Subpoena1After hearing the news that the city of Houston had ordered several pastors to submit their sermons for legal review, many people had the same reaction as Brian Lee: “My response? So what? Sermons are public proclamation, aren’t they?”

Sermons are indeed proclamations intended for the public, and most pastors would be eager for anyone — including public officials — to hear them. So what is the reason for the current objection?

Mollie Hemingway explains that the true “governing authorities” in America aren’t people, but laws:
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In today’s Wall Street Journal, Rev. Robert A. Sirico clears away the media hype surrounding the Vatican Synod on the Family and offers an analysis of its early work. He observes that nothing about the synod “challenges the dogma of the church related to the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, the use of artificial contraception, cohabitation and homosexual acts. What it did was soften the tone of these teachings.” But things got interesting.

An early report led critics to say that it “reflected the opinion of Archbishop Bruno Forte, a special secretary to the synod and a progressive, who prepared the final document and presented it to the media.” But Rev. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, notes that one of the more powerful, conservative cardinals, George Pell, called the report “tendentious and incomplete.”

What is really happening at this synod is an earnest effort by pastors of the church to determine how best to encourage people to live the Catholic faith. This is no easy task. A move too far in the direction of merely repeating old formularies will not work. A move away from what constitutes the very definition of what it means to be Catholic will not only erode the church’s self-identity and betray her founder’s mandate, it will also insult and alienate many Catholics who strive to live by the church’s teachings. This is what we pastors call the art of pastoral practice.

The practice is best modeled by Jesus’ encounter with the woman “caught in the very act of adultery” (John 8: 1-11). His interlocutors somehow thought that they could drive a wedge between his allegiance to biblical law and mercy. So they cast the woman before him and demanded that he say whether she should be stoned, as the law stipulated. The tension built as Jesus doodled in the sand. Finally he replied, “Let you who is without sin cast the first stone.”

The story does not end there. Jesus turned to the woman at his feet and delivered gentle, memorable words—a message that makes the whole story an encounter of faithful mercy: “Go and sin no more.” If this model—finding the balance between justice and mercy, which are often in tension—weighs heavily on the minds of bishops gathered in Rome, that will be an achievement for the church and its pastoral model.

Read “Beyond the Hype About a Vatican Upheaval” in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

market4In his new book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, Edward E. Baptist “offers a radical new interpretation of American history,” through which slavery laid the foundation for and “drove the evolution and modernization of the United States.”

In a review of the book for the Wall Street Journal, Fergus M. Bordewich concurs with this central point, noting that “Mississippi…does not have to look like Manchester, England, or Lowell, Mass., to make it an engine of capitalism.”

Responding to Bordewich in a letter to the Journal, John Addison Teevan, author of the newly released Integrated Justice and Equality and past Acton University lecturer, offers some compelling counterpoint, asking, “Was Roman slavery capitalist as well?” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, October 17, 2014
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Malala Is What The Real War On Women Looks Like
Amber Barno, The Federalist

Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Prize was well earned, and it presents a moment to discuss genuine oppression of women worldwide.

Obama Authorizes National Guard To Help Fight Ebola
Lauren F. Friedman, Reuters

President Barack Obama authorized the use of American military reservists on Thursday to support humanitarian aid efforts against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

How Boko Haram’s Murders and Kidnappings Are Changing Nigeria’s Churches
Interview by Timothy C. Morgan, Christianity Today

Leading Nigerian evangelical says Christians won’t abandon the North.

Poor Kids Are Starving for Words
Jessica Lahey, The Atlantic

According to a new initiative, launched at the White House on Thursday, the “word gap” that afflicts low-income children needs to be addressed with the same passion as child hunger.

imagesCAOWWLJWWhen the economy takes a downturn and unemployment rises, more people rely on the social safety net and programs like the recently renamed food stamp program called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). As the economy improves and employment increases, people need to rely less on government provided support.

At least that’s what used to happen. But something has changed.

