Blog author: jballor
Monday, July 15, 2013
By

Lewis Hine Power house mechanic working on steam pumpOver at Think Christian, I reflect on an “authentically Christian” view of work, which takes into account its limitations, failings, and travails, as well as its promises, prospects, and providential foundations.

The TC piece is in response to a post by Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster, in which they juxtapose the pscyhologizing of work as subjectively authentic self-expression with their own preferred view of work as something done simply “for the sake of sustenance.”

Critchley and Webster are right to point to the dangers of unchecked subjectivism, but are wrong in devaluing work as merely instrumental. David F. Wells of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary penned a monumental indictment of the inroads radical subjectivism has made in Christian, and particularly evangelical, circles in his 1994 book, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams. As Wells puts it, the difference between the objective and subjective points of departure for our knowledge amount to two different ways of seeing the world; one is biblical, the other is worldly. “The one belongs to those who have narrowed their perception solely to what is natural; the other belongs to those whose understanding is framed by the supernatural. The one takes in no more than what the sense can glean; the other allows this accumulation of information to be informed by the reality of the transcendent,” writes Wells.

More recently, Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia analyzed the shift from objective measures of oppression to subjective psychologizing in the context of political ideology. “Supplementing the economic categories of Marx with the psychoanalytic categories of Freud, Marcuse and his followers effectively broadened the whole notion of oppression to include the psychological realm. Such a move is dramatic in the implications it has for the way one views politics. Simply put, oppression ceases to be something that can be assessed empirically in terms of external economic conditions and relations, and becomes something rather more difficult to see, i.e., a matter of the psychology of social relations,” writes Trueman. (more…)

Last week the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issued it decision in a much-anticipated case involving the right of Romanian Orthodox priests to unionize against the wishes of their church. According to the Center for Law and Religion Forum, the proposed union was meant to promote members’ ability to obtain representation in the Holy Synod, the Church’s highest authority, and to strike in order to advance members’ interests within the Church. By registering a union with goals like these, the Grand Chamber reasoned, the state would hamper the ability of the Church to organize and govern itself according to its own rules:

Respect for the autonomy of religious communities … implies, in particular, that the State should accept the right of such communities to react, in accordance with their own rules and interests, to any dissident movements emerging within them that might pose a threat to their cohesion, image or unity. It is … not the task of the national authorities to act as the arbiter between religious communities and the various dissident factions that exist or may emerge within them.

Read more . . .

(Via: First Things)

Anyone who’s driven across the American landscape knows that there will be a familiar string of fast-food chains, gas stations and box stores along the expressways. You could virtually eat the same meal as you drive from one coastline of fast-food-exit-signAmerica to the other. Michael Matheson Miller, Research Fellow and Director of PovertyCure at the Acton Institute, takes up this issue, asking, “Does capitalism destroy culture?”

[S]ince the cultural critique comes from political observers at almost every point on the political spectrum, and since the bureaucratic-capitalist economies of the world really are cultures in crisis, the criticism is worth attending to seriously.

If we are going to analyze the cultural effects of market economies then I think the one of the first things we need to do is distinguish between those things Peter Berger called “intrinsic” to capitalism and those “extrinsic” to it. We need to distinguish among at least three things:

  • the cultural effects caused by capitalism,
  • effects aided and abetted by capitalism,
  • and those things that exist alongside capitalism and are often conflated with capitalism, but that are distinct from it.

I will say from the outset that I support open, competitive economies that allow for free exchange, but I would not call myself a “capitalist.” Capitalism is generally a Marxist term that implies a mechanistic view of the economy and a false dichotomy between “capital” and “labor.” Capitalism also comes in a variety of forms and can mean many things. There is corporate capitalism, oligarchic capitalism, crony capitalism, and managerial-bureaucratic capitalism, such as we have in the United States. However, cultural critics of capitalism usually don’t make those distinctions and, even if they did, many would still be critical of an authentically free market. So without trying to tease apart all of these strands at the outset and so risk never getting anywhere let me use the term “capitalism” and ask and answer the question with the broadest of brushstrokes. Does capitalism corrode culture?  I think the answer is yes and no.

(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, July 15, 2013
By

What ‘Conscience’ Really Means
Interview with Robert George, National Review

‘Respect for the dignity of the human being requires more than formally sound institutions; it also requires a cultural ethos in which people act from conviction to treat one another as human beings should be treated: with respect, civility, justice, compassion,” Robert P. George writes in his new book, Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism.

The New York Times, Church-State Law, and Equality
Andrew Lewis, Public Discourse

Prohibiting religious schools from using public facilities would not protect religious freedom; it would encourage further discrimination against religion and religious people.

Religious Liberty: A Tale of Two Countries
Alexander Griswold, Juicy Ecumenism

The vast gulf between our two nations’ ideas of religious liberty was beautifully demonstrated in two recent incidents.

The Connection Between Flourishing and Economic Freedom
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

If economics is a tool which allows us to better steward our scarce resources, we can think about economic freedom as an objective measurement of how we are doing as stewards working towards flourishing.

AApretzelsWhen walking through an airport or shopping mall the aroma hits me before I even see the store. If happiness had a scent I suspect it would smell like Auntie Anne’s soft pretzels. From the first whiff my knees go weak and my brain tells me that I will never know joy again if I pass up this salted, buttery, baked goodness. They are so good that I fully expect St. Peter hands them out at the Pearly Gates.

While I’ve long loved Auntie Anne’s, I never knew the inspiring story of it’s founder. Anne Beiler, a former “black-car Amish” tells Fortune Magazine how virtue and trust helped her become a successful entrepreneur. (She expanded her baked good empire with a loan from a Mennonite chicken farmer who “loved what we wanted to do, and he gave us $1.5 million on a handshake.”)

Beiler says Auntie Anne’s is a modern-day business miracle that never should have happened.

I had no formal education, capital, or business plan. But we practiced what I call the three small P’s. We started with a purpose — counseling and helping people. We had a product that supported our purpose. Then we got the people to do it. The three small P’s, in that order, result in the big P — profit. If you stay true to your values and purpose, you will get to profit.

Here’s her advice for running a business:

(more…)

141250_4e5d1263-4c1b-4683-a777-4662a2ac9cee_prodIf you’re a Cardinal working at the Vatican, you may want to leave your Porsche at home – the boss is checking the parking lot and isn’t keen on seeing luxury cars.

Inspection – The Pope declared war on the Vatican’s luxury cars.  First, he attacked wastefulness, underscoring that “it bothers me when I see a priest or a sister with a brand new car”.  Then, a few days later, he put into practice what he had stated during a meeting with seminarians: on Wednesday he made an inspection of the Vatican parking lot.  It isn’t the first time – already in the past days Pope Francis, on his way to lunch with a cardinal friend, visited the place where some cardinals usually park their cars.

I agree with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf that having a “luxury” car isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s a matter of prudence and stewardship:

Look.  We need to make distinctions about a “good” car and a “luxury” car.  We need to consider the prudent use of money as well.   Is it a better use of money to buy a car that is old and used, newer and used, new?  It depends on the car and how it is used, its safety features and record, its fuel efficiency and repair record.  It depends on the price of the car and the price of the money (financing).  If the same money will buy a new good car or a used car, are you obliged to buy the used car?  Does fuel efficiency figure in?  Is this only about cars that look “sporty”?  Is this about leather seats?  Is this about what other people in the area drive? Priests often put a lot of miles on a car.  It seems to me that priests are better off in a good car.  Therefore, the flock is better off if the priest has a good car.

If it bothers him to see a priest with a fancy car, wait till Pope Francis notices the Mercedes-Benz with the vehicle registration plate that reads “SCV 1” (short for short for “Status Civitatis Vaticanae”). It’s armor-plated, bullet-proof, capable of speeds up to 160 mph, and comes with a price tag of $530,000. And the Vatican garage has six of them stationed around the world!

(more…)

President Barack Obama, during a recent trip to Northern Ireland, decried the segregation of denominational churches and schools:chalkboard

Issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it.

If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear and resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.

(more…)