WIPFSTOCK_TemplateToday at Ethika Politika, John Medendorp, former editor of Calvin Seminary’s Stromata, reviews Jordan Ballor’s Get Your Hands Dirty for my channel Via Vitae. He writes,

Although Ballor’s book is very accessible, the reading is by no means “light.” I would call it “engaging heavy reading.” While the concepts are clear and the analogies riveting, Ballor has a way of putting so much into a sentence that it can take some time to work through his ideas. I found myself time and time again putting the book down for a few minutes to digest a thought, or re-reading a paragraph to make sure I followed the contours of his thought. There is a lot here, and it is thought provoking. Whether one agrees with all of Ballor’s ideas or not, he offers clarifying insights into many aspects of Christian social thought and action. Even where I disagreed with Ballor, I found his writing helpful for articulating my own positions.

A few basic assumptions underlie Ballor’s work, assumptions that would not surprise anyone familiar with Christian tradition. Central to Ballor’s thesis is the fact that human beings are created in the imago dei, the image of God. Like God, we are naturally oriented to love. Like God, we are naturally creative and industrious. Like God, we are naturally inclined to give of ourselves for the sake of others. Of course, because of the fall of humanity into sin, these naturally inclinations and orientations have been corrupted and twisted by evil. Nevertheless, there remains a natural order of things, inherent in creation and revealed in Scripture, towards which we as responsible human persons ought to strive: love for our neighbor, care for creation, industry, community, procreation, responsible use of resources (in all senses), and mutual recognition and respect of one another’s humanity.

One particularly poignant theme that Ballor strikes home again and again in the book is the nature of human beings as social persons in community, and the corresponding responsibility that we have to that community, which always was, but increasingly (and obviously) is global.

Read more . . . .

Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
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bad day careI live in a fairly small town. It’s probably a lot like the places many of you live: a handful of churches, a grocery store, a pharmacy, a hardware store, small businesses and restaurants plus the schools, public and private. Just by doing a Google search, I came up with nine day cares for children in our area.

Yet, Nancy Pelosi thinks this isn’t enough. She wants universal childcare, just like Obama is giving us universal healthcare (and we all know how well that’s working right now.) In an interview with The Hill, Pelosi says:

Atop her priority list as Speaker, she said, would be “comprehensive affordable, quality childcare” for working mothers, which she sees as a natural extension of ObamaCare. (more…)

For my money, Dr. Charles Krauthammer is the most consistently thought-provoking and insightful columnist around. Whether or not you agree with the weekly assessments he offers in his syndicated column, or the nightly prognostications he delivers on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier, Chuck is an intellectual force to be reckoned with.

As I’ve followed the media blitz surrounding the release of his new book Things That Matter, I’m reminded of the power of big ideas and that people can, in fact, change their mind about once-held views on politics and economics. Dr. Krauthammer started out a big-government liberal who believed in the ideals (and policies) of The Great Society. But, being the intellectually honest man that he is, when mountains of data began to emerge in the 1980’s that showed just how detrimental the “good intentions” of progressive Democrats had become to the very people they claimed to be helping, he sought out new and better ways to address the needs of a complex, diverse and freedom-loving nation. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
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Russia’s “protectorate” over Middle Eastern Christians
Gianni Valente, Vatican Insider

Defending Middle Eastern Christians has become a strategic asset for Putin and is in perfect harmony with the Patriarchate of Moscow’s mission.

Anti-Christian terror is everyone’s concern
Steven B. Nasatir, OCP News

The persecution of any religious minority anywhere by anyone is an evil injustice. It requires all persons of conscience to speak out and, when possible, take action.

Religious Freedom and the Need for Transcendently Based Law
Rick Plasterer, Juicy Ecumenism

The doctrine of “separation of church and state” is in fact Biblical and constitutional, Crumbly said, but its point is “the church being protected from the state, not the state being protected from the church.”

The Church’s Role in Poverty Alleviation
Walter Kaiser, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

The “Robin Hood” approach to solving the problem of poverty has never proven consistently effective. In all economies where such forceful redistribution of wealth has occurred, the standard of living for all has dropped.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, October 28, 2013
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Children-in-PovertyDuring the late 1970s and early 1980s I spent two extended periods living below the poverty line. The first experience came as I entered the first grade. My father was a chronically unhappy man who was skillful and ambitious, yet prone to wanderlust. Every few months we would move to a new city so that he could try his hand at a new occupation—a truck driver in Arkansas, a cop in West Texas, a bouncer at a honky-tonk near Louisiana. We were always on the move, always a few weeks away from the next paycheck. At the lowest point we had nothing to eat but a half-loaf of Wonder Bread, a five-gallon bucket of unshelled peanuts, and tap water. That lasted for a two-week period in August that stretched across my seventh birthday.

Eventually my father settled down, found steady work, and we inched our way slowly toward the lower rungs of the working class. This period of financial tranquility lasted until I was eleven, when my father walked out on my mother, my younger brother, and me. Brokenhearted and dead broke, we packed the car and moved again, my mother having acquired the nomadic tendency to run away from adversity. (By the time I graduated high school, I had changed schools thirteen times.) Single parenthood tipped the scales and we slipped, once again, beneath the poverty threshold. We survived with the aid of food stamps and government housing until my sophomore year, when my mother remarried and our lives returned to a level of economic normalcy.

I’m always hesitant to share this story because we in America tend to have a knee-jerk sympathy for the “down-and-out.” There are, however, many times, as in my family’s case, when pity is completely unwarranted. A lifetime of foolish decisions by my parents, rather than a dismal economy or lack of opportunity, led to our being poor. We reaped what they had sown.
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iraq persecutionWhile Christians in the West are often faced with moral temptations and dilemmas regarding our faith life, we do not – for the most part – know the persecution faced by our brothers and sisters in places such as Syria, Iran, Pakistan and other countries where Christians are openly persecuted. Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona heads the Chaldean Catholic eparchy of Mosul, Iraq, and knows just this type of persecution. He writes at National Review Online that there is a way for Christians to face these very difficult times: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, October 28, 2013
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pp2my3Want to be canonized as a saint? Then you should probably move to Italy: 46.7 percent of saints lived in that country at the time of their deaths.

That is just one of the many interesting tidbits to be gleaned from a 2010 paper by Barro, McCleary, and McQuoid titled, The Economics of Sainthood (a preliminary investigation):

Saint-making has been a major activity of the Catholic Church for centuries. The pace of sanctifications has picked up noticeably in the last several decades under the last two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Our goal is to apply social-science reasoning to understand the Church’s choices on numbers and characteristics of saints, gauged by location and socioeconomic attributes of the persons designated as blessed.

Another interesting fact is that after years of service, popes apparently get tired of saint-making:
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