katy-big-snow-virginia-burton“No work? Then nothing else either. Culture and civilization don’t just happen. They are made to happen and to keep happening — by God the Holy Spirit, through our work.” –Lester DeKoster

As we begin to discover God’s design and purpose for our work, there there’s a temptation to elevate certain jobs or careers above others, and attempt to inject our work with meaning from the outside. Yet as long as we are serving our neighbors faithfully, productively, ethically, and in obedience to God’s will, the meaning is already there.

We can wrap our imaginations around this reality in a number of ways, but one helpful thought experiment is to imagine what would happen if a particular job or task were to be left undone. With our newfound prosperity and privilege, it is sometimes easy to dismiss certain forms of manual or “unglamorous” labor (the plumber, the builder, the garbage collector) in favor of supposedly “higher pursuits.” Yet if any of the workers in these areas vanished, what would happen to civilized society? Indeed, in a way, the simple, tangible nature of such work often provides the clearest illustration of the service and sacrifice God has called us to, bearing fruit we can quite easily taste and see.

I was reminded of this when reading my kids Katy and the Big Snow, the classic children’s story by Virginia Lee Burton (author of another timeless tale about work). Burton tells the story of Katy, a “beautiful red crawler tractor” who was “very big and very strong” and was able to push either a bulldozer or snowplow, depending on the season. (more…)

While in Argentina for Acton Institute’s March 18 “Christianity and the Foundations of a Free Society” seminar, President and Co-Founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico conducted a wide ranging interview with La Nación, the country’s leading conservative newspaper. For more on the event, jointly sponsored with Instituto Acton Argentina, go here. What follows is an English translation of the interview. The original version, titled “Una sociedad con bajos impuestos es más próspera” in Spanish, may be found here.

La Nación: Why did you decide to devote yourself to economics in relation to ethics and religion?

Sirico: In the 1970s, while living in California, I was away from the faith and was involved in a number of leftist social change movements. Someone gave me some books to read on economics, which I did. This set off a chain reaction which resulted not only in rethinking my more socialist activism, but also in my return to the Catholic Church and eventually continuing on to seminary and the priesthood. Once ordained, I continued to write and speak about these matters and eventually formed an Institute which engages many scholars and writers of all religious persuasions to discuss these kinds of ideas. (more…)

bribeIt is no secret that rule of law in places like Slovakia is weak. Corruption, pay-offs, bribes and twisted use of power often pass for “rule of law.” However, this problem has infected  health care as well, which means those who are able to bribe the doctor or health care worker is the one who will get the care.

The Economist describes Communist-era corruption as a holdover infesting much of central and eastern Europe, and not just in health care. However, it’s one thing to bribe an official to get a building permit; it’s quite another to have to do it for live-saving surgery.

In Latvia Valdis Zatlers, an orthopaedic surgeon who served as the country’s president from 2007 to 2011, accepted what he called “gratitude payments” from patients without declaring them to the tax authorities. He was fined just 250 lats ($466). A European Commission survey in 2013 found 28% of respondents in Romania and 21% in Lithuania had made informal payments to doctors, compared to an EU average of 5%. (more…)

A few weeks back, Acton welcomed Gene Edward Veith to the Mark Murray Auditorium as part of the 2015 Acton Lecture Series. This week, I had the opportunity to talk with Veith for this edition of Radio Free Acton. We discuss the influence of the Protestant Reformation on the development of capitalism, Luther’s beliefs on vocation, and how young people can discern their vocations as they contemplate their futures.

You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below; after the jump, I’ve included the video of Veith’s ALS lecture for those interested in diving deeper into these ideas.

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
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What We Can Learn From Patrick Henry’s ‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death’ Speech
Carson Holloway, The Daily Signal

Two hundred forty years ago today, Patrick Henry made his immortal cry, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

Government funding and the Free Speech Clause
Eugene Volokh, Washington Post

Are private universities bound by the Free Speech Clause if they get government funding, in the form of various research grants, student loans and the like?

Law Helps Those Who Escape Sex Trafficking Shed Its Stigma, Too
Edna Ishayik , New York Times

The law, passed in 2010, allows convictions related to sexual trafficking to be removed from a person’s record. New York had the first such law in the country and today 18 other states have adopted similar statutes.

The Death Of Catholic Universities In America
Dominic Lynch, The Federalist

Catholic universities in America have lost sight of their institutional identities. Only direct intervention from the Vatican can reverse their decline.

For us the rebirth of Russia is inextricably tied, first of all, with spiritual rebirth … and if Russia is the largest Orthodox power [pravoslavnaya dershava], then Greece and Athos are its source. —Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Mount Athos, September 2005.

Writing for the Carnegie Council, Nicolai N. Petro says that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “call for greater respect for traditional cultural and religious identities was either missed or ignored in the West. One reason, I suspect, is that it was couched in a language that Western elites no longer use.” Summary of his report:

For many analysts the term Russky mir, or Russian World, epitomizes an expansionist and messianic Russian foreign policy, the perverse intersection of the interests of the Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Little noted is that the term actually means something quite different for each party. For the state it is a tool for expanding Russia’s cultural and political influence, while for the Russian Orthodox Church it is a spiritual concept, a reminder that through the baptism of Rus, God consecrated these people to the task of building a Holy Rus.

The close symphonic relationship between the Orthodox Church and state in Russia thus provides Russian foreign policy with a definable moral framework, one that, given its popularity, is likely to continue to shape the country’s policies well into the future.

More on Putinism: (more…)

Acton Institute President and Co-Founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico was in Argentina last week for Acton’s conference in Buenos Aires on Christianity and the Foundations of a Free Society, which is part of a series of Acton conferences being held around the world on the relationship between religious and economic freedom. While he was there, he was interviewed on Infobae.tv and spoke about the problems of poverty that Argentina is struggling with, and also addressed the relationship between Pope Francis and the media and politicians, and the security arrangements that are in place to keep the pope safe.

A columnist for Al-Monitor who writes under the pseudonym Edward Dark visited Siryan Adeemeh, or Old Siryan, an elevated area in the regime-controlled west of Aleppo, the largest city in Syria. Dark wanted to “gauge the sentiment” of this area, which he describes as a working-class neighborhood home to Christian Arabs of several denominations and also inhabited by a sizable Muslim and Kurdish population. “It’s one of the few areas of Aleppo where churches outnumber mosques, and communal relations had always been jovial and friendly, as could be seen while strolling its maze-like narrow streets, lined with markets, cafes, sandwich shops, bars and liquor stores,” Dark, a resident of Aleppo, recalls.

He interviews Abu Fadi, “a middle-aged man, tanned with silver hair and sharp dark eyes — a striking appearance to match his striking personality. He was the de facto mayor of his neighborhood, the go-to guy for news, stories and gossip, a figure much liked and respected by his Christian community and beyond.”

I asked him how he felt about the warring camps in Syria, whom he supports and why. He answered, “There is no question at all about whom we support: the government, of course. It is the only force protecting us from the jihadists and extremists.” (more…)

nepotismIt ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no
“Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

What do Al Gore, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Barry Bonds, Peyton and Eli Manning, Aage Bohrs, and Michael Douglas all have in common? Each of them reached the same level of success as their fathers in a highly competitive field.

We like to think that the U.S. is a meritocracy, a nation where—with gumption and grit—you can rise to the level of your talent. But as history has shown, you can rise much faster and much higher if you can stand on your successful daddy’s shoulders.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz used the methods of data science to determine the odd that a male Baby Boomer would succeed in various competitive areas. His findings are that if the father reached the achievement first, then the son is:
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Rembrandt The Hundred Guilder Print.jpg

Rembrandt The Hundred Guilder Print” by Rembrandt – www.rijksmuseum.nl : Home : Info. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

“No, those who labor and are heavy-laden do not all look the way Rembrandt drew them in his ‘Hundred Guilder’ picture—poverty-stricken, miserable, sick, leprous, ragged, with worn, furrowed faces. They are also found concealed behind happy-looking, youthful faces and brilliantly successful lives. There are people who feel utterly forsaken in the midst of high society, to whom everything in their lives seems stale and empty to the point of nausea, because they can sense that underneath it all, their souls are decaying and rotting away. There is no loneliness like that of the fortunate.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer