June 11, 2013 § Leave a Comment
A valedictorian in a Texas high school had his microphone cut off after mentioning God, and the constitutional right of students to speak about their faith.
In april, I wrote about the subtle indoctrination of secular education, through which children are tacitly trained to think of faith as a private matter that should not be discussed in a public forum. The complete absence of references to God or biblical themes suggests that these are not mainstream ideas, and that the default view of an educated person is an atheistic one. Indeed, as the Anti-Defamation League says on its website, “public schools may not teach religion, although religion in a secular context is permitted… in a neutral, objective, balanced and factual manner”—as if these words are incongruent with faith.
As an instrument of government, the public education system has fallen to the mistaken—though widely assumed—belief that it must be strictly separated from religion, which in America is synonymous with Christianity. Thus, time after time after time, stories surface of teachers and administrators purging their classrooms of anything that can be labelled a “Christian” point of view. At universities it’s far worse.
So again, we have a student at the top of his class, who decides he wants to thank God in his commencement address—something not especially uncommon. While schools generally discourage students around the nation from such content, there are probably many more occasions in which school officials let it slide than we ever hear about. Nevertheless, this one was born for headlines.
Apparently, school officials reviewed and disapproved of valedictorian Remington Reimer’s original draft, featuring religious remarks. He turned in a second clean version to their satisfaction and received warning that his microphone would be cut if he deviated, so when he decided to include this threat in his actual speech that is precisely what happened.
The school district maintains that they followed policy, but the details of their statement show just how well discrimination can be disguised within the patchwork of policy:
The District has reviewed the rules and policy regarding graduation speech, and it has been determined that policy was followed at the Joshua High School 2013 Graduation Ceremony. The valedictorian, salutatorian, and class historian speeches were reviewed in advance by the campus staff, prior to the graduation ceremony. Student speakers were told that if their speeches deviated from the prior-reviewed material, the microphone would be turned off, regardless of content. When one student’s speech deviated from the prior-reviewed speech, the microphone was turned off, pursuant to District policy and procedure.
We are supposed to acknowledge the fair treatment of all speakers and walk away from this story thinking that someone just took it too personally—another overly offended family with a lot of facebook friends.
But the term “prior-reviewed” hides the fact that the speech also had to be prior-approved. By not approving the original speech, then relying on a policy that gives them permission to cut off a microphone if a student deviates, the district set up a game in which they could not lose. Effectively, they gave the student an ultimatum: say what we want you to say, or you’ll be silenced and held against school policy.
The student handbook may not say there is a policy against discussing faith, but by placing complete power over expression in the hands of people who believe faith should not be discussed, the outcome is the same.
Likewise, it may not be a policy of our government to discriminate against Christians, but its persistent squeezing out of “religious” dialogue from the public square has the same result.
April 6, 2013 § 2 Comments
When I was in high school, I joined a religious student organization. I will never forget one particular conversation in which we were trying to parse out a complex ethical question. After a good deal of struggle and pressure, our faculty advisor finally stepped in to suggest a solution. His comments were helpful, but brief, and he asked us not to tell anyone of his interjection. It was against the law.
Until the last few decades, speaking about faith in public school was common, not controversial: the very small percent of Americans who were not Christians still lived by a Christian-like philosophy of life, and the purpose of schools was much simpler. A system of public education was exactly that—basic education of the general public. Children were taught by their neighbors, parent-teacher associations were the norm, and moral instruction was a part of everyday life wherever children and adults should meet.
Starting in the mid 1900s, education took on a stronger state purpose, and became politicized into a vehicle of social change. In the landmark case Emerson v. Board of Education (1947), the Supreme Court provided a new—and misguided—interpretation of the First Amendment. Drawing from one of Thomas Jefferson’s letters, they declared a “strict wall of separation between church and state.” A casual letter from Jefferson, the most atheistic and radical of the founders, is hardly appropriate for such a sweeping interpretation, but nonetheless, this enabled the schoolhouse to be seen as the secular alternative to the community church. It was there that legal debates could be won, traditions challenged and worldviews shaped.
Surely, most of those pushing for change had benign intentions. While there were militant atheists among the ranks, most were simply calling for justice. They believed education could help address racism and close the opportunity gap between blacks and whites. And they were mostly right. But the greater call for equality also took on a project to erase religious “oppression.” If the state can have nothing to do with the church, they argued, then education run by the state can have nothing to do with moral or biblical instruction.In short, public education must be secular education.
When people think of “secular education” they interpret this to mean that it does not push a dogmatic religious perspective. That’s correct, but this does not mean it does not push a perspective or dogma all its own. The question becomes: what is that dogma? The answer: a secular one, of course. There is no God, therefore man has no inherent purpose and there are no eternal or universal values. It is important to understand that secular education does this by default.
When people think of “secular education” they interpret this to mean that it does not push a dogmatic religious perspective. That’s correct, but this does not mean it does not push a perspective or dogma all its own.
Secular education does teach a kind of right and wrong, which is essentially the Golden Rule. And it suffices to an extent, as all major moral philosophies tend to center around its dictum. But while it may be a good rule of manners and basic kindness, it is rather hollow as a coherent and holistic guide to real life.
The public education system has become a 13-year program of secular indoctrination, centered around a concept of “political correctness” by which we are taught never to cast judgment, and never to speak of faith. The vast majority of a public school student’s time is spend in a social environment in which no one acknowledges a divine power, morality is diluted down to simply being nice, and the only eternal truths are math and science. School is where one goes to learn about the world from educated people; where one becomes enlightened. Since no one speaks of religion, it is quickly dismissed from public discourse, and we become comfortable with our silence.
Considering that evenings and weekends are spent in the temples of Hollywood and New York, it is no surprise why our culture has become increasingly unable to express a coherent value system. We talk of human dignity, but glorify pornography. We praise hard work, but demonize the success. We speak of humility and sacrifice, but worship abusive celebrities. Our comedy is more degrading, our drama is more sexualized and our family sitcoms are a thing of the past.
If I may digress for a moment, did anyone catch the Oscars this year? If not, you missed Seth MacFarlane’s stellar performance of We Saw Your Boobs. Yes, in this little number, Macfarlane sings about all of the women who have bared all for their art. Certainly, this is what the women had in mind when they created these films. Surely, they appreciate someone of their own echelon admitting to the world that it’s not really art, just a little light pornography so males have a reason to watch, and we all know it, so we may as well laugh about it. Watch the video of the song here, and pay special attention to the faces of the women as they are mentioned. What is that? Betrayal? Humiliation? Disgust at Macfarlane’s cheap and degrading idea of entertainment at their expense? This kind of mindless and self-absorbed garbage is what comedy has become.
What’s so wrong with a guy jumping on stage in a tux and singing about boobs at an awards ceremony?
Ok, back to education. What’s so wrong with a guy jumping on stage in a tux and singing about boobs at an awards ceremony? A lot, really. But how would we know? If public schools teach us that girls are really no different than us, why shouldn’t we just treat them like one of the guys? And if there’s nothing especially sacred about nudity, sex or marriage, why can’t we have fun with it all? If life is about having a good time and sharing a few laughs before we die, aren’t people just being uptight for no reason? Why can’t we sing about boobs at an awards ceremony, or a wedding reception for that matter?
The Victorian era was all about manners and decorum. To the extent that a person’s worth was wrapped up in shallow outward appearances, it is good that we broke free. And the unprecedented rights and opportunities available to men and women of all races in America is a testament to a truly great nation. But in pursuit of political correctness we lost something important. Today, people are less confident in their faith, and place less value in marriage and parenthood. They remain like children in many respects well into their twenties, and mock the traditions of their grandparents. Yet, they still yearn for community, belonging and purpose.
