Here’s an interesting take on compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).
Last Friday I attended a day’s worth of events at the Assembly of World-Wide Partners of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. I was volunteering to write up summaries of some of the elements of the conference. I was assigned three items: the Friday morning plenary address by Ruth Padilla deBorst, “Together in Missions in the 21st Century”; the Friday workshop sessions on “Christian Education in Ministry”; and the Friday evening plenary address by WARC general secretary Rev. Setri Nyomi, “Partnering in a Global Context: Principles and Patterns that will Shape Us.”
In a series of posts through this week, I’m going to add my reflections and analysis to these summaries. Before I get to those events in particular, however, I want to say a little bit about how Friday morning opened.
Before Ruth Padilla deBorst gave her talk, two representatives from the Micah Challenge addressed the packed audience. First was Michael Smitheram, who is International Coordinator for the Micah Challenge. He introduced various folks attending the conference who are involved in the Micah Challenge’s work. He also provided a summary of what he thought the mission of the Micah Challenge was: “In the Micah Challenge, the body of Christ is finding its voice as a global constituency for the poor.” To be clear, by “constituency” Smitheram means a political constituency. We’ll get back to that point a bit later.
The second representative of the Micah Challenge was Rev. Joel Edwards, President of the Evangelical Alliance (UK) and International Chair of the Micah Challenge. Rev. Edwards discussed three “miracles” in the fight against global poverty:
- Jubilee 2000, a historic “miracle,” in which God galvanized the world to engage poverty, with the church at the epicenter.
- Governments pledging to halve absolute poverty (MDGs)
- The Micah Challenge.
Heading toward 2015, the Micah Challenge focuses on eight “covenants” with the poor (corresponding with the eight Millennium Development Goals), which go beyond “checkbook Christianity” to address heart and lifestyle changes (Micah 6:8).
“If we fail our promises to the poor,” says Rev. Edwards, “The world will be in a spiritually catastrophic place in 2015.”
I got the distinct impression that the Micah Challenge is really just the overtly religious equivalent of the ONE Campaign. There’s not much that is identifiably Christian about the aims of the Micah Challenge. The differences really lie in the motivation and basis for the Micah Challenge, which are clearly Christian.
But there needs to be a difference between something like the ONE Campaign and the Micah Challenge not only in the motivation (secular vs. religious), but in the telos. For a Christian, as I’ve said before, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is not enough: “The service of the body must be done in view of the greater purpose of Christian missions: the salvation of souls. And this is something the government simply cannot do.”
To challenge Smitheram’s idea about the role of the Micah Challenge, the church’s work cannot simply be reduced to that of another special-interest group or political action committee, even if the poor are those who are ostensibly represented.
It’s time again for another action-packed edition of Global Warming Consensus Watch, wherein we highlight the unshakable, unbreakable scientific consensus that Global Warming is a dire threat to our existence and humans are entirely to blame. Long Live the Consensus! In this roundup: WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ PROOF!; AL GORE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ MEDIA COVERAGE; just how accurate are those predictions, anyway?; a whole bunch more scientists off the reservation; Kyoto – not all it’s cracked up to be; and Live Earth vs. the British Power Grid. (more…)
Today I will be attending portions of the Christian Reformed Church’s Assembly of World-Wide Partners meeting.
I’ll be covering some of the plenary addresses and the sessions on Christian Education in Ministry. The education sessions will feature Dr. Gaylen Byker, president of Calvin College, who also serves on the Acton Institute’s board of directors.
I plan on posting a summary of the events here early next week.
One of my favorite historians of religion, who has recently acted more as a contemporary observer of religion than an historian, is Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University. His newest book, God’s Continent, takes on the grimmer views of where Europe is headed. The focus is religion, but of course politics, economics, and foreign policy are all tied up in the issue as well. I happen to have a lot of sympathy for the darker view, represented not least ably by our own Sam Gregg (e.g., here and here). My pessimism has been tempered somewhat lately—among the reasons being comments by knowledgeable friends who see something significant in the election of Nicholas Sarkozy in France, and now by Jenkins’ book. But I remain skeptical of the optimistic view; Richard John Neuhaus’s review of Jenkins’ book in First Things gets it about right, I think.
