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Line Number: 116

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 116

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 116

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 116

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Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 116

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 116

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 116

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 116

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 115

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 115

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Line Number: 115

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 116

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

Severity: Warning

Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Message: substr_count(): Empty substring

Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Filename: public/page.php

Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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Line Number: 133

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 133

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A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

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Line Number: 145

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

A PHP Error was encountered

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A PHP Error was encountered

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Line Number: 145

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Line Number: 145

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Line Number: 145

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Line Number: 145

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Line Number: 145

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The Center for Public Justice

Search Results:

To Repeal or Not to Repeal: Why That Is NOT the Question

The rancorous debate over health care reform has been reduced to a few provocative and often misleading claims. While health care policy is exceptionally complex and multidimensional, what are some guiding principles that Christians should hold our lawmakers accountable to as they enact changes to our health care policy? In this introduction to the series, Contributing Editor Michelle Kirtley responds to that question and explores how these principles can inform our understanding of the current policies under debate. She argues that applying the principles of human flourishing together with an emphasis on institutional pluralism can inform a compassionate and just health care policy that includes multiple sectors and institutions and can help us ensure a...


Refugees, Security, and the Task of Government

In this final article of the series, Steven Meyer and Stephanie Summers discuss the task of government in responding to the refugee crisis. Meyer and Summers outline the context for the development of US and international agreements regarding refugees and the intended scope of these agreements. In light of that, they argue that we must encourage our government to address two of its important responsibilities simultaneously: that of providing for the security of the nation’s citizens and for the protection for those whose own citizenship must begin afresh elsewhere....


How Individualism Undermines Our Health Care

American culture’s commitment to individualism obscures the communal foundations of health care and hinders creative ways to transform a broken and deeply unjust system. In this article, Clarke Cochran explores these communal foundations and argues that our entrenched individualism is particularly problematic in health care and is largely why we are embroiled in this highly contentious, partisan, and emotional debate today. Cochran urges Christian citizens to examine our own individualist assumptions and to advocate for health care policies that advance the well-being of the whole...


How Should We Measure Human Flourishing?

Human flourishing is inextricably connected to the health of individuals and communities, but too often, we only debate health care policy in terms of medical health care and interventions provided after people get sick. But what if our definition of health care took into account social determinants of health such as housing, public transportation, strength of the family unit, and connectedness to civic and spiritual groups? This article explores several initiatives that illustrate a more holistic approach to promoting health and human flourishing. These initiatives draw on strong partnerships and collaborations between government and other civil society institutions to serve the needs of the whole person and whole communities....


Becoming a Healer

In the United States, the journey to become a physician is an arduous and expensive process. It shapes and sets most physicians on particular and specialized paths that are very difficult to later change. In this article, Dr. J. Todd Wahrenberger reflects on his path to becoming a primary care physician, now attending to a patient population with severe and persistent mental illness. Although primary care doctors are often the best positioned to provide whole person, integrated care, only about fifteen percent of US medical students choose to enter into a primary care residency. Dr. Wahrenberger discusses current and potential changes in the training process to help more students choose primary care, particularly for vulnerable populations, where integrated care has...


A Church's Journey with Refugees: From Sponsors to Friends to Advocates

Claire McWilliams tells the compelling story of how her church congregation has partnered with a resettlement agency in Chicago to welcome a family from Homs, Syria. As cosponsors with the agency, the church community has provided the family with emotional and social support as they adjust to their new life. McWilliams describes how transformational this relationship with the refugee family has been, and how it has been a catalyst for action and advocacy on behalf of the larger refugee community....


The Religious Act of Welcoming the Stranger

The elements of President Trump’s Executive Orders that pertain to refugees raise a number of questions about the right roles and responsibilities of the government, churches, organizations, and citizens in responding to the refugee crisis. In this article, Chelsea Langston Bombino discusses how the biblical call to “welcome the stranger” has particular implications for faith-based organizations serving refugees. She argues that helping to resettle refugees is a key response to this call, and the limits placed on refugees entering the country limits the abilities of faith-based organizations to exercise one of the core tenants of their...


A Crisis and an Opportunity

The number of refugees around the world has soared in recent years as millions of people have fled violence, persecution, and political upheaval in their home countries. As the world grapples with this crisis, the question arises: what does it mean to uphold public justice for refugees? In his introduction to the series, Contributing Editor Matthew Soerens describes the crisis and outlines the theological principles for how Christians should respond. Soerens also introduces some of the other issues to be explored in this series that inform the prudential determinations Christians must make to extend a just welcome to refugees....