We are in desperate need of a moral renaissance in education, and we are seeing it emerge in private, charter and home-based schools. People are recognizing that we have failed generations. In order to embrace perfect equality, our public school system had to forgo casting judgment; treating all things as deserving equal respect. Intentionally or not, it marginalized religion and debased humanity. We no longer have the language of truth, and have therefore lost the definition of goodness and beauty.
April 5, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In case you missed it, read my post at Values and Capitalism on 3D printing HERE. Moral of the story: creation always outpaces consumption. Hollywood commonly depicts humanity as a virus that constantly feeds on resources until they are used up. People say we must cut back in order to survive. It’s not a new idea, but it is a debunked one. We are limited only by our lack of imagination and faith in the creative power of human beings.
April 12, 2012 § Leave a Comment
A discussion has been ongoing at Values and Capitalism over the relationship between Christianity and libertarianism. Does the libertarian emphasis on individualism and license jive with Christian values of brotherhood and morality? And does conservatism offer a different answer? This morning’s post examines these questions and more >> click here to read the blog.
February 2, 2012 § 4 Comments
Jefferson Bethke’s “Jesus hates religion” video has gained enormous popularity among the Facebook walls and Twitter feeds of America’s young evangelicals. This slick production features Bethke reciting a poem about Jesus and his teachings being the antithesis of “religion,” (to which he applies a peculiar definition). More to the point, it is a critique of hypocrisy, though his message is distorted by extraneous and frequently inaccurate attacks on Christianity and America.
The politically charged opening lines set the tone—perhaps the inspiration—for the rest of Bethke’s prose. It is clearly his view that many Republicans are fake Christians who are judgmental and heartless, yet have claimed moral superiority and hijacked the church. He continues on, recklessly blasting the church for starting wars, not feeding the poor, excommunicating divorcees and generally not representing the gospel. Thus, he concludes, the church—and, of course, Republicans—are following “religion,” but true Christians follow Jesus.
Unfortunately, while there is an important message to be shared here, the video is littered with theological inaccuracies, erroneous assumptions and, yes, its very own glaring hypocrisies (jump to the bottom to see what others have said). Bethke has been thoroughly critiqued, and has taken it with respect and humility, but what I really want to ask is this: How is it that a video with so many wrongheaded statements is so widely praised among my peers? I can think of at least three reasons.
1. The popularization of church
Most Christians do not study theology. That is understandable just as much as the fact that most people do not read philosophy literature. But we should expect pastors and preachers to uphold a high level of intellectual discipline. Furthermore, it is their responsibility to find ways to bring all people to a greater understanding of the history and theology of their faith. In too many churches, substance in teaching has been replaced with opinions, based on the whims of passion, with a supporting act by jumbotrons and coffee shops.
More and more people are rejecting traditions and congregations in favor of independent study and transient attendance at flavor-of-the-month churches. This disconnection from the larger Church body, and its theological and historical context, has left younger Christians with a blank slate and unsteady foundation.
2. Politically and historically biased education
Our public education system has a markedly left-wing bias. It is not uncommon to characterize our Founding Fathers as power-hungry racists, our foreign policy as imperialist, and our economic system as an instrument of oppression and destruction. American successes are counted as steps toward a progressive vision of equality and opportunity, led by protests and presidents, against conservative power structures.
Thus, many young people have been trained to see themselves as part of this ongoing political movement. Their enemies are tradition and wealth, and the party that protects them. Christianity is ordinarily a part of the tradition to be rejected, but Christians themselves call instead for a revolution in the church. Left-wing Christian populism emerged in opposition to the “American Dream,” wrongly interpreted as the acquisition of material success and status.
3. The MTV generation’s reaction to TBN
We live in a media-driven world. Television—especially cable—brought with it new values and ways of communicating. Appearance and production became extremely important for attracting an audience. In the late 1980s, Music Television did to a whole generation what Elvis did in the 1950s: it energized America’s youth and changed the industry. Indeed, the “reality tv” phenomenon first began with MTV’s “real world.” Amidst news anchors and soap operas, MTV made television cool.
