Blog author: mvandermaas
Thursday, February 12, 2009
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William F. Buckley, 1956:

[I’d] sooner be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand members of the faculty of Harvard University.

Rassmussen poll results, 2009:

Forty-four percent (44%) voters also think a group of people selected at random from the phone book would do a better job addressing the nation’s problems than the current Congress, but 37% disagree. Twenty percent (20%) are undecided.

In response to the question, “What is the future of the faith-based initiative?”

I have little confidence in the future of the faith-based initiative because conservatives who gain office are unwilling to take any fire at all in order to advance the cause beyond concept. At the same time, liberals will be unable to make productive use of the idea because of giant fissures regarding public religion in their movement.

In theory, President Obama would make an ideal person to attempt strong implementation of a faith-based approach. As a card-carrying liberal, he could steer money to a program with a group like Prison Fellowship designed to reduce recidivism without ever being charged with theocratic tendencies.

The problem, of course, is that his party’s umbrella includes church-state police who would prefer to marginalize Christian influence rather than help prisoners get their lives back together with religious help. Thus, the idea would be scuttled unless the Prison Fellowship program can agree to do its work without Christian workers and without Christian moral and spiritual content.

The only problem with this scenario is that THERE IS NO WORK from Prison Fellowship without the Christian workers and the accompanying content. The entire reason they are more effective in preventing recidivism is because they address the spiritual person rather than the merely material person.

My answer to the church-state police would be that they consider a new view of the word secular. Secular means “in the world” so I would propose that they consider whether the religious work results in any good “in the world”. If a ministry like Prison Fellowship can demonstrate effectiveness in their purely voluntary ministry, then they should qualify for government funding. Why should they qualify for “secular” funding? Because they have proven they produce “secular” goods like reduced recidivism.

Just a suggestion. If policymakers would take it, they might find the faith-based initiative question easier to navigate.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
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In response to the question, “What is the future of the faith-based initiative?”

Perhaps taking a cue from this week’s PBR question (or perhaps not), the On Faith roster of bloggers have been asked to weigh in on the following question this week: “Should the Obama Administration let faith-based programs that receive government grants discriminate against those they hire or serve?”

Notable responses include those from Chuck Colson, Al Mohler, and Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, the latter of whom has these wise words: “If your faith-based organization wants to discriminate because of its beliefs, there is a simple remedy. Don’t take the federal grant money.”

“Focusing on education is not a distraction from the pressing business of economic recovery,” Kevin Schmiesing writes. “It is vital to ensuring it.” This focus should advance school choice and a reduction of administrative red tape.

Read Kevin’s commentary at the Acton website, and share your comments below.

Ignore those racial disparity studies that point to the “resegregation” of America’s educational system. They advance the lie that minorities cannot survive without whites. “What is best for low-income black and Latino students is what is best for all students: stable and supportive families, parental options, and high achieving schools with stellar teachers,” Bradley writes.

Read the commentary at the Acton website, and then discuss it here.

In a Forbes blog post titled “Failure of Morality, Not Capitalism,” Rich Kaarlgard counters the critics of supply-side capitalism by pointing to an absence of morality. Kaarlgard declares:

Many people do blame capitalism for bringing us to this low moment in the economy. Do they have a point?

They do if capitalism, as they define it, is devoid of any underlying morality. True enough, it is hard to see any underlying morality when one surveys the present carnage caused by liar loans, shady banks, duplicitous politicians, Ponzi schemers and regulators angling for Wall Street jobs.

Kaarlgard concludes by noting the importance of returning to a free enterprise system with a moral framework, saying, “Every alternative you can imagine is much worse.” He also offers a video version of the post.

Blog author: hunter.baker
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
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I’ve been reading America’s Secular Challenge by NYU professor and president of the Hudson Institute Herb London. The book is essentially an extended essay about how elite, left-wing secularism undercuts America’s traditional strengths of patriotism and religious faith during a time when the nation can ill afford it. The assault on public religion and love of country comes in a period when America faces enemies who have no such crisis of identity and lack the degree of doubt that leaves us in semi-paralysis.

The best compliment I can pay the book (by a Jewish social critic) is that it reminds me of the outstanding work of John Courtenay Murray (the great Catholic church and state scholar) who wrote:

And if this country is to be overthrown from within or without, I would suggest that it will not be overthrown by Communism. It will be overthrown because it will have made an impossible experiment. It will have undertaken to establish a technological order of most marvelous intricacy, which will have been constructed and will operate without relations to true political ends: and this technological order will hang, as it were, suspended over a moral confusion; and this moral confusion will itself be suspended over a spiritual vacuum.

Blog author: kschmiesing
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
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It’s long been my contention that the mythology surrounding the New Deal in large swaths of the popular imagination plays an ongoing, important, and harmful role in politics and policy debate. For that reason, I welcome periodic attempts to debunk the myth.

Jonah Goldberg offers a perceptive and enlightening perspective on New Deal historiography and its current uses and abuses. Unlike Daniel Gross (cited by Goldberg), I don’t care whether the analyst is an historian, economist, policy wonk, or journalist, so long as he or she is using the evidence and searching for the truth.

Among Goldberg’s excellent observations, this: “In any case, no matter how you slice it, the notion that the New Deal was a single, consistent program is nonsense.”

