Posts Tagged slavery

Harriet Beecher Stowe on Kermit Gosnell and the Silence of the Church

Legree, Uncle Tom's CabinIn re-reading Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I was struck by the reflection she offers after Tom is beaten to death by Simon Legree:

Scenes of blood and cruelty are shocking to our ear and heart. What man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to hear. What brother-man and brother-Christian must suffer, cannot be told us, even in our secret chamber, it so harrows up the soul! And yet, oh my country! these things are done under the shadow of thy laws! O, Christ! thy church sees them, almost in silence!

But, of old, there was One whose suffering changed an instrument of torture, degradation and shame, into a symbol of glory, honor, and immortal life; and, where His spirit is, neither degrading stripes, nor blood, nor insults, can make the Christian’s last struggle less than glorious.

I would hope that we can all point out the obvious particulars distinguishing this vs. that. But the church needs to get comfortable with the fact that our sitting idly by amid profound atrocity is one of those big, fat similarities.

For those who need a bit more help in connecting the dots, Doug Wilson has more on our preference to close our eyes and “keep calm and carry on,” or however that obnoxious slogan of our generation concludes:

Gosnell’s problem is not with what he was doing, which countless progressives have defended with their special kind of passionate malice, but with where he was doing it. You see, he was doing it where people could see.

So Gosnell or no Gosnell, Philadelphia or no Philadelphia, why don’t we know that it is always that bad for the baby? This is not a one off situation. This very thing is happening in your city — right this minute. Maybe you drive right by it as part of your daily commute. But now, thanks to Gosnell, we know what we know. This is what pro-lifers have been saying for a generation. It was as true in the seventies as it is now, but this appears to be a moment where the point can not only be stated, but also heard. So learn the potency of the hash tag #Gosnell.

One of the reasons that public opinion has started to shift on abortion has been because of the advancements of ultrasound technology. We can see with our eyes now, and what we are starting to see is that our learned lies have been lies for all that, and the corollary occurs to us that they have all been tumbling from the mouths of damned liars. And it turns out the mouths are our own.

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Sweeping Our Way to Prosperity: Booker T. Washington & the Dignity of Work

Booker T. WashingtonI have been enjoying Booker T. Washington’s biography, Up from Slavery, and this week at Values & Capitalism, I unpack some of his ideas about the dignity of work, contemplating their application among  today’s youth.

I start off by pointing to a moment that Washington viewed as crucial in his mobility from former slave to college president. After finally saving up enough money to travel to the Hampton Institute, Washington was given an unusual entry exam.

As Washington himself explained it:

After some hours had passed, the head teacher said to me: “The adjoining recitation-room needs sweeping. Take the broom and sweep it.”

It occurred to me at once that here was my chance. Never did I receive an order with more delight. I knew that I could sweep, for Mrs. Ruffner had thoroughly taught me how to do that when I lived with her.

I swept the recitation-room three times. Then I got a dusting-cloth and I dusted it four times…When I was through, I reported to the head teacher. She was a “Yankee” woman who knew just where to look for dirt. She went into the room and inspected the floor and closets; then she took her handkerchief and rubbed it on the woodwork about the walls, and over the table and benches. When she was unable to find one bit of dirt on the floor, or a particle of dust on any of the furniture, she quietly remarked, “I guess you will do to enter this institution.”

I was one of the happiest souls on earth. The sweeping of that room was my college examination, and never did any youth pass an examination for entrance into Harvard or Yale that gave him more genuine satisfaction. I have passed several examinations since then, but I have always felt that this was the best one I ever passed. 

From there, I move to discuss Washington’s later experience in founding his own school, during which he required his students to build their campus with their own hands. His intent: “the students themselves would be taught to see not only utility in labour, but beauty and dignity; would be taught, in fact, how to lift labour up from mere drudgery and toil, and would learn to love work for its own sake.”

 Here’s the modern-day takeaway, from my piece:

There is some kind of lesson here, some valuable takeaway for an entitled, lackadaisical society that has grown obsessed with a quick and artificial process of growth, one which is completely unsustainable, not to mention wholly debilitating at a deeper spiritual and cultural level.