In an attempt to utilize television as a ministry tool, along came Trinity Broadcasting Network, featuring gaudy furniture, big hair, fanciful clothing and very uncool entertainment. To my peers, the face of Christian America was outdated and kitschy, while the secular entertainment industry was electrifying. Then came the scandals with Jim Bakker, the angry rhetoric of Rev. Jerry Falwell, and the controversial statements of Pat Robertson and his “Christian Coalition.” The Church, it seemed, was becoming a voice of division.
All of this left young Christians without public role models. In a battle of words, people like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton could compete. But in a battle of popular entertainment, Christianity failed to supply a counterweight. Despite trying to keep up with changing trends, Christianity seemed out of touch, out of date, and seriously in danger of collapse. Enter the emergent church, which is on a tacit mission to inject cool back into Christianity and make Jesus “relevant” to modern culture. One outcome is an explosion of new churches that have effectively exiled the over-40 crowd.
Without roots, Christianity is a slave to the winds.
I wrote a blog post last July called Postmodernism and the Great Protestant Exodus, in which I argued that postmodern philosophy had caused Christians to distance themselves from traditions and denominations. In their place is an idea that each individual is on a personal search for God and truth—relationship, not religion. But while the essence of the idea is true, according to Protestant claim, they swing the pendulum too far. By failing to recognize the role of liturgy, order, accountability, tradition and historical context, they are stepping out of the ship and into a life raft, then cutting the tether in the middle of a vast ocean.
In America, we grow up admiring revolutionaries, but we must also learn when to be loyalists. Of course we are each called to seek Christ on a personal level. But to interpret this as a call to do away with “religion” is throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.
OTHER RESPONSES TO THE VIDEO:
- Does Jesus Hate Religion? Kinda, Sorta, Not Really, by Kevin DeYoung
- Video: Jesus=Religion, by Worldview Everlasting
August 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
While elected officials in Washington have been debating over the debt ceiling, another robust conversation has been materializing at the intersection of faith, poverty and economic policy.
In July, an ecumenical coalition of Christian leaders met with President Obama to present a statement—the “Circle of Protection“—casting welfare programs as a moral imperative. Claiming a commitment to the values outlined in Matthew 25 (“…whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”), groups like Sojourners, led by God’s Politics author Jim Wallis, insist that “funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut.” This initiative reflects a larger movement among young Christians toward a view of wealth redistribution as “social justice.”
While the moral appeal for welfare is nothing new, the boldness of couching it as an explicit commandment of Christ adds a new log to the fire. After a bloody culture war in which the church fought at the front lines, many young evangelicals resented the pigeonholing of Christians as a right-wing voting block. Those sentiments were intensified as Republicans in the Bush era were characterized as ignorant and bigoted. The current fiscal debate has provided an opportunity to set up camp alongside the progressive wing in a way that emphasizes compassion. Unfortunately, while they are right in suggesting that “budgets are moral documents,” they confuse individual responsibility with collective coercion.
In response to this shift, and recognizing the lack of sound economic principle in the church, a countermovement has emerged declaring the virtue of free enterprise and the danger of bloated government. Throughout the Twittosphere, Christian capitalists have been critiquing the agenda of the Circle of Protection, making the case that government programs frequently exacerbate and prolong poverty, and that Christ calls us to serve one another as voluntary individuals, not through a bureaucratically adulterated political game. Furthermore, they argue, a burdensome regulatory and tax system slows economic growth and makes it more difficult for individuals at every income level to pursue a fruitful life.
“Christ calls us to serve one another as voluntary individuals, not through a bureaucratically adulterated political game.”
