Religious shareholder activists are portrayed as modern-day Davids who take on corporate Goliaths. The reality is they are Davids serving a Goliath of a different stripe.

Religious shareholder activists are portrayed as modern-day Davids who take on corporate Goliaths. The reality is they are Davids serving a Goliath of a different stripe.

When graying cohorts of nuns, priests, clergy and other religious proxy shareholders hitched their wagon to the Center for Political Accountability’s crusade against Citizens United and corporate political spending, it was reported by most news sources as cute and endearing. After all, it’s a bit of the David v. Goliath scenario playing out as the faith-based underdogs take on companies with sinister motives and deep pockets full of “dark money” which they spread around to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Republican candidates and other bêtes noires of the left.

If one reads the media reports following the release this week of the 2013 “CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Policy Accountability and Disclosure” you’d think little David scored big-time with a single stone fired from CPA’s sling at the corporate American Goliath. Well . . . yes. And no. Yes, in that some companies capitulated to CPA and proxy shareholders for more transparency. No, in that many other companies held fast to privacies guaranteed by Citizens United despite the onslaught of proxy resolutions submitted by a matrix of leftist organizations, which includes the nominally religious-based investment groups As You Sow and the Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility. Little David is indeed far more of a Goliath than the general public has been led to believe.
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presuppositions-e1361408206416-350x235It is truly amazing to encounter Protestants who believe that their views on theology and justice are objective and neutral — as if the Fall did not happen. In a recent discussion about the sacraments, a leader of an international ministry said to me, “If hermeneutics involves being taught to believe a certain theology, then it is not true hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is absolutely neutral.”

After reading his comment I wondered, what possible world is he talking about where neutrality actually happens? One of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s transgression against God in the Garden of Eden was a human race whose thinking is now impaired. In the book Wisdom and Wonder, Abraham Kuyper makes the point that while we have not ceased to be rational creatures, because of sin we have “lost the gift of grasping the true context, the proper coherence, [and] the systematic integration of all things.” Because of this aspect of the human condition it seems best, as much as possible, to put one’s presuppositions on the table since there is no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. Disclosure builds trust and solidarity.

One of the stumbling blocks in Protestant evangelicalism is that leaders teach their constituents that their respective positions are “the Biblical” positions when, if fact, they are formed and concluded by particular approaches and perspectives. The implication is that each tribe says that they are “truly” Biblical and those who disagree with them are not Biblical. The fact is every tradition believes that their distinctives are “biblical.” Ignoring our presuppositions often leads to useless quarreling and much wasted time (2 Tim 2; Titus 3). This does not mean that all things are up for debate and difference, but it does challenge us to pay closer attention to those things that the Scriptures are more clear about.
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Blog author: jballor
Friday, September 27, 2013
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I’m not an aficionado of the show Extreme Couponing, but I have seen it a couple times, and have been amazed at the industriousness of the people on the show. It shouldn’t be surprising, perhaps, that in the midst of economic downturn more generally the practice of clipping coupons has become more widespread as well as more extreme.

It makes sense that when times are tight and you are looking to scrimp and save every penny in your budget that increased use of coupons can be a way to make each dollar stretch a bit farther. Companies originally offered coupons as incentives to try new products, and so it is appropriate to see coupons as a form of advertising. The first company to offer coupons was Coca-Cola, and here we can see the similarities between coupons and the free samples, which is part of what makes Costco so popular, as product promotion.

coca

But it never really occurred to me until I read this short profile of an extreme couponer that coupons should also really be seen as a kind of private welfare, reaching a high of roughly $4 billion in total savings in the US in 2011.
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In what presumably was a misguided attempt to have Aaron Sorkin pen their newest round of armor-piercing media talking points, the White House sent adviser Dan Pfeiffer to the set of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper armed to the teeth with explosive political metaphors meant to describe the GOP’s position on debt-ceiling negotiations.

TAPPER: You saw — and this is the final question. You saw today a new Bloomberg News poll indicating that the American people support by a 2-1 margin its right to require spending cuts when negotiating the debt ceiling.

I understand that Keystone and other provisions that the Republicans are talking about attaching to the debt ceiling are not related, but why not cut some spending?

PFEIFFER: The Republicans — we are for cutting spending. We’re for reforming our tax code. We’re for reforming our entitlements.

What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest. We’re not going to do that. So, if they want to have a discussion about how we reduce our deficits, how we help the middle class, how we give them a better bargain, lift the debt ceiling, take the full faith and credit of the United States off the table and let’s have a discussion. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, September 27, 2013
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The Duties of a Free Citizen
Kevin Gutzman, Intercollegiate Review

I here make a radical proposal:  conservatives must speak of religion more often.  When it comes to art broadly considered—encompassing music, architecture, painting, and sculpture—the only way back is upward.

Interpreting Scripture & the U.S. Constitution
Frank W. Hermann, Crisis Magazine

During the twentieth century, it became vogue to interpret the Constitution the way that some readers interpret a poem: in virtual isolation of its broader historical context.

Nairobi Westgate mall terrorist attack is part of Kenya’s sharp rise in religious hostilities
Brian J. Grim, Pew Research Center

The Somalia-based Islamic group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the Nairobi shopping mall attack that began Saturday and has left at least 62 dead, saying that the assault is in retaliation for Kenyan military operations in Somalia.

Limited Government and Human Nature
Art Lindsley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

How can a biblical understanding of human nature influence how we think about the size and scope of government?

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, September 26, 2013
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download (1)Christianity can and should be a leading influence in human culture, says Greg Forster. We do this not by seizing control of the institutions of culture but acting as cultural entrepreneurs — like the biblical figure Job:

Before he was stricken, Job was a cultural leader. People looked to him for wisdom. And the word “because” in verse 12 indicates that he’s about to tell us why people looked to him for wisdom. Was it because he was smarter? Was it because he was wealthy and successful? No doubt those factors were important, but Job does not identify them as the main source of his cultural leadership. Instead, he points to something else:

12 because I delivered the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to help him.
13 The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me,
and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;
my justice was like a robe and a turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy,
and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know.
17 I broke the fangs of the unrighteous
and made him drop his prey from his teeth.

Job was a cultural leader because he served human needs. The connection is reinforced in the following verses, where Job seamlessly transitions back from his deeds of service to his position of cultural leadership. “Men listened to me and waited and kept silence for my counsel…” etc.

Read more . . .

According to a new study by Dick Slikker, “changes in the percentage of Christians within a society exert a measurable correlated influence of the economic well-being of that society” — particularly when those Christians are evangelicals.

Correlations Between Christian Population Changes and Changes in Sovereign Ratings in Countries for the Period Between 2000 to 2012

Kate Tracy summarizes the findings at Christianity Today:

Dutch researcher Dick Slikker wanted to assess the Marxist theory that increases in prosperity lead to decreases in religious practice. So he examined the past decade’s worth of data from countries including the United States, Belgium, China, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom. His research used Operation World and the World Religion Database for its data on changes in the percentage of Christians in each country, while studies fromMoody’s Analytics and Fitch Ratings provided data on changes in the economic status of each country, particularly its sovereign credit rating…

…”When using total Christian populations per country, statistically significant positive linear correlations were obtained in seven out of eight combinations of data source, rating agency and either five- or ten-year interval.” Slikker notes in his abstract.

Furthermore, within the three subsets of Christianity studied—Protestants, Catholics, and evangelicals—it was evangelicals that proved to have the highest rate of correlation with economic wellbeing. (more…)