Jerome’s letter to Demetrias:
Others may build churches, may adorn their walls when built with marbles, may procure massive columns, may deck the unconscious capitals with gold and precious ornaments, may cover church doors with silver and adorn the altars with gold and gems. I do not blame those who do these things; I do not repudiate them. Everyone must follow his own judgment. And it is better to spend one’s money thus than to hoard it up and brood over it. However your duty is of a different kind. It is yours to clothe Christ in the poor, to visit Him in the sick, to feed Him in the hungry, to shelter Him in the homeless, particularly such as are of the household of faith, to support communities of virgins, to take care of God’s servants, of those who are poor in spirit, who serve the same Lord as you day and night, who while they are on earth live the angelic life and speak only of the praises of God. Having food and raiment they rejoice and count themselves rich. They seek for nothing more, contented if only they can persevere in their design. For as soon as they begin to seek more they are shewn to be undeserving even of those things that are needful.
A taste: “At the conclusion of de Gruchy’s confession, the reader is left with a suspicion that the facile opposition between secularism and religious fundamentalism on the one side and humanism (secular and Christian) on the other obscures linkages that ought to unite Christians of whatever persuasion.”
Economic globalization has lifted millions out of dire poverty and is an unparalelled engine of wealth creation. But, like other economic systems, it needs the moral framework that the Church provides to guide it as a humane force for good. Brian Griffiths, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, examines the role of faith in a rapidly globalizing world in this excerpt from his new Acton monograph.
Clement of Alexandria, Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?, trans. William Wilson, ch. XIV:
Riches, then, which benefit also our neighbours, are not to be thrown away. For they are possessions, inasmuch as they are possessed, and goods, inasmuch as they are useful and provided by God for the use of men; and they lie to our hand, and are put under our power, as material and instruments which are for good use to those who know the instrument. If you use it skilfully, it is skilful; if you are deficient in skill, it is affected by your want of skill, being itself destitute of blame. Such an instrument is wealth. Are you able to make a right use of it? It is subservient to righteousness. Does one make a wrong use of it? It is, on the other hand, a minister of wrong. For its nature is to be subservient, not to rule. That then which of itself has neither good nor evil, being blameless, ought not to be blamed; but that which has the power of using it well and ill, by reason of its possessing voluntary choice. And this is the mind and judgment of man, which has freedom in itself and self-determination in the treatment of what is assigned to it. So let no man destroy wealth, rather than the passions of the soul, which are incompatible with the better use of wealth. So that, becoming virtuous and good, he may be able to make a good use of these riches. The renunciation, then, and selling of all possessions, is to be understood as spoken of the passions of the soul.
Wealth, like liberty, is not an ultimate end in itself. Wealth is the good product of a rightly ordered economic system. Liberty is the result of a properly functioning political structure. These are both penultimate realities.
But to what end are wealth and liberty (economics and politics) to be subsumed? I know no better answer than to say, “To glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.”
The number of jobs (nonfarm, not seasonally-adjusted) added to the US economy since 2004 numbers around 6 million.
But over the same period, Michigan has lost over 50,000 jobs. What’s going on?
A relative of mine recently described to me the situation from his perspective. His company has an office located in Michigan, and of the rather modest net profits accrued by the Michigan location, over 56% were paid to the state by means of the Single Business Tax (SBT).
The SBT has now been phased out going forward, but there’s been a huge partisan battle between Republicans in the state congress and Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm about what to do. The debates are well-chronicled on the Democratic side by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Mickey Switalski (see, for instance, the Feb. 23, 2007 edition of his newsletter, The Insider).
It looks now like the new tax policy replacing the SBT will be “revenue neutral,” in large part because the state was already facing a $1 billion budget deficit before the SBT was to be phased out. Besides the punitive SBT, many blame the employment climate in Michigan on the state’s “heavily unionized culture.”
The “revenue neutral” nature of the new tax plan seems to indicate to me that businesses in Michigan can continue to expect big chunks of their profits going to the state’s coffers. And that can only mean that Michigan’s single-state recession will continue, even if the tax penalty for adding payroll is modified under the new plan.