Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, June 14, 2012
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The Acton Institute’s annual Acton University conference kicked off on June 12, 2012 with an evening plenary session featuring a conversation with public intellectual, author, and former US Ambassador Michael Novak.

Tuesday was the first official day of Acton University. I made my way around the Acton office and DeVos Convention Center capturing photos of the initial registration and arrival of participants.  Stay tuned for more posts about Acton University.

This is a huge week for us here at Acton. The annual Acton University kicks off tonight and runs through Friday with more than 700 attendees expected from dozens of countries. I’ll be blogging some of the scenes from this amazing event, starting with yesterday’s “prep rally” and breakfast at our offices in Grand Rapids. Stay tuned for more great postings on AU here on the PowerBlog and be sure to follow the Twitter feed on the right hand sidebar. If you’re at the event, make sure you connect with everyone with the #ActonU hashtag.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s stirring speech in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. Against the advice of the State Department, the National Security Council and the ranking U.S. diplomat in Berlin, the President challenged Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party, to take his glasnost policy one step further with the demolition of the Berlin Wall.

The speech, which forecasted the wall’s 1989 destruction, remains one of the most iconic moments of Reagan’s presidency and a moment of victory on the path to world freedom.

Below is a video of the speech:

 

Citizens of North Dakota will be voting today on an amendment to the state’s constitution that supporters say will guarantee religious freedom:

Measure 3 is worded this way: “Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty.” Its supporters call it the Religious Liberty Restoration amendment; they say it’s needed because of a 22-year-old U.S. Supreme Court decision they believe has put limits on religious freedom.

“What this amendment is attempting to do is to restore that level of protection to what it was pre-1990,” says Tom Freier, who heads the North Dakota Family Alliance. The group led the effort to put the measure on the ballot.

Freier says that making Measure 3 part of the constitution would give it permanence and help prevent attacks on religious freedom.

“So, the analogy would be: We live in Fargo, and most recently in Bismarck and in Minot, you’ve had floods. And you want to prepare for that. You don’t know exactly when or how things are going to happen, but you want to make preparation,” he says. “This measure would really put in place the protection for North Dakota that would make sure that people are protected, and religious organizations are protected, when and if they do need that protection.”

Read more . . .

This week we feature a post by Steve Bishop who is involved in full-time Christian ministry as a husband, father and in teaching mathematics and forensic science to post-16s. He blogs at www.stevebishop.blogspot.com and maintains the neo-Calvinist/Kuyperian website www.allofliferedeemed.co.uk Follow him on twitter @stevebishopuk

Mind maps have in recent years been associated with Tony Buzan. However, they go back as far as the third century and were – or so it is alleged – first used by Porphyry of Tyros. Mind maps are great tools for creating visual displays of information. I find them helpful in aiding close reading of a text and it was for that reason I decided to mindmap Kuyper’s recently translated Wisdom and Wonder.

To do so I read through the book several times—each time making rough drafts of the maps and then revising if necessary in light of a second or third read.

What struck me as I was reading and mindmapping—in no particular order—are the following.

1. The pivotal role of the education chapter. It acts like a hinge joining the chapters on science with those on art. The key focus in that chapter is the need for and the role of a Christian university. Kuyper was writing this series between 1895 and 1901. Uppermost in his mind would have been the education issue and the events that led to the founding of the VU in 1880. Here he is underlining the need for Christian education, an education that would prevent a public/private divide which leads to a schizophrenic Christianity. (more…)

A roundup at Notes on Arab Orthodoxy paints a grim picture for Christians — and clashing Islamic sects — in Syria. It’s a gut-wrenching account of kidnappings, torture and beheadings. One report begins with this line: “Over 40 young men (including a couple of doctors) from the Wadi area, were killed by the bearded men who are eager to give us democracy.”

The article also links to a report in Agenzia Fides, which interviewed a Greek-Catholic bishop:

The picture for us – he continues – is utter desolation: the church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of Our Lady of Peace is still occupied by the rebels. Christian homes are severely damaged due to the fighting and completely emptied of their inhabitants, who fled without taking anything. The area of Hamidieh is still shelter to armed groups independent of each other, heavily armed and bankrolled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. All Christians (138,000) have fled to Damascus and Lebanon, while others took refuge in the surrounding countryside. A priest was killed and another was wounded by three bullets.

Read “Things Get Worse in Syria” on the Notes on Arab Orthodoxy site.

Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg reviews America’s Spiritual Capital by Nicholas Capaldi and T. R. Malloch (St Augustine’s Press, 2012) for The University Bookman.

… Capaldi and Malloch are—refreshingly—unabashed American exceptionalists. One of this book’s strengths is the way that it brings to light a critical element of that exceptionalism through the medium of spiritual capital. Part of the American experiment is its commitment to modernity—but a modernity several times removed from that pioneered by the likes of the French revolutionaries, Karl Marx, and modern social democratic movements in Europe. Capaldi and Malloch underscore how America’s spiritual inheritance permeated the political and economic habits and institutions associated with the emergence of its democratic and capitalist order, and in ways that avoided the challenges of theocracy as well as moral relativism. (more…)

Wis. Gov. Scott Walker

On National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg demolishes the left’s knee-jerk explanation for labor union decline, which blames “the machinations of conservative intellectuals, free-market-inclined governments, and businesses who, over time, have successfully worked to diminish organized labor, thereby crushing the proverbial ‘little guy.'”

Gregg writes:

“The truth, however, is rather more complex. One factor at work is economic globalization. Businesses fed up with unions who think that their industry should be immune from competition are now in a position to move their operations elsewhere — ranging from the southern states of America, to China, India, and other developing countries — where people and governments enthusiastically welcome the influx of knowledge, capital, and jobs. In this regard, it’s always struck me as ironic that unions in developed countries regularly act in ways that essentially hamper economic and employment growth in developing nations. So much for the “international solidarity of workers.” Comradeship apparently stops at the Rio Grande. (more…)

Donald Trump's tagline: "You're fired."

Last week I raised the question of whether being a Christian businessperson means you do some things differently, and particularly whether some of these things that are done differently have to do with terminating an employee.

Here’s a snip of what Kenman Wong and Scott Rae say in their recent book, Business for the Common Good:

Although periodically companies may take on certain employees as an act of benevolence, it is not the norm. Employees are bound by mutual obligations to the company, and when they do not live up to them, leaders are not being unjust or unfair in holding them accountable and firing them if necessary. Of course, servant leaders will work with employees at risk and attempt to redeem the relationship. But if the employee must be let go, the leader will give a truthful reason for termination, provide input to the employee so that a pattern does not repeat itself with the next employer, and treat the person with dignity and respect throughout the entire process.

You may not be doing someone a favor by keeping them on in a position that is not a good fit, or which does not challenge them appropriately or help them to develop themselves and maximize their own potentialities. As Wong and Rae continue, “Remember, people need to accomplish something significant and in a way that fits their gifts. Serving them best may involve letting them go so they can find a more suitable place to develop and contribute.”

As for the propriety of prayer in these contexts, it seems obvious to me that the employer should be praying for the well-being of his employees, and vice versa, throughout this entire process and beyond. It would take the application of insight into a particular situation to determine whether a prayer with the employee at the time of termination would be appropriate or not, however, and the content of the prayer would need to reflect the dynamics of power that are apparent in the context of the termination of employment.