Mark your calendars! Jennifer Roback Morse is coming to Grand Rapids to speak at Aquinas College on Wednesday, November 19 at 7:00pm.

Dr. Morse will speak on the topic of her provocative new book, Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-Up World.

An excerpt from the prologue:

The sexual revolution has been a disappointment, but people continue to acquiesce in its assumptions because no appealing alternative seems to be on the horizon. Many Americans think the only alternatives are some combination of Leave it to Beaver and the Taliban. They imagine that if it weren’t for the sexual revolution, women would all be at home in dresses and high heels, in their spotless kitchens with cookies in the oven, waiting for the Beaver to come home from school. If it weren’t for the sexual revolution, men and women alike would be in danger of ever-increasing surveillance by the state for deviant sexual acts. Without modern sexual mores, women would be but one step away from the burka and public stoning for adultery.

In her latest book, Morse explains why marriage is in crisis and why we should care. Strong, lasting marriages, she argues, are essential for the survival of a free society, not to mention basic human happiness. She fires the opening shots of a new sexual revolution and shows how everyone, married or single, can help.

This event is free and open to the public but space is limited, so please register online or contact Charissa Romens at 616.454.3080.

What is the root cause of the sub-prime crisis shaking the global economy? We need to know so we don’t allow it to screw up our economy even worse.

Many point to dishonesty and poor judgment on Wall Street. There was plenty of that leading up to the near-trillion dollar bailout, and even now the stock market is busily disciplining stupid, dishonest companies.

Others point to the many people who falsified loan applications to get mortgages beyond their means. That too played a role.

But dishonesty and poor judgment are as old as Adam and Eve. Something more was at work in the present crisis, a crisis of unprecedented scope. Why didn’t profit-minded loan companies run thorough credit checks? Why did they keep pumping out low interest loans to high risk borrowers, ignoring the risks?

It’s as if somebody spiked the financial system’s punch bowl with stupid juice, driving normally prudent financiers to dash, en masse, over the cliff.

It seems that way because it is that way. The brewers of the stupid juice were largely (if not exclusively) politicians in Washington who sought to redistribute wealth from the rich and middle class to poor people with bad credit. These politicians fostered various laws and institutions that directed, cajoled and legally bullied mortgage companies to extend big loans to people with little credit.

A case in point is a group called ACORN—Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Stanley Kurtz explains in an Oct. 7 essay at National Review Online:

“You’ve got only a couple thousand bucks in the bank. Your job pays you dog-food wages. Your credit history has been bent, stapled, and mutilated. You declared bankruptcy in 1989. Don’t despair: You can still buy a house.” So began an April 1995 article in the Chicago Sun-Times that went on to direct prospective home-buyers fitting this profile to a group of far-left “community organizers” called ACORN, for assistance. In retrospect, of course, encouraging customers like this to buy homes seems little short of madness.

… At the time, however, that 1995 Chicago newspaper article represented something of a triumph for Barack Obama. That same year, as a director at Chicago’s Woods Fund, Obama was successfully pushing for a major expansion of assistance to ACORN, and sending still more money ACORN’s way from his post as board chair of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Through both funding and personal-leadership training, Obama supported ACORN. And ACORN, far more than we’ve recognized up to now, had a major role in precipitating the subprime crisis.

(more…)

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Wednesday, October 8, 2008

There’s an interesting clip on YouTube of a discussion about the world food situation between, primarily, author Michal Pollan and Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant.

Pollan is a champion of the “slow food” movement, which is, to simplify, associated more generally with trends such as whole foods, farmers markets (“localvores”), organic food production, etc. (The participation of otherwise fiscal and cultural conservatives in what is often presented as a left-leaning movement is a phenomenon that gave rise to the term “crunchy cons.”)

A variety of observations might be made on the exchange, but I’ll focus on one. All the discussants underemphasize the role of free human action in the market. World hunger, they seem to assume, is a problem “we” need to solve, whether that be by research, technological dispersion, food distribution, or changing agricultural practices. Pollan’s suggestion that food production and distribution must be a “public” (i.e., government) enterprise is surely wrongheaded–the worst famines in history been the result of government interference or government failure (war, anarchy), not market failure–but Grant, too, apparently views big agricultural business as playing a kind of orchestrating role in steering food production in the right direction.

By all means, let’s continue research, let’s share knowledge with African farmers, and let’s create partnerships between corporations and non-profit entities. But the task of supplying the world’s food needs in the future will not be accomplished by the management of the economy by CEO’s, NGO directors, or heads of state. It will be accomplished if the market is permitted freely to convey information about supply and demand, if production and distribution are not thwarted by corrupt governments and military strife, and if obstacles to participation in the world market are removed.

