April 24, 2014

An Eastern Orthodox Case for Property Rights

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Fr. Jensen: ...[P]roperty rights are not a panacea – protecting and enhancing private ownership will not cure all that ails us personally or socially. Nor can we separate the exercise of our right to property from the moral law or, for Christians, the Gospel. But Orthodox social thought does I think allow us to make a convincing case that property rights are a key element of human flourishing, a necessary ingredient of a just society, and an aid to Christian ministry. Rooted as it is in human nature, it is also a right that can help us see the dignity of all members of the human family and of the ability that all of us – rich or poor, male or female, young or old – have to serve the flourishing of those around us, our society and the Church. Source: Action Institute | Fr. Gregory Jensen As a pastor, I’ve been struck by the hostility, or at least suspicion, that some Orthodox Christians reveal in their discussions of private property. While there are no doubt … [Read more...]

Has Europe Lost Its Soul?

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"The religious roots of the market economy and of democratic capitalism...were produced by a culture saturated in the values of the Judaeo-Christian heritage, and market economics was originally intended to advance those values." "When Europe recovers its soul, it will recover its wealth-creating energies. But first it must remember: humanity was not created to serve markets. Markets were created to serve humankind." Source: Office of the Chief Rabbi |Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks Delivered at The Pontifical Gregorian University on 12th December 2011. As the political leaders of Europe come together to try to save the euro, and with it the very project of European Union, I believe the time has come for religious leaders to do likewise, and I want to explain why. What I hope to show in this lecture, is first, the religious roots of the market economy and of democratic capitalism. They were produced by a culture saturated in the values of the Judaeo-Christian heritage, and … [Read more...]

John Couretas: National Council of Churches ‘Balancing the Budget on the Backs of the Poor’?

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Source: Acton Power Blog | John C. Couretas A “budget is a moral document,” right? The Institute on Religion & Democracy reports that following the loss of a major donor, the National Council of Churches (NCC) finds itself “closer than ever before to the precipice” of financial collapse. The progressive/liberal church coalition, comprised largely of mainline Protestant and Orthodox churches, is running out of dough. IRD’s Barton Gingerich: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop told the NCC’s September board meeting: “We have 18 months sustainability.” All voting NCC board members were scrambling for “immediate sustainability,” mostly behind closed doors as they discussed the NCC’s audit and budget. Further highlighting the crisis was an interruption of the meeting by placard waving union employees distressed over benefit cuts to NCC staffers. Meeting in secrecy? Workers protesting draconian budget cuts? In response, some NCC leaders suggested that the … [Read more...]

Fr. Gregory Jensen: Time to End Clergy Tax Breaks?

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Source: Acton Institute | Fr. Gregory Jensen Unless you are a member of the clergy or involved with the finances of a church or temple, you probably don’t know that since 1921 the federal government has subsidized a congregation’s remuneration of its pastor.  This happens through the extension of a housing or “parsonage allowance” that makes it possible for an ordained member of the clergy to live “tax-free in a home owned by his or her religious organization or receive a tax-free annual payment to buy or rent a home if the congregation approves.” Originally, this was meant as a way of helping “minimize taxes on clergy members, whose compensation was often meager.” Recent court cases have extended “the parsonage allowance to an unlimited number of homes, which may be owned either by the religious organization or the clergy member. However unintentionally, in doing this the courts may have opened “the door for the … [Read more...]

Chris Banescu: Bishop Savas is Wrong on Taxes on the Poor and the Rich

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Chris Banescu corrects some bad math and sloppy assertions. Source: A Voice in the Wilderness | Chris Banescu Bishop Savas (Zembillas), GOA’s Director of the Office of Church and Society, has launched into yet another missive against conservatives whom he frequently condemns of hating the poor and only protecting the rich. On his facebook page, the main venue where one can find the bishop’s real views and interests, he recently posted a blame Republicans editorial from The New York Times titled “The New Resentment of the Poor.” Apparently forgetting that envy is a sin and truth-telling a virtue, Bishop Savas highlights his class-warfare passions in several false claims he posted in the discussions related to the NYT article.   This is not the first time Bishop Savas has posted such biased hit pieces on his Facebook wall. He has a long history of supporting pro-Democrat and anti-Republican views via his many postings of overwhelmingly liberal … [Read more...]

John Couretas: Protect the Poor, Not Poverty Programs

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Source: Acton Institute | By John Couretas One of the disturbing aspects of the liberal/progressive faith campaign known as the Circle of Protection is that its organizers have such little regard – indeed are blind to -- the innate freedom of the human person. Their campaign, which has published “A Statement on Why We Need to Protect Programs for the Poor,” equates the welfare of the “least of these” in American society to the amount of assistance they receive from the government -- a bizarre view from a community that trades in spiritual verities. Circle of Protection supporters see people locked into their circumstances, stratified into masses permanently in a one-down position, thrown into a class struggle where the life saving protection of “powerful lobbies” is nowhere to be found. And while they argue that budgets are moral documents, their metrics for this fiscal morality are all in dollars and cents. Not only does the Circle of Protection group appear to be oblivious … [Read more...]