From Dislocation to Resettlement

The refugee journey, from the time of dislocation to eventual resettlement, is arduous and fraught with complexity and uncertainty. In this article, Stina Kielsmeier-Cook describes the lengthy process through which refugees are processed and vetted as they struggle to secure safety and stability for themselves and their families. In particular, Kielsmeier-Cook focuses on the vetting process for refugee resettlement in the United States that has come under significant scrutiny...


The Memory of One Drowned Boy: Canada's Response to the Global Refugee Crisis

Canadian culture and values are closely intertwined with those of the United States, and many of the same concerns and debates about refugees taking place in the United States are taking place in Canada as well. However, Canada’s overall response to the global refugee crisis and its commitment to refugee resettlement differs in a number of ways from that of the United States. In this article, Paul Rowe discusses these differences and explains how Canadians’ faith, culture, and political views have shaped their...


Refugees and the Politics of Holy Week

This week, as we remember Jesus Christ’s final days on earth leading up to his death and resurrection, Matthew Kaemingk explores the political implications that Holy Week has for how we respond to refugees. Drawing on examples from the Dutch experience with refugees, and challenging the polarizing ideologies of nationalism and multiculturalism that have shaped the debate in the United States, Kaemingk reflects on five key spaces where Jesus demonstrates his alternative politics of...


The Way of the Gospel, Health Care, and Religious Freedom

Why is it important that medical professionals and faith-based health care institutions are not compelled to violate their consciences? Grattan Brown responds to this question by beginning with a rich exploration of the formation of conscience and its critical role in soul-shaping institutional engagement that upholds human flourishing. Brown contends that wide institutional pluralism and protections for religious freedom are particularly necessary in science and medicine, where medical technology offers more power and more options for modifying the body and for curing diseases in the human body and psyche. This greater power draws into sharper relief both human limitations and fundamental human questions, especially regarding the...


What Families Need to Thrive

While families offer a locus of care and nurture that no other institution can rival or replicate, families need and deserve support from other institutions as they pursue their vocation. CPJ Fellow and Contributing Editor Rachel Anderson introduces our latest PJR series, Families Valued, and explores how a deeply privatized vision of family life that denies families’ interactions and interconnectedness with other institutions like business and government limits our ability to help families thrive. Paid family leave is just one of the ways that businesses and workplaces support families. In this series, we will further investigate how the interconnection between workplace, church, public policy, and family can promote family...


Globalization and the Kingdom of God: A Christian Perspective on International Relations

Although much has been done to articulate and develop Christian perspectives on domestic politics, very little exists of this kind of perspective on global affairs and international relations. In this article, Robert Joustra outlines three sign posts that are key to such a perspective, emerging from the Kuyperian tradition, and Kuyper himself, as well as the Center for Public Justice’s own work. CPJ urges Christians of every state and nation to “recognize that they share a common commitment to justice beyond their own nation.” Discussing state sovereignty, international law, and freedom of religion, Joustra explores how the fruit of this justice can be found and upheld in contemporary...


Advancing Religious Freedom and Responsibility Through Changing Times

For the past forty years, CPJ has offered a distinctive, principled pluralist understanding of religious freedom as a vital contribution to the common good. This perspective holds that as Christians seeking to have freedom to fully exercise our faith in every aspect of our lives, individually and institutionally, we also have the responsibility to ensure such freedom for those with whom we have great differences. In this article, the authors discuss how the understanding of religious freedom in the United States has changed over the years. They show how CPJ has responded to these changes by being a key actor in engaging groups across difference around a number of issues and promoting both individual and institutional rights...


Radical (to the Root) Justice in Education

The Center for Public Justice has been addressing issues of injustice in the US education system for many years. In this article, Christy Wauzzinski, an educator in Pittsburgh, discusses how her association with CPJ for nearly four decades has profoundly shaped her thinking, and that of a whole group of citizens in the Pittsburgh area, about the roots of injustice in education. Wauzzinski describes how encounters with the work of CPJ and its founder James Skillen inspired some in this community of citizens to establish a number of faith-based schools and start several businesses, and prompted other civic engagement efforts like a well-researched voter’s guide. She explores four main areas of injustice in our education system and calls...


Imagining Economic Justice

What makes the political arrangements that shape our economic life just? Gideon Strauss responds to this question with a nuanced exploration of the meaning of economic justice. Drawing on his own work and his encounters with the work of CPJ and other traditions of Christian social thought that influenced his thinking, Strauss discusses how we might employ creation’s many riches to produce and exchange the goods and services needed for flourishing. Strauss argues that the future wealth of this nation can be generated and distributed in many different ways, but what this moment requires is moral imagination, oriented towards a...