A full-page ad by the American Enterprise Institute’s Values & Capitalism project appeared in Politico, in opposition to a previous ad by Wallis. In turn, Sojourners’ communications director Tim King attempted to clarify the Circle’s position, albeit ineffectively. King writes that the Circle does not seek a “blanket exception for all poverty programs under any and all cuts,” yet everything in the statement communicates otherwise—including the aforementioned quote that such programs “should not be cut.” If what King says is true, the authors of the Circle’s statement were merely sloppy and irresponsible in their prose.
Adding depth to the conversation, the Values & Capitalism project, represented by Eric Teetsel, is helping to build a new coalition—Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE)—to provide a counterweight to the Circle. Teetsel co-authored CASE’s Letter to the President, requesting their own meeting with Obama. The letter dismisses the idea that the Circle of Protection represents a majority view among Christians, and provides a freedom-oriented, values-based approach to fiscal responsibility. The letter, like the Circle, is signed by a wide array of respected Christian leaders. The letter was made available for the public to sign, and continues to add names. (You will find my moniker at #33. sign here)
This discussion is a very important one for the Church body, though there is a tendency to shy from such complex and controversial topics. Religion and politics are ostensibly forbidden from friendly discourse—especially in the same sentence. But there are some issues that cannot be passed over. Public policy must be rooted in ethical purpose, and if the church is silent, others will fill the gap. We must engage fully in a search for understanding about humanity and social institutions, and we must do so with grace and cordiality. We are first and foremost brothers and sisters in Christ, and secondly agents of His justice on Earth.
For those interested in exploring this debate, Remnant Culture has posted a convenient round-up of responses from various Christian writers on the “What Would Jesus Cut?” question.
July 22, 2011 § Leave a Comment
We’ve all heard phrases like “you don’t appreciate what you don’t earn” or “no pain no gain.” The idea that income must follow labor goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, where Adam is told, “by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Gen. 3:19).
A good work ethic is a cornerstone of a healthy character and success in life. When we talk about helping the poor, passing on an inheritance, or winning the lottery, we must proceed with caution, recognizing the destructive potential of income disconnected from effort.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with a friendly gift, and there are appropriate ways and means of assisting those in need—it is, in fact, a fundamental calling of the Christian life—but it is imperative that we look beyond material circumstances to ensure that our actions produce their intended results. This requires knowing the person, and that tip should clue us in on God’s design in all of this. Bureaucracies, drive-thru food pantries and quick hand-outs at the intersection are cheap knock-offs of the real thing: relationally-driven service and grace. When we remove relationship from the equation, we also remove accountability and responsibility—the lack of which is often the very source of the problem to begin with.
July 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
He spent his teens as an Eagle Scout, lived two years as a foreign missionary, earned his B.A. in International Politics, became fluent in three languages, served four presidents and reached 90 percent approval ratings as a Republican Governor of Utah. Jon Huntsman has an uphill battle to climb with the GOP base, but if he plays his cards right, his experience and centrist appeal just might place him among the most serious contenders this election season.
If this happens, many voters may face a double dose of what has been termed the “Mormon Problem.” A third cousin of Mitt Romney, Huntsman shares more than DNA with the man who made the issue national in 2008, and with both men in the race, the likelihood of a Mormon GOP nominee is looking probable. This would force many Christians into an uncomfortable reconciliation of their personal convictions with their public concerns, as Mormon theology is commonly understood to be at odds with Christian orthodoxy.
One approach says that we should select candidates as professionals, not pastors. If we need heart surgery, we do not care what the doctor believes, so long as he knows how to make us well. There is merit to that argument, but we must be cognizant of the important distinction between a position of leadership and a position of mere tactical knowledge. Leaders determine direction, and direction stems from values. Decisions in a business, church or body politic reflect the values of its leadership.
“Decisions in a business, church or body politic reflect the values of its leadership.”
Still, there is a more important criterion for measuring a candidate against his religious faith: the extent to which a president’s beliefs support the fundamental claims upon which a free and just society is built. It must revere and hold responsible the free choice of individuals; it must place a sacred value on both the human person and the family unit, including the institution of marriage; and it must allow room for the tough decisions that Commanders in Chief must make in the face of hostile evil.
Not all belief systems can support these concepts, but the “Church of Latter-Day Saints” does. Responsible stewardship and the strength of the family, for example, are central features of the Mormon faith, and members are urged to engage fully in civil service. Significant theological disagreements do exist between mainstream Christianity and Mormonism, but when it comes to the confluence of core values and social institutions, they are much more likely to stand together on key issues.
There is no reason to believe that a Mormon president would lead America in a direction counter to Christian principles. Furthermore, it is not guaranteed that a Christian candidate would not. Regardless of the faith a candidate identifies with, we must be attentive to the decisions that are made and the results they produce. If a president’s policies betray liberty, dignity and family, then it matters little what book or deity they claim to follow.
“If a president’s policies betray liberty, dignity and family, then it matters little what book or deity they claim to follow.”
Though the American Founders believed in the value of a strong religious—primarily Judeo-Christian—influence in society, they did not envision a nation governed by a particular doctrine. They viewed the roles of church and state as separate, and for good reason: the church should not wield the sword of law, nor be yielded by it. Therefore, our Constitution was designed to preserve freedom no matter the ruling party, and each president is sworn to protect that document by oath. It is not a president’s particular theology that should concern us, but whether or not that oath means anything to the person taking it.
July 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
During lunch with a friend and former pastor a couple of days ago, our conversation steered into a question for which we each offered a different answer. At issue was the cause behind the phenomenon of young protestants who have disengaged from the idea of membership to a church congregation or denomination. Running parallel to this is the observation of non-denominational churches springing up suddenly in the last few decades.
His answer: the American spirit of rugged individualism. My answer: postmodernism. In truth, it’s probably a mix of the two, and someone better educated in the history of religion than I might point out additional factors.
“Rugged individualism” refers to the pioneering drive that has always characterized Americans, beginning with the first settlers. But if there is anything “in our genes” to this effect it most likely originated from immigrants who came from all over the world and risked everything to start anew in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” In its positive forms, individualism places a premium on taking personal responsibility for one’s choices and not mooching off of other people. The negative side of individualism emerges when it is wrongly interpreted to mean that we don’t have any responsibilities toward, nor do we need, one another. That misunderstanding just turns people into inconsiderate and lonely jerks.
Postmodernism is a philosophy that rejects tradition in favor of… well, nothing in particular. Just not tradition. It began in the arts and moved into a more broad cultural idea—primarily through higher education—as we moved toward the latter part of the 20th century. The overriding concept is that what we have been told from history is a constructed lie, and that we must unleash freedom of thought and action by casting away those outdated ideas. It is not a matter of finding “truth,” because there is no “truth” to find—it is up to each person to decide.
“The overriding concept is that what we have been told from history is a constructed lie,…”
Recent generations have been somewhat indoctrinated with this philosophy, if not at home then through the school system and Hollywood. Mixed in with a touch of the individualist spirit, I believe this view has caused today’s Christians to have decreased confidence in traditional answers and methods, and increased dependence on their own ability to sort out 2,000 years of history and theology.
I myself claim no denominational label, for several reasons, but I do expect to gravitate towards a general body of tradition in due time. I have come to appreciate time-tested practices and ideas in religion, just as I do in the legal system. Of course there is corruption here and there, and different people have had it completely wrong when they were sure they had it right. But that’s human nature, and it’s everywhere.
An independent mind in the search for truth is essential, and we should not set our reason aside when we walk through church doors. At the same time, as Aristotle claimed and Christianity supports, man is a social animal—we are designed for relationship and dependency. By downplaying the role of a local congregation and denominational ties, we are entering a wilderness alone and without a map or compass.
