help poor honor godDoes promoting limited government require abandoning a commitment to the poor? Ryan Messmore, whose answer is a firm “no”, argues that non-government institutions can provide personalized assistance to help individuals fix relational problems, overcome poverty and lead healthy lives:

Calls for limited government are often mistakenly equated with a disregard for people in need. This flawed line of reasoning assumes that poverty is primarily a material problem and that government bears the primary responsibility for solving it by increasing welfare and entitlement spending.

Yet at its root, poverty is usually more complex than a simple lack of material resources. In America, poverty is often the result of a relational problem, such as fatherlessness or community breakdown. Such relational breakdowns are addressed most effectively through various civil society institutions.

People have many needs that extend beyond simple material possessions—needs that cannot be met by any single institution. Families, churches, businesses, and other forms of association play crucial roles in sustaining liberty and meeting people’s needs. Public policy in general and welfare policy in particular should respect and protect these institutions of civil society.

Thus, limited government is an important piece of a framework that benefits people in need. When government is limited to the tasks it is best-equipped and authorized to perform, it allows more effective poverty-fighting institutions to thrive. Far from being incompatible with a concern for poverty, an appropriately limited government is crucial to maintaining a social order that enables people to escape poverty.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
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Why Classical Schools Just Might Save America
Owen Strachan, The American Spectator

It’s time for a partnership between religion and freedom.

TOMS Shoes Joins Bono on the Role of Enterprise
Elise Amyx, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Last year, Bono came to a “humbling” realization and publicly announced his conviction that commerce is the key in economic development, not aid. Now, Mycoskie is joining his side.

Who is My Neighbor?: Charity in an Age of Consumerism
Anonanimal

The American sentiment to help seems, at best, an answer to Christ’s call to disciple all the nations—and, at worst, good intentions with a consumerist veneer.

Nature and God in Ethics
Robert T. Miller, Public Discourse

Just as an engineer can work out the purpose of a machine by examining its structure, reason can discover the proper end of human action by examining human nature. Yet there is also a supernatural morality that subsumes and exceeds natural moral standards.

I and Jordan Ballor have already commented on Ender’s Game this week (here and here), but the story is literally packed with insightful themes, many of which touch upon issues relevant to Acton’s core principles. Another such issue is that of the problems with Neo-Malthusianism, the belief that overpopulation poses such a serious threat to civilization and the environment that population control measures become ethical imperatives.

Such a perspective tends to rely on one or both of the following fallacies: a zero-sum conception of economics ignorant of the last 200 years of sustained economic growth, which have allowed humankind to escape the Mathusian trap; or a belief that people are the problem when it comes to poverty.

In Ender’s Game, the story begins (more obviously in the book) with the fact that Ender Wiggen (Asa Butterfield) is a “Third,” a third-born child in a time when the international government of Earth had adopted a two-child policy. His parents had received special permission to have a Third because their first two children, Peter (Jimmy Pinchak) and Valentine (Abigail Breslin), had shown so much promise. Unfortunately, Peter had proven too aggressive and Valentine too compassionate. The government hoped that Ender would be a happy middle. (more…)

Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk addresses the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan – 1.10.94

On Saturday, November 9, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute is hosting a conference on the 60th Anniversary of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind. The conference, which will examine the impact of Kirk’s monumental book—which both named and shaped the nascent conservative movement in the United States—is to be held at the Eberhard Center on the downtown Grand Rapids campus of Grand Valley State University, which Acton supporters will recognize as the home of Acton University from 2006-2010, and that conference’s precursor, the Acton Symposium in 2005. The ISI conference promises to be a stimulating experience, featuring Gleaves Whitney of Grand Valley’s Hauenstein Center, Professor Bruce Frohnen of Ohio Northern University, and Gerald Russello, editor of the University Bookman, the scholarly quarterly founded in 1960 by Kirk.