There is also a lesson here for our leaders, one of whom recently promised to spur such artificiality faster and further, promoting things like “free” education while ignoring the “drudgery” and “toil” that Washington recognized as necessary for any kind of authentic success and genuine Read the rest of this entry »

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Fair Trade as a Non-Solution: A Christian Response to Price Manipulation

Fair Trade? Its Prospects as a Poverty Solution, Victor Claar, Acton Institute, coffeeFair trade products have become increasingly popular, particularly in churches and various Christian communities. To investigate the merits of this approach, economist and friend of the blog Victor Claar recently wrote Fair Trade: Its Prospects as a Poverty Solution.

This week at Common Sense Concept, I review Claar’s book and echo the key criticisms therein.

A significant part of the book — and a big part of its significance — is its objective examination of coffee markets and the fair trade scheme as a whole:

Given that coffee is perhaps the most popular of fair-trade commodities, Claar focuses his attention there, providing an initial overview of the coffee market itself, followed by a discussion of fair trade strategies as commonly applied. Here, we learn a few important things: (1) coffee is easy to grow, (2) its price is inelastic, and (3) the “market appeal” of one’s beans is essential for success. Additionally, and most importantly, (!!!) demand is dropping while supply is rising. “Simply put,” Claar explains, “coffee growers are poor because there is too much coffee.”

From there, Claar dives into analysis, considering each detail as it relates to common Christian concerns. I’ve read plenty of books that critique fair trade in general terms, but Claar’s views on the proper Christian response are a unique addition to the discussion.

Overall, Claar views such schemes as a means for reinforcing barriers rather than removing them:

Instead of imposing our top-down plans on our neighbors across the globe, Claar suggests that we “work to make trade freer for everyone in our global community: a level playing field for all.” Although it might lack the punch, trendiness, convenience, and immediate satisfaction of buying the right pack of coffee beans at the right socially-conscious grocery store, it actually works (e.g. the 20th century).

To read the full review, click here.

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The Harmony of Individual Interests: Discovering the Common Good

puzzle, community, individual, common goodThis week at Ethika Politika, I examine two distinct approaches to the common good, one of which thinks it can be dictated, and another of which thinks it must be discovered.

Using Michael Tomasky’s now-famous essay as a starting point, I examine the fundamental errors in assuming that the common good can be achieved by enacting pushy policies from the top down.

Here’s an excerpt:

…In Tomasky’s view, the common good is not something we should participate in or collaborate toward; rather, it is a god we should be “demanded” to serve. It is not a goal to pursue, a mystery to unravel, or a fight to win, but a preexisting plan to be enacted – a candyland of utopian perfectionism, ready and waiting to be implemented in full. No longer must we waste our time “cultivating conditions” for a moral society, for such an achievement only requires that a legion of properly informed elites step up to the task — followed, of course, by a nation of noble slaves, anxiously awaiting direction and correction from their masters on top of the hill.

An additional problem with Tomasky’s approach is his false dichotomy between individual and community interests.

The real tension, I argue, is between top-down direction and organic imperative:

For the progressive, being “asked to contribute to a project larger than ourselves” (Tomasky) is akin to being bumped into submission by the bureaucrat’s billy club. In the approach presented here, such demands come primarily through the guidance our personal journeys, community struggles, and, above all, our moral understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Whereas the top-downers believe that truth is already known and thus freedom is unnecessary, the bottom-uppers see a world in which truth must be actively pursued, with freedom being the only thing that will get us there.

I also point to Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises along the way, whose “harmony of all individual interests” provides great support.

To read the full post, click here.

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What Would Jesus Cut: Jim Wallis and the Line-Item Gospel

Today at Values & Capitalism, I join a chorus of voices that have been responding to Jim Wallis’ recent “What Would Jesus Cut?” campaign, in which he lays out Jesus’ preferred policy preferences in a cute little bulleted list (read more of his thoughts here).

In my critique, I focus on Wallis’ failure (or refusal) to address the actual economic arguments of the conservative evangelicals he disparages. In addition, I take a look at the narrow-minded view of the Gospel that results from such an approach.

Here’s an excerpt:

Rather than even consider whether conservative evangelicals might disagree with him on the actual success of such programs, Wallis skips past all of that, quickly stamping the “Love of God” label on his select list of Jesus-approved policies.

