Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, recently wrote about ‘Our Sentimental Humanitarian Age’ at the American Spectator. He argues that “soft liberalism is incapable of confronting the evil in man.”

Sometimes, however, an event occurs that highlights the more fundamental crises that bedevil a civilization. The rise of a movement as diabolical as ISIS, for instance, has surely underscored the bankruptcy of what might be called the sentimental humanitarian outlook that dominates so many contemporary shapers of the West’s cultural consensus.

Sentimental humanitarianism has several features. One is the mind-set that reduces evil to structural causes.Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains,” proclaimed Rousseau in his Du contrat social. From this, many concluded that evil would disappear if the right people were put in charge to change the structures.

Sentimental humanitarianism also assumes that all religions are more-or-less the same and, given the right conditions, will vacillate their way towards something as innocuous as today’s Church of England. But as a wise recently retired pope once wrote, a major failure of imagination since the 1960s has been the disinclination to concede that there are “sick and distorted forms of religion.” (more…)

ISIS-2It’s easy to think that ISIS is about religion. They toss around phrases from the Quran, and have announced that their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is now “caliph,” or a successor to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. But ISIS is about as much about Islam as Hitler was to Christianity…which is to say, not much.

R.R. Reno reminds us that bloodthirstiness and an insane drive to power are nearly as old as humanity, in a piece entitled “From Cain to ISIS.” Reno spends some time comparing al-Baghdadi to Hitler, who proclaimed much of his platform was based on Christianity – in an ideological and warped way.

Hitler’s rise to power was aided by many factors that also find parallels in today’s Middle East. His extreme nationalism and his anti-Semitism were widely popular in inter-war Germany. Although most respectable middle-class Germans kept their distance, Hitler’s vision inspired a highly committed core of supporters willing to make great sacrifices. Among the elites he was seen as déclassé and too extreme, but was viewed by many with sympathy and even supported. His radicalism was thought good for Germany—a galvanizing force, a useful counter to communism, a commendable expression of strength.

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juvi“Inmates are still people, and therefore need to be treated as such, with all the challenges and potential that face all human persons,” says Acton research fellow Jordan Ballor. “One of the things it means to treat someone with the dignity they deserve as a human being is to not subject them to conditions where the threat of rape is rampant.”

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported on one of the most overlooked threats to prisoner dignity — sexual victimization by correctional authorities. One of the most surprising findings was that more than half (54 percent) of all substantiated incidents of staff sexual misconduct and a quarter (26 percent) of all incidents of staff sexual harassment were committed by female staff. The problem is even more pronounced at juvenile detention centers where, as Josh Voorhees points out, nine out of every 10 reporters of sexual abuse are males victimized by female staffers:
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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, September 8, 2014
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Religious divides persist heading into fall campaign
Michael Lipka, Pew Research

Issues at the intersection of religion and politics – including objections to parts of the Affordable Care Act, battles over same-sex marriage laws and a push for new state laws seeking to restrict access to abortions – have been a part of public debate since the 2010 midterm elections.

Rape and Rotherham
Ross Douthat, New York Times

So instead of looking for ideological vindication in these stories, it’s better to draw a general lesson. Show me what a culture values, prizes, puts on a pedestal, and I’ll tell you who is likely to get away with rape.

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.

Prince Charles Offers Prayerful and Financial Support to Iraqi Christians
Greg Daly, Aleteia

Ecumenical leaders gather at Lambeth Palace to voice concern for the persecuted.

anthem_grandparents_20For the first three years of my life, I lived with and was primarily raised by my grandparents. While I was always grateful for the experience, I never realized until I was a parent myself of the depths of their sacrifice, and the burden and stress raising an infant put on them.

Like many other seniors, they didn’t get the credit or recognition they deserved for being caregivers. This role of grandparents is often overlooked, despite the fact that in 2013 10 percent of children in the U.S. (7.1 million) lived with a grandparent.

According to the Census Bureau, in 2012 2.7 million grandparents were responsible for the basic needs of one or more grandchildren under age 18 living with them. Of these caregivers, 1.7 million were grandmothers and 1.0 million were grandfathers. Out of that caregiver group, 603,118 grandparents had incomes below the poverty line, 674,936 had a disability, and 1.6 million were still in the labor force.

On Sunday, Americans will celebrate National Grandparents Day, an annual holiday established by presidential proclamation in 1978 to celebrate and honor of our nation’s grandparents. Let’s take the opportunity this weekend to let all grandparents — whether our own or others — know that we recognize and appreciate the vital role they play in sustaining our families.

childsupport2_1003“Deadbeat Dads”—absent fathers who don’t provide financial support for their children—are one of the most significant factors contributing to child poverty in America. So why do some single women have children outside of marriage when they know they will receive little to no support from the child’s father?

A new study from the University of Georgia and Boston College attempts to answer that question. The authors created an economic model to simulate a scenario in which every absent father was forced to pay child support. As the researchers note, “Looking at the data through the lens of this ‘perfect enforcement’ scenario caused the picture to change.”

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agitateAccording to Thomas McCraw, who is the author of American Business, 1920-2000: How it Worked, “More people in the U.S. workforce were getting their first job at McDonald’s than at any other employer, including the Army.” By the end of this 80 year period, McDonald’s employer turn over rate was just over 200 percent per year. It was a temporary job, primarily for students.

This factor has changed somewhat. I remember in an ethics class in seminary we had to watch a documentary titled Fast Food Women. The film about workers in Eastern Kentucky projected an angle that the viewer should feel sorry for the workers who were forced to toil at their jobs. Many of the women were working there to help out their families because jobs in the coal mines, which paid substantially more, and were worked by men, were not as readily as available as in the past. While the video portrayed somber music and footage, many of the women on camera said positive things about their jobs and the opportunity it afforded them.

The Wall Street Journal and The Wire both offer excellent write ups on the union led political agitating going on now with the fast food worker strike. See also Anthony Bradley’s Acton commentary “On Wages, McDonald’s Gets it Right.” (more…)

I loved being a stay at home mom. Sure, it was tedious some days and there were times when I was a bit weary of mac and cheese, but overall, I loved it. I enjoyed watching my kids grow, learning with them, enjoying leisurely days of bug watching, sidewalk chalk and cartoons.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that being a stay at home mom doesn’t count as work. Not real work: you know, the kind of work where you get dressed up, talk to grown-ups all day, have meetings and enjoy the view from the cubicle. The Washington Post wanted to investigate which states treated women best when it comes to pay equality and they gave us this handy map:

pink  map (more…)

Today at Ethika Politika, I caution against the sort of scapegoating that justifies ideologies at the expense of human effort:

Do you support capitalism? Socialism? Distributism? Something else? Wonderful. What does that look like among the mess of market forms that actually constitute the economy you participate in every day? Rather than criticizing those policies that fall short of your saintly ideal or align too closely with your Hitler, what ones constitute a first step in the right direction for you? And why? And what are the actual consequences, intended or otherwise, that may come about?

While there is a place for simply outlining one’s ideal, if we wish to actually do some good ourselves, we need to get our hands dirty in the mire of material reality. Gnostic scorn for the concrete and this-worldly boasts a broad road with a wide gate, but it is the narrow road of reality that leads to life; not only for ourselves, but for the common good; not just for this world, but for the kingdom of God.

In his recent book Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action), Jordan Ballor begins with a similar call: (more…)

Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico made an appearance on Thursday afternoon on Fox News Channel’s Your World with Neal Cavuto. Recently, Cavuto has been addressing the topic of multiculturalism in recent shows, featuring guests like Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party in Great Britian, and Alveda King, niece of  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., both of whom share deep concerns about the impact of multicultural philosophy and policy on our cultural cohesion.

Yesterday, Neil Cavuto asked whether or not our embrace of multiculturalism and our seeming abandonment of our Judeo-Christian cultural roots is contributing to problems such as the increasing number of American and British citizens who join extremist groups like ISIS. You can see his response in the video player below.