Pope Francis meets with representatives of Albania’s Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic communities, at the Catholic University “Our Lady of Good Counsel” in Tirana, Albania

Pope Francis meets with representatives of Albania’s Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic communities, at the Catholic University “Our Lady of Good Counsel” in Tirana, Albania

Last Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about his Apostolic Journey to Albania on September 21. He stated first why he wished to visit this country, highlighting the Albanians ability to peacefully co-exist in a nation with two strong religious factions.

This visit was born of my desire to go to a country which, after long being oppressed by an atheist and inhuman regime, is living the experience of peaceful coexistence among the country’s different religious components. I felt it was important to encourage it on this path, that it may continue with tenacity to evaluate all the implications for the benefit of the common good. For this reason the Journey had at its centre an interreligious meeting where I was able to observe, with great satisfaction, that the peaceful and fruitful coexistence between persons and communities of believers of different religions is not only desirable, but possible and realistic. They are putting it into practice! This entails an authentic and fruitful dialogue which spurns relativism and takes the identity of each one into account. What the various religious expressions have in common is, indeed, life’s journey, the good will to do good to one’s neighbour, without denying or diminishing their respective identity.

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exileStephen Grabill and Evan Koons recently joined John Stonestreet on BreakPoint to discuss For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, the latest film series from the Acton Institute.

You can listen to the full discussion here.

The conversation covers a range of topics surrounding the series, but focuses mostly on the central theme of life in exile: How ought we as Christians to think about our role in culture and society, and what does the series aim to uncover when it comes to that question?

As Grabill explains:

Exile, in the Old Testament was God’s judgment on the nation of Israel for not doing something or being something that they were called to be. In the New Testament, exile is more a state of being. It’s more like being a sojourner and a pilgrim. And you’re kind of always on the way, in between. And that’s the sense of exile that we’re really building on in For the Life of the World—that sense of that new state of being. And Christians are feeling like they’re on the outside of their culture right now. Everything is changing and things are getting all messed up. We want to capture that sense of tension and exile, but we want to take it in a…constructive way.

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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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There are dirty political games behind the Iraq conflict, says Chaldean Patriarch Sako
Gianni Valente, Vatican Insider

“There’s no future for us if the Lord does not help us.” There’s suffering and concern in Louis Raphaël I Sako’s words. The concern of a pastor who sees that his flock is in danger and the suffering of a child of the Chaldean Church who sees Christianity’s age-long history quickly heading towards oblivion. A history that has irrigated the lands between Mesopotamia’s two rivers for millennia. And it is not just the Islamic State’s bloodthirsty jihadists he is concerned about.

Spontaneous Charity Is Good; Thoughtful Charity Is Even Better
Jayme Metzgar, The Federalist

What’s better than the Ice Bucket Challenge? These six steps for thoughtful charity giving.

This map shows where slavery and forced labor are happening around the world
James Pethokoukis , AEI Ideas

An estimated ~21-30m people are in slavery around the world, including forced labour, bonded labour, human trafficking and child slavery.

Business and Conscience
Greg Forster, First Things

The president has discovered that businesses are people, and have a conscience.

Thomas-Piketty-014Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has created quite the stir, and with its overwhelming size (700 pages) and corresponding array of commentaries and critiques, it’s tough to know where to start.

Cutting through such noise, Russ Roberts provides his usual service on EconTalk, chatting one-on-one with Piketty about the key themes, strengths, and weaknesses of the book. The interview is just over an hour, and I encourage you to listen to the whole thing.

Piketty lays out his argument quite concisely in the beginning, followed by a fruitful back-and-forth led by Roberts. For those who aren’t aware, the book chronicles a recent rise in economic inequality, wherein, by Piketty’s account, wealthy elites sit on their stashes while those at the bottom increasingly struggle to keep pace. His solution: Tax, baby, tax.

In response to such an approach, there are many areas to poke and prod, but Roberts zeroes in on one of the more fundamental and overarching questions: What about those who accumulate their wealth by helping those at “the bottom”?  (more…)

gb_pamphlet2An estimated 10 million American households — about 8 percent of all households — are “unbanked” and one in five households — 24 million households with 51 million adults — are “underbanked.” These are households which don’t have accounts at banks and other mainstream financial institutions and use cash for most of their transactions. As a result, notes the FDIC, these “cash consumers pay excessive fees for basic financial services, are susceptible to high-cost predatory lenders, or have difficulties buying a home or otherwise acquiring assets.”

The highest unbanked and underbanked rates are found among non-Asian minorities, lower-income households, younger households, and unemployed households. Close to half of all households in these groups are unbanked or underbanked compared to slightly more than one-quarter of all households.

