Radio Free ActonAre you special? Do you have intrinsic dignity? Are “human rights” something that you have by virtue of the fact that you’re a human being, or are you no different from any other creature on the planet? These are all vitally important questions, the answers to which will shape the way you view yourself and other people, and deeply impact the sort of society that you attempt to build.

On this edition of Radio Free Acton, Paul Edwards talks with Wesley J. Smith, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Human Exceptionalism and author of National Review Online’s Human Exceptionalism blog. Smith is a powerful voice in defense of the intrinsic dignity and value of human life in the face of growing threats to those ideas from supporters of assisted suicide and population control, as well as from the environmentalist and animal rights movements, both of which have trended toward more radical anti-human sentiment over the past few decades.

Smith has recently released an e-book and a documentary called “The War on Humans” – both of which are available at waronhumans.com – detailing the very real and very current threats to human dignity that exist in the world today. You can view the documentary after the jump, and we’d encourage you to download and read the e-book as well. The Radio Free Acton podcast is available via the player below.

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bake1I have already weighed in on the recent hubbub over whether bakers, florists, and photographers should be compelled by law to serve ends they deem unethical and in violation of their consciences.

Over at First Things, Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan Declaration offers some helpful embellishment on that last bit — conscience — arguing that Christians ought to be far less blind and arbitrary when it comes to the shape and scope of their stewardship and service.

As for the case at hand (whether to attend or service particular weddings), Teetsel offers the following:

Have you prayed about it? How is the Holy Spirit leading you? Do you feel you can attend the service without compromising your responsibility to be a witness to the Truth? Will attending enable you to continue a Gospel presence in the person’s life? If so, then perhaps you should go…

…Individuals may be led one way or another according to their conscience. One may feel they can provide the service without endorsing or celebrating the event; another may feel the opposite. Religious freedom and the right of conscience preserve the rights of individuals to come to their own conclusions in such circumstances.

Of course not every act of commerce amounts to an assessment of the moral nature of homosexuality. But every so often a creator is asked to use their talents for something their conscience cannot abide. It may be a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony, or a cake in a lewd shape, or a cake celebrating abortion. In those instances, the Bible fails to provide an absolute answer. What is a Christian to do? The answer is a matter of individual conscience. Not whether Christians should or should not do something, but whether they must do something.

Yet when it comes to nearly every case the Christian encounters, that first paragraph is a rather helpful introduction to the types of questions we should be asking. From setting wages and prices, to innovating new products and services, to the ends those outputs elevate, conscience is integral to rightly ordering our efforts. (more…)

HowTheWestWon_FrontCoverSamuel Gregg recently reviewed Rodney Stark’s new book, How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity. Gregg begins by pointing out that discussion of Medieval Europe “is invariably understood as a period of unmitigated darkness–so much so that words like “feudal” are used today, even by many well-informed Catholics, as synonyms for backwardness.” How the West Won seeks to analyze as well as dispel common misunderstandings and myths about how the West developed. Stark begins his argument by warning his readers, “This is a remarkably unfashionable book.”

While there are many studies and books making similar points, Gregg explains why How the West Won offers something new:

What makes Stark’s book different from these and other studies are two things. First, he weaves his arguments about pre-Christian Europe, the medieval period, the Crusades, and the development of capitalism (to name just a few) into an account which dissolves many prevailing conceptual divisions between the pre-modern and modern worlds. Many secular-minded people—but also many Christians—will be surprised at the high degree of continuity, for instance, between minds like Saint Albertus Magnus and Sir Isaac Newton. Sometimes this occurs by Stark pointing to evidence that has hitherto escaped most people’s attention. In other instances, it is a question of looking at the same evidence but through a more plausible interpretative lens.

The second distinctive feature of How the West Won is how Stark shows how particular historical myths have less to do with the facts than with efforts to paint Christianity as a backward regressive cultural force. To give just one example, Islamic Spain is regularly portrayed, Stark notes, as an oasis of tolerance compared to a repressive Christendom, despite the undeniable evidence of the widespread and long-term persecution and subjugation of Jews and Christians by the Moors. (more…)

I have five kids. I thought I was sane, but apparently, I’m living a crazy alternative lifestyle.

Freestyle halfpipe skier David Wise won gold at Sochi. NBC, rather than being impressed with his world-class athleticism, focused on his “alternative lifestyle.” You see, Wise is married to Alexandra, and they have a young son. Wise is also considering becoming a pastor.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers has had his critics in terms of his play, but there are also critics of his “alternative lifestyle”: he and his wife, Tiffany, have six kids (they recently had a seventh child.) ESPN noted with this comment:

Six kids? Regardless of your profession, it’s impossible to be a good parent to six kids. Not enough hours in the day.

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Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell

Over at Real Clear Religion, Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg discusses Pope Francis’s recent appointment of Cardinal George Pell to “Secretariat of the Economy.” The secretariat has authority over the economic activities of the Vatican City State and the Holy See.

Gregg explains his take on Cardinal Pell and this appointment:

It may well turn out to be the greatest challenge of his priestly life.

You don’t need to watch the Godfather Part III to know that the Catholic Church has struggled for several decades to address some real problems in the management of the Holy See’s finances. Just looking at an organizational chart of the various units involved in some way in administering the Holy See’s resources is enough to make even devout Catholics think that maybe Dan Brown’s novels are onto something.

What’s often called “the Vatican Bank” — it’s more formal title is the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) — is just one of several institutions that the Holy See has created over the years to manage various resources. In many ways, a far more important structure is the lesser-known “Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See” (APSA), which, as it stated under its governing document, serves “to administer the properties owned by the Holy See in order to provide the funds necessary for the Roman Curia to function.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
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Ukraine Names Baptist Pastor as Acting President
Timothy C. Morgan, Christianity Today

After 88 die in protests, Ukrainian evangelicals call nation “to learn to love yesterday’s enemies.”

Some inconvenient facts for income inequality worriers
James Pethokoukis, AEI Ideas

The reform conservative movement seeks to strengthen the middle class, reform the safety net, and increase the rewards for low-income work. At the same, it rejects crony capitalist policies that enable vast wealth through government favor rather than innovation

The Pope’s radical call to the new evangelization
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, L’Osservatore Romano

American Cardinal on the message of this Pontificate

UN Commission Finds Severe Human Rights Abuses, Including Religious Persecution, In North Korea
Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announced yesterday the release of the report of a commission of inquiry on human rights abuses in North Korea

venezuela-protestsWhat’s going on in Venezuela?

A wave of anti-government demonstrations has been sweeping through Venezuela since early February. There have been at least 13 people been killed, 150 injured, and over 500  arrested.

Where exactly is Venezuela?

Venezuela is a country on the northern coast of South America that borders Columbia, Brazil, and Guyana. The Caribbean Sea is along the northern border. The country, which is nearly twice the size of California, is is one of the ten most biodiverse countries on the planet.

What is the cause of the conflict?

The protests began earlier this month when students demanded increased security after a female student alleged she was the victim of an attempted rape. (Venezuela has the fifth highest murder rate in the world and crime plagues many of its urban areas.) The protestors are also concerned about record inflation (official figures suggest yearly inflation in December 2013 stood at 56.2%) and shortages of basic food items. One in four basic goods is currently out of stock, according to the central bank’s monthly scarcity index released Feb. 10. Milk, for example, is reported to have been missing from supermarket shelves for months.
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