Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Monday, August 11, 2014

ruins kenyaAs a mother of five, there have been times when I was pretty sure “civilized” meant a dinner where no one called a sibling a name, everyone ate with utensils, and whoever got assigned dish duty did it without grumbling. Maybe I was setting my sights a tad low.

Joseph Pearce thoughtfully and concisely tackles the rather large question, “What is civilization?” While Pearce does the obvious (heads to Wikipedia for an answer), it’s clear that “civilization” is more than a complex state that communicates, domesticates both animal and human, and has nice buildings that also have some sort of function. If this is all civilization is, why fight for it? Why bother defending it? Why try to save it?

If those heady thinkers of the Enlightenment had their way, we wouldn’t. You see, even Wikipedia “knows” that “civilization” is simply a construct of the Enlightenment. (more…)

vietnamReligion & Liberty recently interviewed former German war correspondent Uwe Siemon-Netto. He’s also the author of Triumph of the Absurd, a book chronicling his time covering the war in Vietnam. One of Siemon-Netto’s recurring themes is the still propped up line in the West that North Vietnam’s aggression was a “people’s revolution” or an act of liberation. A people’s revolution doesn’t execute soldiers who have laid down their arms or force large segments of the population in South Vietnam into reeducation camps. After the fall of Saigon, hundreds of thousands of boat people died or drowned at sea trying to flee their communist tormentors.

One of those young boys at the time was Vinh Chung, whose family was rescued by a World Vision aid ship in 1979. His Vietnamese and American story is chronicled in the new book Where the Wind Leads. In Parade magazine, Chung talks about his return visit to Vietnam and the importance of Christian sacrifice, stewardship, and what it means to be an American:

When I was a student in ­medi­cal school in 2002, I returned to Vietnam for the first time, to visit my relatives who are still there. I was shocked by the poverty. Their houses were shacks, the walls plastered over with newspapers; bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling on electrical cords. My cousins slept on the floor. Visiting them was like walking into a parallel universe—the life that would have been mine had the wind blown our boat in a different ­direction.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (12:48 NLT). I used to wonder who Jesus meant, because I sure didn’t think it was my family. The way I saw it, we had been given nothing, entrusted with nothing. I hoped that rich and powerful people would read Jesus’s words and take them to heart.

But when I went to Vietnam, I finally understood: He meant me. I was the one plucked from the South China Sea. I was the one granted asylum in a nation where education is available to everyone, and prosperity is attainable for anyone. I worked hard to get to where I am today, but the humbling truth is that my hard work was possible because of a blessing I did nothing to deserve. And that blessing is something I must pass on, in any way I can.

My story is true for all of us, whether you arrived in this country by boat or by birth: Much has been given to us—and much is required. That, I believe, is what it means to be an American.

Sacrifice is increasingly a virtue we are losing in our contemporary American society. We’ve got the entitlement part down but our solely lacking in the requirement of being citizens department. That fact is attested to by just glancing at our bloated federal debt, our culture of entitlement, and the rise of the grievance industry. In the epilogue of Triumph of the Absurd, Siemon-Netto makes a prescient observation, “When a self-indulgent throwaway culture grows tired of sacrifice it becomes capable of discarding everything like a half-eaten doughnut.”

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles is a 7-part series from the Acton Institute that seeks to examine the bigger picture of Christianity’s role in culture, society, and the world. Each Monday until August 18 The Gospel Coalition (TGC) is highlighting one episode and sharing an exclusive code for a free 72-hour rental of the full episode.

Here’s the trailer for episode 5, The Economy of Wonder.

Visit TGC to get the code for the free rental (you have to apply the code today, but once you do the rental is free for 72 hours).

foster-family-with-childrenYesterday was a great day for my family. We had recently celebrated the addition of two girls. My niece and her husband adopted them, and yesterday was the girls’ baptism. My mother was there; she and my dad fostered children and adopted two. My two daughters were there to celebrate; they are both adopted.