A Biblical Vision for Political Life

Christian views of political life have been shaped in a variety of ways over time, with differing understandings of the role and responsibilities of government and of how Christians citizens ought to exercise their earthly citizenship. In this article, William Edgar considers these currents in the context of thinkers such as Augustine, Aquinas, Locke, and others, and outlines the theological and philosophical context for CPJ’s distinctive approach to political life. Edgar shows how CPJ grounds its thinking in the biblical doctrine of creation, as it applies to a world that is expanding and shrinking at the same time. In so doing, CPJ advocates for the legitimacy of a plural society that upholds human flourishing, the call to justice for...


CPJ as a Discipleship Movement

Contributing Editor Vincent Bacote starts off our special fall series celebrating the Center for Public Justice’s 40th anniversary with a reflection on CPJ as an expression of holistic Christian discipleship. Bacote argues that the current political climate raises these two important questions: “What is a disciple of Christ to do in this climate of division, fear, cynicism, and confusion?” and “How is the Center for Public Justice a discipleship movement that provides guidance at this time and beyond?” Responding to these questions, Bacote explains what political discipleship means and discusses four distinctives of the Center for Public Justice that can guide Christian citizens in their...


Gender, Family, and Productive Labor: A (Very) Brief History

Motherhood–like all kinds of caregiving–comes with some undeniable costs. Because of these costs, an argument for women in the workplace does not, in itself, furnish a compelling business case for mothers in the workplace. In this article, Elizabeth Schiltz consider four compelling reasons for why workplaces should offer generous accommodations to mothers, who she argues bring unique gifts, talents, and perspectives to the workplace because they are mothers. Schiltz contends that forging social consensus around the idea that parenting develops crucial work skills could help combat our modern culture’s false and harmful insistence on the incompatibility of work and...


Motherhood: Benefit or Burden to Business?

Motherhood–like all kinds of caregiving–comes with some undeniable costs. Because of these costs, an argument for women in the workplace does not, in itself, furnish a compelling business case for mothers in the workplace. In this article, Elizabeth Schiltz consider four compelling reasons for why workplaces should offer generous accommodations to mothers, who she argues bring unique gifts, talents, and perspectives to the workplace because they are mothers. Schiltz contends that forging social consensus around the idea that parenting develops crucial work skills could help combat our modern culture’s false and harmful insistence on the incompatibility of work and family....


Fatherhood in a Changing Economy

This interview with Robert Francis draws on his research into the lives of working-class men in rural America, many of whom are fathers, and his exploration of the declining labor force participation among this group. Francis explains how the American economy has been offering fewer full-time, well-paying jobs to men with less than a college degree, a challenge particularly acute in rural places. However, he has found that men are willing to go to great lengths to support their families, including moving away or taking jobs that require extensive travel, like long-haul trucking. In looking at the US family over time, Francis shows that the male breadwinner model is actually the historical anomaly. The reality for many in...


Learning To Value The Family In Crisis

Writing from the perspective of rural communities, Hannah Anderson describes the challenges facing lower and middle-income families whose marriage rates have decreased in recent decades even as out-of-wedlock births have risen. Anderson urges churches, long acknowledged by the pro-family movement as partners in family support and formation, to deepen their attention to families in crisis. She ponders the ways that a widespread cultural idolatry of individualized, romantic marriage combined with the church’s blinkered attention to middle and upper-class families has hobbled church ministry to families who fall short of this norm. Anderson contends that we must imagine how families in crisis might flourish, offering a...


Flourishing in a Pluralist World

How can we live together in the context of deep moral and religious differences, and can we flourish together in a society where we don’t agree on what it means to flourish? In this article, Bryan McGraw explores the various ways these questions have been answered with either exaggerated emphasis on commonality or a blanket celebration of diversity. McGraw suggests that we pursue the goal of “reflective discomfort” that sees pluralism, and its conflicts, clearly. In doing so, we can see where our commitments run up against those of others and where they can coexist and even...


Protecting Minority Voting Rights

In the second of two articles about loving our neighbors through politics, Kimberly Conger highlights the injustice of voter suppression among the poor and racial and ethnic minorities. Describing this intentional structural injustice that limits access to the ballot, Conger outlines concrete actions that we can take to ensure that our democracy appropriately values and upholds justice for these minorities and allows those voters a voice and representation in the political...


Food Security for Returning Citizens in the 21st Century

The subject of mass incarceration leads to discussions about finding ways to help individuals re-enter communities successfully. Pastor Kimberly Luck explores how returning citizens often face food insecurity and shows how food security can act as a means to reduce recidivism. Using a public justice framework, Pastor Luck shows how both individuals and organizations can advocate for changes in policies affecting returning citizens. Faith-based and community organizations can be part of the process by networking, sharing resources, and creating spaces for stories to be told. This interaction can become an educational opportunity for both returning citizens and the broader community. Returning citizens can share their experiences and give voice to their challenges while simultaneously learning about organizations, programs, and opportunities to become more food secure. As a result, collaborative groups that include returning citizens play a role in advocating for legislation and...


