homeless-coderOn his way to work in 2013, tech entrepreneur Patrick McConlogue walked past a homeless man, Leo Grand, who was exercising with a heavy chain. McConlogue took this as a sign of Grand’s internal drive and motivation and decided to try an experiment:

The idea is simple. Without disrespecting him, I will offer two options:

1. I will come back tomorrow and give you $100 in cash.

2. I will come back tomorrow and give you three JavaScript books, (beginner-advanced-expert) and a super cheap basic laptop. I will then come an hour early from work each day—when he feels prepared—and teach him to code.

Leo turned down the money and took the opportunity to learn how to code. McConlogue saw this a portending great things: “It turns out Leo is a genius particularly concerned with environment issues.”

McConlogue initially gave Grand a laptop and some books and met with him an hour a day for tutoring. Later he would take off work for five weeks to work with Grand full-time on a smartphone app, “Trees for Cars.” Even before the app launched, McConlogue was dreaming about how to scale up the process into a program to help other “people in need”:
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Should corporate donations to political causes remain private or shouldn’t they? Your writer would argue for the former as he holds the U.S. Supreme Court nailed it with its Citizens United decision. Progressive shareholder activists, naturally, disagree.

Except, that is, when incredible secrecy suits progressive social and political ends. The Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, for example, asserts Citizens United is the worst kind of travesty against all things they desire made transparent – as does ICCR member Walden Asset Management.

While “dark money” corporate donations give ICCR and WAM the Screaming Mimi’s, both groups are quiet as church mice when it comes to secretive funding of such progressive agendas as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. For example, ICCR and WAM haven’t uttered a peep concerning software magnate Tim Gill’s advocacy group OutGiving, a highly secretive group of millionaires who funnel money into campaigns supportive of LGBT causes and candidates likely to support them. (more…)

Jesus Christ the Apple TreeToday is the 70th anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the Flossenbürg concentration camp. I’m privileged to offer a brief reflection on Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy over at Public Discourse.

I’ve been working on Bonhoeffer’s thought for over a decade now, and I’m often struck by the depth of his conviction and insight in such troubled times. One of the things about him that I try to highlight in the Public Discourse piece is how Bonhoeffer’s courageous action for the world today was rooted in hopefulness for the world to come. As so many others have often pointed out, and rightly so, Bonhoeffer’s theology and biography are intimately related.

For example, in principle Bonhoeffer affirmed God’s institution of marriage: “Through marriage human beings are procreated for the glory and service of Jesus Christ and the enlarging of Christ’s kingdom.” But even when faced with the dangers of resistance to Hitler and the travails of war and social discord, he took the step of proposing to Maria von Wedemeyer. Planning to marry her was an act of courage, a concrete form of affirming and accepting God’s will for this world.

There is an apocryphal saying attributed to the sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther, that “if I knew the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.” As Scott Hendrix writes, this saying (although it has precedent in a story attributed to Francis of Assisi) actually arises from the Nazi era in Germany: “Scholars believe it originated in the German Confessing Church, which used it to inspire hope and perseverance during its opposition to the Nazi dictatorship.”

Bonhoeffer lived out his own form of that insight through his engagement to Maria in 1943, shortly before his arrest and eventual execution. May Bonhoeffer’s life and work continue to inspire hope and perseverance even in the midst of our suffering and confusion.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, April 9, 2015
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The Holocaust, White Privilege, and American Jewry
Seth Mandel, Commentary

If you think “white privilege” can be reduced to the ability to get a taxi, then sure, Brodesser-Akner is probably privileged. Bovy is making what seems like an obvious point: if you’re one of the many Jews who don’t wear identifying garments, you can make white America think you’re one of them.

Organ trafficking emerges in Syria’s Damascus
ARA News

As the war and security situation continue to deteriorate in Syria, children’s abductions and human trafficking have become a common scene in the city of Damascus in the last few months.

No, government isn’t subsidizing Wal-Mart
James Pethokoukis, AEI Ideas

Democrats, unions and left-wing activists frequently argue that government (actually taxpayers) subsidizes Wal-Mart and other companies that employ low-wage workers since many of those workers receive government welfare benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid. And the mainstream media pretty much accept this reasoning.

How Well Will American Christians Wear Our Cross?
Leslie Loftis, The Federalist

The coming days will show us that American Christians aren’t as numerous as the guide books tell us. They might not be as strong as some assume, either.

gvsu_logo_blueNo sooner had your writer reported on the metastasis of the sustainability movement from universities to the religious community than it came to his attention that activists were doubling down on efforts to bankrupt the economy and sentence capitalism to the dustbin of history. Because: Social Justice.

This latest head scratcher is scheduled to take place in the Acton Institute’s own Grand Rapids’ backyard, and will feature a sustainability event in a Grand Valley State University facility named after an Acton Board Member. The Rapidian – a Grand Rapids web site for “citizen journalism” – reports:

An activist panel, breakout sessions, lunch, skill building sessions and a general activist assembly will be held at the John C. Kennedy Hall of Engineering in Grand Rapids on Saturday, April 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the local community as well as students and staff.

Two of the key points that will be discussed at the event is that “green” capitalism is not a solution to climate change and that collective climate justice must be achieved through the development of strategies and the use of tactics that rely on direct action.

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Big-Business-and-CongressDuring Holy Week the CEOs of two quintessential Red State and Blue State companies—Wal-Mart and Apple—joined together to publicly chastise state legislatures for allowing citizens to have too much religious freedom. Apple CEO Tim Cook opposed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed in Indiana while Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon opposed similar legislation in Arkansas. The heads of two companies that do business with countries that commit actual human rights violations on a daily basis were concerned about states protecting religious believers who might hypothetically—someday, somehow—act in a way that could hurt someone’s feelings.

Despite being highly intelligent and competent executives, both men showed a complete ignorance about what RFRA laws are and how they have been used in the past. But even if they had bothered to gather the facts before commenting they would have likely took the same stance. Large corporations have historically supported liberal causes (or in this case, an illiberal causes), even when they conflict with the values of their most prized customers.

Since Big Business are rarely even economically conservative (e.g., most despise true free markets) it’s not surprising they show a similar disdain for social conservative causes (while it wasn’t always the case, religious freedom is now a cause championed almost exclusively by social conservatives). Why then do we conservatives always rush to defend Big Business? As Matt K. Lewis asks, “Why does the right always go to the mat for big corporations who could give a damn about conservative values?”
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RefuseServiceSignIn today’s Acton Commentary, “The Logic of Economic Discrimination,” I take up a small slice of the larger controversy and discussion surrounding religious liberty laws like the one passed recently in Indiana. My point, drawing out some of the implications of observations made by others, including Ryan Anderson and Shikha Dalmia, is that anti-discrimination boycotts depend on discrimination. Or as Dalmia puts it, “what is deeply ironic is that corporate America was able to wield its right not to do business (and boycott Indiana) by circumscribing the same right of Indiana businesses.”

Now there are lots of other angles and significant points to explore surrounding this enormously complex and important debate. Many have criticized the hypocrisy of corporations like Apple for doing business in places like China and Saudi Arabia even while they grandstand against Indiana. Others are now pointing to the actions of many in Silicon Valley, which despite the proclamations of support for social justice, have actually created huge inequalities. Tech centers like Silicon Valley are great, it seems, unless you are a woman, have a family, or are a blue-collar worker.

Indiana politicians, under massive scrutiny, have since moved to “clarify” the RFRA law that was passed, a move that has mollified some but not others. From the beginning, these conversations about religious liberty and economic rights have, in my view, insufficiently included sensitivity to considerations like freedom of association. Hopefully the larger context and interactions of contracts and rights, not merely “religious liberty” narrowly defined, can help broaden and mature the conversation.
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Hilarion

Hilarion

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, a high ranking bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, commented on a new poll that showed a growing number of Russians are viewing the rule of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in a positive light. Hilarion’s comments amount to a verbal cup of black coffee for those intoxicated with Stalin (1878-1953), one of the most murderous dictators in history. Stalin, who blew up Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in 1931, was described by historian Robert Conquest as a man who combined ruthlessness, deception and terror in the extreme. The historian quoted a Russian scholar who said of Stalin’s dictatorship: “We wiped out the best and brightest in our country and, as a result, sapped ourselves of intelligence and energy.”

Metropolitan Hilarion:

“I think that to sober up, some need to go to the Butovo firing range on the outskirts of Moscow,” Ilarion said during a program aired by Channel One on Monday, according to media reports.

Butovo was the site of the largest number of political executions in the Moscow region under Stalin. “The firing range has a museum, photographs of people, it tells you what was happening there: Every day they brought in and shot 200, 300, 400 people,” Ilarion was quoted as saying. “There were 15-16-year-old children. Why were they shot?” (more…)

On this edition of Radio Free Acton, we talk with Ryan T. Anderson, William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society at the Heritage Foundation, about what exactly we mean when we say “religious liberty.” Is it simply the freedom to worship and order one’s private beliefs, or does it entail something more robust than that? We also discuss Religious Freedom Restoration Act legislation in Indiana and elsewhere, and the media’s open animus toward supporters of such legislation. You can listen to the podcast in the audio player below; the editorials and columns referenced in the podcast are linked after the jump.

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basketballJust when I think I’ve heard and read everything about the slavery that is human trafficking, something new comes along. This time, it’s the trafficking of boys and young men for sports.

NPR’s Alexandra Starr writes about teens from Nigeria being lured to the U.S. with the promise of basketball scholarships, only to end up homeless on the streets of New York City or in foster care. Then there is this:

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security raided the Faith Baptist Christian Academy South in Ludowici, Ga., and discovered 30 young boys, mostly Dominican, who had been living in the campus gym, sleeping on the floor. Apparently students had been housed there since 2013. These boys also had been recruited to America with the promise of a high school education and a shot at a college scholarship.

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