Alarums raised about impending food shortages have been proven wrong again and again. They will this time, too, as long as the market’s incentives are not tampered with. The world can feed itself, if it is allowed to do so.

In the sixth Birth of Freedom video short, William B. Allen addresses the question, “What was Christianity’s Role in the rise of the idea of human equality?” In his discussion, which traces the Judeo-Christian origins of a “universal perspective,” he concludes that “what informs the spirit of Republicanism in the modern era, is this long development, this slow working-out of a specific revelation from God that leads human beings into the discovery of the fullness of their personality in the recognition of their universal status.”

Acton Media’s video shorts from The Birth of Freedom are designed to provide additional insight into key issues and ideas in the film. A new short is released each Monday. Check out the rest of the series, learn about premieres in your area, and discover more background information at www.thebirthoffreedom.com.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, October 3, 2008

It looks to me like Obama has this election about wrapped up. Why?

Some of his opponents are resorting to the tired and fallacious reductio ad Hitlerum (aka argumentum ad Hitlerum).

Exhibit A is this video:




(The original context is this video.)

This stuff is just beyond the pale in so many ways. You can find all manner of other similarly odious political rhetoric at YouTube (just check out the “related videos” category). Also, in 2004 Joe Carter discussed what he called “The Hidden Danger Behind the Hitler Comparisons.”

In real Nazi-related news, today is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Bishop George Bell, an ecumenist, politician, and friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who did his best to support the cause of the nascent opposition movements within Germany.

From Christian Newswire:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Oct. 2 /Christian Newswire/ — The John Jay Institute, a para-academic leadership development center based in downtown Colorado Springs, is pleased to announce a partnership with the Acton Institute, Grand Rapids, Michigan, to premiere the historical documentary film, “The Birth of Freedom” in Colorado.

The screening will take place on Wednesday, November 5th at 7pm in the SaGaJi Theatre at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street in Colorado Springs. John Jay Institute President, Alan Crippen, featured in the film, will moderate a panel discussion after the screening which will include the film’s producers and the president of the Acton Institute, Fr. Robert Sirico. The event will conclude with a dessert reception open to the public.

“We are pleased to partner with the Acton Institute to bring this outstanding documentary to Colorado,” stated John Jay Institute President, Alan R. Crippen, II, “We live in a time when millions around the world still long for liberty. This film explores the origins of what we in this country too often take for granted.”

For tickets to the event, visit the Birth of Freedom website, or contact Mandy Keeler at (800) 345-2286, mkeeler@acton.org.

John Jay Institute for Faith, Society and Law
601 North Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903
Office Telephone: 719-471-8900

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State and effectively the second most important official in the Catholic Church, has written a new book titled, “L’etica del Bene Comune nella Dottrina Sociale della Chiesa” (The Ethics of the Common Good in the Social Doctrine of the Church), with a preface from the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad. The edition contains the Italian and Russian texts side-by-side, but it has not yet appeared in English though the Zenit News Agency has reported on the book’s presentation in Moscow.

The book is notable for its ecumenical character; it’s not often that the Catholic and the Russian Orthodox Churches have collaborated at such a high level. Such an effort could lead to closer relations and more dialogue in the future.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

Overall, there is a large degree of agreement between Kirill and Bertone, but there are also some strikingly different perspectives on economic globalization and the role of the nation-state.

Kirill writes that money is only a means for an entrepreneurial activity: “Genuine, totally exciting work, is the businessman’s real wealth. The absence of the worship of money emancipates man, makes him free interiorly and similar to his Creator.” But he also asserts that globalization has increased the gap between rich and poor in the last twenty years and calls an international economic system always on the verge of crisis anything but ethical.

On the other hand, Bertone does not despair about the new challenges brought on by rapid growth and stresses the potential common good of economic globalization. His positive appraisal is rooted in the history of economic development in the Christian West. He extensively illustrates the various institutions founded thanks to a Christian spirit and an entrepreneurial vocation: schools, hospitals, banks and charitable organizations.

Metropolitan Kirill

Not surprisingly, both Kirill and Bertone agree that a morally-orientated economy is a fundamental aspect for the development of a harmonious society, and both affirm that such a society should tend naturally to the common good when human activity is inspired by the principle of “fraternity.”

For Kirill, however, the notion of fraternity is primarily based on national identity and national growth, whereas Bertone stresses a more “universal,” trans-national aspect of this principle.

Furthermore, Bertone also speaks eloquently of philanthropy, solidarity, reciprocity, and above all gratitude. Man must recognize “the logic of the gift he has received and its gratuitousness,” and in doing so it will be easier for him to “express solidarity”.

In general, Kirill’s assessement of globalization is largely negative; Bertone’s is more hopeful. But neither of them, unfortunately, seem to take economics as a science very seriously. Many of their arguments, both positive and negative, on globalization would have benefited from an analysis of how markets work, or should work, in conjunction with the moral and ethical beliefs of individuals and society.

This volume proves that Christian social doctrine, whether it be Orthodox or Catholic, cannot exist simply as a pious wish or a moral theory; at some point, it has to deal with reality and the everyday world of human activities and relations. Without a grasp of this reality, social doctrine will most probably remain the Church’s “best-kept secret.”

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, October 1, 2008

To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the New International Version (NIV), “the best-selling translation with more than 300 million copies in print,” Grand Rapids-based publisher Zondervan is launching a nationwide RV tour, “Bible Across America.”

The RV will be making stops at various locations across the nation and encouraging people to contribute a verse to a hand-written Bible. New Zondervan CEO Moe Girkins started the tour off yesterday by inscribing Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (The Grand Rapids Press recently published an in-depth profile of Girkins.)


The tour is scheduled to wrap up in San Diego, CA in February at the 2009 National Pastor’s Convention. The tour will cover over 15,000 miles, 90 cities in 44 states. 31,173 Americans will handwrite the entire NIV Bible.

In other Bible news, Zondervan’s parent company, HarperCollins, will soon be releasing The Green Bible in the NRSV translation. As Time magazine reports, The Green Bible is intended to be “a Scripture for the Prius age that calls attention to more than 1,000 verses related to nature by printing them in a pleasant shade of forest green, much as red-letter editions of the Bible encrimson the words of Jesus.”

Perhaps we can look forward to the formation of a new group of “Green Letter Christians,” much like we currently have the “Red Letter Christians.” There’s likely to be a lot of cross-over between the two groups, though, so maybe having two groups would just be redundant. When you mix red and green you get brown…so an even better idea might be to create a group called the “Brown Letter Christians.”

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Wednesday, October 1, 2008

“The struggle for justice always stands or falls on the battlefield of hope.” This is but one of a passel of pithy expressions found throughout Gary Haugen’s new book, Just Courage. Haugen is the president of International Justice Mission, a Washington D.C.-based organization doing outstanding work throughout the world, freeing people bonded in illegal labor arrangements, including forced prostitution.

Haugen’s is a practical rather than a theoretical treatise. He admits that a commonly agreed-to definition of justice remains elusive, but he can point to the way God and God’s people act justly in the scriptures, and that gives us enough direction. The book is a sometimes moving account of and reflection on Haugen’s experiences assisting some of the most powerless people on our planet.

He argues stridently against Christian apathy, insisting that it is possible for us to achieve progress even against some of the most severe of the world’s problems. This is why hope is pivotal. Those who are merely dismayed in the face of evil will not make the effort to fight it.

At the same time, Haugen is realistic, as anyone who encounters human slavery on a regular basis is bound to be. He understands the distinction between naivete and utopianism on one hand, and genuine Christian hope on the other.

This realism, at an even deeper level, links justice and hope. I suspect that Haugen would agree with another writer on these themes, Pope Benedict XVI:

I am convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favour of faith in eternal life. The purely individual need for a fulfilment that is denied to us in this life, for an everlasting love that we await, is certainly an important motive for believing that man was made for eternity; but only in connection with the impossibility that the injustice of history should be the final word does the necessity for Christ’s return and for new life become fully convincing. (Spe Salvi, n. 43)

With this invocation of the pope, it might be appropriate to note that Just Courage seems intended primarily for non-Catholic Christians. Its modes of expression and descriptions of Christian life manifest an evangelical sensibility. Exhortations to think about the message of the gospel as social rather than merely individual will appear redundant to adherents of historical churches with long traditions of social instititution sponsorship.

Yet all Christians need to hear this message reiterated. Catholics and others, however much they recognize a vague obligation to social justice, will benefit from Haugen’s particular insistence that every one of us risk our personal comfort at the behest of “rescuing” someone in need. Haugen comes perhaps too near at times to underappreciating the ways in which most Christians will live the call to justice: handling the day-to-day tasks of family life; toiling away at a trade or business; volunteering at local soup kitchens or crisis pregnancy centers. Still, Haugen’s vision of more spectacular achievements in the cause of justice—such as liberating girls from the shackles of the sex trade—is invigorating and necessary.

IJM and its allies are the abolitionists of our age and they deserve our support and admiration. Some who read the book will be called to such work. Those who are not must find ways to be courageously just in our own lives.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dave Ramsey’s got a three step plan to “change the nation’s future.” He’s calling it “The Common Sense Fix” (PDF). Here’s Dave’s prediction:

Whichever presidential candidate or political party that champions this plan from their leadership down will likely become the next president. That is because this plan fixes the crisis while going along with the wishes of the vast majority of Americans.

Check out the plan and share what you think about the nation’s economic future.