Overcoming the Mark of Cain: The Importance of Education in Reentry

There are countless groups and communities suffering from systemic oppression, and Christians must be ready to acknowledge and discuss this complicated reality in our society. Returning citizens – individuals re-entering society after periods of incarceration – can face insurmountable challenges as they navigate basic tasks, such as health care, applying for jobs, finding housing, pursuing education, or even exerting their right to vote. Criminal conviction seems to carry a life sentence for both the formerly incarcerated and their loved ones. The stigma of incarceration is arguably similar to the Genesis story of the mark of Cain, a curse given to him after he murdered his brother Abel. How can Christians, and civil society institutions, contribute positively to the flourishing of these “marked” men and women? Princeton Theological Seminary graduate, Vicar Erich Kussman, M. Div., writes about creative programs and strategies for supporting returning...


Turning to the Community for Reentry Housing: Collaboration between Public Housing Authorities and C

What can the average citizen do for the nine million men and women who are released from prisons and jails each year? Caring for returning citizens in a time of mass incarceration when the United States holds 25 percent of the incarcerated population and three out of four incarcerated people are rearrested within five years can seem to be a daunting and unrelated task for civil society. As issues of mass incarceration and reintegration are brought to the forefront of public discourse, it can be an easy tendency to look solely to the Bureau of Prisons to fix the broken transition from incarceration to freedom. However, being a neighbor to the returning citizens in our communities, churches, businesses, and neighborhoods is more essential than many realize. People of faith have a unique opportunity and responsibility to extend hospitality to returning citizens in the United States. Safe and supportive housing for men and women as they come home from incarceration is essential to...


Mass Incarceration and Families: A Shared Task of Healing

Much of the talk surrounding criminal justice reform is centered on theincarcerated population and returning citizens. These major social issues have major social ramifications, and the full effects of our prison crisis are actually far more extensive than most Americans probably realize. Political science student Collin Slowey reflects on a new report by FWD.us that reveals the depth and breadth of the wounds that mass incarceration has inflictedon American...


Preempting Incarceration: Restorative Justice for Disruptive & At-Risk Youth in High Schools

Criminal justice reform is a potent issue at this time in our history. Lawmakers, activists, and other community and faith-based groups are working to reverse the trend of human warehousing in the United States. This article will attempt to spell out the importance and reasoning behind why one approach, restorative justice, should be implemented in high schools for at-risk youth. By focusing on the needs of the victims, offenders, and the involved community, restorative justice in schools acknowledges the extenuating circumstances surrounding the student, and attempts to address smaller issues before allowing they turn into bigger problems, such as crime. Practices such as talking circles, mediation, and meditation can be implemented as an alternative to more disciplinary actions like detention, suspension, and expulsion. A public justice perspective recognizes that school administrators, teachers, parents, and students all play a role in creating a system that will maintain school...


Life after Incarceration: Maintaining Employment as a Practical Challenge Facing Returning Citizens

The term “ex-con” or “ex-offender” is often used to describe an individual who has returned from a period of incarceration. It is common for those who are formerly incarcerated to face barriers related to securing housing, accessing financial aid for college, and even regaining the right to vote. But what happens after a person has paid his or her debt to society? What is the role of institutions in helping the formerly incarcerated resume “normal” life and perhaps even contribute to the common good? This series attempts to provide a public justice perspective on ways the government, concerned citizens, and civil society institutions can aid returning citizens. Bringing her ministry experience and seminary studies to the forefront, co-Contributing Editor Denise Strothers joins with PJR Editor Kerwin Webb to provide readers a robust discussion on the challenges and creative solutions related to supporting the formerly incarcerated. Among the...


Predatory Payday Lending: A Concern for Contemporary Christians

Payday loans are marketed and presented to the public as easy solutions to short-term financial challenges. What many borrowers do not realize until too late, is that the payday loans are easy to get into but are extremely difficult to get out of. This article invites readers to explore the challenges of people who have found themselves in the throes of predatory payday loans and the responsibility of Christian citizens to help address this topic. The good news is that it is possible to end the cycle of debt caused by predatory payday loans and there are individuals, organizations, and agencies doing the...


