conceptual-dignity-lost-poster-statement-typography-favim-com-38190For Labor Day weekend, Peggy Noonan wrote a column pointing to the critical connection between the spiritual value of work and the moral strength of our culture. But as Greg Forster notes, her “search for a beacon of hope that can point us back toward the dignity of work, she neglects the church in favor of less promising possibilities.”

In her column, she argues that to restore dignity and hope to our culture, we need politicians who celebrate – sincerely, not as a focus-group-tested messaging gimmick – the extraordinary possibilities of work, enterprise, and entrepreneurship to transform our lives and our culture for the better. I think she’s right that politicians who did that would be a positive cultural force. However, turning to politicians as our primary cultural hope is a mistake.

As Willard pointed out, the very fact that we mostly turn to politicians to tell us what the good life is – and to provide it for us – is itself a sign that we’ve turned away from God. We will never get away from catastrophic political conflict as long as people turn mainly to politicians when they seek hope. Government has an important social role to play, of course, and not just in forbidding force and fraud – libertarianism is as much a false hope as socialism. But “the American character” will never recover until we look to pastors as our primary guides and teachers in building a culture (which includes the economic system) that provides hope, dignity, and flourishing.

Noonan herself laments that “the old priests used to say” that “to work is to pray.” Why then does she now look only for politicians to say it? Are there no more pastors? Are today’s pastors incapable of saying it, mired in a truncated vision of their role in our lives, permanently stricken with prophetic laryngitis? Or is it that we no longer believe pastors matter?

Read more . . .

Crisis Magazines Gerald J. Russello has written a review of Tea Party Catholic, the new book from Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg. Russello outlines the premise of Gregg’s work:Tea-Party-Catholic-196x300

Gregg has three competing stories to tell. First he wants to explain how a Catholic can responsibly defend limited government and the free market in accordance with Catholic teaching.  This remains a crucial argument to make; since the 1980s, the welfare state has only expanded.  As the financial and housing crises of 2008 show, many still look to government to control the economy, and bail out entire industries.  Second, he wants to defend the substance of those teachings against both liberal Catholics and other sorts such as libertarians. Catholicism is not capitalism, and its defense of free-market exchanges and limited government is rooted in a certain view of the human person that is not the same as a secular liberal one.  The Catholic view promotes human flourishing, but holds that flourishing must be consistent with the natural law and the ends of human life, such as the cultivation of virtue and the common good.  Third, he wants to reconcile Catholicism specifically with the American form of republicanism. Gregg argues that the example of Catholics in America shows that the two are compatible, and that indeed the American experiment is consistent with the long tradition of Western liberty inaugurated by the Church.

(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, September 5, 2013
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Christians in Middle East: U.S. attack on Syria would be detrimental
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

As the Obama administration considers a strike in response to recent chemical attacks, the head of a global evangelical group said Wednesday (Sept. 4) that Christians in the Middle East oppose military intervention in Syria.

Christ in the Capital of the World
Mark R. Gornik and Maria Liu Wong, Christianity Today

How global Christians are revitalizing NYC far beyond Manhattan.

Russell Kirk on Social Justice, 1954
Bradley J. Birzer, The Imaginative Conservative

Only a true Justice–the recognition of “giving each man his due”–would allow the flourishing of a well-ordered society.

Why Should Economic Ideas Matter to Christians?
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Christians understand that ideas matter, as this understanding applies to our faith and our lives within the body of Christ. That’s why the apostle Paul encouraged the church at Philippi to dwell on that which is pure and right – because what we think about has consequences in the real world.

Created by Square One

Created by Square One

ArtPrize 2013, September 18-October 6, will be many things. For some, it will be a chance to experience art in a unique way, all over the city of Grand Rapids, for free. For others, it will be a competition: hotly debated and fodder for discussion over the dinner table, at the water cooler and in the media. And for others, it will be a boost for local businesses.

