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Templeton Project: Christ, Culture, and Christians

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Christ, Culture, and Christians.”

See also:

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On the sixth day according to the Book of Genesis, God created human beings. After a time, God observed that it was not good for the man, called Adam, to be alone.  Causing a deep sleep to come over him, God formed a wife for him out of his rib.  Adam called her Eve, “the mother of all living.” Shortly thereafter, Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden for disobeying God’s command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The gates of Paradise were closed against them.  The cherubim and the swirling sword prevented their return.

God commanded humanity and all creatures to “be fruitful and multiply.”  After their expulsion from Eden, Adam and Eve had children. Sin increased in the world through their son, Cain, and other descendents of the original couple. The early chapters of Genesis (Genesis 1-11),called the primeval history, deal with the increase of sin.

Humanity increased, forming tribes and nations with various languages and customs.  The writer of Genesis explains that different languages came about by God’s command at the Tower of Babel because of the sin of human being’s trying to become like God.  They intended to build a structure that would reach to the heavens, a prideful and arrogant thing. Many different cultures and languages resulted from this dispersion.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines culture as “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations . . . the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group . . . the set of shared attitudes, values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic.”

When God created a helpmate for Adam, Eve, to join Adam and commanded them to participate in the ongoing development of creation by bearing offspring, God effectively established culture.  Culture is intrinsic to human beings who are by their very nature culture-creating, culture-bearing, and culture-perpetuating beings. Human beings have founded many cultures and developed and subsequently transmitted them to succeeding generations. God declared His creation to be “good” and upon seeing His creation of human beings that includes culture, described it as “very good.”

But, things went wrong.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God, an act that got them cast out of Paradise. Culture was affected and infected by this act of disobedience (see Genesis 4)  The solution for sin, the Bible tells us, is our salvation in Jesus Christ.

Christ, a Greek word meaning “anointed one,”  taken from the Hebrew word, Mashiach, is a title applied to Jesus of Nazareth.  The mission of Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, was, and remains, the establishment of His eternal kingdom.  Through HIs willing sacrifice on the cross, he redeemed humanity.  Those who believe in Him are saved.

He redeemed humanity from what?  The Holy Scriptures make it clear that human beings were created to enjoy a perfect existence; however, tragically, we turned our backs to God through our disobedience and sin, the setting up of ourselves as idols above God.  This event, part of every human life, beginning with Adam and Eve, who set it in motion, is called the Fall in Christian doctrine and theology.  Human beings fell from perfect and sinless communion with God to a broken relationship.  The implications of the Fall permeate every aspect of human life.  We are now subject to sin, death, the world, and the power of the devil.  The culture is subject to the disastrous effects of the Fall; because, it has negatively affected those called to form “pattern[s] of human knowledge, belief, and behavior.”

The Gospel of John often uses the term, “the world,” to describe human culture as fallen, steeped in idolatry as a result of our disobedience to God. Our idolatry puts other gods before the true God. The world is opposed to the will of God.

Jesus contrasts His peace with that of the peace offered by the world when he says “peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14: 27)  He draws a stark contrast between the world and Christians when He says “if you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world; but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15: 19) and “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world . . .They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17: 14, 16)

Human culture had been negatively impacted by the Fall.  It is the context for the world opposed to God, darkness, and the work of Satan. This fact poses a significant challenge to Christians as they both pursue a life in and with Christ, but do so within our imperfect and fallen culture.

Christians also belong to a subculture, the Church.  Unfortunately even inside the Church, we are impacted by the fall into sin.  Despite the fact that Christ founded the Church, Christians struggle with the influence of sin in their subculture.

How do Christ and culture relate? (See H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture and D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited) The first thing to recognize is that some sort of culture–regardless of whether one is a Christian, atheist, devotee of another religion, or pagan–is impossible for humans to avoid.  Any community of people forms a culture and, to that end, has language, cuisine, musical forms, a system of etiquette, style of dress, dance, architecture, entertainment, literature, ethnic customs and outlook among other things. Culture is fallen, because human beings are fallen. It is “the world” insofar as it is in opposition to God in Christ and hates the Church, the people of God.  The Church is burdened with sin; but, at the same time, is the place where the redeemed dwell.  Saint Augustine describes two societies: the earthly city and the heavenly city.  The Church is a pilgrim people, whose sins are in the process of being cleansed, as we fare toward the heavenly city.  We are pilgrims seeking the destination of the kingdom of heaven.