Combating Predatory Payday Lending: The Faith Community Responds

In Minnesota, like thirty-three other states, payday lenders can legally offer short-term, small-dollar loans to customers. Payday loans are marketed as helpful and useful tools to address unexpected financial needs. The loans, however, are made based on the lender’s ability to collect, and not the borrower’s ability to repay, so payday loans almost always create a debt trap. Organizations like Exodus Lending and the Center for Responsible Lending, along with...


Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops: A Model for Community Action on Issues of Public Justice

Usury has been a concern of the Church and civil society for millennia. This article outlines ten years of problems, strategies, wins, and losses in Texas as faith leaders and other concerned civic groups have fought for reasonable payday and auto-title lending reform at local, state, and federal levels. Payday and auto-title lenders have a similar business model: market high-cost emergency loans to desperate borrowers. For payday loans, borrowers provide lenders with access to a bank account or Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), and automobile titles for auto-title loans. This predatory industry receives its revenue primarily from low-income working families....


Predatory Lending: A Framing Conversation

For some people, a vehicle breaking down is more of a nuisance than it is a crisis. But for others, a vehicle in disrepair sets off a chain of events that often includes missed time from work that results in lower earnings and greater financial instability often resulting in threats of homelessness and/or food insecurity. It is this need that payday lenders purport to fill, although there is clear and mounting evidence that demonstrates the industry’s predatory...


That All Might Thrive: The Colorado Ballot Initiative Story

In 2018, a movement with faith leaders at its core known as the Financial Equity...


Returning Citizens: Components of a Successful Reentry An Interview with Dr. Dean Trulear of Heal

Successfully reintegrating the formerly incarcerated into society is important for individuals, families, and the economy. Fwd.us is “a bipartisan political organization that believes America’s families, communities, and economy thrive when more individuals are able to achieve their full potential.” The organization’s website notes “our criminal justice system poses one of the greatest challenges confronting our country today.” Dr. Harold Dean Trulear, an ordained Baptist minister, Associate Professor of Theology at Howard University School of Divinity, and a returning citizen is also the National Director of Healing Communities is a nonprofit organization that assists churches and faith communities for the work of assisting returning citizens, and provides “a framework for a distinct form of ministry for men and women returning from or at risk of incarceration, their families and the larger community.” Dr. Trulear spoke with Public Justice Review (PJR) editor Kerwin...


2. 2019 Kuyper Lecture: Does Supporting Religious Freedom Require Opposition to LGBT Civil Rights?

    Christians promote rather than just tolerate religious freedom — it is a political principle rooted in our convictions about the fallibility of...


God's Good Purpose for Authority

The transfer of power and authority to a new administration naturally heightens interest and anxiety over the direction that the country will go. In this article, Timothy Sherratt explores the gift of authority and God’s good purposes for its use. As a new administration takes office in a political culture that often regards authority as a synonym for oppression, how might a Christian understanding of authority as a gift for human flourishing stand...


Political Discipleship for the Common Good

What does it mean to follow Jesus as a political disciple? Christians have responded to this question in a variety of ways, and after the contentious election season, disengagement or withdrawal into Christian community have been compelling options. In this article, Bill Edgar urges us to do otherwise, arguing that our political discipleship means deep engagement in the varied institutions we have inherited, rooted in Creation, with a view to fostering obedience to the Lord in each....


Citizenship in Community

Many of us feel isolated in our calling to citizenship. While we may occasionally participate in marches or demonstrations, we largely live out our political lives as individuals, and not as a community. This individualism often leads to disappointment and a sense that our voice and action make no difference. In this article, Rachel Anderson outlines an inspiring vision for citizenship cultivated in community, sustained by a number of practices that can help us work together to pursue God’s good purposes for our political...


Loving Our Neighbors Through Politics

In this first of two articles on loving our neighbors through politics, Katie Thompson tells the compelling story of how a faith community in Arizona addressed a major injustice through their political engagement. The work of this group of Christian citizens to help achieve a legislative victory against the predatory lending industry in their state teaches us powerful lessons about how we can seek the flourishing of our communities through the political...


Distinctive Christian Citizenship

In this first article of the inaugural series of CPJ’s Public Justice Review, Stephanie Summers poses the question, “Is there such a thing as distinctive Christian citizenship?” The painful and contentious 2016 election season and the uncertain political landscape ahead has left many Christians wondering how best to live out their calling as citizens who faithfully pursue God’s good purposes for their political community. Summers responds to this question with two foundational principles and looks ahead to the important questions that the authors of the series will explore in the coming...


Evangelical Internationalism in Comparative Perspective: Discerning a Global Social Ethic

Paul Rowe writes today that while the cultural influence, financial support and power of Evangelical populism in the United States remains influential throughout the world, context clearly makes a significant difference in the appeal of political populism among Christians. Put simply, it is impossible to read contemporary populism among evangelicals through a narrow...


