Blog author: jballor
Monday, March 24, 2014
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Lorde LikenessAt Reason Thaddeus Russell argues that Macklemore and Lorde embody a kind of progressive cultural critique of capitalism, captured in the attack on “conspicuous consumption” made famous by Thorstein Veblen. Russell traces the “progressive lineage” of this critique: “Their songs continue a long tradition, rooted in progressivism, of protests against the pleasures of the poor.”

Having never listened to him, I have no opinion about Macklemore. Russell’s piece makes me want to take a moment to hear “Thrift Shop.” But over at Q Ideas today, I argue that in Lorde we find some cultural resources to inoculate us against the corrosive effects of envy.

The Christian tradition has long recognized that the poor can be just as materialistic and greedy as the rich. The poor just don’t usually have the same resources to bring those vices to such “conspicuous” manifestation. And it really is a stewardship problem to spend money on luxury goods when basic necessities are given short shrift.
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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, March 24, 2014
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Paul Ryan was right — poverty is a cultural problem
George F. Will, Washington Post

Critics of Rep. Paul Ryan’s remarks about cultural factors in the persistence of poverty are simultaneously shrill and boring. Their predictable minuet of synthetic indignation demonstrates how little liberals have learned about poverty or changed their rhetorical repertoire in the last 49 years.

Overcoming fears, volunteer leads sex-trafficking ministry
Ann Lovell, Baptist Press

At midnight on a cold Friday in January, Loree Becton stands on a street corner along Jefferson Davis Highway in Richmond, Va. — an area notoriously known for prostitution and crime. She’s come a long way.

Six parishioners shot dead while worshipping at Kenyan church
ABC

Two gunmen have stormed a church near the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa and opened fire on worshippers, killing six people and wounding more than a dozen others, in what police are labelling a terrorist attack.

If the contraceptive mandate passes, it will ruin a core U.S. ideology
Rick Warren, Washington Post

Does our Constitution guarantee the freedom of religion, or does it merely allow a more limited freedom to worship? The difference is profound. Worship is an event. Religion is a way of life.

Radio Free ActonWe would all agree that digital technology has made life better in many respects. But in what ways do smartphones, email, social media and the Internet in general bring pressures to bear upon us that diminish human dignity and work against us in the free market, our social connectivity, and the interior life? Douglas Rushkoff has been thinking and writing about these very questions for years. He is a media theorist and author of the book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. He has produced documentaries for CNN and PBS and is regular contributor to the New York Times. He spoke with Acton’s Paul Edwards for this edition of Radio Free Acton.

Christian Family, Herman BavinckOver at The Gospel Coalition, Ryan Hoselton offers a nice summary of the key ideas in Herman Bavinck’s The Christian Family, which was recently translated by Christian’s Library Press.

Hoselton begins by surveying the range of evils that “threaten the well-being of the home,” as well as the dire state of the cultural landscape as it pertains to such matters. “No family evades the consequences of evil,” he concludes.

Yet he wonders: “Does the problem lie in the institution of the family itself? Would the world be better off if we abandoned the family altogether?”

Relying heavily on Bavinck, Hoselton argues that society needs a heavy dose and renewed sense of Christian theology if the family is to truly flourish. “Christians may not permit their conduct to be determined by the spirit of the age,” Bavinck writes, “but must focus on the requirement of God’s commandment,” showing “in word and deed what an inestimable blessing God has granted to humanity” with the gift of family.

Hoselton proceeds to offer the following key points as an initial foundation for the type of framework that’s needed:

God created the family beautiful and good. God is the most committed advocate for the family. “The history of the human race begins with a wedding,” and God himself officiated it. He created a compatible partner for Adam as a gift, blessed the couple, and commanded them to bear his image, multiply families, and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28). As Bavinck said, “God’s artistic work comes into existence bearing the name of home and family.” God created humans to reflect the relational love within the Trinity, and he appointed the family as the supreme instrument toward this end. (more…)

Forgotten FaithToday at Ethika Politika, I review Fr. Philip LeMasters’ recent book The Forgotten Faith: Ancient Insights from Contemporary Believers from Eastern Christianity.

