance era. (In an ironic twist, some people claim that, in many ways, ISIS is the Islamic equivalent of Protestant Reformers.)

The reality, though, is that no one calling for an Islamic reformation wants Muslims to become like Calvinists of 16th century Geneva; what they want is for Muslims to be like the Episcopalians of Boston circa 1965. Those calling for reform of Islam want Islam to be like liberal mainline Christianity: all the trappings of the faith without all that pesky doctrine that might stir up trouble.

The problem with this idea—apart from it being tone-deaf and offensive to two world religions—is that it relies on the completely untenable foundation of assuming Islam is similar in relevant ways to Christianity.
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forest-path-stewardship1Being a follower of Jesus includes a hopeful vision of the future. In the fullness of the kingdom of God, we will live on a new earth as embodied humans, worshiping and working, married to Christ and in fellowship with sisters and brothers from all nations (Rev. 21-22). There will be no more war, perfect justice, a restored ecology and each person will steward gifts and responsibilities consistent with his or her created design and fidelity during this present age (Isaiah 2; Mt. 25).

The resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the historical/personal guarantees of this eschatological vision (Acts 2-3). This audacious Christian hope inspires our covenant fidelity to the Triune God and concrete service to the world. Because of God’s unconditional love expressed in the Cross-and the liberating power of the resurrection, we now serve others sacrificially and all our present good works are signposts of the future.

This vision – eloquently expressed by Scot McKnight, N.T. Wright and Cherith Fee-Nordling among others – avoids utopian fantasy and dispensational fatalism. Our efforts are substantial but partial, for we are saved in hope of the final redemption (Ro. 8:18-27). We are not merely gathering decisions before the Rapture, but making disciples of all nations that work out their salvation in local communities that evangelize and seek the common good (Phil 2:12-16). Our disciples-making includes all elements of human flourishing, from the inner life of contemplation to creating value through our work. (more…)