The Christian who wishes not to be “of the world,” must come to terms with the fact that he will in significant ways engage with culture and deal with sin in the congregation he belongs to.  Even those Christians that are the most withdrawn from the world, like the Amish or a monastic community, will engage with the culture and the opposition to Christ and His Church in it. They cannot seal themselves off from culture. They will also struggle with their own sin. Therefore, Christians must come to terms with culture and with how to live in and with it.  But also, Christians must avoid fraternizing too closely with culture such that we become indistinguishable from the world, as some denominations have done in recent times.  The Church itself is a culture that opposes the world.

The Church recognizes that culture should be subservient to the Lordship of Christ.  The Church neither completely withdraws from culture, nor capitulates to it.  To do either would cause great harm to her life in the world that is her mission field.

Most Christians live in an uneasy paradox, seeking the grace of perserverance against the world and asking Christ to sustain us through our interaction with it. Culture is fallen, yet impossible to avoid. Although culture is subject to the Fall, it is an overstatement to suggest that it is entirely corrupted by the Fall, that it is entirely evil to the extent that Christians may not participate in it at all. It serves as a medium through which the Gospel is communicated to those outside the Church.  Through the ages goodness and virtue have been described and sought in cultures by philosophers, poets, theologians, and others.  In The Divine Comedy Virgil, the pagan Roman, is chosen to guide Dante along part of the way to heaven.

The Church and Christians need to have a reasonable and sober view that recognizes that culture is essentially human and is good in its origination, yet is also a result of the Fall.  We must use our faith as a guide to decide how, when, and where to participate and not to participate.

The Church and individual Christians must discern where culture is consistent with Christ, where it has departed from the truth, and what remedies are possible this side of the fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven.  But, the most important concern of the Church is to reflect Christ in the life of the City of God in pilgrimage.  We pray for the Church in the words of a Collect taken from The Book of Common Prayer, “O gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace.  Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it.  Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

How does this article relate to the theme of this blog, which is, ways to engage in respectful conversation with those who disagree with our faith, especially atheists?  It introduces the divide that exists between secularists in the culture and the faithful in Christ. Christians and unbelievers would bring to the table great differences regarding the meaning of life, the way to live, relationship to the culture, priorities, and commitments.  A lot is at stake when we would sit down together.  Anger could be quite apparent in such encounters.  It would not be too difficult for a discussion to turn into a quarrel. (More on anger later). Contempt for the other may also be brought to such meetings.  The gap is wide between contemporary American culture and the Church and even wider between the contemporary culture (called the world in its sinful and rebellious aspects) and Christ.

In future articles H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture and D.A. Carson’s Christ and Culture Revisited will be reviewed.

James Cushing

Templeton Project: Unbelievers

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Unbelievers.”

See also:

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The Homeless

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

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The issue of the homeless in society is starting to get more attention in the news in the United States. Unfortunately, I suspect that this is only because of the upcoming presidential election. It would be unfair to say that this issue gets no attention at other times, but it does seem to me that the level of attention has increased as a topic of interest for our federal elections. While any public attention to this issue is welcome – it is a real issue that needs to be addressed – it does seem that the form of attention and the ways of addressing it leave a lot to be desired. I think this is true from both a general perspective as well as a specifically distributist one.

Homelessness appears to be on the rise in the United States. While there always has been, and undoubtedly always will be (Mark 14:7) homeless among us, the number of people living on the streets does appear to have increased a great deal in recent years. It is possible that, with some cities declaring themselves to be “sanctuaries” for the homeless, some of them have managed to migrate to those urban centers. To the extent that this is true, it could be said that the number of homeless has not increased as much as the concentration in urban centers has. Why is this issue relevant to distributism? Because this social issue touches both on the economic and the political life of communities throughout the country and around the world.

From a distributist perspective, homelessness, like most things, should be handled on as local a basis as practically possible. Our current political and tax structure may limit this, but that can and should change. Religious and other private organizations should be the front line in providing hands-on assistance as much as possible. Locally run government assistance programs should be established for what these other organizations are not able to handle. From the distributist perspective, the fact that an issue is wide-spread does not mean that higher levels of government become the primary actors in addressing it. Therefore, distributism doesn’t prohibit higher levels of government from offering assistance to the local providers of helping those in need, but they must not be allowed to usurp the role of the local organizations and government in directly addressing the issue. Therefore, even though homelessness is an issue throughout our society, and addressing it may require assistance from state or federal government, this assistance does not include setting policy for, or direct management of, assistance to those in need when more local organizations can do this.