One of the most common reasons people have for avoiding checking accounts is overdraft fees. If you write a $10 check and it “bounces” (fails to clear because of lack of funds) most banks will charge you a $35 per transaction fee. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the average overdraft fees paid per bank customer was $225. If you make less than $20,000 a year, you can easily find yourself paying one percent of your annual salary on overdraft fees alone.
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Some feminists will tell you: it’s tough being a woman. We don’t have enough choices. We don’t get paid enough. There’s glass ceilings and sexist stereotypes. Women, arise and unite!

Maybe not. “Hysteria and hype,” says the American Enterprise Institute’s Christina Hoff Sommers. She examines radical feminism vs. truth. Guess which wins?

RaceSaveCentury-finalforrealthistimeWe are only 14 years into this century, and things are grim…but not hopeless. That’s the message of the book, The Race to Save Our Century: Five Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom and a Culture of Life. The book is a collaboration between Jason Scott Jones and John Zmirak. Jones is a human-rights activist and filmmaker (his works include Bella and Crescendo.) Zmirak is a prolific author, known best for his theologically accurate but tongue-in-cheek books on Catholicism, such as The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Catechism: A Faithful, Fun-Loving Look at Catholic Dogmas, Doctrines, and Schmoctrines.

The Race to Save Our Century is a slim volume, but not a quick read. There is much to mull over here. With chapters like “Total War” and “Utopian Collectivism,” it’s best to take this book slowly. You don’t want to miss any of the good stuff. (more…)

hong-kong-44What is the protest in Hong Kong?

Pro-democracy activists in the city are protesting the Chinese government’s decision ruling out open nominations for the election of Hong Kong’s leader in 2017. According to the BBC, China’s leaders had promised direct elections for chief executive by 2017, but last month the top legislative committee ruled that voters will only have a choice from a list of two or three candidates selected by a nominating committee. This committee would be formed “in accordance with” Hong Kong’s largely pro-Beijing election committee and any candidate would have to secure the support of more than 50 percent of the nominating committee before being able to run in the election.

Who is leading the protest?

Various groups, though Occupy Central with Love and Peace — an organization that promotes universal suffrage — seems to be the most prominent. Occupy Central, led by Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, organized the unofficial referendum on political reform held in June.

Is Occupy Central connected to the Occupy Wall Street protests?

Yes. Both are part of the Occupy movement, an international protest movement that has promoted protests on six continents.

Why is the protest sometimes referred to as the “Umbrella Revolution”?
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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, September 29, 2014
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6 Key Supreme Court Cases This Term
Elizabeth Slattery, The Daily Signal

If you use Facebook, pay taxes, enjoy fishing or drive a car, the 2014-2015 term of the Supreme Court, which begins Oct. 6, will be worth watching.

How the Common Core Went Wrong
Frederick M. Hess, National Affairs

The trouble with the Common Core is not that it was the handiwork of anti-American ideologues or anti-teacher dogmatists, but that it was the work of well-meaning, self-impressed technocrats who fudged difficult questions, used federal coercion to compel rapid national adoption, and assumed that things would work out.

What’s Lost in Not Recognizing Campus Religious Groups
Karen Swallow Prior, The Atlantic

California State University’s recent decision to strip InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapters of their school affiliation undermines its ability to teach pluralism.

International Religious Freedom Policy and American National Security
Thomas F. Farr, Public Discourse

The Obama administration has failed to advance the cause of international religious liberty, and that failure has endangered American national security. But there are concrete steps Congress can take to improve implementation of the International Religious Freedom Act. Adapted from testimony delivered before the National Security Sub-Committee of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, September 18, 2014.

le-swat-en-actionWearing masks and bulletproof vests and with guns drawn, police in Orange County, Florida conducted the SWAT-style raid. Although the team included narcotics agents, they weren’t conducting a drug bust. They weren’t looking for illegal weapons or stolen merchandise either. They were on a mission to see if barbers were cutting hair without a license:

The officers ordered all the customers to leave, announcing that the shop was “closed down indefinitely.” They handcuffed the owner, Brian Berry, and two barbers who rented chairs from him, then proceeded to search the work stations and a storage room. They demanded the barbers’ driver’s licenses and checked for outstanding warrants. One of the inspectors, Amanda Fields, asked for the same paperwork she had seen two days earlier, going through the motions of verifying (again) that the barbers were not cutting hair without a license (a second-degree misdemeanor). Finding no regulatory violations or contraband, the officers released Berry and the others after about an hour.

According to Reason, two inspectors from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation had already visited the Strictly Skillz Barbershop in Orlando and found everything in order. All of the barbers were properly licensed, and all of the work stations complied with state regulations. Yet despite the agency only being able to conduct such inspections once every two years, the agency brought over a half dozen cops with them two days later to conduct another inspection.

Fortunately, a federal appeals court recently ruled that “a criminal raid executed under the guise of an administrative inspection is constitutionally unreasonable.” The court had come to the same conclusion two times before, so the justices added, “”We hope that the third time will be the charm.”
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