From 1969 until 2003, SNAP has been very responsive to changes in the unemployment rate. But from 2003 to 2007, the number of SNAP recipients kept increasing even as unemployment declined. And the number of SNAP recipients has barely come off its all-time peak of 47.8 million recipients hit in December 2012. Since then, the number of SNAP recipients has only declined by 2.7 percent and started increasing again in the months of April and June 2014.

So why, asks AEI’s poverty scholar Robert Doar, is the number of SNAP recipients staying near record highs even as the economy strengthens? A still-weak economy is part of the answer, says Doar, but not a sufficient explanation:
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Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, October 16, 2014
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malcolm xDon’t you love lists? Intercollegiate Press does too, and they’ve put together “12 Movies That Defined America.” Feel free to argue, debate, add on, cross off as you wish.

Here are just a couple of Intercollegiate Press’ choices:

The Birth of a Nation – 1915, silent. The first blockbuster, D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was both celebrated as a great artistic achievement and denounced as racist for its vicious depiction of African Americans and homage to the KKK. President Woodrow Wilson’s praise of the spectacle as “history written with lightning” served to dignify the film, despite the fact that Wilson may never have said it.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington – 1939. Can one man stand against a world of lies? Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), a former Boy Rangers leader, appears to be in over his head in the corrupt world of congressional politics, but that won’t stop him from filibustering a bill that would reward graft. Denounced as anti-American upon its release (but banned in fascist and Communist countries), Frank Capra’s fable came to canonize the lone voice that speaks truth to power regardless of the odds. (more…)

bloomberg coverThis story has so many things wrong with it, I hardly know where to start. Apple and Facebook have both announced that will now offer egg-freezing – for non-medical purposes –  for their employees (which runs at least $10,000, plus a $500 to $800 annual storage fee.)

For these companies, it means two things. One, there is a demand from their employees for such an offer. Second, the companies themselves see some benefit to this. What it sounds like is this: “It’s really not practical or productive for people to try to both work and parent during the ages when they’ll be most useful as a worker, so let’s just take care of that issue. Work, work, work…try and become a parent later.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, October 16, 2014
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currencyIf money didn’t exist, would God have ordained that we invent it? Theologian Wayne Grudem says he would since money is simply a tool for our use that makes voluntary exchanges possible:

Money makes voluntary exchanges more fair, less wasteful, and far more extensive. We need money in the world in order for us to be good stewards of the earth and to glorify God through using it wisely. If money were evil in itself, then God would not have any. But he says, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts” (Hag. 2:8). It all belongs to him, and he entrusts it to us so that through it we would glorify him.

Money provides many opportunities to glorify God: through investing and expanding our stewardship and thus imitating God’s sovereignty and wisdom; through meeting our own needs and thus imitating God’s independence; through giving to others and thus imitating God’s mercy and love; or through giving to the church and to evangelism and thus bringing others into the kingdom.

Read more . . .

purple penguinIn 1994, a clever man named James Finn Garner published Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. Garner did fabulous send-ups of familiar stories, with a twist: all of them were carefully constructed so as to offend NO ONE:

There once was a young person named Red Riding Hood who lived with her mother on the edge of a large wood. One day her mother asked her to take a basket of fresh fruit and mineral water to her grandmother’s house—not because this was womyn’s work, mind you, but because the deed was generous and helped engender a feeling of community. Furthermore, her grandmother was not sick, but rather was in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, October 16, 2014
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Economic Liberty and the Constitution
Paul J. Larkin Jr., The Daily Signal

Recently, there has been a renewed interest in the question whether the Constitution protects individual economic activity without undue—some might say any—government regulation or interference.

The Catholic Church Explains Sexual Mores—With Economics
Emma Green, The Atlantic

A new report from the Vatican softens its rhetoric on homosexuality, divorce, and pre-marital sex, arguing that they are shaped by financial instability. What does this mean?

Freedom and Flourishing in Hong Kong
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Hong Kong has retained some institutions that set it apart from Communist China. Its inclination toward greater trade and free expression has generated a level of prosperity that the mainland cannot attain with its burdensome regulations.

We All Want Freedom. But What Is the Highest Form of Freedom?
Orion D. Jones, Big Think

With midterm elections drawing near, what differentiates our two main political parties? Both profess a love of freedom but understand the world differently.