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J.C. Huizenga Photo from Mlive

Employees of the Huizenga Automation Group got a great surprise earlier this week. According to Mlive, after selling the company, owner J.C. Huizenga gave away $5.75 million in bonuses to his employees at two manufacturing companies that were part of the Automation Group. Huizenga acknowledged that his success was due to the work of his employees so he wanted to share his profits with them: “We all worked together at J.R. Automation and Dane Systems” and the companies “had amazing success. It was the right thing to share with everybody.” Bonuses were based on years of service and responsibilities:

The bonuses ranged from $500 for new employees to more than $50,000 for those who had worked at the company the longest, Huizenga told MLive and The Grand Rapids Press…

“It was our intention that everybody from the latest hire to those who were there the longest all participated so everyone got something,” said Huizenga, adding that he was seeking fairness.

Around $5 million was split up among 500 employees at J.R. Automation, while 70 employees at Dane Systems received around $750,000.

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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, April 2, 2015
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food-cost1While it may not seem like it when you’re standing at the checkout line at the grocery store, food is cheaper now that it was half a century ago.

“We are purchasing more food for less money, and we are purchasing our food for less of our income,” says Annette Clauson, an agricultural economist. “This is a good thing, because we have income to purchase other things.”

A recent report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows how the average share of per capita income spent on food fell from 17.5 percent in 1960 to 9.9 percent in 2013.

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A reduction of 7.6 percent over 50 years may sound trivial, so let’s examine how it would affect an average person.
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economic decisionIf there’s one area of the faith-work conversation that’s lacking in exploration and introspection, it’s the role of spiritual discernment in the day-to-day decisions of economic life.

It’s one thing to orient one’s heart and mind around the big picture of vocation and stewardship — no small feat, to be sure — but if economics is about the intersection of knowledge and human action, what does it mean to serve a God whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts? Before and beyond our questions about ethics and meaning and vocation (“is my work moral?”; “does it have meaning?”; “what am I called to do?”) remains the basic question of obedience.

How does the Gospel transform our hearts and minds and how does that process transform our economic action? How do we make sure we’re putting obedience before sacrifice in all that we do? How do we hear the Holy Spirit minute-by-minute, day-by-day, and how does that impact the ideas we have, the products we conceive, the prices we set, the relationships we build, and the trades and investments we make?

I was reminded of this recently upon reading an essay on discernment by Peter Kreeft. Although he doesn’t speak directly to economic matters, Kreeft does a nice job of connecting the earthly with the transcendent, cautioning us against “emphasizing Christ’s divinity at the expense of his humanity or his humanity at the expense of his divinity,” or likewise, “his divine sovereignty at the expense of free will or free will at the expense of divine sovereignty.” Spiritual discernment ought not descend into some kind of peculiar escapism, but rather, it must engage with the natural world, leverage the gifts and the resources God has given us, and ultimately bear fruit for the good of the city and for the life of the world. (more…)

Bill Dalgetty’s Hope for the Workplace, Christ in You is rich with stories of people in business who are struggling to integrate their faith and work lives. Weaving biblical parables with dozens of real life stories gleaned from his experience as president of Christians in Commerce International, Dalgetty points—usually explicitly and sometimes in a more nuanced way—to universal truths of human conscience.

Dalgetty, a career attorney and executive for Mobil Corporation, is sensitive to corporate America’s overly PC culture. He acknowledges that living one’s faith in corporate America is often times difficult because a culture of “inclusiveness” means overt expressions of religious faith are forbidden. In plain, un-lawyer-like language, Dalgetty translates his ardent Christian faith into universal values that would be acceptable in any secular workplace.

The author’s own journey of faith can be pieced together from various anecdotes in the book: He was a highflying attorney for the huge multinational energy corporation and worked primarily in New York City and Northern Virginia. Little by little, his career ambition eclipsed the time and energy he put into his family, his health, and his faith. He continued to go to church, but admits that the faith was only superficial.

That all changed when his wife invited him to a “Week of Renewal” event that was being held by a local Catholic parish. There, he had mystical experience which is described in great detail. As a result of this experience Dalgetty was inspired to begin intentionally fostering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While it is clear that the author is a devout Catholic, he is strongly influenced by the mystical and more charismatic communities, giving Hope for the Workplace an ecumenical appeal. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, April 2, 2015
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Charter Schools Aren’t Perfect, But They Introduce Some Necessary Competition
Rich Cromwell, The Federalist

Arkansas Democrats support a bill to give traditional schools freedoms similar to those of charter schools. But only traditional schools that have to compete.

The Perils of Political Propaganda: Mass Hysteria over Indiana
Randall Smith, Public Discourse

It’s fine for people to express disagreement with the Indiana RFRA—if they know what’s in it. We must not allow ourselves to be manipulated by political propaganda.

Vatican hopes to avoid financial scandal during Jubilee year
Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

The Vatican finance minister said Tuesday he hopes to avoid financial scandal with the upcoming Jubilee Year, saying the plans will be subject to new Vatican procedures to ensure they follow international standards for transparency and accountability.

Facts vs. Spin: Here Is What the Indiana Religious Freedom Law Would Do
Genevieve Wood , The Daily Signal

There is so much noise and hype surrounding the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act it’s hard to know what is real and what is spin. So I decided to seek out a real expert to get the facts

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimage“States and municipalities craft laws that reflect local cultures, and this proximity to the people has market consequences,” says James Bruce in this week’s Acton Commentary. “Let’s call it free-market federalism, the encouragement of local markets by permitting states and municipalities to frame, as much as possible, the laws by which the communities engage in commerce.”

In a spirited defense of decentralization, Abraham Kuyper argues that a central government can only supplement local governments and families. Put another way, the central government exists because local governments and families already do. It exists for them. They do not exist for it. So Kuyper’s idea of sphere sovereignty supports free-market federalism. Regional governments and municipalities exist as their own sovereign spheres, and they must continue to do so. “To centralize all power in the one central government is to violate the ordinances that God has given for nations and families,” Kuyper wrote. “It destroys the natural divisions that give a nation vitality, and thus destroys the energy of the individual life-spheres and of the individual persons.” This vitality extends to national, regional, and individual economic life.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

rights-are-not-gitsIn his recent announcement that he was running for president, Sen. Ted Cruz’s said “our rights don’t come from man, they come from God Almighty.”

That raised some eyebrows in our secular culture. For example, Meredith Shiner, a Yahoo reporter, tweeted:”Bizarre to talk about how rights are God-made and not man-made in your speech announcing a POTUS bid? When Constitution was man-made?”

The idea that the “unalienable Rights” mentioned in the Declaration of Independence don’t come from God is considered obvious to many secularists. But if our rights don’t come from God, where do they come from? The obvious answer is “the State.” And as Matt Lewis points out, that means the state can take them away:
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When we hear about church “outreach ministries,” we often think of food pantries, homeless shelters, and community events. But while these can be powerful channels for service, many churches are beginning to look for new ways to empower individuals more holistically.

For some, this means abandoning traditional charity altogether, focusing their ministry more directly around recognizing the gifts and strengths of others. For others, like Evangel Ministries in Detroit, it involves a mix of many things, but with a particular emphasis on the power of entrepreneurship to transform lives and communities.

Hear their story here, in a video produced by Made to Flourish:

For Evangel, it’s not just about meeting immediate needs through traditional channels, but about teaching work skills and financial literacy, teaching congregants on the details of permitting, and even in some cases providing investment capital for particular businesses. (more…)

poverty childrenRobert Putnam says our children are in a state of crisis. Those who live in poverty or near-poverty seemed to be doomed to stay there. Those born into families with money will likely go on to enjoy the lives that money affords. His book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, follows a number of individuals, tracking a list of factors, including the ability to move up or down the economic spectrum.

One pivotal factor is marriage:

Highly correlated is whether or not the mother is married. The breakdown of the traditional family, meaning a married mother and father, is very probably an even greater factor than the class divide, race divide, and education gap – to the point that some refer to marriage as “privilege” in the age of modern segregation.

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It is commonplace in Christian circles, whether Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant, to appeal in public discourse to the inviolable good of human dignity.

Today at Ethika Politika, I seek to answer the question, “What does human dignity look like in real life?” It is fine to talk about it in the abstract, but what does it look like on the job or as a parent?

I write,

Real, flesh-and-blood human persons do not evoke our respect as naturally as an abstract treatise on human dignity might imply. I am reminded of one Peanuts comic in which Linus shouts, “I love mankind … it’s people I can’t stand!” People, as a general rule, all tend toward some form of nerdery, some weird little obsession — such as sports, video games, philosophy, music, or literature — or at least some personal (usually minor) neurosis, like an aversion to a certain smell or fear of spiders or always having to have the last word.

And, frankly, Linus is right, even if he overstates his case. It is a common if not essential feature of personhood that any given person, with enough exposure, will grow annoying to our unsanctified hearts.

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