20130703_net_neutrality.436xWhat are we to think of net neutrality?

No, seriously, that’s not a rhetorical question—I just can’t remember which side I support. I’ve written about net neutrality at least a half-dozen times (including an explainer piece) and yet for the life of me I can never remember which is the most pro-freedom, pro-market side. Is it opposing neutrality, supporting neutrality, being neutral on neutrality? Opposed, I think. I’m pretty sure it’s opposed.

Perhaps that type of confusion is why so many religious leaders take the wrong side. As Nicholas G. Hahn III notes, many men and women of the cloth gave net neutrality a blessing even though it’s an unlikely assault on religious liberty:
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Blog author: jballor
Thursday, March 12, 2015
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Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) is celebrating its twentieth anniversary. First Things, whose first publisher Richard John Neuhaus was a founding ECT member, is hosting a variety of reflections on ECT’s two decades, and in its latest issue published a new ECT statement, “The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage.”

Abraham KuyperThe first ECT statement was put out in 1994. But as recalled by Charles W. Colson, another founding member of ECT, the foundations of evangelical and Roman Catholic dialogue go back much further. The Dutch Reformed theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a major influence on the thinking of Colson, and as Colson argues, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together, which created such controversy, was launched actually by Kuyper a century ago. It is not new.”

Colson made this bold claim in a speech in 1998, at a conference at Calvin College (co-sponsored by the Acton Institute), on the legacies of two great modern representatives of these traditions, Kuyper and Leo XIII.
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L07-444050The way that a culture understands the nature of God shapes its conception of man, reason, and society, says Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg. Though this presents enormous challenges for the Islamic world, it also has significant implications for the sustainability of Western civilization:

In 1992, the political scientist Samuel Huntington ignited a debate among scholars of politics and international affairs when he proposed that civilizational differences would be an increased source of conflict in a post-Cold War world. Widely seen as a competitor to the “end of history” thesis proposed by Francis Fukuyama, Huntington’s argument was developed in the pages of Foreign Affairs before being expounded in book form in 1996. It acquired more traction—and criticism—in the wake of 9/11 and Islamic jihadism’s subsequent expansion across the globe.

Leaving aside the specifics of Huntington’s thesis, his very use of the word “civilization” was one point of criticism. The expression implies that some cultures are more advanced than others. In an age when many are in thrall to various versions of moral and cultural relativism, this doesn’t go over well.

Read more . . .

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson

There has been much speculation regarding Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on ecology. Will he side with those who raise the alarm on climate change? Is he going to choose a moderate approach? Will the encyclical call for changes to help the poor?

Commonweal’s Michael Peppard seems to think Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Ghanaian prelate and President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has lifted the curtain on the pope’s upcoming encyclical. Cardinal Turkson gave a lecture last week, entitled, “Integral ecology and the horizon of hope: concern for the poor and for creation in the ministry of Pope Francis” which seemed to do more than simply hint at the themes of the ecology encyclical. As Peppard said, Cardinal Turkson “might well have titled it, An outline of the Pope’s forthcoming encyclical.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, March 12, 2015
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Meet the 19th Century American Who Warned About Big Government, Religious Liberty Assaults
Robert Moffit, The Daily Signal

2015 marks a milestone in American history. One hundred and fifty years ago, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant and ended the Civil War. Shortly thereafter, Orestes Augustus Brownson (1803-1876), a prominent journalist and philosopher, published “The American Republic,” an erudite defense of the Federal Constitution.

The oil boom in North Dakota now has a serious sex trafficking problem
Jason Gaines, Business Insider

North Dakota has seen an increase in demand for prostitution as more and more people flock to the state’s burgeoning oil region. Most of these oil workers arrested for solicitation are unaware that many of these women are victims of sex trafficking.

Discrimination against Christians ‘ignored’ across Europe – MPs
John Bingham, The Telegraph

Nursery worker challenges sacking over views on sexuality as Council of Europe warns of ‘intolerance’ towards Christian beliefs.

How to Fight for Social Justice Right Where You Are
Elise Amyx, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

You don’t have to fly to Africa to fight for social justice. You can do it right now in your office, on your campus, and at home. Just by bringing someone Nutella? Yep.

buried“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible,” said Stanisław Jerzy Lec. Whether that is true in nature, it’s certainly seems to be true for many of the precious little snowflakes who find themselves, after making poor educational decisions, buried under an avalanche of student loan debt. Consider, for instance, this op-ed by Tad Hopp, a student in “his last semester in the MDiv program at San Francisco Theological Seminary.”

Before we delve into what will be one of the worst opinion pieces of the year, let me offer a word of caution. Reading Mr. Hopp’s op-ed may affect you, as it did me, by filling you with despair. Can America survive when millions of people have such a self-centered sense of entitlement? I’m not sure. And if you’re prone to declinist thinking, you’ll want to skip the rest of this post. Here’s a compilation of kitten videos to watch instead.

Let’s start by reviewing the circumstances Mr. Hopp finds himself in:

1. Goes to an expensive private college and majors in a subject that is in low demand on the job market (English).
2. Graduates with $50,000 in debt and is unable to find a job.
3. Goes to another expensive private college and majors in a subject that is in low demand on the job market (Master of Divinity).
4. Nears graduation with an additional $50,000 in debt and no prospect for finding a job.