2019 Kuyper Lecture: Fairness for All: A Framework for Living Together Peacefully

    Fairness for All (FFA) is an important example of peacemaking and prudential policymaking. In the midst of our...


Fairness for All: A Better Way than the Equality Act

The Equality Act, which would add to federal civil rights laws new prohibitions of discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex, was introduced into the House of Representatives on March 13. Supporters of the Equality Act cl aim that it protects religious freedom, but in fact it would severely constrain many faith - based organizations and persons of faith who simply desire to live by their convictions about human sexuality and marriage without harming others. In this article, f irst published in the e - News of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance and being republished as a companion piece to the 2019 Kuyper Lecture given by Shapri LoMaglio on April 25, 2019, Stanley Carlson - Thies presents the Fairness for...


2019 Kuyper Lecture: Bringing A Kuyperian Framework To Religious Freedom And LGBT Civil Rights

    The Center for Public Justice's annual Kuyper Lecture focuses on significant questions of religion in public life and Jesus' Lordship over all creation. Its goal is to inspire and equip Christians to pursue their common calling to...


Evangelicals' Responses to the Immigration Debate

Evangelicals, though often portrayed as a right-wing populist “tribe” in their politics, in fact hold quite diverse perspectives on immigration and have reacted in multiple ways to it. Rather than one evangelical tribe with a singular position on immigration, there are—and have long been—multiple responses to the different ethical principles at stake in immigration. Evangelicals believe, identify, respond and engage with immigration in ways ranging from right-wing populist to liberal...


A Conversation with James Skillen

Over forty years ago, James Skillen and a number of others began to dream about an organization for Christian political action. Their discussions and labors eventually brought about the founding of the Center for Public Justice, with the goal of developing a Christian mindset for civic responsibility. This wide-ranging conversation with Skillen explores the cultural and political climate when CPJ was founded and the engagement of Christians with politics at that time. Skillen compares this to our political currents today, and demonstrates how vital the work and vision of CPJ continues to be in challenging how most Americans, particularly Christians, think about political...


Religious Freedom and the Social Safety Net

What does religious freedom have to do with the social safety net—those partnerships between government and civil society institutions that serve our vulnerable neighbors? Most Americans who associate religious freedom with controversial decisions around contraception mandates or bathroom use have little understanding of the vast social good provided by faith-based organizations. Because of this, there is also little understanding of the need to uphold the freedom of these institutions to serve diverse communities with diverse needs according to their faith-shaped missions.   In this article, Contributing Editor...


2018: The Year in Published Public Justice

In the upcoming weeks, CPJ will offer a handful of essays reviewing some significant books that speak to areas of our research and advocacy. We will strive to offer a “lay of the land,” naming books that capture something of the spirit of the age, discerning the perspectives in play within these arenas. Today, our Contributing Editor Byron Borger lays out, with broad brush strokes, the year past from the perspective of major publications on public justice. While an outstanding year for issue advocacy, Bryon argues there is a notable absence of more cohesive, public arguments about how our political discipleship hangs...


Augustine's Aspirational Imperfectionism: What Should We Hope for From Politics?

In today’s series finale, Jesse Covington argues that Augustine points us to political faithfulness in light of the full scope of redemptive history. Our hopes for politics include pursuing real goods (could love of neighbor counsel anything less?), but with the recognition that these goods remain tempered, limited, and proximate inside of time. For Augustine, this posture is captured by the image of the pilgrim or sojourner who invests deeply in his current context, but without mistaking it for...


2018: Institutional Religious Freedom in Review

The past year has been a busy one for discussing and adjudicating deep and abiding differences among citizens, no less so than in the hot button sphere of freedom of religion or belief, and its often-essential institutions. Today, Stanley Carlson-Thies draws a map for us of the most hopeful books of the last year (and a bit) on institutional religious freedom, the pitfalls they signal and the potential for public justice as a way...


2018: Sacred Sector in Review

2018 has been a busy year for non-profits and activist groups, none more so than in the faith-based sector. As religious communities grow more politically active, the question of not only collaboration and impact, but also of how to “keep the faith” almost always arises. This week, the Center for Public Justice’s Director of its Sacred Sector initiative, Chelsea Langston Bombino, surveys the landscape from 2018 on books and arguments that help Christians, in particular, navigate these key...


2018: Families Valued in Review

At least since Abraham Kuyper wrote on “the social question” and Pope Leo XIII on Rerum Novarum (“of the new things”), the transformation and challenge of work has been a central question in the Christian social tradition. Fast forwarding to 2018 we find no exceptions: the rise of the “gig” economy provides new, unique challenges that require as robust Christian theologies and practices now as they did then. Today, Rachel Anderson, Resident Fellow at CPJ leading our Families Valued project, surveys the past year to bridge these emerging changes in work, life, and society and see how...