We cannot ignore the concerns of those in the community who are not homeless. Many of them would willingly help the homeless, but also need to have their own concerns related to this issue addressed. These people would have the most motivation to help the homeless for both altruistic and personal reasons. Altruistic because they can see those in need and want to assist them. Personal because they are being negatively impacted when the homeless block sidewalks and doorways, and defecate and urinate in public parks, on the sidewalks, and in the doorways. Customers are driven away, businesses suffer or close, which means that these people have less money available to help those in need. Eventually, they will move away, taking their businesses with them, which means that there are fewer people to support the programs to help the homeless.

Another aspect where our society seems to be failing to address the issue of homelessness is that those (in government) who have taken charge of addressing it don’t seem interested in identifying the various aspects to the problem. A “one size fits all” simple solution will not successfully address the issue because there are different reasons that people are homeless. You can’t simply say, “we’ll provide housing” to solve the problem if the problem goes beyond the simple availability of housing – and it does. While this is certainly a simplification, I believe we can identify at least four broad categories of homelessness which will clearly show that one solution will not be able to succeed in addressing the problem.

The first category, and maybe the largest, are those who are addicted to drugs. Some people will argue that these people are voluntarily homeless because they voluntarily started taking drugs, however we know that the drugs being used by the homeless alter mental processes and are so strongly addicting that they truly need outside assistance to break the drug use cycle. Therefore, I cannot agree that these people can truly be categorized as voluntarily homeless. Being under the influence of mind-altering drugs while out in public presents a public danger. Therefore the local government has an obligation to protect its society from those who fit in this category. There are programs out there which have been successful in assisting those in this situation to get off these drugs, and we should promote those programs implemented according to distributist principles as much as possible.

The second category are those who have some kind of mental illness or condition. Some might try to group these people with those addicted to drugs, but I disagree (although there may be some overlap of the two). Where those who are addicted to drugs are in their condition because they take drugs they should not, some of those who are mentally ill are homeless because they don’t take the drugs they should. Some don’t take the drugs they need because their addiction still controls them, and others because they could not afford to get the drugs they needed. Additionally, there are those with mental illnesses for which there is no effective treatment.

In both of the cases above, leaving these people out on the street without “harassing” them is not an act of compassion, and it certainly doesn’t help them or the community negatively impacted by them. If we are committed to helping them, we must provide and support the institutions and programs which takes them from the street and into programs to help them and keep them off the street. These people are not only in need, but are suffering in a way that goes beyond their ability to help themselves.

The third category of homeless are those who are “down on their luck.” They are the ones whose jobs have been eliminated or outsourced to other areas. They do not have the means to get the training they need to change careers or to move to where the jobs are. Programs to assist these people to get training, to live while they get it, to help them get jobs, and to get to where the jobs are, need to exist. I am including in this category those who desire to work to support themselves and their families.

I believe there is broad support for helping those who fall into these three categories, even if that support is for different reasons. These are people who are in true need of help. I believe both a personal and a social responsibility exists to help them (Matt 25:34-46), and by doing so to help the overall community.  This would serve the common good, that is the good of the individual and also the good of the community as a whole.

The fourth category of homeless, which I believe is a small minority of the homeless, are those who are truly voluntarily homeless. Those who have chosen this as their own way of life separate from the community, but also simultaneously within it. I do believe we need to remain open to a certain degree with these people and not disrupt them unnecessarily. However, if they are living within a community, and taking advantage of the public goods of the community without actually being a part of the community or contributing to it, they are effectively stealing resources from those in need and from the community they refuse to join. If they are capable of supporting themselves but choose not to, then the social obligation to them is less than it is to the other categories. They should still be treated with human decency, but that doesn’t mean we have to support them in their chosen life style or blithely accept them disrupting the community, especially when doing so would use resources intended to help those in real need. We must treat them with justice, but justice is equally owed to the society at large.

I have listed four broad categories, and I believe that each of them could be divided into sub-categories. It is an unfortunate reality of our time that neither of the major political parties, and the various economic philosophies, seem to be willing to truly address homelessness in the various ways it needs to be addressed. I believe that part of the reason for this is that they all approach it from either a highly centralized or extremely individualistic perspective. Both of these perspectives tend toward over-generalization in order to win the broadest level of support. The distributist movement looks at this situation from the local perspective. If the homeless in a particular community are those down on their luck, they can focus their efforts of assistance to address that problem. Another community where the majority of homeless are addicted to drugs can focus on that.

This is why distributists accept the idea of subsidiarity. The local community knows its problems better than more centralized and distant governments. They are in the best position to address the problems, even if they need assistance to accomplish what needs to be done.

References:

Seattle is Dying

 

Templeton Project: Saint Paul’s Civility

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Saint Paul’s Civility.”