Wallis does not explain how bed nets will actually help the poor (as opposed to being sold on the black market, most likely for extra liquor). He does not explain how various social programs will actually alleviate poverty (as opposed to disintegrating family and creating slaves of the State). He does not explain why he thinks tax cuts for the rich will hurt the downtrodden (as opposed to helping them).

This unwillingness to even pay attention to the arguments of the opposing side is something I have come to see as common among progressive Christians. For many, if a policy is labeled as “pro-poor” it should simply be assumed to be effective. Any questioning of such policies is condemned as cumbersome at best and anti-Jesus at worst:

Rather than focus on the root economic disagreements and engage in deeper discussion, there is a tendency toward hasty advocacy of “action” on behalf of the poor, regardless of the real-world implications or results. Rather than talk about the earthly-realm implications of a higher-realm mission, or the actual Read the rest of this entry »

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City of Man: Defining the Future of the Religious Right

City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New EraIt’s hard to deny that the religious right has been on the wane. Need some proof?

Once-prominent religious leaders like Pat Robertson are now viewed as fringe radicals by many conservative elites and “ordinary people” alike. Social issues like gay marriage and abortion have been largely dismissed as secondary by tea partiers and Republican politicians. In the 2008 presidential campaign, Republican voters preferred the irreligious “pragmatism” of John McCain to the Bible-belt fervor of Mike Huckabee.

As author Brett McCracken recently said in an interview with yours truly, aligning oneself with the religious right has become increasingly “unhip.”

But some don’t see such a change as an overall indictment of the movement itself. For Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, authors of the new book, City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era, such a change is “less a value judgment than a fact of life.” Despite some fundamental flaws in the religious right’s approach, Gerson and Wehner see the energetic movement of yore as a highly positive, right-time-right-place kind of thing.

But the times they are a-changin’.

We are in a moment of transition, say Gerson and Wehner. The same Christians who aligned themselves with the Religious Right now find little use or relevance in its tactics or execution. Strict conservative political theology has been by and large replaced by universalist political activism. Social conservatism has been subtly supplanted by a blurry, left-leaning social justice. The cutting, careless words of Pat Robertson has been overshadowed by the moderate tone of Rick Warren.

But although the political scene is changing (and necessarily so), Gerson and Wehner see more confusion in the shift than they do clarity. For them, this is a prime opportunity for conservatives (and everyone else) to reexamine the proper relationship between religion and politics. Now, they argue, is not only a time for adaptation, but also for introspection.

The aim, therefore, is to crystalize a proper Christian approach to politics — one that takes full account of theological fundamentals, proper Read the rest of this entry »

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Christian Morality and Human Rights: Standing Outside the Prison of Culture

William Wilberforce

British abolitionist William Wilberforce refused to accept the cultural morality of his day.

I’ve been reading Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner’s new book, City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era, and thus far it has been an enjoyable read.

I’ll write a full review in the near future, but for the moment I just wanted to highlight a few of the book’s ideas about the “morality of human rights.” There is an entire chapter on the subject, in which the authors argue that although we should be careful about how religion feeds into politics, we should also recognize that religion should play a role in shaping our political understanding of human rights.

This view is based on the following understanding about human nature and morality:

What truly marks human beings is the tendency to care for self, family, clan, tribe, race, religion, nation. To care for every human being would appear to require a moral law. To sacrifice for the rights of other human beings — merely because they are human beings — would appear to require a holy law.

Gerson and Wehner go on to explain that “the contribution of religion to this [moral law] debate is narrow but essential,” meaning that although plenty of religious beliefs may not yield to political synthesis (e.g. eschatology, ecclesiology), some of them do and must (e.g. “beliefs about human worth, human nature, and human destiny”).

As the authors explain:

The Christian ideal of human dignity is important precisely because it transcends culture. It has proven its ability to stand in judgment of many cultures, including our own. The theologian Max Stackhouse calls this “one of the greatest revolutions in the history of humanity”… Religious people have a unique ability to stand outside the prison of culture and call attention to a set of universal ideals. In other words, they can represent, in the kingdoms of this world, the values of another Kingdom.