As Mr. Hopp says,

Perhaps you can see my dilemma here. Here I am, about to graduate from a very prestigious master’s degree program, saddled with student loan debt and the constant worry that I won’t be able to find a job once I graduate.

Based on that list of events you might expect him to provide a wise, experienced-based warning that others should not follow his example. You might expect him to advise, “Don’t go to a college you can’t afford, don’t wrack up debt you can’t pay, and don’t major in a subject that won’t help you get a job. And for goodness sake don’t do all those things twice!

But instead, Mr. Hopp takes a different approach:
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Charles Malik. Photo credit: LIFE Magazine.

In today’s Acton Commentary, I highlight a little book by the Lebanese diplomat, philosopher, and theologian Charles Malik, Christ and Crisis (1962). With regard to its continuing relevance, I write,

Malik would urge us to have the courage to take up our crosses today, each in our own capacities and competencies, putting the life of the spirit first, not settling for easy answers and scorning all distractions. “There are three unpardonable sins today,” wrote Malik in 1962 — but just as relevant now — “to be flippant or superficial in the analysis of the world situation; to live and act as though halfhearted measures would avail; and to lack the moral courage to rise to the historic occasion.”

Above all, Christians can never be ashamed of Jesus Christ. “To be fair, to be positive, to be thankful — these are highly desirable Christian virtues today,” wrote Malik. But he did not stop at that commendable fairness, cautioning, “And of course you are not fair at all if, in trying to be fair to others, you are so fair as to cease to be fair to Christ Himself — Christ who was much more than just fair to you and me when He took our sins upon Himself on the Cross.”

Malik’s impressive work deserves more attention than it has received in recent years. And his record speaks for itself: In addition to co-drafting the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, sitting as president of the U.N.’s General Assembly in 1958, acting as Lebanese ambassador to the United States, and dedicating his life to fighting communism and defending human rights, Malik was also a philosopher and theologian and served as vice president of the United Bible Societies from 1966 to 1972 and president of the World Council on Christian Education from 1967 to 1971. Such monumental work for both the common good and the kingdom of God ought not to remain obscure to Christians today.

You can read my full commentary on his 1962 work Christ and Crisis here.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
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Earlier this week the University of Oklahoma chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon was caught on video engaging in a racist chant. The video shows several men wearing tuxedos and riding on a charter bus singing that black students, which the men refer to with a racial slur, could never join their fraternity. The chant also alluded to lynchings.

Language warning: The video below contains offensive and racist language.

The reaction to this vile, disgraceful video was swift and, for the most part, appropriate. The national headquarters immediately closed the chapter and suspended the members. “This type of racist behavior will not be tolerated and is not consistent with the values and morals of our fraternity,” the national leaders of Sigma Alpha Epsilon said in a statement. David Boren, the president of the University, also rebuked the fraternity: “To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves ‘Sooners.’ ”

But then President Boren took it a step too far and expelled two of the racist-chanting students. Boren said the students who played a leadership role had created a hostile learning environment for others. As he told the students, “You will be expelled because of your leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created a hostile educational environment for others.”

As legal scholar Eugene Volokh notes, there are two problems with Boren’s statement and his expulsion of the students. The first problem, says Volokh, is that “racist speech is constitutionally protected, just as is expression of other contemptible ideas; and universities may not discipline students based on their speech.” The second issue is that, “Similar things could be said about a vast range of other speech.”
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worker1One of our favorite coffee shops when we lived in Washington, D.C. in the 1980s was The Daily Grind. The name’s humorous wordplay about everyday work and the delicious fresh-roasted coffee made us smile.

But too many of God’s people are not smiling as their alarms sound and they head to their daily tasks. Recent surveys reveal their deep dissatisfaction in their jobs, with few finding joy and significance in their efforts. Last year, Barna Group reported 75 percent of American adults long for meaning, while less than 20 percent say they’re extremely satisfied with their current work.

Young adults in their 20s and 30s are unhappy about the disconnect between their educations and expectations and the scarcity of some jobs. Many are working two or three part-time jobs and waiting for their “destiny” and their “dream” opportunities.

It makes one wonder: Can work be purposeful when it is often boring, repetitious, and sometimes unjust, with nasty bosses and challenging work conditions? Is it truly possible to derive joy and meaning from a job? (more…)

Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia has now given away more than 10,000 slices of pizza, using a unique “pay-it-forward” system where “customers can pre-purchase $1 slices for those in need.”

The story is inspiring on a number of levels, illuminating the power of business to channel the best of humanity toward meeting complex needs in new and unexpected ways, often quite spontaneously.

The owner, Mason Wartman, left his job on Wall Street to start the restaurant, following his vocational aspirations and bringing a new product and service to this Philadelphia neighborhood. This is a great social benefit in and of itself, and yet the owner and his customers went further, responding to other signals in their community through generosity and innovation from the bottom up. As several homeless people in the video explain, the grace-filled approach of the business and its customers made a remarkable impact, giving them peace, encouragement, and empowerment. (more…)