Now in its fifth year, ArtPrize was developed by Grand Rapids native Rick DeVos. He describes the annual event as a “celebration of creativity.” Offering $560,000 in prizes, ArtPrize’s focus is on the public vote. The people who visit, view and critique the art vote, and the artist with the most votes receives $200,000. There is also a juried vote, but ArtPrize is definitely an experience of the people, not experts. In addition, much of the art from the 1500+ participating artists is for sale to the public. (more…)

Rudy Carrasco, frequent lecturer at Acton University and other Acton events, board member of the Christian Community Development Association, and the U.S. Regional Facilitator of Partners Worldwide, recently posted this on his blog, Urban Onramps:

  • We call upon the Church world wide to identify, affirm, pray for, commission and release business people and entrepreneurs to exercise their gifts and calling as business people in the world – among all peoples and to the ends of the earth.
  • We call upon business people globally to receive this affirmation and to consider how their gifts and experience might be used to help meet the world’s most pressing spiritual and physical needs through Business as Mission.

What I find interesting in this language is that the recommendation for business owners is to “receive this affirmation” and move into Business as Mission (BAM). The affirmation needs to come from the Church who is being called upon to “identify, affirm, pray for, commission and release” these business people. There is an order here: first the church affirms, then the business owners go out. Yet, most BAM groups are not addressing the Church. There is much complaining about the Church, in that the Church does not affirm business people or sees business people as less holy, or only wants business people for their money. Yet, the Church is not being challenged, taught, or addressed. When I proposed a shift to my work a year ago to engage the Church more in BAM and directly involve them in this work, I was told by a number of people that it would be foolish to do this. I was told that the Church is too difficult to work with, too bureaucratic, too desiring of power, and that it will not be successful.

 

Adam CartwrightIn this week’s Acton Commentary, I adapt a section from my latest book focusing on an instance of “cowboy compassion” we find in an episode of Bonanza. I focus on the example of Adam Cartwright, who helps out an economically-depressed family faced with the tyranny of a greedy scrooge, Jedediah Milbank.

There are many reasons to appreciate Bonanza, even if it is a product of its times, as in the stereotypical portrayal of Hop Sing, for instance. I also mention another favorite western of mine, Have Gun–Will Travel, in which Paladin functions as a kind of one-man A-Team. But this show, too, traffics a bit in the well-worn caricature of Asians, as the only other semi-regular appearing character is a Chinese bellhop known as “Hey Boy” (as in, “Hey, boy, come over here and pick up this suitcase.”).

But we have something to learn from such shows, warts and all. In the case of Bonanza, I think we have a kind of libertarian-cowboy in black, who no doubt wore “the black for the poor and the beaten down,” a man firmly committed to wedding together liberty and love.

As I conclude, “We can get our hands dirty by grubbing for money,” or as in the case of Adam Cartwright, “we can get them dirty by helping fix a broken well.”

Read more in Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) and “The ‘Cowboy Compassion’ of the Cartwrights.”

Shareholder activism, according to the headline in the most recent issue of PRWeek, is “rising” and “big companies [are] in crosshairs.” The ensuing article by Brittaney Kiefer, begins:

Shareholder activism used to be just a nuisance that arose during proxy season, involving a group of contentious investors who tended to target smaller or less established companies.

However, in recent years activists have set their sights on larger companies, and more traditional investors are joining those fights. As shareholder activism goes mainstream, companies are becoming more proactive in engaging investors year-round, communications professionals say.

Ms. Kiefer’s article is a fine example of objective reporting on the growing trend of shareholder activism, but she avoids untangling the Gordian knot of interests behind these increasingly concerted efforts by leftist activists. These efforts include the recruitment of such religious-based investment groups as Walden Asset Management, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the Needmor Fund and various and sundry Unitarian Universalist collectives to sprinkle – albeit disingenuously – holy water on the whole progressive agenda. Explains Kiefer:

An activist shareholder is an investor who attempts to use his or her stake in a publicly traded corporation to affect change at the company. Activists often launch campaigns that put public pressure on companies, tackling issues such as executive compensation, management structure, or corporate strategy.

Sounds rather benign, no? Actually, as noted here and here, these groups have metastasized from mere nuisance to genuine threats to not only corporate (and shareholder) profitability, but to free speech (including scientific debate) and helping the nation’s (and world’s) poorest. (more…)