If the government and certain entities have their way, none of this will happen for families like ours – families for whom religious faith is paramount, and who have chosen to work with religious social service agencies in order to foster and adopt children.

Sarah Torre and Ryan T. Anderson discuss this at The Daily Signal. Some states are considering cutting off revenue to social service agencies that choose not to place children with same-sex couples. These organizations choose to do so because of religious beliefs that first, uphold that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman, and second, that affirm children are best served by having a mother and a father to raise them. Some government officials are working to make sure that these agencies continue to receive funding. Torre and Anderson:

Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which would protect the right of child welfare providers, including private and faith-based adoption and foster care agencies, to continue providing valuable services to families and children. The federal government and states receiving certain federal child welfare funds would be prohibited from discriminating against a child welfare provider simply because the provider declines to provide a service that conflicts with their religious or moral convictions. (more…)

Blog author: sstanley
posted by on Monday, August 11, 2014

253877_5_Acton’s president and co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico, recently wrote a piece for Real Clear Religion about corporations and social justice activism. He warns that the religious left’s attempts to stifle free speech in corporate boardrooms  would certainly negatively impact our political life.

Every annual meeting season, we watch as a small group of activist groups on the left such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility submit proxy resolutions that demand disclosures of corporate public policy expenditures. This is done, these groups claim, in furtherance of a more “just and sustainable world.” In fact, such resolutions are designed to first bully corporations into disclosing lobbying activities and then promptly turn the tables by conducting aggressive campaigns in the press to shame them.

But the religious underpinnings for such arguments are spurious. The argument always goes that corporations have money and the poor and disadvantaged (always “disenfranchised” from the political process) do not. Therefore, according to this logic, it follows that it’s unfair that corporations are allowed to make public policy expenditures to unduly influence the political process. Curiously, opponents of such spending are often themselves corporate entities (albeit non-profit entities) that spend large sums of money to voice their own opinions. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, August 11, 2014

How Surrogacy Can Create Victims
Leslie Ford, The Daily Signal

Surrogacy remains a morally fraught issue even as an increasing number of couples—unable to have children naturally—opt to have a surrogate bear their children.

A Good Way to Wreck a Local Economy: Build Casinos
David Frum, The Atlantic

Baltimore is a troubled city, as you know from The Wire. Like many troubled cities, Baltimore has turned to casino gambling as its solution. On August 26, a new Caesar’s casino will open on the site of an old chemical factory, a little more than 2 miles from the famous Inner Harbor and Camden Yards baseball stadium. Yet there’s already reason to expect the casino to disappoint everyone involved: the city looking for tax revenues, the workers hoping for jobs, the investors expecting hefty returns.

Coercive Sterilization: An On-Going Crime Against Humanity
Arina O. Grossu, Aleteia

For eugenic goals and population control, governments continue to coerce the disadvantaged into undergoing temporary and permanent sterilization.

What Kind of Support Should We Expect for Persecuted Christians?
David Curry, Christian Post

At what point will the intentional targeting and cleansing of Christians, especially in the troubled Middle East, be not just a story, but the story, in the media and elite circles of government? This one is easy; it won’t happen. Persecution of Christians will not become a major humanitarian crisis for a couple of key reasons.

Blog author: jsunde
posted by on Friday, August 8, 2014

mourn-work-woundI recently wrote about “wounding work,” a term Lester DeKoster assigns to work that, while meaningful and fruitful, is “cross bearing, self-denying, and life-sacrificing” in deep and profound ways. Take the recent reflections of a former Methodist minister, who, upon shifting from ministry into blue-collar work at a factory, struggled to find meaning and purpose.

“I am not challenged at all in this work,” he writes, “and I want something more.”

Although DeKoster helps us recognize that meaning and purpose do reside in such work, and that our day-to-day labor is not exempt from the sacrifice and obedience bound up in the Christian life, the pain for those of us in the midst of all this is likely to persist, even if for a season.

On this, Evan Koons continues the discussion over at the FLOW blog: “To stress that all work is about gift-giving, to marvel at its vast community of relationships, or allude to the suffering one share’s with Christ by remaining in said environments, doesn’t make the experience any more pleasant.”

What, then, are we to do amid such suffering? How ought we to respond, whether as wounded workers ourselves, or as those who simply serve and disciple alongside those who suffer? As Koons explains, there is no quick-and-easy cookie-cutter “solution,” spiritually, economically, or otherwise, and going down the paths to peace that Christ does provide will inevitably involve those same familiar features of our fallen world.

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Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Friday, August 8, 2014
Displaced Iraqis

Displaced Iraqis

The U.S. is beginning to bring much needed humanitarian supplies to victims of war in Iraq. Aleteia is reporting that

Cargo planes dropped parachuted crates of food and water over an area in the mountains outside Sinjar, where thousands of members of the Yazidi minority where sheltering, according to witnesses in the militant-held town, who asked not to be identified for security reasons.

At the same time, U.S. military has begun airstrikes against the terrorists Irbil, a city in the Kurdish region of Iraq, an area controlled by ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group.

Director of Istituto Acton, Kishore Jabalayan, made this statement:

I’m glad to see that President Obama feels some sense of responsibility to protect Americans as well as the Iraqis who are the victims of ISIS,” said Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Rome office of the Acton Institute, in an email exchange with Aleteia. “In the rush to pull American troops out of Iraq three years ago, we knew that such problems were likely to happen and would eventually require our return, if that’s what we want to call it.”

Read “Airdrops Bring Hope to Religious Minorities in Iraq” at Aleteia.

buck v bellThere are people like Margaret Sanger, Dr. Karan Singh and Rudolf Hess who believed that certain people had no right to reproduce, and they worked very hard to make that so. Whether done for population control or for reasons of eugenics, forced sterilization has a long and sordid history.

Arina O. Grossu at Aletetia has done a nice job of summing up this ugly practice. Whether it’s here in the U.S. or abroad, forcing people to be sterilized (often without their knowledge) is a crime against humanity. St. John Paul II spoke of this in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life):

The Pharaoh of old, haunted by the presence and increase of the children of Israel, submitted them to every kind of oppression and ordered that every male child born of the Hebrew women was to be killed (cf. Ex 1:7-22). Today not a few of the powerful of the earth act in the same way. They too are haunted by the current demographic growth, and fear that the most prolific and poorest peoples represent a threat for the well-being and peace of their own countries. Consequently, rather than wishing to face and solve these serious problems with respect for the dignity of individuals and families and for every person’s inviolable right to life, they prefer to promote and impose by whatever means a massive programme of birth control. Even the economic help which they would be ready to give is unjustly made conditional on the acceptance of an anti-birth policy.

(more…)

The 2014 proxy shareholder season is over, and left-of-center religious investment groups such as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow are crowing about victories and announcing their plans for next year. For example, ICCR notes in its latest issue of The Corporate Examiner:

While virtually every company participates in lobbying of some sort, companies often make undisclosed expenditures to third-party trade associations which then use that money in ways that can run counter to a company’s publicly-stated positions. After sustained engagement with ICCR members, VISA left the controversial model legislation group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and has implemented board-level oversight of its lobbying activities. Amgen agreed to disclose its membership in trade associations along with the amounts the trade associations spend from its fees for lobbying. Accenture has significantly expanded its public lobbying disclosure. A resolution calling for lobbying disclosure at Emerson won 41.6%.

Political spending by corporations is also an issue for investors. Hess committed to fully disclosing its trade association memberships and the names of the tax exempt organizations to which it makes contributions, as well as the portion of those payments that is used for political activities. EQT adopted a political contributions transparency policy. A resolution on contributions at Emerson won 47% of the vote. (more…)