This view obviously rejects any sort of cultural or religious relativism (note the referral to “a set of universal ideals”). For the Christian, there is a right and wrong that applies to everyone, regardless of culture, race, or Read the rest of this entry »

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John Piper on Justification: Confusing the Fruit with the Root

Desiring God recently posted a great video in which John Piper discusses justification, and more specifically, how Christians commonly confuse being counted as righteous with becoming behavioral in our righteousness.

Watch the video here:

Piper’s fundamental concern is that Christians often root their righteousness in holiness (i.e., good works) and thus they undermine the transformative power available through justification, which should be the starting point for any positive action.

As Piper says:

The only instrument by which I am made a participant in Christ’s righteousness is God’s acting through my faith. I am born into that relationship through faith alone, not through any of its fruits, like mercy and justice and love and patience and kindness and meekness and so on, which turn me into a useful person in the world.

But why does it “undermine” justification to bring holiness down to Read the rest of this entry »

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Human Trafficking in Moldova: Q&A with Missionary Patrick Stitt

The Stitt Family

The Stitts (from left to right): Patrick, Kalyna, Finnian (2), Jack (3), and Levi (1)

I have the great privilege of knowing Patrick and Kalyna Stitt, who will be shipping out in June to be missionaries in Moldova. The Stitts will be working through the Home of Hope to curb human trafficking in the country and help bring spiritual and physical restoration to its many victims.

Human trafficking has been at the forefront of global discussion lately, and for good reason. Innocent women are being sold or duped into sexual slavery, and it is having a devastating impact on those involved. There are currently many high-profile efforts to eradicate the sex trade, but most have been highly ineffective and counterproductive. After all, sexual slavery is, in many ways, a cultural epidemic, and top-down organizations usually have a pretty difficult time influencing cultures for the better.

What I love about the Stitt family is how fully they embody the concept of Radical Individualism. Through their own pursuit of God, the Stitts have decided to leave the comforts of America and follow the voice of the Holy Spirit across the world. They are not dwelling in fear or cowering behind earthly securities, but are founding their family’s self-interest in what matters most to God. Such courage, faith, and determination is incredibly inspiring.

Patrick was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions about their mission, as well as discuss the issue of human trafficking on a broader level. In addition to reading the following Q&A, you can find out more about the Stitts at their website by clicking here or you can donate money to their effort by clicking here or here. If you are interested in hearing Patrick and Kalyna give a more extended version of their testimony and ministry, you can listen to it on our church’s podcast.

Q: What initially sparked your desire to minister to victims of human trafficking?

 
Patrick: I suppose everyone is struck by the idea of slavery and oppression. In particular, I reflected on the suffering of the hopeless — those who are distraught but are without the means to ameliorate their situation. When I learned about the girls and women who are forced into the sex trade I realized that these poor souls were possibly the most forlorn on the earth. But as horrendous as their lot in life is, I realized I wasn’t the man with plan. What can I do? For many years I took the easy route of Read the rest of this entry »

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A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: Human Exceptionalism vs. Animal Rights

A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy by Wesley J. SmithIs our pork consumption comparable to the genocide in Darfur? Is our use of lab rats equivalent to the slave trade? Is our breeding and selling of dogs and cats comparable to human trafficking?

To anyone who believes in human exceptionalism, such comparisons are utterly insulting to the real victims of injustice.  However, if you are Ingrid Newark, co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), such comparisons are only logical.

“A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,” Newark says. “We are all mammals.”

Wesley J. Smith explores such views in his new book A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement. In the book, Smith explores everything from the philosophical backdrop of the modern animal rights movement to the terroristic acts that have been executed in its name.

Smith begins by providing an overview of the leading theorists and ideological premises behind the movement, all of which center around a critique of speciesism, which Smith describes as the notion that “treating animals as having less value than human beings is a form of discrimination just as morally odious as racism.” In other words, you are a speciest if you think a cow should belong in your burger bun rather than a little boy.

Smith notes the various problems with such critiques, resting firmly on the obvious truth that every single species on the planet is speciest to an extent.

As for how animal rights activists view the proper solution to widespread specieism, there are a variety of differing perspectives, all of which position the human as a moral equal to other animals. Such a mindset gives license to commit any number of Read the rest of this entry »

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