tomsWhen proposing a solution to an economic problem the first question that should be asked is, “Is the solution likely to fix the problem?”

While that may seem too obvious to mention, it’s surprising how many times that question is not given serious consideration. In the past this has been particularly true of poverty-reduction measures. Too often the solutions were judged mainly on motives and emotions rather than effectiveness. If the solution was proposed in a spirit of goodwill and generosity or if it made both the giver and receiver feel good, then why not try it?

Over the past few years, though, there has a been promising shift within poverty-fighting circles. A prime example is TOMS Shoes rethinking of its ‘buy one, give one’ model of helping the needy. The California-based company’s model of giving a pair of shoes to a child in need for ever pair bought by it’s customers has spawned copy-cats in various industries — from baby goods to solar panels. Yet as PRI notes,
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America’s debt is creating not servants of higher things but slaves to government, says Ray Nothstine in this week’s Acton Commentary.

As our nation’s $17 trillion debt spirals out of control, and spiritual disciplines decline in the West, we need to face the reality of America’s inability to collectively sacrifice. Even the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg seemed to pass this year with scant attention, as if such extreme sacrifice is alien and distant to our way of life today.

Washington’s brokenness is cheered by a majority of the political class, declaring a “crisis averted.” The “crisis” for a majority of the leaders in Washington, however, is not our debt or insatiable appetite to spend, but the notion that it might possibly involve limitations or must end in belt-tightening.

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

While Chrysostom speaks in terms of the morally good use of wealth, says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary, it is a standard inconceivable apart from private property.

As a pastor, I’ve been struck by the hostility, or at least suspicion, that some Orthodox Christians reveal in their discussions of private property. While there are no doubt many reasons for this disconnect, I think a central factor is a lack of appreciation for the role that private property can, and does, play in fostering human flourishing. It is through the wise and prudent use of our property that we are able to give ourselves over in love to the next generation and so give them the possiblity of likewise transcending a purely material way of life through an act of self-donation.

Read more here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

img6While many Americans are struggling to navigate healthcare.gov and some are fighting against the Affordable Care Act’s threat to religious liberty, an estimated 100,000 people are exempt from the legislation as members of a health care sharing ministry (HCSM); these organizations offer the opportunity for individuals with similar beliefs to share their health care costs.

HCSMs are not insurance companies, but nonprofit religious organizations that receive no government funding. Andrea Miller, the medical director for Medi-Share, one HCSM in the U.S., explained in a recent interview with NPR how the ministry works:
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Exodus, Cornelis VonkChristian’s Library Press has now released Exodus, the second primer in its Opening the Scriptures series. Written by Dutch Reformed pastor and preacher Cornelis Vonk, and translated by Theodore Plantinga and Nelson Kloosterman, the volume provides an introduction to the book of Exodus.

Like others in the series, it is neither a technical commentary nor a sermon, but rather an accessible primer for the average churchgoer, walking readers through the “immense building” of Scripture while “tracing the unfolding” of God’s ultimate plan.

Much of this is accomplished through Vonk’s continual highlighting of each book’s unique place in the grand totality of Scripture. How, for example, should the law in Exodus be understood in light of the New Testament?

An excerpt from the first chapter:

From the law we get to know God, our Creator, who out of free grace made a covenant with Abraham the idol worshiper. From the law we get to know Christ and his works as a great picture book that the Lord employed to give his church visual lessons in what he could mean to her. From the law we learn much about the will of our heavenly Father for the life that has been restored in Christ. We must respect the authorities, have mercy on widows and orphans and on the poor and the strangers in our midst, pay the laborer his full wage, not condemn anyone without hearing his story, and so forth. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
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World Council of Churches Stands By As Christians Perish, Churches Wither
Malcolm Lowe, Gatestone Institute

The World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva claims to represent and serve 345 churches worldwide. What has it done to help the persecuted churches in Iraq, Syria and Egypt? Or the flood of Syrian refugees into Jordan and Lebanon?

Hobby Lobby asks US Supreme Court to take up case over federal birth-control coverage mandate
Associated Press

Lawyers for Hobby Lobby asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to take up the company’s lawsuit against the federal health care law’s requirement that coverage include access to the morning-after pill.

State Dept. Stays Mute on Persecuted Religious Minorities Worldwide
Leanna Baumer, FRC Blog

A post designed to elevate the status of religious freedom in American foreign policy and to move around intractable State Department bureaucracy by directly advising the Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom in recent years has functioned instead as a sidelined figure in diplomatic efforts.

Faith and freedom depend on each other
Ed Feulner, Washington Times

Religious liberty is as characteristic of America as our democratic political system and our free-market economy.

Brand-Storyteller“The plural of anecdote is not data”, claimed toxicologist Frank Kotsonis, in an attempt to correct sloppy thinking. While Kotsonis has provided a useful aphorism, it can obscure the equally interesting fact that the singular of data is anecdote.

Consider, for example, the following two stories. The first is the shortest work of fiction ever written by Ernest Hemingway:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

This powerful story is a marvel of economy. In a mere six words and three punctuation marks, Hemingway is able to convey a sense of tragic loss without ever introducing a single character.

Compare to a story with a similar theme from an anonymous author:

Infant mortality rate: 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Although it lacks the emotional impact, this too is a model of brevity. Seven words, two numbers, a comma, colon, and two periods are used to express — albeit rather dryly — an important fact about the human condition. Indeed, if Hemingway’s story was not fictional, it could be considered a singular instance of the second story; a particular example of a more general phenomenon.

At this point, you may object to the use of the term “story” in reference to a statistic. You may be tempted to repeat back to me Kotsonis’ mantra: “The plural of anecdote is not data.” But if the singular of data is anecdote and anecdotes are a form of story, then why can’t data be a collection of tales, sifted down and pressed together, into a narrative?Transforming data back into narrative form can provide the oft-lamented missing link between the data and analysis produced by conservative think tanks and the storytelling that appeals to the general public.

Lack of storytelling ability is one of the reoccurring themes of modern conservatism. At National Review Online, Lee Habeeb is the most recent writer to point out that conservatives need to become better at getting our point across by the use of stories:
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