Jesse S. Cone: Fr. Leonid’s Culture War

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Jesse S. Cone provides a compelling critique below of Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky's signing of Jim Wallis' "Circle of Protection" proclamation. The document was crafted by Wallis and signed mostly by left-leaning Christians ostensibly to protect the poor from draconian budget cuts. Wallis is a 1960's style liberal who still believes that government has the resources and tools to eradicate vexing social problems like poverty, poor education and so forth. He never takes into account how the government inflow of money into poorer areas exacerbated the decline of the nuclear family (in the 1950's 70% of Black children in Harlem lived in intact two parent families, a trend that was increasing; 10 years after the Great Society that number dropped to 30%), contributed to the collapse of public education (the worst performing schools in America are in the inner cites of Democratically controlled cities) and created generational dependence on government welfare. There's a difference between … [Read more...]

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble: A Christian Response to the Ongoing Enslavement of America’s Poor

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Source: Huffington Post | Fr. Peter-Michael Preble Yesterday, President Obama signed a law that will raise the debt ceiling and continue to enslave the American people for another three or four years. It has reduced the national debit some but it seems to me at least that it has not gone far enough. Just so you know, your share of the national debit is about $42,500. It seems to me that the era of Big Government needs to end. I am what one would call a "classical liberal." Now, before you go crazy because I use the word liberal, please read on. I think you will be surprised. Classical liberalism developed in the 19th Century in Western Europe and the Americas and is a political philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and free markets. The sovereignty of individual private property rights is essential to individual freedom. The philosophy believes in an unfettered market with a very … [Read more...]

Rev. Robert J. Sirico: The Church as the Bride of Caesar

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Rev. Robert J. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute criticizes Rev. Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourner's Magazine. Wallis, the "self-appointed chaplain to the Democratic National Committee" as Sirico calls him, was recently revealed to be taking money from George Soros, a charge he denied at first but was finally forced to confirm as more proof was offered. Sirico correctly critiques Wallis for his conflation of religion into politics, particularly using the poor to justify financial bloat and the imposition of debt on future generations. Source: National Review Online | Rev. Robert J. Sirico It is telling that the Washington Post report on the religious Left’s Circle of Protection campaign for big government describes the effort as one that would “send chills through any politician who looks to churches and religious groups as a source of large voting blocs,” because, in fact, this is not an honest faith-inspired campaign … [Read more...]

Religion and Economics: A Review of AEI’s Common Sense Concept Series

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Over the last several years I find myself more and more being drawn more into conversation about religion—specifically, Orthodox Christianity—and economics. Originally, my interest in the economic side of the conversation was minimal.  Embarrassing though it is to say now, I only took one economics class in college and while I got a “B” I was an indifferent student of the subject. Thanks to personal friendships I’ve discovered the work of economists such as Ludwig von Mises and Fredrich A. Hayek—two dominate voices in the Austrian School of Economics.  Even here though my interests were, initially at least, not so much in policy as methodology; unlike the quantitative and empirical approach I studied in college, the Austrian school conceives of economics more along the lines of the qualitative approach at the center of human science movement.  This qualitative approach to economics has resulted in some interesting, and to my mind extraordinarily helpful and insightful, research into … [Read more...]

Charting the Course to $7 Gas

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I'm not an economist but the the essay below makes a lot of sense. The author, J. Kevin Meaders, says this is the cycle we are in: The Fed has tripled the money supply and reduced interest rates to zero. A stronger economy is trying to get off the ground but can't because all the newly created money is being retained by the banks in reserve. Eventually the banks will start lending again, and the velocity of money will increase. When that occurs, inflation will begin to show signs that even Bernanke can't ignore, and he will respond by raising rates. Eventually, increased velocity, inflation, high oil prices, and interest rates will conspire to crash the market again. And we start the whole thing over again — if we can. Source: Ludwig von Mises Institute | J. Kevin Meaders Let's go back to the beginning of the current economic crisis — yes, it is still a crisis for many millions of Americans who lost their jobs, ruined their credit, … [Read more...]

“Orthodox background leaves Bulgaria and Romania at the tail of EU” – Social Scientist [VIDEO]

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Source: Prime Time Russia Doctor Joachim Zweynert, from the Hamburg Institute of International Economics, spoke to RT about the transition performance of Bulgaria and Romania in relation to the issue of EU conditionality. “When the transition process started in the early 1990s, people, and especially social scientists, expected the countries in the region would quickly turn into democracies with market economies,” Doctor Zweynert told RT. “What we see today, 20 years after the process started, is a great divergence in both political and economic systems.” Zweynert said that there are many factors behind such an outcome. “One explanation is that there are different cultural and historical legacies, such as Orthodox Christianity on the one hand and Protestantism and Catholicism on the other hand,” Zweynert explained. “We look at Bulgaria and Romania as a sword of natural experiment, as they are the only two countries in this Orthodox group that were exposed to EU … [Read more...]