See also:

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When brought before representatives of the state, described in the Book of Acts,  Paul showed great respect without timidity. From the following analysis it is hoped that some rules of engagement with unbelievers, especially atheists, will emerge.

In the latter part of the Book of Acts Luke tells us of instances when Paul makes a defense before a crowd and state authorities.  His defense is in response to being accused of desecrating the Temple and false teaching.  To the crowd he told of his life including his involvement against those who follow the Way (Christians) and his conversion and call.  The crowd would hear no more and grew violent.  The next day Paul spoke before the Jewish Council, where he defended his belief in the resurrection from the dead, a matter of contention between Pharisees and Sadducees, and the reason for his troubles.

In protective custody Paul is taken to Caesarea where he speaks before the Roman governor, Felix, and, two years later before King Herod Agrippa II and Festus, the Roman governor.  In the first instance he defends himself against the accusations of the high priest and one Tertullus, representing the elders.  Paul says that he cheerfully makes his defense, a description that shows that rancor and bitterness were not found in his demeanor or words.  The apostle claims that he worships God according to the Way (Christians) and the Law and Prophets.  He does this with a clear conscience.  Then, he describes what happened that led to his imprisonment.  Paul claims that it is because of the doctrine of the resurrection that he has been accused.  Days later Paul witnesses to Jesus Christ before the governor.  We can take from the speech that Paul showed great respect for authority and witnessed to the Christian faith.

Two years later Festus became governor.  During these years Paul remained in jail.  Serious accusations were brought against him as before so that he again made his defense in a judicial setting.  Festus briefed King Agrippa about the case.  The king wanted to speak to Paul himself, the occasion for the apostle making another defense. In his defense before Agrippa, Paul mentions again that the controversy pertains to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.  He tells of his persecution of Christians and of his conversion to Christ and call to proclaim the Gospel.  He has witnessed to Jews and Gentiles about Jesus Christ and also witnesses to Festus and Agrippa. Both the king and governor agreed that Paul had done nothing wrong.

Paul shows respect, clearly explains the situation that led to his imprisonment, and uses his predicament to confess Christ without timidity.  In our own defense with those who are unbelievers and atheists we should remember these characteristics.

Some principles to apply:

  1.  Do not call people, Christians or pagans, abusive names, but honestly apprise them of their situation with accurate nomenclature.  Names that describe accurately their views or the consequences of those views are acceptable.
  2.  Use your defense as an opportunity for witness to Jesus Christ.
  3. Be prepared to describe the church’s doctrine.  If you are inadequate to this task, join a Bible or  theology study or study on your own.  Participating in a group is preferable.
  4.  Pray for those you might encounter and ask the Lord for the self-control not to get angry.
  5.  Always wish for the other’s spiritual welfare that involves confession of Christ as Lord.
  6.  Know your own faults and limitations to the extent that it is possible and repent of them so that you may not become prideful.
  7.  Observe the culture closely and read up on what is going on around you.  Be a close observer of human nature.
  8.  Follow rules of politeness: do not interrupt someone with whom you are conversing; listen carefully, try to understand where the other person is coming from and where you might help that person re-think his position; do not show contempt or disdain for the other; and do not claim intellectual or any other kind of superiority.
  9. Do not fear.  The Lord is with you.

 

Michael G. Tavella

June 6, 2019

What They All Get Wrong About Tariffs

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

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When President Trump chose to impose tariffs on China, there were various reactions. Some economic schools praised him because they believe tariffs will improve the American job market in those industries currently heavily outsourced to Chinese labor. Free market libertarians, typically representing the Austrian school of economics, berated him because they believe tariffs are terrible and hurt the American economy. However, Trump said he was doing this as an economic sanction because China was stealing US intellectual property.

Let’s start with where President Trump is wrong. He is using the tariff as a means of economic sanction – to punish another country. This is generally being characterized as a form of “trade war,” which is not an unreasonable conclusion. The reason he is wrong, however, is because we have been living under the doctrine of free trade long enough that China can economically hurt us just as much as we can economically hurt them. You can only impose a punishment from a position of power, and we don’t seem to have one. China is where our corporations produce our computers, cell phones, network infrastructure components, and many other things on which we have come to depend for our daily lives. It wasn’t that long ago that flooding in a region of China cause a world-wide shortage of computer disk drives. China can retaliate quickly and effectively against any form of economic sanction we may want to impose. A concrete example of this type of economic, and therefore political, dependence is the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. One of the issues they have to address is potential interruptions in their food distribution. The UK has the resources to provide this for itself, but they have spent decades allowing themselves to become dependent on foreign countries for basic necessities. This is now being used as an argument against becoming politically independent from the EU.