With regards to the book’s last chapter, “Constantine and the Culture Wars,” I write,

… LeMasters does a good job in acknowledging the line between principles of faith and morality on the one hand, and prudential judgments that may not be as clear-cut on the other. He does not give the impression of advocating any specific political program; indeed, he explicitly disavows such a project:

Religious groups that are strongly identified with politics risk becoming so entangled in debates shaped by interest groups that their distinctive witness is obscured. To give the impression of being merely a political party at prayer is a good way to make people think that the church has little to say to the world that the world does not already know on its own terms.

He does not use this as an excuse, however, to disengage from political life.  He only highlights that in applying the teachings of the Church to our present, political context, we ought not to expect any concrete embodiment of our ideals, and we should be wary of any person or group that makes such a claim.

This is a point, I believe, worth dwelling on. (more…)

Amity Shlaes

Amity Shlaes – Graphic Novelized!

In November of last year, we had the privilege of welcoming bestselling author Amity Shlaes for a visit here at the Acton Building while she was in Grand Rapids to speak about Calvin Coolidge at Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. Aside from being a fine author of some very thought provoking books on history and economics, she’s a delightful lady, and it was a pleasure to have an opportunity to make her acquaintance personally. At the time, she was very excited about a project that she had been working on which was soon to be released to the public – a graphic novel adaptation of her best-selling book, The Forgotten Man. Her enthusiasm for the project was infectious, and I’ve been looking forward to its release ever since. (You can pre-order a copy of the book, which is set to be released on May 27.)

But how does one take a nearly 500 page hardcover book that revisits the economic history of the Great Depression and translate it into a visual presentation on the printed page? It wasn’t a simple process. Paul Rivoche is the artist who worked with Shlaes on the project; in this interview at Graphic Novel Reporter, he describes how the original book was reworked in order to create a compelling visual story:

The original book was nonfiction and of course not at all structured to be a graphic novel. It’s an economic history of the New Deal/Great Depression era, described from an alternative viewpoint. It has a huge cast of characters — all real people — and discusses many abstract ideas. To make it work as a graphic novel, we had to find a new structure for the same material; we couldn’t follow the exact arrangement in the print book. For example, there are many jumps in location in the real-life story we tell, and all these characters coming and going. In prose, it worked because you imagine it in your head, stitching it together, following the steady guidance of the author’s voice. In comics form, the same thing was disorienting. We learned that if the visuals change too fast, without enough explanation, the reader easily becomes confused when dealing with such complex events, all these different scenes and faces. To solve this, we decided to introduce a “framing story” using a narrator, Wendell Willkie. In telling the story, he guides us — at times directly, and in other scenes we hear his voiceover narration in captions. Also, we had to make the story as visual as possible, not all “talking heads,” which make for dull comics. Instead, we highlighted interesting locales: the Hoover Dam, the great flood of 1927, Willkie’s famous debate, and many others. In every scene we aimed to introduce as much movement, action, and characterization as possible.

The full interview has more detail on the project; After the jump, you can listen to an August 2012 Radio Free Acton interview with Amity Shlaes on her then-forthcoming biography on Calvin Coolidge.

Paul_Rivoche_The_Forgotten_Man

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What race is your company? Asian, Samoan, American Indian, other?

If you find that question absurdhardhat you probably haven’t heard (I hadn’t) that a for-profit can be be African American — an African American person — under federal law.

According to Matt Bowman, that was the  overwhelming consensus view by an Obama appointee to the Fourth Circuit court of appeals. The ruling allows minority-owned companies to object to racial discrimination committed against them under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Bowman explains that in Carnell Construction Corporation v. Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, an African-American-owned for-profit construction company in Virginia accused a local government—which had awarded the company a federally subsidized building contract—of racial discrimination during the building project.

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