And the provocative conclusion:

Some of the New Deal surely helped, and much of it definitely hurt, they might grudgingly concede; but to get mired in such questions is to overlook the true meaning and majesty of it all. This was the first time while the country was not at war that the American people gave war powers to liberals to do whatever they thought best. That’s what liberals love about the New Deal, and that’s the real reason they want to bring it back.

In response to the question, “What is the future of the faith-based initiative?”

Jordan Ballor kindly asked me to offer a few words in response to this question, as I made it an area of expertise during the previous Administration. I’ve been working up to writing something more formal, but I’ll begin by thinking aloud here, as well as at my my home blog.

Without further ado, here’s what I posted over there:

By now, you’ve probably heard about the President’s attempt to tweak the initiative, renaming the office and expanding somewhat its mandate. If you leave aside the breathless media accounts of his efforts, the most measured response I’ve seen is this one, written by two prominent evangelicals long involved in these issues.

Candidate Obama called for an “all hands on deck” approach to our social problems, with government as the senior partner and the payer of the piper. He said much about the evils of religious discrimination and not much about the wonders of religious freedom. That was disheartening and led me to fear that he would follow the lead of his erstwhile Congressional colleagues and sacrifice religious hiring rights on the altar of equality. He may still do that, but not in one swell foop. Instead, we’re told, the new Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (so different from the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives!) will consult with the Department of Justice about the law and these rights on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps, then, the Obama Administration will nibble away at religious hiring rights somewhat out of the limelight, avoiding the public repudiation of them embraced by candidate Obama. And I have a hard time believing that the President will spend any political chips resisting the efforts of Congressional Democrats to promote equality and non-discrimination at the expense of religious liberty.

In other words, I think that the President is trying to extend his honeymoon a bit, but that, in the end, the only deckhands he’ll really welcome are those who are willing to serve secular governmental ends in a secular governmental way.

One last point: the new head of the OFBNP, Joshua DuBois, seems to get high marks from everyone. I can’t speak from any experience of him, up close or at a distance, which is only to say that he wasn’t involved in the substance of these issues during the Bush Administration. I will note that he comes to this position from the political side of Obama’s life (is there any other?) and that he lacks the stature and long-standing experience with faith-based social services that all those associated with the Bush Administration efforts had. Perhaps this is a good thing, on some level, for if this version of the faith-based initiative is closer to the political heart of the Obama Administration, perhaps folks outside the OBNP will take it seriously, which seemed always to be the problem in the Bush Administration.

But then let’s not delude ourselves about the nature of this initiative: its goal seems above all to be to keep the religious Left engaged (as opposed to enraged) and to charm those theologically and socially conservative evangelicals who are charmable.

We’re facing a genuine challenge to religious liberty here, one that can’t be managed just by withdrawing from government’s embrace. This government will almost inevitably embrace more and more, likely trying to dominate its partners and crowding out those who are reluctant to play.

And lest you think that this Bush Administration stepchild is the only program at risk, watch closely to see what President Obama’s actions reveal about how he’ll deal with other issues in which government and religion intersect. Consider, for example, how his Adminstration will treat healthcare providers who have conscientious objections to certain medical procedures and how it will regard those who have scruples about same-sex marriage. Stated another way, I’d bet that claims couched in the language of equality will almost always win out over those phrased in the language of liberty.

I’ll be watching.

Maltese-American marketing professor, Dr. Andrew Abela, is the winner of the Acton Institute’s 2009 Novak Award.

Dr. Andrew Abela

Dr. Abela’s main research areas include consumerism, marketing ethics, Catholic Social Teaching, and internal marketing communication. Believing that anti-free market perspectives seem to dominate discussion about the social impact of business, Dr. Abela is working to explore Christian ethics further to show how these issues can be resolved more humanely and effectively through market-oriented approaches. To aid this work, Dr. Abela is currently preparing a catechism for business leaders, which will address tough ethical questions in business in the light of Christian social ethics.

A frequent guest on television and radio programs, Dr. Abela has recently addressed such issues as the moral underpinnings of the current financial crisis and ethics in advertising. Dr. Abela is also widely published in refereed academic and professional journals, including the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, and the Journal of Markets & Morality.

For a look at some of Dr. Abela’s work, click on the below links:

“The Price of Freedom: Consumerism and Liberty in Secular Research and Catholic Teaching”Journal of Markets & Morality
“Is Consumerism Harmful?”Religion & Liberty
• “Subsidiarity and the Just Wage: Implications of Catholic Social Teaching for the Minimum Wage Debate” (forthcoming) – Journal of Markets & Morality, Spring 2009

Named after distinguished American theologian and social philosopher Michael Novak, the Novak Award rewards new outstanding research by scholars early in their academic careers who demonstrate outstanding intellectual merit in advancing the understanding of theology’s connection to human dignity, the importance of limited government, religious liberty, and economic freedom. Recipients of the Novak Award make a formal presentation on such questions at an annual public forum known as the Calihan Lecture. The Novak Award comes with a $10,000 prize. To learn more, visit Acton’s awards and scholarships page.

Dr. Abela received his Ph.D. in Management with concentrations in marketing and business ethics from the University of Virginia, Darden Business School in 2003 and an MBA from the Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland. He is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Chair-elect of the Department of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He also has extensive professional experience, including most recently as the Managing Director at the Marketing Leadership Council, a research program serving Chief Marketing Officers of leading global firms. Dr. Abela also spent several years with the consulting firm of McKinsey & Company, and was a brand manager with Procter & Gamble.