Religious Liberty and LGBTQ Equality: Civic Pluralism Points to a Path Through the Ongoing Conflict

Disagreements about human sexuality are as pronounced as ever in American society. In the political domain, issues related to whether and how to protect LGBTQ identities in law are a common focal point for these disagreements, and they can become even more charged when religious freedom concerns are involved. This article points to three considerations for addressing these controversial and difficult issues: (1) that the existence of diverse institutions in American society benefits a diverse population that desires to be served in distinctive ways; (2) that religious liberty claims and LGBTQ equality claims place very different demands on society; and (3) that the multi-dimensional nature of sexual orientation and gender identity complicates their...


Christian Responsibility in Governing: What to Do When Democracy Gets Complicated

  Many Christians – particularly conservative ones – fear that a pluralistic society will result in laws that are more tyrannical than democratic. Today, argues Jennifer Walsh, Christians must find a way to successfully govern in an increasingly diverse and pluralistic society and actively love neighbors who view the world quite differently. They must learn to live and work within the constraints of our system—not rebel whenever they do not get their way. And they must learn to accept some justice and some pluralism that will be different and wider than they might...


Christians, Health Care Policies, and the Dangers of False Equivalencies

Health care policy is one of the central moral issues of our day and a topic on which a clear Christian voice is needed. From a Reformed perspective, the focus of our debates needs to be justice, not charity. Christians should support policies that provide health care as a right. Unfortunately, the Christian church has often supported policies that deny people access to health care, and this denial threatens to undercut their ability to speak with a moral voice on important issues of our...


The Dissatisfactions - and Blessings! - of Civic Pluralsim

In our opening editorial, founder and Senior Director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, Stanley Carlson-Thies asks what is so good about pluralism as a structuring principle for a political community? Should we always qualify civic pluralism as “proximate” to remind ourselves that, even if it is a blessing during our in-between time, when we need to live together with others with whom we have deep disagreements, it is an arrangement for political community that must inevitably disappoint us? These are the questions that lay out the work of this series of the Public Justice Review. While acknowledging the good that is principled or civic pluralism, we will explore the limitations inherent to it...


Civic Pluralism and Human Solidarity (Part 1 of 2)

Civic pluralism is a central implication of the vision of public justice that has guided CPJ since its inception. But while a noble and necessary aspiration, it is often creates the very imperfect realities we lament. Join seasoned scholar Jonathan Chaplin in a two-part series, on what we have “in common” with our fellow citizens, the limits of that commonness, and what to do when our core convictions no longer count as common, and we must learn to stand in solidarity with other minority communities as we uphold public space for...


Civic Pluralism and Minority Solidarity (Part 2 of 2)

Civic pluralism is a central implication of the vision of public justice that has guided CPJ since its inception. But while a noble and necessary aspiration, it is often creates the very imperfect realities we lament. Today, Jonathan Chaplin concludes a two-part series exploring a different sense of solidarity: what it means to find ourselves alongside other minority communities of conviction in a single political community which must uphold the public manifestation of such deep differences, even while it also protects fundamental human...


2018: "The Problem of Poverty" in Review

What did Jesus really mean when he said, "The poor you will always have with you"? This question should drive Christians toward, not away, from social, civil and political solutions for the economically marginal among us. Today Katie Thompson tackles this perennial topic, close to the heart of Christian social tradition of CPJ: what to do with “the problem of poverty.” Reviewing two recent books, Thompson argues poverty requires a civil, social, religious and political solution; a simultaneous realization...


2018: Political Discipleship in Review

CPJ Fellow Vince Bacote reviews the year in political discipleship: what does it mean to follow Jesus in the politics of 2018? Reviewing books from Amy Black, Patrick Deneen, John Fee and Fred Van Geest, Bacote finds a diverse set that reaches within and beyond the Christian tradition. It equips us to be disciples whose proclamation and practice reflects an appreciation of the opportunities of political engagement, while maintaining an ultimate hope in God rather than politics itself. Argues Bacote: worshipping God above all, with politics as one dimension of our faithful practice, remains an opportunity and aspiration for us in...


Work and Pastoral Care

Today, Rev. Dr. Irwyn Ince asks what role the church as institution can play in the work lives, both the employed and the under and unemployed, of its members. He arrives at three practices: prayer, promotion, and provision that form a foundation for pastoral care in the church when people face the trauma that comes from unemployment and...