Those praising the tariffs as a means to improve American job opportunities are wrong because Trump’s stated reason for imposing the tariff is not to bolster American jobs or American industries. It was a punishment for stealing intellectual property from American companies. Our situation is very different than when our economic might was building during the industrial revolution. As a nation, we desired greater economic power, but we were already economically independent for the majority of our daily needs and wants. We used an aggressive tariff system to not only protect our fledgling industries, but to open foreign markets to our strong industries.

Others, including those who believe in the Austrian School of economics, criticized these tariffs on the grounds that tariffs are bad for economics. For example, political commentator Ben Shapiro has stated on numerous occasions that tariffs are bad for the economy. He describes them as a tax on everyone for the benefit of the few. Are tariffs ever allowed according to his view? According to Shapiro, they should only be used for national security reasons or “in the name of liberty.”

“As JFK put it, ‘We will bear any burden in the name of liberty,’ and, I’m sorry, but getting slightly more expensive goods from China in the name of liberty doesn’t seem like all that much of a burden to bear to help the people of Hong Kong, who are flying the American flag while they are protesting for their freedom.”

– Ben Shapiro, Practicality vs. Morality?

So, we can use tariffs as a tool for political change in a foreign power, but not to protect national industries and jobs. While other capitalists disagree with this view, the implications of this position are astounding when you consider that we are dealing with a socialist dictatorship.

Socialism is an Economic Good for Capitalists

This is a tacit admission that, except when national security concerns apply, or when we want to help influence some form of political change in the name of liberty, socialism is an economic good for capitalism. Is this a ridiculous assertion? Consider the following points.

  • The capitalist justification for free trade is that we can take advantage of lower labor and production costs in foreign countries. However, when you include socialist regimes in this, you are saying that a socialist workforce is more economically competitive than a capitalist one. Socialism is fine (for them), as long as it lowers ourcosts.
  • Labor costs are lower in other countries when they have a lower standard of living or worse working conditions and wages than we do. When you include socialist regimes, it means that we accept the fact that some Chinese workers are practically slave labor, and some factories that produce products for American companies have such bad conditions that they had to have anti-suicide campaigns and put up nets between the company barracks in which the workers live to catch those who try to jump to their deaths.
  • Capitalists proclaim with pride that we are a service and information provider for the world. This is the idea of “comparative advantage,” where different national economies will specialize in what they do best. Many denounce the idea that we should remain competitive in manufacturing, either traditional or new, or declare that we cannot do so. What about those workers in our own manufacturing industries? Well, they need to get themselves retrained to participate in those areas where we have a comparative advantage. In other words, the reason we outsource the production of our most advanced consumer computers and electronics is because a totalitarian socialist regime like China is simply better at it than our capitalist society – and that must be good for us because there is no need for us to improve in those areas.

These positions can only be explained by a view that considers the so-called global economy to be the primary and most important economy, followed by the national economy. Other capitalists may consider the national economy to be primary and the global economy secondary but, for those of the former view, socialism is treated as an economic good for capitalist markets.

In the end, President Trump backed down on the tariffs in hopes that it would keep our prices reduced through the Christmas shopping season. Does this not show that we have become economically dependent on foreign countries, including China?

What can Chinese President, Xi Jinping, say about this? If I were him, I would be using this as propaganda to the Chinese people, that it proves socialism is superior to capitalism, that capitalist production cannot compete with socialist production, and that people who live under capitalism are not able or willing to do the work necessary to produce what they want because they are too lazy and greedy, which is why they depend on socialist workers.

Socialism is not an Economic Good for Distributists!

While trade is generally good, distributism’s emphasis on supporting the local economy means that it should not be at the expense of economic independence. One of the foundational ideas behind distributism is that the more economically dependent you are, the more politically unfree you are. This applies to the national economy just as much as it does to the local economy. The views of capitalists seem to be divided between those who consider the global economy as primary and those who consider the national economy as primary. They don’t seem to give local economies much consideration. Distributists consider the local economy as primary. If the country is filled with a lot of strong and stable local economies, then the national economy will be strong and stable.

When considering trade policy, a nation should look to maintain a level which won’t cause too much economic turmoil for its people if trade gets interrupted. It should also not be the cause of the demise of your own producers. Some capitalists will declare that you are just forcing your own people to accept inferior products or to endure higher prices. They are ignoring the fact that many of their country’s top competitors in international markets initially grew under the protection of tariffs against foreign competition. Markets are different from country to country.