That being said, Acton has a connection to Russell Kirk that goes beyond the coincidental sharing of conference space. For one thing, the Acton Institute was blessed to have Kirk serve in an advisory capacity from the founding of the institute up until the time of his death. And it was our honor to host the great man for what would turn out to be his final public lecture.

The lecture took place on Jaunary 10, 1994 at the University Club in Grand Rapids, not far from his home in Mecosta, Michigan. Kirk spoke on the topic of Lord Acton on Revolution, laying out his case that Acton, over the course of his life, developed a tendency to too easily approve of revolution, even sometimes showing an “enthusiastic approbation” of it. Ultimately, Kirk believed that Acton was too enthusiastic about revolution, and he faults Acton for too earnestly supporting the abstract common good that revolution would supposedly advance, while failing to foresee the dangers that revolution could pose to the liberty that Acton so cherished.

For a man who had recently been “under house arrest for the past six weeks under my doctor’s orders, having overexerted myself on the lecture platform,” he speaks with great enthusiasm and energy, and with great clarity of mind. Just over three months later, he passed away at his home in Mecosta, Piety Hill.

It was our privilege to draw from Kirk’s wisdom in our early days as an institution, and it is now our privilege to share this, his final lecture, with you.

More: Acton’s remembrance of Russell Kirk, from Religion and Liberty, Volume 4, Number 3.

Even More: Russell Kirk on “Enlivening the Conservative Mind.”

traffickingMedium2The 2013 Global Slavery Index estimates that 29.8 million people are enslaved worldwide. To help address this problem, Pope Francis called for action to combat the growing problem of human trafficking and modern forms of slavery. At the pope’s request, Vatican officials and other experts met last weekend to discuss ways to better tackle the growing scourge of trafficking in humans and other forms of exploitation:

Human trafficking is a crime against humanity that should be recognized as such and punished by international or regional courts, a Vatican study group said on Monday.

Nearly 30 million people live in slavery across the globe, many of them men, women and children trafficked by gangs for sex work and unskilled labor, according to a global slavery index issued last month by the Walk Free Foundation charity.

“International or regional courts … should be created because human trafficking in an international phenomenon that cannot be properly prosecuted and punished at the national level,” said a statement listing 50 recommendations made at a two-day seminar held at the initiative of Pope Francis on how to combat human trafficking and slavery.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
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worshipToday many Christians in America will engage in the political activity of voting. But as Peter Leithart reminds us, worship is the leading political activity of Christians:

Christians are engaged in political action just by being part of the church. Worship is the leading political activity of Christians. In worship, we sing Psalms that call on God to judge the wicked and defend the oppressed, and God hears our Psalms; we pray for rulers to rule in righteousness; we hear the word of God that lays out our alternative way of life, and we sit at the table where we who are many are formed into one body, an alternative Christian polis, by sharing in the one loaf. The problem is that in many churches those things don’t happen. Churches don’t sing Psalms, and especially don’t sing the hard Psalms that call on God to judge the wicked. More churches are having weekly Eucharist, but in evangelicalism that is still more the exception than the rule. The first political agenda for American Christians is to get worship more into line with Scriptural requirements.

Read more . . .

Faithful in All God's House

I recently shared a lengthy excerpt from Faithful in All God’s House, highlighting the investment-return motif that appears throughout the Bible. “All of God’s gifts to mankind are as a divine investment on which the investor expects full return,” write Berghoef and DeKoster.

Several readers pushed back on the analogy, interpreting it to mean that God rolls out his divine plan according to earthbound assumptions, as if “prudent investment” means being beholden to the outputs of a narrow, materialistic cost-benefit analysis.

It’s troubling on many levels that “prudent investment” has come to reckon imaginations of something so imprudent for so many. We humans, the “agents of return,” are called to live within a framework much more varied, complex, and mysterious than the confines of a Wall Street banker, despite those times when such considerations have their place. We serve a God of love, and just as that love is deep and distinct from distorted human variations, we are called to live and think and act according to an economy not of our own constructing. (more…)