Blog author: mvandermaas
Thursday, April 4, 2013

We’re continuing to round up clips of Acton involvement in the media coverage of the recent papal conclave and the election of Pope Francis, and today we present two clips from across the pond that our American readers likely haven’t seen yet. First up, Istituto Acton’s Kishore Jayabalan joins Father Thomas Reese, former editor of America magazine and current fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington, DC, to discuss the conclave process as it progressed; the interview took place prior to the election of Pope Francis on March 13th.

Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico also made an appearance on the BBC, providing analysis for GMT with George Alagiah on March 14 following the election of Francis.

Connecting CommunitiesA recent report by the United Nations states that out of the world’s seven billion people, six billion have a mobile phone, but only 4.5 billion have a modern toilet. In India, there are almost 900 million cell phone users, but nearly 70 percent of the population doesn’t have access to “proper sanitation.” Jan Eliasson, the UN Deputy Secretary General has called this a “‘silent disaster’ that reflects the extreme poverty and huge inequalities in world today.”

Despite the lack of sanitation, most people are able to afford a mobile phone with a wide range available for [$15] or less and the price of calls reducing from [15c] a minute to [3c] a minute in the last decade.

This report focuses on the negative: the lack of sanitation for those in abject poverty, but it fails to note the extraordinary fact that people living in poverty have access to a device that was, until recently, a luxury item for wealthy Americans. Tim Worstall, a contributor on, addresses this report in a recent article:

It’s possible to be a little cynical about this phones versus thrones number though. Actual flush toilets aren’t in fact the problem. What is the provision of water to flush them and a sewage system to flush them into. Both of which are largely government provided. While mobile phone systems are largely private company provided. Whether you want to call it the lust for profit or the greater efficiency of the private sector, it won’t surprise the more right leaning of us that phones do have a greater market reach than toilets.

Andreas Widmer, president of The Carpenter’s Fund in Switzerland, has spoken a great deal about small businesses, aid, and investing in Africa. In an interview with PovertyCure, he explains causes of poverty: (more…)

America’s children are in serious trouble when it comes to public education in low-income communities. All over America, more and more schools would rather cheat on standardized testing than suffer the consequences of the truth that many of their students are seriously struggling. The widespread corruption in many public school systems that predominantly serve children of color is no less than a national crisis. It seems that many public educators, like politicians, are making decisions that serve their career advancement rather than make tough decisions that serve the education needs of children.

For example, in Atlanta on April 2, 2013, Beverly Hall, former superintendent for the city’s public schools turned herself in after being indicted by a grand jury in a cheating scandal. In addition, 26 other educators had surrendered to authorities with a bond set for some Atlanta educators at $1 million. In total, 35 educators were indicted, accused of cheating on standardized testing dating back to 2001.

According to CNN,

fast-food-worker1Most of us have spent at least a little time working in jobs we weren’t thrilled about. For me, it peaked with McDonald’s (no offense, Ronald).

For Trevin Wax, it was Cracker Barrel:

I never wanted to work at Cracker Barrel. I had business experience as an office manager, plus five years of international missions experience tucked under my belt.

But none of that mattered when the most pressing question was, How will you provide for your wife and son this week? Like many before and after me, I did whatever was necessary.

In the past, I’ve referred to such work as “needs-based” — an adjective that would seem highly redundant to most of our ancestors, not to mention plenty of today’s poor. Our now-widespread discussions and contemplations about vocation and personal calling are somewhat new, and we should be careful to recognize why exactly we have the reactions we do about working at reliable, air-conditioned joints like Cracker Barrel.

Each new wave of economic progress and individual empowerment has brought more opportunity to look upward and onward, beyond meeting our own needs and toward something bigger and brighter and so on. This is a marvelous thing, but with such opportunity and privilege also comes a temptation to look inward when it’s convenient — to rejoice in ourselves when we succeed and get grumpy when we wind up sniffing grease at Cracker Barrel.

Wax, however, looks back on his experience as much more than a pay-the-bills moment. Rather, the 18 months he spent at Cracker Barrel serves as “a reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness to us during a difficult, sometimes frustrating, season of life.” Pointing out that “there are hidden blessings in unwelcome work,” Wax proceeds to offer four reminders for those who find themselves in work situations that don’t seem to fit the mission. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, April 4, 2013

Schools push a curriculum of propaganda
George F. Will, Washington Post

The real vocation of some people entrusted with delivering primary and secondary education is to validate this proposition: The three R’s — formerly reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic — now are racism, reproduction and recycling.

North Carolina Aims to Preserve Government Prayer—by Taking Steps Toward a State Religion
Melissa Steffan, Christianity Today

New bill asserts, “Each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion.”

Another voucher victory
Chicago Tribune

No, plaintiffs, you’re wrong — publicly funded education vouchers do not unconstitutionally divert public money to religious schools.

Persecution of Christians, Then and Now
John O’Sullivan, National Review Online

Murders, church bombings, and pogroms: Today’s record does not compare well with antiquity’s.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, April 3, 2013

“There has always been a generous spirit in America towards the downtrodden, but it’s time to realize that we are no longer being generous: the government is leading us merrily along the path of fiscal fugue,” writes Elise Hilton. So why are federal officials advising benefit applicants that they shouldn’t be “discouraged by funding issues”? The full text of her essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Anthony Bradley revisits the thought of Abraham Kuyper as a way of understanding the relationship between creation, Christ, and culture.

Over at the Hang Together blog, Greg Forster follows up on a series of ruminations about the gospel described as both a “pearl” and a “leaven.”

He proceeds to focus on the reality that so many place the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate in conflict by highlighting a couple of scriptural passages: Colossians 3:23-24 and Romans 12:2:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

As Greg notes, here are two places where “we might find these two imperatives stated more clearly in the form of ethical commands, rather than in parables.”

To take another approach that riffs off of musings on the idea of “hanging together,” I’d like to highlight another verse, Colossians 1:17, which says of Christ, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

One way of understanding the verb appearing as “hold together” in this verse is the act “to bring together or hold together something in its proper or appropriate place or relationship” (Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). This verb, I think, captures the dynamic between our orientation of the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate and their orientation and subordination to Christ. The key question is how we properly relate each one of “all things,” including structures like family, work, church, and government, to Christ.

For the implications of what it might mean for cultural production, engagement, and transformation from the perspective of things “holding,” or even with a bit of license, “hanging,” together in Christ, I submit this from Anthony Bradley, who relates what Abraham Kuyper’s vision of Christ’s sovereignty means for the church today. As Bradley says in light of the doctrine of creation and in specific reference to Colossians 1:17, “Now sin destroyed this shalom, but Christ’s sovereignty over creation and culture did not end.”