FLOW_EXILEIn the various discussions surrounding the Acton Institute’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, a common response has been to call into question the basic notion of Christians existing in a state of “exile.”

The general complaint is that it’s somehow hyperbolic, given the privileged position of the modern West in the scope of human history. From here, things typically descend into detailed historical debates about the realities of America vs. the Middle East vs. the Roman Empire vs. Babylonian rule, and so on.

But as Russell Moore now helpfully points out, such a critique assumes a false definition of “exile” that most simply misses the point.

Exile has nothing to do with some temporal decline from this earthly rule to that — in our case, from some nostalgic memory of a “Christian nation” to the present “post-Christian” dysphoria. “The political and cultural climate of America does not make us exiles,” Moore reminds us, and such a perspective “just continues the triumphalist rhetoric of the last generation.”

Indeed, Christians have never been “at home” in America: (more…)

Radio Free ActonIn this edition of Radio Free Acton, we speak with John Horvat, author of Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society, about what’s gone wrong with our economy and culture and how to fix it. John’s book was featured this year at Acton University (you can pick up a copy for yourself at the link above), and he writes about his AU experience in this post on his blog:

…the students really cared. It was hard not to be impressed by the unified “diversity” that characterized those in the course. Dispelling the myth that diversity is only on the left, some eighty countries were represented, including sizable delegations from Africa and Latin America. At the same time, people from all ages were enrolled providing that delicate balance between wisdom and enthusiasm. Acton proves year after year that young people are attracted to free markets and moral values.

We also look into the latest on Greece’s financial problems and how Europe is trying to save its common currency, with analysis of the situation by Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg. As he notes, Europe’s economic troubles run much deeper than just the Greek debt crisis.

You can listen to this week’s podcast via the audio player below:

Blog author: bwalker
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
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In the weeks since the June 18 release of Laudato Si, the discussion has bifurcated into the realms of prosaic, progressive pantheistic pronouncements that Earth requires tender ministrations post haste on one hand. On the other hand, there are those who assert the encyclical gets it right on the value of protecting human life but miserably wrong when Pope Francis identifies free-market economics as greed’s handmaiden intent on destroying the planet for a quick buck. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
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The sale of fetal body parts: gruesome—and shockingly legal
Joe Carter, ERLC

The discussion in the video is graphic, gruesome, and disturbing. What’s even more shocking is that this practice may actually be legal under current federal law.

Taxing churches is a form of religious persecution — and liberals need to stand against it
Damon Linker, The Week

How long will it be until we begin to see a movement — egged on by activists, encouraged by receptive judges — to revoke the tax exemptions currently enjoyed by churches? A few months? A year? I

Greece Disaster Shows Unavoidable Consequences of Socialism
Stephen Moore, The Daily Signal

The Greek citizens have rolled the dice and voted overwhelmingly to reject the “austerity” referendum. This was a way for voters to stick a finger in the eye of their creditors. The left around the world has responded to the vote with thunderous applause—and is selling the results as a vote for “the little guy.”

Society Exists Prior to the State, Obergefell Notwithstanding
George Weigel, EPPC

Reactions by the Catholic bishops of the United States to the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges have been, in the main, robust and carefully thought through.

little-sistersEarlier today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the Little Sisters must comply with the government’s mandate to provide contraceptives for employees. The district court ruled the Little Sisters cannot receive a full exemption from the law’s contraception rules because they “do not substantially burden plaintiffs’ religious exercise or violate the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.”

The nuns disagree. “As Little Sisters of the Poor, we simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith,” says Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “And we should not have to make that choice, because it violates our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives.”

“For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity,” added Sr. Maguire. “All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.”
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Katie Steinle

Katie Steinle

The moral obligation of society regarding illegal immigrants remains at the center of the political debate on immigration. Numerous questions surround the proper “status” for illegal immigrants, how the state should respond, and the responsibility of American citizens over various humanitarian concerns. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution combined with numerous Supreme Court rulings, has established that the federal government has “plenary power” over immigration and is solely entitled to make laws in accordance with this authority. These laws establish the framework for ordered and legal immigration which most would agree is highly beneficial to society as well as being a foundational part of American history. However, when cities and municipalities disregard the rule of law on immigration, humanitarian issues become clouded and morality is challenged.

According to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), there are over 200 “sanctuary cities” in the United States. These are cities or municipalities that have laws or policies that forbid compliance with federal immigration authorities. Local authorities are required by federal law to inform Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when they apprehend someone and find that they are an illegal immigrant. Places that have given themselves a sanctuary designation do not inform ICE or turn over an immigrant upon discovering illegal status. (more…)

Mideast Islamic State

Islamic State fighters march through Raqqa, Syria, in January. Photo: AP

With each passing day, the news is inundated with images of murder from the Islamic State. Anyone they target suffers not only death, but often a horrifically slow and tortuous one. What President Obama considered to be a “JV” team proves to consist of professionally trained, competent warriors bent on annihilating their foes. These terrorists attack any opponent who stands in their way, but reserve particular hatred and brutality for Christians. The war they wage is as much of a military conflict as it is an ideological conflict, their end goal being global subjugation to hardline Islamic Law.

What does this mean for Christians? As the secularization of Western culture further isolates Christianity, an open extermination assaults in the Middle East. In the modern era, the entire world seems to wage a relentless war against Christians. However, compared to what our Christian brothers and sisters living under the Islamic State endure, the trials of Western Christians seem trivial. Louis Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, said in mid 2014 that there “were about 1 million Christians in Iraq and more than half of them have been displaced. Only 400,000 are left while displacement is still rising.” (more…)

walmartIn reply to Pope Francis’s recent criticism of free market capitalism, AEI’s Mark Perry provides a provocative response. Not only do free markets do more to reduce world poverty than the Catholic Church, says Perry, one single company—Walmart—had done more for the global poor than the Vatican:

I would argue that free market capitalism, American style, has done more to reduce world poverty than any anti-poverty efforts of the Catholic Church and the Vatican. In fact, I would even argue that just one free-market capitalist corporation – Walmart – might even do as much, or more, to alleviate poverty by providing everyday low prices and jobs for hundreds of thousands of low-income people than the anti-poverty efforts of the Catholic Church in the countries where Walmart operates (US, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, India, China, and nine African countries). In addition to reducing poverty with low-cost groceries, clothing and household goods, Walmart improves the lives of underserved individuals and communities with $1.4 billion in charitable giving every year, which is almost $4 million every day!

Let’s clarify that what Perry is referring to is material poverty. Most Christians would point out that alleviating spiritual poverty is as necessary, and even more important, than reducing material poverty. On that scale the Catholic Church would contend that it is doing a great amount of good (as I’m sure Perry would agree).

But does Perry have a point about global material poverty? Does Walmart provide more financial benefit to the global poor than the Catholic Church?

Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
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A Hindu Reflection on Pope’s Climate Change Encyclical
Sunita Viswanath, Huffington Post

Through this Encyclical, the Pope has invited every person on the planet into dialogue on the many pressing ecological issues facing humanity – and their impact on the poorest people of the world. As I read the Ramayana and lose myself in the beautiful descriptions of forests, lakes and roaring confluences of rivers, each such site is revealed to me as holy. I am filled with renewed conviction that the only thing I can do in the face of gargantuan challenges such as global warming and global hunger and poverty is to try and keep my heart as clear as the river where Valmiki bathed, and learn to transform my grief and despair into selfless service (seva).

Pope Francis’ Call for Climate Action
Gina McCarthy, Huffington Post

Earlier this year in a series of meetings at the Vatican on the Encyclical with key Papal advisors, Cardinal Turkson laid out our moral obligation to act on climate change not only from the compelling scientific data, but also from his own firsthand experience in Ghana. The meetings ended with a sense of urgency, but also with a feeling of opportunity and hope.

Boehner versus the pope
Bill Press, The Hill

The pope also condemned capitalism because of its role in development of global warming, thereby putting “at risk our common home, sister and mother earth.” As in his recently published encyclical Laudato Si’, Francis preached that climate change is real, that its primary cause is human activity and that political leaders have a moral duty to do something about it. This certainly won’t sit well with Congress’s Republican posse of climate deniers.

This Catholic supports climate fix
Tom Engelmann, Quad-City Times

Republicans, can you see the reality of what’s happening? Sens. Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley? I wanted to write before when the Pope’s encyclical came out and the Quad-City Times interviewed the vice-chair of the Scott County Republican party to demonstrate Catholic opposition to the Pope’s words. At that time, the only point he made was the Pope should keep his nose out of politics and stick to morality.

(more…)

Today at the Library of Law & Liberty, I examine Pope Francis’s recent speech in Bolivia, in which he calls for “an economy where human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life.”

I have no objection to that, but what he seems to miss is that the very policies he criticizes all characterize those countries in the world that most closely resemble his goal. I write,

So what stands in the way, according to the pontiff?—“corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.” Really?

Business, credit, trade, and fiscal responsibility are marks of healthy economies, not the problem, popular as it may be to denounce them. Indeed, these are also marks of economies that effectively care for “Mother Earth,” whose plight the Pope claims “the most important [task] facing us today.” That’s right, more important than the plight of the poor, to His Holiness, is the plight of trees, water, and lower animals.

That moral confusion aside, is there any way we could study what policies correlate with the Pope’s laudable goals? As it turns out, there is. The United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) ranks countries based upon an aggregate rating of economic growth, care for the environment, and health and living conditions—precisely the measures the Pope seems to care most about. Yet of the top 20 countries on the most recent HDI ranking, 18 also rank as “free” or “mostly free” on the most recent Heritage Index of Economic Freedom.

Read my full article, “Show Me the Way to Poverty,” here.