The labor market in the United States is different than the labor market in communist China. Why do any of our capitalists seem to insist that making these two labor markets compete against each other constitutes “free trade?” Are the wages comparable? Are the working conditions comparable? Are worker rights comparable? All of these can influence the cost of labor, and a tariff can be used to actually make them comparable.

Material costs and rents in the United States are different than those in communist China. Even when you factor in the competitive advantage given to many of our large corporations from government subsidies and preferential legislation, does it even come close to the level of government support of a socialist regime like China? No, the competitive advantage seem to be mainly against smaller competitors in our own country, which is why so many of our large corporations outsource production to China and other foreign countries. Tariffs can be used to protect our companies from this.

If a country is lacking development in a particular industry that impacts its economic independence, it cannot compete against those foreign companies that have already developed. A tariff on a particular industry will allow that industry to grow and develop within its own market.

Distributism would rather see as many people as possible engaged in productive work in small independent businesses supporting their local economy. We do not advocating leaving them at the mercy of corporate interests that drain local economies and leave people dependent on government assistance. We do not advocate corporate interests that consider it better to have workers in a socialist regime produce the products we need than our own people.

References:

Why Trump’s tariffs on China are a big deal; CNN Business
https://money.cnn.com/2018/03/21/news/economy/trump-trade-china-intellectual-property-301/index.html

Leaked Document Shows Potential Food & Fuel Shortage after No-Deal Brexit; Subverse News
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MqO9wQjKno

Trump’s 45% tariff on Chinese goods is perfectly calculated; Los Angeles Times Op-Ed
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-navarro-trump-trade-china-tariffs-20160721-snap-story.html

Yes, Ben Shapiro is Still Wrong on Tariffs. Here’s Why; American Greatness
https://amgreatness.com/2018/03/19/yes-ben-shapiro-is-still-wrong-on-tariffs-heres-why/

The Second Cold War; Ben Shapiro, Ep. 833 (starting @ 40:00)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe_ySUG4Pco

Practicality vs. Moral Character?; Ben Shapiro, Ep. 839 (starting at 8:45)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NGdtBTnH0

Trade Trucers Push President Trump to Back Off on China Tariffs; Breitbarthttps://www.breitbart.com/economy/2018/11/29/morechinatrucetalk/

Templeton Project: Flannery O’Connor’s “Push Back”

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Push Back’.”

See also:

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Flannery O’Connor was a southern Catholic writer who has bequeathed to us wonderful short stories and two novels.  She has some good advice for Christians in this secular age.  “Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you.  What people don’t realize is how much religion costs.  They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”

“Push back” may be a harsh metaphor when we Christians are striving for civil speech in a contentious, combative society.  But, let us not forget the  primary point that O’Connor is making.  We are to speak up on behalf of Christ–His redemptive sacrifice and wise teachings.  When we are conversing with a friend, talking in a group that has gathered for dinner or some such activity, or participating in a formal setting of discussion or debate, we are called on to defend the faith, no matter what the risk.  To follow Jesus is to carry a cross.

Having to make an apology, or defense, for many of us may be a frequent opportunity in our secular setting.  We must balance civil speech with a firm stand.  To be gentle and respectful does not mean to accede to falsehood.  We may be objects of ridicule and scorn.  No matter, we are to stand for the truth even unto persecution.

Our challenge in any dialogue may not only have to do with civility but also knowledge.  Do we have enough knowledge to feel adequate to the task?  We must also commit ourselves to study, especially of the Bible.

Next time we will discuss how Saint Paul comported himself before people in power.  To do this we will turn to the Acts of the Apostles.

Templeton Project: The Present Cultural Environment in America

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “The Present Cultural Environment in America.”

See also:

 

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The situation for Christians in contemporary American culture can be described as increasing pressure to conform to secularism, an ideology not only different from Christianity but hostile to it.    The circumstances did not come into existence overnight.  Read Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age or a summary of his book by James K. A. Smith, entitled  How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. 

Is cultural hostility becoming a situation of outright persecution?  Are we headed toward an environment of “trials” similar to the exiles in First Peter, or worse?  We do not have too long to wait to find out.  Developments are moving at a fast pace. Secularism is an ideology that by its very nature is intensely inimical to Christian faith.  Our apostolic and catholic confession is a threat to its tenets. And, of course, theirs to ours.  But, as Christians, we are expected to react in love for our neighbor, even our enemy; but, we must also stand firm for our confession of faith.

What do we see on the cultural landscape?  A sexual revolution has taken place that contravenes Christian ethics. (see R. Albert Mohler, Jr., We Cannot Be Silent).  Our government has been active in promoting laws that would limit freedom of the practice of religion.  Note the attempt to replace free exercise of religion with freedom of worship only, a change that would greatly restrict the intent of the First Amendment’s protection.  Hollywood and the media have aligned themselves with secular ways of thinking and doing. Intellectuals have directed attacks against Christian theology and ethics. Though attacks on the faith are not new, today it seems more common and virulent.  Science has become scientism–a philosophy that insists that only science provides knowledge. The humanities and theology, in this view, are not considered sources of knowledge.(See J.P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism).  We are moving toward a brave new world of drugs, sex only for pleasure, and laboratory production and experimentation that challenge Christian ethics  (See Aldous Huxley, Brave New World)  We have state law that allows the killing of a child outside the womb of the mother.  Our societal symbols, representing who we are, could turn out to be the condom and the joint.

In some quarters, the church has become an object of ridicule and contempt. It is in this environment that we must speak the truth and proclaim the Christian faith.

We have churches who have allied themselves, astoundingly enough, with this secular culture in the name of Christ.  The result has been bitterness and hostility within the Christian community. Are churches that renounce orthodox theology and ethics Christian? Because of our many divisions, the church has not spoken with one voice, based on orthodox theology and traditional Christian ethics. Valuable energy and positive influence are lost in these ecclesiastical and ecumenical conflicts.

What are Christians called to do in this situation?  Despite the obstacles and dangers and threats, we must speak out. We must push back, as writer Flannery O’Connor advises.  More on this next time.

Michael G. Tavella

June 1, 2019

Feast Day of Justin Martyr, c. 165

 

Gov. Wolf signs Roosevelt Boulevard speed camera bill

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights and I encourage you to read my articles on this here.  The encroachment on our rights has recently crept a little further still as Governor Wolf signed a bill allowing even more cameras on our streets.

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Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill on Friday to allow the installation of speed cameras along the entire length of Roosevelt Boulevard.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday signed a bill that will allow for speed cameras to be installed on Roosevelt Boulevard from 9th Street in Hunting Park to the Bucks County line as part of a five-year pilot program.

Once the cameras are set up, drivers who travel 11 miles over the speed limit or more will be ticketed. There will be a 30-day grace period during which violators will get a written warning.

Mayor Jim Kenney and safety advocates praised the legislation and said it will make the Boulevard safer.

“Our city and our families deserve safer streets,” Kenney said. “With around 100 people being killed in traffic crashes on Philadelphia streets every year, we are committed to continuing to bring to together street design, education, enforcement and policy changes that will manage speeds and, thus, save lives, making Philadelphia streets safe for everyone.”

Although the bill had bipartisan support in Harrisburg, not everyone supports speed cameras. The National Motorists Association has argued that the cameras are a money-making scheme for state and local governments.

As part of the pilot program, signs will be placed near the cameras and at two-mile intervals along the entire length of the Boulevard.

The speed camera program will be operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

City Council has to pass an ordinance for the pilot program to go into effect, according to the Governor’s Office.

The bill signed by Wolf also calls for speed cameras in work zones around the state.

By Jack Tomczuk and published in the Northeast Times on October 25, 2018 and can be found here.

Templeton Project: Elect Exiles of the Dispersion–The Importance of Identity

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Elect Exiles of the Dispersion–The Importance of Identity.”

See also:

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Peter addresses his readership as “elect exiles of the Dispersion.”  The terminology comes from the Old Testament where Israel and then Judah went into exile.  The Jews are the elect people of God whose historical experience was exile and dispersion into many lands. Only in recent history have Jews returned to their homeland of Israel.

Christians are those chosen by God,  who are found in many nations and whose identity is one of exile from the homeland of heaven.  The communities of Christians found in several provinces of the Roman Empire, located in what is now the nation of Turkey, were experiencing “various trials.”  Persecution was an everpresent danger. Their experience was one of exile, an unpleasant and difficult reality, from the heavenly country for which they longed.

The post-New Testament Letter to Diognetus takes up the theme of Christians as aliens in this world.  The sender of the letter writes, “They (Christians) live in their own countries, but only as aliens.  They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners.  Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land.  They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring.  They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed. It is true that they are “in the flesh,”  but they do not live “according to the flesh.”  They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.”  (Cyril Richardson, translator and editor. The Library of Christian Classics. Early Christian Fathers, Volume I. Westminster: Philadelphia,1953, p.217).  Christians are not distinguishable from others in many things, but they are set apart by their moral practice.  For example, they shun adultery and the exposure of their children unto death, as pagans sometimes did.