“By downplaying the role of a local congregation and denominational ties, we are entering a wilderness alone and without a map or compass.”
I do not mean to imply that a person cannot discover things on their own, nor am I shying away from the fact that we can be misled by false doctrines and group think. The point is to connect and engage with people and ideas that will help you to deepen and refine your understanding of God and Man, while building meaningful relationships with others who can laugh, love and struggle along with you. When you know you’re in the wrong stream, step out and move to another. Don’t use it as an excuse to stay out altogether, or you may end up dry and wilted.
June 17, 2011 § 3 Comments
C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that God wants “a child’s heart but a grown-up’s head.” Followers of Christ are charged, by the ethos of our calling, with a high standard of practical reason, fused with compassion. When we carry our faith to the political sphere, we must do so with grounded understanding, not idealistic, emotive or superficial thinking. This means that the abdication of our duty to educate ourselves in the unsightly “secular” forces of politics and economics is morally unacceptable.
To the detriment of our own effectiveness, the Church has largely overlooked the relevance of these studies to the Christian mission. Through political philosophy, we examine the relationship of power and protection, and the proper extent of the state. There are important implications here for those who believe the individual has a right to free will. But it is the economic sphere that seems to have caused a phobia in religious discourse, even though the central concern of economics is, in fact, human needs and how they are met through voluntary service—an arrangement far preferable to political coercion.
While many people—including religious leaders—have spoken against capitalism for its ability to amplify greed and materialism, a number of Christian scholars and organizations are helping to reverse that view and to make the case that economic liberty is not only efficient, but morally superior to any other known system. Tragically, the intellectual overlap of theology, economics and politics is near absent in Christian higher education, leaving society in the dark as it seeks ethical answers to practical problems.
“…the intellectual overlap of theology, economics and politics is near absent in Christian higher education, leaving society in the dark as it seeks ethical answers to practical problems.”
I visited two organizations over the last two weeks that are trying to fill this gap and alter the national dialogue. The Acton Institute has been building a case for the “moral foundations of a free society” for twenty years. Their “Acton University” conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan has become an ecumenical Mecca for Judeo-Christian thinkers who affirm the value of ordered liberty. The American Enterprise Institute is also beginning a new initiative on values and capitalism. Their “Purpose & Prosperity” conference brings evangelical undergraduate students to this established DC think tank to engage with scholars on the critical issues of our day, and learn how to evaluate them through sound principles.
Both groups are proclaiming the same, as I call it, freedom gospel: our Creator values the person and his/her talents, and desires hearts of humility, responsibility, service and stewardship. From this basic premise, the individual is the central decision-maker, not the state, and the dignity of responsible human creativity and work ethic replaces government mechanisms for the distribution of wealth and opportunity. The latter method is spiritually void, and robs the soul of social value. Our faith also has meaningful implications on the roles of the family, Rule of Law and personal accountability in a healthy economic society.
“Our Creator values the person and his/her talents, and desires hearts of humility, responsibility, service and stewardship. From this basic premise, the individual is the central decision-maker…”
Christians should resist state-run solutions characterized by imposed charity and resentful class warfare, where the vulnerable are cast as victims, incapable of achievement and disconnected from their own choices. We should instead advocate a system that rewards service and selflessness, minimizes political controls and increases well-being at all levels of society.
To apply the old adage, the Church has largely embraced the idea that if a man is hungry, a bureaucrat ought to transfer to him a fish from someone else’s catch. It seems more consistent with Christian virtue, however, to teach him how to catch fish himself, then ensure that he can keep the rewards of his labor, not only so that he can eat, but so that he can feed his family and perhaps open his own fish market, providing employment to his neighbors and prospering his community.
I encourage those interested in public policy issues to familiarize themselves with the Acton Institute (www.acton.org) and the American Enterprise Institute (www.aei.org). Surely other groups are doing similar things, but my personal experience working with these great organizations allows me to lend personal endorsement, which I am very eager to do.