Evangelical Populists and Their Discontents

This series address the tension between contrasting narratives of nationalism and internationalism within the evangelical tradition. The concept of populism cuts across those narratives. In this opening piece to the series, political scientist Kevin den Dulk examines the intersection of populism and evangelicalism. While any account of “evangelical populism” comes with numerous caveats, den Dulk argues the phenomenon is real, and the drawbacks of populism are too great to ignore for anyone committed to democratic...


Evangelical Tribes? Group Instinct and the Fate of American Christianity

In this essay editor Robert Joustra reviews the claims of Amy Chua’s new book Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations. He wonders, alongside Richard Mouw’s new book, Adventures in Evangelical Civility: A Lifelong Quest for Common Ground, if Chua’s language of tribes, groups and super-groups organizes or clarifies the battlegrounds of American Evangelicalism. Are Evangelicals a kind of tribe, and if so, what resources might there be for inter-tribal dialogue and...


Can We Be Better (Christian) Humanitarians?

How can we better connect our faith with our service to others in a complex global environment? What does it look like to avoid some of the common controversies and pitfalls of Christian humanitarianism? Looking at our history to inform our present efforts and our future work can yield important insight. Heather Curtis provides us with an engaging means to do so in her new book Holy Humanitarians, which explores the rise of American Christian humanitarianism and philanthropy through the work of the Christian Herald, one of the most influential religious newspapers at the turn of the twentieth century. This article discusses Curtis’s book and her conclusions about Christian humanitarianism, arguing that we will never arrive at the perfect balance of...


Dignity in Difficult Work: A Perspective from Health Care Worker Advocates

Dignity in work can be the privilege of a very white-collar conversation. But much work in the world, and in America, is done outside the office and the coffeeshop. How do Christians think about, and practice, work and its balance in the many trades and sectors that too often go unnoticed in these conversations? Today, contributing editor Rachel Hope Anderson interviews Tish Douma and Susan Siemens of the Christian Labour Association of Canada to find...


Cultivating a Work-Wise Family

As the new gig economy gives opportunity, it also presents dilemmas, including weakening the barriers between our public and private lives. If we’re not careful, argues Hannah Anderson in this week’s Public Justice Review, the arena of public life governed by competition and capital can take over our private lives too. To resist this, families must become work-wise, cultivating virtues and practices that honor our work while preserving the rhythms and norms of the...


Work for the Sake of the Family

One of God's good purposes for work is for our work to be done in service of others, including our family and community. As our economy undergoes changes that may impact the nature of work and the types of jobs in which people work, how will these changes affect family and community? Work that is more flexible and less structured around the typical rhythms of a workweek presents opportunities as well as challenges to families. Families must redouble their attention to family time. Institutions outside the family, like unions and the social safety net, and may play a valuable role in helping families secure...


Which Side Are You On? Christianity and Labor in an Age of Inequality

While any number of denominations still have pro-labor social teachings on their books, Christian support for unions has largely collapsed in recent decades, hastening not only the demise of organized labor but also the dawn of a New Gilded Age. Believers who are concerned about runaway inequality in the present should consult the past. There they will find a robust tradition of pro-labor faith and practices, cultivated first and foremost at the Christian grassroots. Insofar as this tradition prioritizes justice and solidarity over untrammeled economic freedom, it resonates as provocatively today as it did in the heyday of the early labor...


How Working Parents are Changing What It Means to be "Involved"

In interviews, working parents explain that while they may not expect to be able to be “involved” with every aspect of their children’s school career, they do find ways to provide essential emotional and academic support. For many, these ordinary irregularities and responsibilities of parenthood yield a precarious work-life balance. Emergency circumstances and irregular work schedules—both of which are likely to occur in the lives of low-income families—can lead to imbalance that is, at times,...


Worshipping My Way Toward a Theology of Work

  For CPJ Fellow Gideon Strauss, theologizing about work is not in the first place a scholarly practice. Instead, he argues, it emerges out of the interaction between his lived experience of the Bible and his lived experience of working in the historical times and political places in which he finds himself. Strauss says this emergence happens more often than not while praying the Psalms. In this piece, Strauss shares how the Psalms are paradigmatic for prayer, and worship is paradigmatic...


Biblical Shalom and the Health Care Debate

With human flourishing as the goal of health care reform, the debate becomes about more than the provision of health insurance. Looking closely at God’s created order for the structure that supports flourishing–structural pluralism and sphere sovereignty–helps us to chart a path out of the tired, worn debate between privatization and single payer health care towards a tapestry of policies that encourage us all to contribute to the health of our neighbors and...


Public Justice: A Visual Exploration

Sean Purcell shifts gears and visualizes for us a "graphic novel" on public justice. