Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In addition to the GodBlogCon coverage here by Jordan, I’d like to point readers to two speakers who gave thought provoking talks on the careful use of language. That is, the careful use of language in a time where language is often treated as an ephemeral or disposable thing in the service of the latest Web-enabled communications widget. Not really.

On Saturday, Ken Myers offered “Renewed Minds Online: The Internet, Media Ecology, and the Christian Consciousness.” Myers is host and producer of the Mars Hill Audio Journal, a high quality source of audio programming on a wide variety of issues. Here is the gist of Myer’s talk (podcast available here):

The word, spoken and written, lives at the center of Christian faith. The case has been made by many theologians and philosophers that human nature is in its essence linguistic; we are, after all created in the image of a speaking and writing God, one who utters all things into existence, who reveals his law by writing with his finger on tablets of stone, who reveals himself in dreams and visions, but who also provides words to accompany and sometimes explain those images; who comes among us as the living Word. Bread alone is not the source of our life, but rather words.

How we use language should thus be a matter of thoughtfulness and deliberateness. Not only should we pay attention to the way we use words; we also need to attend to how the setting within which our words are presented to the world spins their reception, often in ways we never intended.

Also see Myers’ online essay, “Configuring Church and Culture” here.

The closing talk by John Mark Reynolds, “On The Art of Online Conversation,” looked at how online discourse too often degenerates, particularly in political circles, to a harsh and unhealthy contest of who can shout the loudest. Reynolds, a philospher and director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, also looks at the way online writing has landed in the strange middle ground between books and conversation. Reynolds observes that the “immediacy” of online conversation is its great advantage, and also its great drawback. Those online conversations, authored with great care or with almost no thought at all, tend to stay around a long time after the live interaction is over.

Reynolds also offers rules for good conversations starting with, “A good discussion begins, most critically, with the right question.”

Listen to his entire talk on the Scriptorium Daily blog. The full list of posted GodBlogCon podcasts is available here.

And check out “The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting for Christ,” edited by Reynolds and Roger Overton, on its way to bookstores later this month from Crossway.

“If medieval Europe was so great, why were most medievals poor?” This is something you might wonder after viewing Acton Media’s new documentary, The Birth of Freedom. However, in this new video short, expert Sam Gregg reminds viewers that in order to make meaningful comparisons regarding the living standards of peasants in Medieval Europe, we must be mindful of historical context and technological progress to that point.

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 Sunday, September 21, 2008

This morning we opened the final day of GodblogCon 2008 with an exclusive premiere of the Acton Institute’s new documentary, The Birth of Freedom.

I had occasion to think about one of the more compelling parts of the film when I came across this blog post from Justin Taylor. JT shares a section from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s address at Western Michigan University, December 18, 1963.

A key point:

But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also.

In a word, the state does have an indispensable role to play in promoting justice, and when it fails to do its job Christian citizens have their own responsibility to call it to its task.

Prof. Robert P. George of Princeton University observes in The Birth of Freedom that it is patently false to think that faith plays no positive role in public life, a position promoted by the New Atheists and popularized by the likes of Bill Maher. George urges us:

Think of what a scandal it would be if we were to say the abolitionists should have kept their Christian faith out of the struggle against slavery. Rev. Martin Luther King should have kept his Christian faith out of the struggle for civil rights. People who fought against the terrible crimes committed in the name of eugenics should have kept their faith out of politics.

The film was well received by the Godbloggers, and there was a great deal of interest in how it fits into Acton’s work and how the film could be passed along to friends, family, and colleagues. We’re grateful to GodblogCon for the opportunity to present this feature to an important audience.


Bloggers should also be aware that we offer a special opportunity to attend Acton University, which will next be held from June 16-19, 2009. Program details will be announced in November, but you can get more information and contact details for Kara Eagle at the Acton University page. Inquire about blogger scholarships and ask to be included on the list of those invited to apply.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Saturday, September 20, 2008

The first full day of programming at GodblogCon 2008 has begun, and the first session was from Andrew Jones, “The Missional Church in the Internet Age.” There was a marked contrast in attitudes towards new media between Jones’ (missional) talk and the following session, led by Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio. I think John may have more to say on this later.

But before Jones’ presentation, conference director Dustin Steeve announced that GodblogCon qua GodblogCon will be no more after this year. The first page of the attendee packet proclaims that “GodblogCon is coming to an end.” Indeed, “beginning October 2009, something new is coming….”

What do the GodblogCon administrators have in mind? Expansion of the focus of the conference beyond blogging (and by extension podcasting, vlogging, microblogging, and social networking). The plan seems to include turning GodblogCon into “the premier web media conference of the year to help Christians advance the kingdom through web technologies.”

The idea, which I think is a sound one, is that blogging and other particular forms of new media are simply a part of the interaction between faith and web technology in the 21st century. In my view, GodblogCon should remain a particular track in a larger conference that focuses on Christianity and the Internet.

I’m curious to see what all this will mean for GodblogCon’s relationship other events, particularly this year’s host BlogWorld & New Media Expo, but also other events like BibleTech. Hopefully we’ll hear more about the transition from GodblogCon to a new Christian web media conference as the weekend progresses.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, September 19, 2008

I have safely arrived at my hotel for the weekend, my home base for this year’s GodblogCon. Tonight is the first event, an opening night dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in the MGM Grand, generously sponsored by the Family Research Council.

The Family Research Council is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Congratulations to FRC on the fine work they continue to do. Be sure to visit their site and add the FRC Blog to your feed reader.

John Couretas is also representing Acton at this conference, and he’ll be arriving later today. We’ll be keeping you updated with developments and highlights throughout the conference.

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Thursday, September 18, 2008

Frank J. Hanna III, Georgia CEO of Hanna Capital and cofounder of the Solidarity Foundation, is author of the new book What Your Money Means (and How to Use It Well). Hanna, a board member of the Acton Institute, talked to National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez in a Q&A titled “Virtue and Volatility” about earning money, using it well, the market meltdown, and more.

Excerpt:

Lopez: What do love, virtue, and religious faith have to do with money?

Hanna: Money is merely an instrumentality — a tool. It is a tool designed to serve greater ends, like love, virtue, and our faith. However, if we are not thoughtful and deliberate in the way we treat our money, it can work against those ends, rather than for them.

Lopez: Is it fair to say that “non-essential wealth threatens those we love”? Can’t those we love appreciate some luxuries too?

Hanna: Non-essential wealth is a threat — to all of us. A threat is not synonymous with evil, but it is the potential for something evil. When we have non-essential wealth, there is the chance that we spend it unwisely, in ways that can hurt others or ourselves. This possibility does not, however, rule out enjoying life’s legitimate pleasures.

Lopez: Do you feel guilty about being wealthy? Is that a bad thing?

Hanna: Being wealthy is a gift, just like other gifts, and one should no more feel guilty about it than one would feel guilty about being pretty, or playing an instrument well, or being a great athlete. It is how we treat the gift we have received that determines whether we should have guilt.

Lopez: “Money is good” but not greed? A little revision on Michael Douglas?

Hanna: Greed is an unhealthy attachment to money, and is always bad. It is very similar to an unhealthy attachment to food, which we know as the sin of gluttony, or the unhealthy attachment to one’s appearance, which we know as the sin of vanity. Food is good, good grooming is good, and money is good; the unhealthy attachment to any of these things is not good.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Thursday, September 18, 2008

As the US-incited global financial situation continues to worsen, ever shriller assertions of blame will be cast on one culprit or another. It’s my belief that any development of this magnitude always stems from multiple and interacting causes, but that doesn’t make very good copy.

Thomas Frank in the Wall Street Journal yesterday fingers deregulation (and by explicit implication the Republicans who champion it) as the criminal instigator of the financial crisis. Six weeks from election day, Frank has a transparently political goal, but let’s leave that aside. He writes:

There is simply no way to blame this disaster, as Republicans used to do, on labor unions or over-regulation. No, this is the conservatives’ beloved financial system doing what comes naturally. Freed from the intrusive meddling of government, just as generations of supply-siders and entrepreneurial exuberants demanded it be, the American financial establishment has proceeded to cheat and deceive and beggar itself — and us — to the edge of Armageddon. It is as though Wall Street was run by a troupe of historical re-enactors determined to stage all the classic panics of the 19th century.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in financial sector regulation, and it may well be that some more (or different? or fewer?) regulations could have played some role in averting this catastrophe. But I suspect there are a couple other causes that are equally or more important, and that call into question the contention that more government involvement will prevent such problems in the future.

1. If the crisis is in large part due to overly risky loan practices and the investment vehicles connected to them, then might the existence of federal backing (e.g., its de facto guarantee of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) and the promise of such backing (based on the fact of past bailouts and the belief that more bailouts might be forthcoming) have caused or at least aggravated the problem? In other words, government involvement helped to create the bad incentives that got us here. If financial dealers had known that the market would operate in a truly free fashion, they would never have made the decisions they did.

2. If greed played a role in the creation of the crisis, which most people of every political persuasion seem willing to grant, then what is regulation to do about it? Financial whizzes are notoriously good at circumventing government regulation. If this kind of “capitalism” needs to be curbed, moral sensibility is going to make more progress than regulatory manipulation. I’m not saying that greed can ever be eliminated, just that we need to be realistic about the prospects of success for regulation, which is fraught with unintended consequences, makes life more difficult for conscientious law-abiders, and creates a drag on the economy (the last thing we need at the moment). As Sam Gregg aptly put it at the conclusion of his Acton Commentary this week: “Could there be a better demonstration that there can be no markets without morality?”

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Last week I told PowerBlog readers that we were working on a special event for the upcoming GodblogCon 2008. We’re announcing here that we will be holding an exclusive premiere of Acton Media’s newest documentary, The Birth of Freedom, at GodblogCon 2008.

The film will be shown at the opening of the third day of the conference, on Sunday morning at 10:00am, September 21, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. We’re excited about this opportunity that is available to GodblogCon participants as well as to attendees of the BlogWorld & New Media Expo.

Earlier in the conference, Mark Joseph, a multi-media producer, columnist and author who blogs at the Huffington Post, will be discussing, “Godbloggers & Hollywood: The role of Godbloggers in the Entertainment Industry and Why They Should Care.” The exclusive premiere of The Birth of Freedom at GBC 2008 will provide a nice complement to Joseph’s talk, and introduce the Godblogging community to the vision of Acton Media.

You can view a trailer for the film below, and check out more details about upcoming premieres, as well as the ongoing Birth of Freedom Video Shorts series, at the film’s website.

If you have been considering coming to GodblogCon 2008 but haven’t yet registered, the opportunity to be among the first in the world to see The Birth of Freedom should be incentive enough to make the commitment to come, fellowship, and learn with others in the world of new media.

Pope Benedict’s visit to secular France and its reformist President Sarkozy has proved to be successful above all expectations, as reported by Vatican newspaper L’Osseservatore Romano. During his Paris homily, at the Esplanade des Invalides, the Holy Father encouraged the 250,000 faithful in attendance to turn to God and to reject false idols, such as money, thirst for material possessions and power.

In his homily the Pope referred to the teachings of Saint Paul to the early Christian communities in which the Apostle warned the ancients of idolatry and greed. The Pope explained how modern society has created its own idols just as the pagans had done in antiquity.

The Pope emphasized that these idols represent a “delusion” that distracts man from reality, that is, from his “true destiny” and “places him in a kingdom of mere appearances” as quoted in Zenit’s article. Benedict underlined that the Church’s condemnation of such idolatry is not, however, a condemnation of the individuals per se, but more so of the evil temptations themselves.

“In our judgments, we must never confuse the sin, which is unacceptable, with the sinner, the state of whose conscience we cannot judge and who, in any case, is always capable of conversion and forgiveness,” he said.

The Pope recognized that the path to God is not always easy, but through the Eucharist, he said, man understands that God “teaches us to shun idols, the illusions of our minds” and that “Christ is the sole and the true Saviour, the only one who points out to man the path to God.”

This does not mean that the Benedict condemns business, trade, all the positive economic phenomenon that allow for wealth and prosperity. But concerned for France’s extreme tendencies toward materialistic relativism, the Pope rightly pointed out how France cannot marginalize itself from religion.

Benedict’s sermon strongly underlined how every believer in the light of God should pursue his own vocation, which may include business or particular talent God has instilled in him.

Had it not been so, I doubt that secular and business orientated President Sarkozy would have ignored State protocol and met the religious leader on his arrival at the airport. The French President was eager to promote “a new dialogue” with the Church and to talk about the need of a “positive laicity” in Europe and its expanding economic unity.

In this, the third video in Acton Media’s series of shorts accompanying its latest documentary The Birth of Freedom, Glenn Sunshine demonstrates how belief in human dignity spurred invention and innovation during the middle ages.

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.