UnemploymentSeries Note: Jobs are one of the most important aspects of a morally functioning economy. They help us serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and for communities. Conversely, not having a job can adversely affect spiritual and psychological well-being of individuals and families. Because unemployment is a spiritual problem, Christians in America need to understand and be aware of the monthly data on employment. Each month highlight the latest numbers we need to know (see also: What Christians Should Know About Unemployment).

Positive news is marked with the plus sign (+) while negative employment data is marked with a minus sign (-). No significant change is marked by (NC).
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1754aae62eIn Abraham Kuyper’s newly translated Scholarship, he explores the Christian’s role in the Economy of Wisdom. Addressing students of Free University in Amsterdam, he asks, “What should be the goal of university study and the goal of living and working in the sacred domain of scholarship?”

Though he observes certain similarities with other forms of labor — between teacher and farmer, professor and factory worker — and though each vocation is granted by God, Kuyper notes that the scholar is distinct in setting the scope of his stewardship on the mind itself. “Not merely to live,” he writes, “but to know that you live and how you live, and how things around you live, and how all that hangs together and lives out of the one efficient cause that proceeds from God’s power and wisdom.”

I was therefore delighted to stumble upon a different address/sermon (“Learning in War-Time”) given at a different university (Oxford) by a different intellectual heavyweight (C.S. Lewis), which touches on many of these same themes, but with a slightly different spin.

Included in Lewis’ book, The Weight of Glory, the sermon was given in 1939 (the beginning of World War II), and explores how, why, and whether Christians should pursue learning during times of extreme catastrophe. More broadly, how might we consider the life of the mind among the many competing priorities, demands, and obligations of life, and the Christian life at that? “Why should we — indeed how can we — continue to take an interest in these placid occupations when the lives of our friends and the liberties of Europe are in the balance? Is it not like fiddling while Rome burns?” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, February 6, 2015
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The Privilege of Freedom
Daniel Hannan, Intercollegiate Review

My friend told me something about the visit that I had never considered before. He said, “You know, the Holy Father never once directly criticized the Communist authorities. He didn’t have to. He just offered something better.” That, I think, should be the creed of conservatives: Just offer something better.

We need to reward work, not just make it more miserable to be unemployed or poor
James Pethokoukis, AEI Ideas

One government program that many conservatives like — especially vs. the minimum wage — is the Earned Income Tax Credit, the federal subsidy for low-income, working households.

Onward, Christian Health Care?
Molly Worthen, New York Times

Could this model scale up? These ministries seem to achieve a remarkable level of member satisfaction, even if they sometimes must portion out reimbursements when the bills outstrip monthly contributions.

The FCC’s chairman just proposed the strongest network neutrality rules yet
Timothy B. Lee, Vox

Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, just announced new regulations that will provide strong protections for network neutrality.

IVCF_bannerEarlier today a federal appeals court handed down an important ruling that protects the liberties of religious organizations.

In the case of Alyce Conlon v. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected a plaintiff’s attempt to enforce state and federal gender discrimination laws on one of the nation’s largest Christian campus ministries.

According to the court opinion, Alyce Conlon worked at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA (IVCF) in Michigan as a spiritual director, involved in providing religious counsel and prayer. She informed IVCF that she was contemplating divorce, at which point IVCF put her on paid—and later unpaid—leave. Part of IVCF’s employment policy is that “[w]here there are significant marital issues, [IVCF] encourages employees to seek appropriate help to move towards reconciliation” and IVCF reserves the right “to consider the impact of any separation/divorce on colleagues, students, faculty, and donors.”

When Conlon’s marital situation continued to worsen despite counseling efforts, IVCF terminated her employment. Conlon sued IVCF and her supervisors in federal district court under Title VII and Michigan law. IVCF claimed the First Amendment’s ministerial exception to employment laws.

The Sixth Circuit rejected Conlon’s claims based on conclusions in the Supreme Courts’ ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School (2012).
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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, February 5, 2015
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Can Mobile Banking Revolutionize The Lives Of The Poor?
Ben Popper, The Verge

We’re excited to have Bill Gates as our guest editor in February. Throughout the month, Bill will be sharing his vision of how technology will revolutionize life for the world’s poor by 2030 by narrating episodes of the Big Future, our animated explainer series.

Prisoner beards and religious freedoms — what a recent Supreme Court decision means for you
Hannah Smith, Becket Fund

Late last month, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a unanimous victory for religious freedom in Holt v. Hobbs. It held that a federal civil rights statute requires prison officials to accommodate peaceful expressions of religious devotion, an issue arising from a dispute between a bearded Muslim inmate (named Holt) and the Arkansas Department of Correction.

Can Politics be a Vocation? Three Lessons on the Virtues of Good Government
Mary Ann Glendon, Abc Religion And Ethics

Cicero, like Edmund Burke and Vaclav Havel, understood that the everyday work of politics is a crucial part of what determines whether all other components of dignified living will flourish.

Pope declares Oscar Romero, hero to liberation theology, a martyr
Inés San Martín, Crux

Marking an end to one of the most divisive debates in Catholicism in the past 35 years, Pope Francis has officially declared the late Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero a martyr, clearing the way for eventually proclaiming him a saint.

MoneyRollAre you a professor interested in free market principles? Do you know of one? The Acton Institute is offering mini-grants between $1,000-$10,000 for faculty at colleges, universities, and seminaries in the United States and Canada. The purpose of these mini-grants is to enhance the effectiveness in the teaching and scholarship of market economics. In the past, these mini-grants were only available for business and economics faculty at Christian schools, but this year any faculty (in the U.S. and Canada) working with free market principles are eligible.

The Acton Institute invites proposals from faculty in one or more of the following broad categories:

  • Course development —specifically adding new courses or strengthening existing courses in the curriculum which address the nature, morality, function, and purpose of free-market economics. This may include courses that deal with religion and economics, microeconomics, macroeconomics, political economy, ethics and economics, the history of economic thought, or other related subject areas.
  • Faculty scholarship —identifying scholarly projects which show promise for advancing the understanding of free markets, particularly in light of globalization.

Ideal proposals will demonstrate how the free market relates to Judeo-Christian faith and ethics. The deadline for applications is March 15, 2015 and winners will be notified by April 15,2015. (more…)

The 2015 Acton Lecture Series continued on January 29th with a presentation by American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooks, who delivered a great talk on what really leads to happiness in life. In an era when Americans are finding less and less satisfaction with their nation while enjoying great abundance compared to much of the rest of the world and overall human history, what can we do to regain our confidence in the American enterprise system that has lifted much of the world out of poverty? Brooks explains, and you can hear his explanation via the video player below.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
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Make Work Your FavoriteIn this week’s Acton Commentary, “A Parable for the Unemployed,” I provide a brief survey of the biblical view of work, concluding with reference to the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20. As I argue, this parable “might just as well be called the parable of the jobless. It teaches us to wait patiently and expectantly for ways that we can be of service to God through serving others.”

Or as the Theology of Work biblical commentary puts it, “If the vineyard owner represents God, this is a powerful message that in God’s kingdom, displaced and unemployed workers find work that meets their needs and the needs of those who depend on them.” If you don’t think this is a message of import for today’s world, then you might have succumbed to some statistical deception.

But from another perspective, one that the church hasn’t always fully appreciated, this parable might be taken as an illustration of the necessity for job creation. For every jobless person, some business owner or entrepreneur must create a job. Without the work the vineyard owner needed done, there would have been no jobs for those waiting in the marketplace “doing nothing.” One of the greatest things one person can do for someone is to create some meaningful and productive job for that other person to do.

And again, if the vineyard owner is understood in some sense to be in the place of God, then God has a job for each one of us to do in this world. Thus Lester DeKoster and Gerard Berghoef write in the context of other different parables that “God is a free enterpriser because he expects a return on his investments.” God expects us to be about the work he has given us, or as Jesus put it, to “be about My Father’s business.”

anglosphere-300x150Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, asks whether or not the Anglosphere nations (Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States) continue to be a viable political force in the world today at the Library of Law and Liberty.

Gregg begins with his unique Anglosphere experience:

Given that I am of Scottish and English descent, grew up in Australia, did my doctorate in Britain, and now live and work in America, I am about as much a product of what is often called “the Anglosphere” as it gets. That such a sphere exists, culturally speaking, has never seemed in doubt to me, even beyond the common linguistic and historical connections to the British Isles of this grouping of nations.

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Santosh working as a tailor. From BBC News.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day,” wrote Maimonides. “Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” With all due respect to Maimonides, much has happened since the 12th century. Among those changes is inexpensive, plentiful energy which powers refrigeration, which frees a man from the burden of fishing every day and allows him to engage in other worthy pursuits. That is only if the progressive crusade to strand fossil fuels in the ground is seen as folly, as well as their efforts to replace current energy production completely with far costlier and extremely less reliable renewables.

Modern conveniences have improved life immeasurably to the extent that 99 percent of the world’s population in developed countries takes such everyday amenities as refrigeration for granted. For those living in developing countries, writes Sanjoy Majumder in the BBC News Magazine, up to 35 percent live without a means to safely, inexpensively and efficiently preserve their food from spoilage.

The growing number of those availing themselves of refrigeration is a testament to the immeasurable good technology has brought to the world – and especially the world’s poorest. Majumder relates the story of Santosh Cowdhury, a native of the Indian village of Rameshwarpur, who recently joined the ranks of the 25 percent of Indians owning a refrigerator. The tailor is the first in his village of 200 people to purchase a refrigerator, which has electricity, cell phones and televisions. (more…)