Christians consider themselves as exiles or aliens here on earth.  Our permanent home is in heaven.  These characteristics are primary to Christian identity in the world.  We are separate from the unethical practices of the world, even though sometmes Christians fail in this.

Peter also characterizes Christians as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own (God’s) possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (I Peter 2: 9-10 ESV)  We who have had God’s mercy shown to us through Jesus Christ are an elect peole who are to proclaim the mystery of our salvation so that others may also become a part of God’s people.

This way of looking at life, determined by our redemption in Christ, sets us apart from the world; and, as a result, causes conflict with the world.  Our interface with the world has all the possibility of inspiring anger and hatred in us as it does with those who are not Christians.  Our path, though, should be one of gentleness and respect.  Hard as it is to practice, we are called to address the world in the love of Christ.  But we are also to be separate from the corruption of the world.  Relying on texts from the Old Testament, Paul instructs the Corinthians with these words: “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them says the Lord, . . .

Michael G. Tavella

June 1, 2019

Feast Day of Justin Martyr, c. 165

Templeton Project: With Gentleness and Respect

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “With Gentleness and Respect.”

See also:

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We are to make our defense “with gentleness and respect.”  These words are found in I Peter 3: 13ff in the text that has been and will be the focus of this blog. Different English versions of the New Testament provide different translations of the words under consideration.  The Greek word, translated gentleness (ESV) in English, has also been translated as meekness (ASV, KJV) and humility (WEB and Word Biblical Commentary, I Peter). The word is translated gentleness in NCV and NIV, as well as ESV.

The noun, translated gentleness (ESV), is used in I Peter only in Verse 15 of Chapter 3.  Another form of the word is used as an adjective in I Peter 3: 4, and only there in the letter, where wives are instructed, “Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear–but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (I Peter 3: 3-4 ESV) A woman who behaves in this way has the approval of God.

What can we say about the meaning of gentle/gentleness in I Peter?  How we say what we say in the event of making a defense must be without harshness, contempt, courseness, rudeness, and violence.  It would include mildness by our avoiding threat or anger and certainly avoiding profanity.  Body language would conform to mild speech. Ad hominem arguments would be unacceptable.  More on this later. Make no mistake gentleness does not mean a lack of determination to make one’s defense as a witness to the opponent.  Gentleness does not mean giving up one’s conviction out of timidity. To accede to the others’ threat is to fail to make a defense.

In his commentary on I Peter, J. Ramsey Michaels observes, “Gentleness is “. . . an inward quality or attitude of mind (cf. 3: 3-4), a profound acknowledgement of the power of God, and of one’s own poverty and dependence on Him (cf. Matt 5: 5). Yet this God-centered quality of the heart finds expression also in one’s behavior toward others’” (J. Ramsey Michael. I Peter. Word Books, Word Biblical Commentary,  Waco, Texas, 1988. p. 189).

The second word is translated respect in the English Standard Version.  Elsewhere it is translated fear or reverence. Michaels raises the question of whether respect has to do with God or other people.  Before citing his view, let’s see how the word is utilized elsewhere in the epistle.

The Greek word, phobos, means fear.  We have borrowed it into English in many instances–arachnophobia-fear of spiders; agoraphobia–fear of open places; hydrophobia–fear of water.  The noun is used five times in I Peter.  Its first use is found in I Peter 1: 17:  “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”  (I Peter 1: 17-19 ESV).  The fear is reference to the fear of God.  The word is tranlated repect in our central text in Chapter 3  The “time of exile” is this earthly life.

The Greek word in I Peter 2: 18 is translated as respect in ESV, the same translation as in our primary text in Chapter 3.  Servants are instructed to obey their masters with respect, whether good and gentle or unjust.  Note that the antonym in this context for gentle is translated as unjust.  In 2: 17., the verse immediately before this passage, the community is exhorted to “Fear God,” The word is a verb, used three times in the letter.

Michaels concludes that both words have a reference both to our relationship to God and also our relationship to our neighbors including the hostile ones. (Michaels, p. 189)  Michaels’ own translation of these two words is “humility and reverence,” a translation that seems to emphasize our relationship to God.  We are commanded to proper conduct with our neighbor but also proper attitude toward God. Proper conduct in making a defense applies both to formal debate as well as to informal encounters.

In our conversations with unbelievers we are always to be guided by a relationship with God that has certain ethical consequences., Unbelievers do not have the same foundation as Christians. However, even unbelievers may be influenced by factors leading to conduct similar to Christians, but not with the same motivation. We will follow this thought in future posts.

Michael G. Tavella

March 23, 2019

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