I recently posted some thoughts at The Power Blog on “God’s Problem With Centralized Power”, which took a macro view of what I believe to be God’s clear disdain for mankind pursuing their own ends instead of His articulated purposes when it comes to how we organize ourselves communally. This time I want to highlight a specific, micro-level example of that same general idea.

The story of Israel’s demand for a king in I Samuel 8 contains so many relevant, interesting nuggets of insight that I’ve broken it into two parts. This first post will cover verses 1-9; the second one (on Monday) will explore verses 10-22.

When the elders of Israel come to Samuel on behalf of their people to ask for a king to lead them, the decentralized governing system of “judges” had largely been in place since the Hebrew people’s return from exile in Egypt (some 400 years). What the people were asking for was a massive break with a God-ordained system and time-tested tradition. It marks a major shift in the history of God’s chosen people and, truly, the history of God’s plan for salvation. (more…)

paying-taxesYesterday I was reading an article about Obamacare in the Washington Post. . .

Whether they know about that financial help is a different question, as many have had trouble using HealthCare.gov to figure out how much insurance would cost under the Affordable Care Act. And the study does not include information on whether those subsides would lead to lower premiums for shoppers buying in the health law’s new exchanges.

“There’s no question that when people get better coverage it is likely to mean that they are going to pay somewhat higher premiums,” Families USA executive director Ron Pollack said. “You don’t get anything for nothing. But if you’re eligible for subsides that are going to significantly reduce your premiums, that could more than make up for an increase in premium costs.”

. . . and then I repeatedly banged my head against the wall until I lost consciousness. Before I came to, I had this weird dream:

Uncle Sam: “Give me a hundred dollars.”

I.M. Citizen: “Why”

Uncle Sam: “I’m going to spend it on some things you need—and some stuff you don’t.”

I.M. Citizen: “I don’t really have a choice do I?”

Uncle Sam: “Not really, no.”

I.M. Citizen (reaches for wallet): “Well, okay, here is a hundred dollars . . . ”

Uncle Sam: “Wait, did you have to pay higher insurance premiums because of Obamacare?” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 22, 2013
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Pope Francis calls for full religious freedom in the Middle East
Cindy Wooden, Catholic Herald

After a two-hour private meeting today with the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic churches, Pope Francis prayed for peace and full religious freedom throughout the Middle East.

Making Modernity Human: Can Christian humanism redeem an age of ideology?
Bradley J. Birzer, The Imaginative Conservative

“Humanism is a tradition of culture and ethics,” proclaimed the English historian Christopher Dawson, “founded on the study of humane letters.” The moment St. Paul quoted the Stoics in his mission to Athens—“In Him we move and live and have our being”— he bridged the humanist and Christian worlds.

We’re Losing The Two Things Tocqueville Said Mattered Most About American Democracy
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Federalist

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville doesn’t waste any time letting you know what impresses him most about America. To Tocqueville, equality and, to a slightly lesser — but very important — extent, religiosity, are the two foundations of the American experiment.

Getting a Job at Walmart Is Harder than Getting into Harvard
Daniel Gross, The Daily Beast

Despite pushback from the city council, Walmart will open its first two stores in D.C. next month. But getting a job there will prove difficult since the chain received 38 applications for each job opening.

An exceedingly honest woman called into an Austin, Texas, radio talk show, KLBJ, to discuss why she chooses not to work. She, her husband and three children rely on tax dollars for shelter, utilities and food. She admits that her parents did not work either, and that free money and programs were offered all the time. And what’s wrong with that?

healthcare.gov-crash-1The Obama Administration has stated that 106,000 people have managed to sign up for health care on the Healthcare.gov site, a site 3-1/2 years in the making. Both HHS Director Kathleen Sebelius and Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Henry Cho, have been grilled by congressional committees as to the incredibly poor performance of the website. What exactly went wrong? NPR’s All Tech Considered breaks it down. (more…)

Blog author: dpahman
Thursday, November 21, 2013
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Today at Ethika Politika, Elyse Buffenbarger weighs in on violence and voyeurism in The Hunger Games:

Flipping between reality television and footage of the war in Iraq, Susan Collins was inspired to pen The Hunger Games. The dystopian young adult trilogy has been a runaway success both of page and screen: book sales number in the tens of millions, and in 2012, the first film took in nearly $700 million worldwide. (The next film, Catching Fire, releases tomorrow.)

Initially, I resisted the books for fear they were too violent — but then, at the urging of friends, family, and coworkers (all of whom I believed to have respectable taste), I devoured them in a weekend, and my husband did the same. The Hunger Games are literary alchemy, a breathless amalgam of all the tropes I loved as a child: romance, survival, and the poster child for strong female protagonists, Katniss Everdeen. When the first film came out, my husband and I rushed to the multiplex.

Collins’ trilogy provides, at turns, masterful commentary on class disparity and violent voyeurism: Katniss and her companions excoriate the citizens of the Capitol for their decadence and rabid consumption of the Games. (Their disdain was contagious: for weeks after reading the books, I found myself asking, “Would someone from the Capitol do this?” before doing or saying anything.)

But while watching the films, my husband and I felt uneasy. This discomfort ran deeper than the typical distaste any reader feels when watching a beloved book adapted for the screen. Watching children slaughter each other was very different than reading about it.

Her concerns immediately reminded me of St. Augustine’s critique of cathartic entertainment in his Confessions: (more…)

2721jonesjpg_00000001935Even though the author of this essay in Catholic World Report is careful to make distinctions, this would seem to be the choice: Thomas Aquinas or Ron Paul. It is, in fact, how the indispensable Real Clear Religion website framed the debate this morning.

To compare a religion with an intellectual and moral tradition that goes back thousands of years with a quasi-political movement that is more known for what it is against than what is for is worse than comparing apples and oranges. Yet the Catholic view of the world does seem to be in tension with one that values freedom most of all and pleads agnostic on other important issues. Brian Jones focuses on three areas of disagreement: 1) the necessity of government, 2) law as moral pedagogy and 3) the proper order of politics.

Having studied both economics and political philosophy as well as worked in the field of Catholic social teaching for the Holy See, I’m more than a bit interested in the matter. I readily admit to having libertarian instincts and preferences in economics, while also believing in the primacy of the political in a social order that has a supernatural end. Jones puts it well when he writes, “In Catholicism, there is always the realization that in order for politics to be itself, and accomplish what it is meant to in accord with man’s nature as a social and political animal, it must point to that which is ultimately not political.”

So does that make me suspect on Catholic AND libertarian grounds? Or can I coherently believe in free markets and the truth about God and man as taught by the Church? Catholic teaching thankfully does not require its adherents to share the same opinions on prudential matters. I know this may seem like a cop-out to the more strictly (harshly?) principled, but it also happens to better reflect the realities of the messy world we live in. Or am I alone in this view?