4109902429_491e5d15d3Photo Credit: Patrick Hoesly via Compfight cc

Following up on last week’s proposal and discussion about the future of the Detroit Institute of Arts in the midst of the city of Detroit’s ongoing budgetary woes, arts commentator Terry Teachout penned a piece for the WSJ about the need for Detroit’s leaders to step up: “Protecting Detroit’s Artwork Is a Job for Detroit.”

Among other things, Teachout writes, “Any argument to keep Detroit’s masterpieces in Detroit has got to make sense to Detroiters who think that pensions are more important than paintings.” Teachout goes on to explore a couple such arguments, but the most salient point is that Detroiters themselves are the best ones to make such arguments.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Solzhenitsyn and the Russian Renaissance
Andrew Doran, First Things

“The entire twentieth century,” Solzhenitsyn observed in his 1983 Templeton Lecture, was “sucked into the vortex of atheism and self-destruction.”

Why Jesus and Comic Books Need Each Other | Book of Revelation Graphic Novel
American Orthodox Institute

An interview on FOX News with Fr. Mark Arey of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese on transforming the book of Revelation into a graphic novel.

Loving God’s Law: the Key to A Flourishing Society?
Gabrielle Jackson, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Love plays a significant role in how we build social structures such as the family, the church, our business, and our economy. But what does love have to do with the law? And if the rule of law is an essential pillar of a flourishing society, how should Christians think biblically about law?

How to Help Fast-Food Workers
Sheldon Richman, Reason

Raising the minimum wage will hurt, not help.

umcWhen the Obamacare legislation was rushed through Congress in 2010, Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the Council of Bishops for The United Methodist Church (UMC), said he “rejoiced” at the passage of the bill because it aligns with the denomination’s values. But now, many Methodists bishops — and other Christian clergy — are wishing they hadn’t waited for the bill to pass to find out what was in it.

According to a statement released by the UMC’s General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, clergy and lay employees of United Methodist churches may soon lose their health care coverage due to some coming Obamacare provisions:


McDonald’s has been under fire over its Practical Money Skills Budget Journal, a planning tool designed to help employees organize their personal finances. The tool’s sample budget fails to account for a variety of first-world expenses, leading to a predictable cacophony of folks calling for newer, fresher, more enlightened price-fixing tricks. Stephen Colbert channels the sentiments well.

McDonald's Budget

Sample Budget for McDonald’s Employees

On the finer points, it can be tempting to get into the weeds, and many already have. Some have focused on the budget itself, debating everything from the actual cost of heat to the necessity of a $100 cable bill. Others have aimed to play the CFO, imagining how Big Mac prices might be impacted if McDonald’s paid its workers the $15 per hour they demand. It’s all been thoroughly deconstructed, but rest assured, the next hypothetical is well on its way.

Yet as fun as all this back-and-forth may be, it misses the larger reality: Prices are not play things.

As economist Art Carden has pointed out, raising the minimum wage is likely to lead to a host of deleterious effects: (more…)

Monsanto PlantWriting over at the Live58 blog, Catherine Sinclair describes her transition from uncertainty regarding GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) to outright opposition: “After doing some more research, I’ve come to the conclusion that we should avoid GMO as much as possible.” This a conclusion that we might think is counter-intuitive, to say the least, for an organization committed to ending the scourge of global hunger and poverty.

Sinclair’s main indictment of GMOs comes down to the agribusiness giant Monsanto: “Because they are companies seeking profit, seed developers like Monsanto do whatever they can to control the agricultural industry.”

It’s important to distinguish the theoretical and ethical basis for genetic modification from the actual behavior and practice of corporations like Monsanto. Too often the two are conflated. In my new book, Get Your Hands Dirty, I have an updated discussion of a theological framework for evaluating GM foods. As I caution at the conclusion of my examination of GM foods, “nothing in this framework presumes any particular policy outcome in the realm of law, and so, for instance, concerns about the use of property rights as a means to tyrannize or monopolize particular industries ought to be considered.”

Making such a distinction allows an approach that is more nuanced and responsible than simply identifying Monsanto with GMOs in general. So, for instance, a self-identified “hippie” writes in Slate:

I think Monsanto is evil, that patenting seeds and suing farmers is unethical, and that some GMO crops (like Roundup Ready Soybeans) lend themselves to irresponsible herbicide and pesticide use and cross-contamination.

But I’m also not going to let my anti-corporate sentiments get in the way of a diverse and promising field of research. (emphasis added)

Genetic modification and the cronyism that is so endemic to big agribusiness simply aren’t identical. That distinction strikes me as a helpful starting point for responsible discussion of GMOs.

For a critical but balanced examination of GMOs in theological context, check out Brad Littlejohn’s treatment of his “inner Luddite” at Mere Orthodoxy.

europe-muslimBy failing to recognize the importance of religion and its relationship to human rights, says Roger Trigg, European courts are progressively eroding religious liberty:

[T]he Council of Europe affirmed in 2007 that “states must require religious leaders to take an unambiguous stand in favour of the precedence of human rights, as set forth in the European Convention of Human Rights, over any religious principle.”

It is ironic that freedom of religion is expressly protected by the Convention and that the council recognizes this protection, because now the right to manifest one’s religion is highly qualified. In the council’s words, “a religion whose doctrine or practice [runs] counter to other fundamental rights would be unacceptable.”

In Europe, as opposed to the United States, freedom of religion translates to “freedom of religion or belief,” a phrase that covers not just atheism, but “philosophies” like vegetarianism or environmentalism. “Religion,” however defined, is no longer regarded as a unique contribution to the common good.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 5, 2013

Syria’s sorrowing clergy
The Economist

For people concerned about the fate about Syria’s Christian minority, these are dark times. It has now been exactly 100 days since two bishops from the ancient city of Aleppo were kidnapped near the Turkish border, and there is no definite news of their fate.

Seeing What We Want to See: Millennials Look at Government, Capitalism and Religion
Josh Good, Values & Capitalism

Psychological discouragement among younger Americans runs deep. The Silent Generation (ages 66-88) is the only group for whom a majority still thinks they are better off than their parents’ generation.

Privacy and Common Core
Paul Kengor, Crisis Magazine

FERPA is the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. Changes have been made to FERPA that (some believe) will leave parents uninformed as to how their children’s records are shared.

Tradition, Business, and Culture
Vincent Bacote, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

A prominent feature of Eastern Orthodoxy is the emphasis on the participation in the liturgy, an experience that can be literally described as a trip to heaven. Those who encounter this liturgy for the first time find it an experience of sensory overload in sound, sight, and smell.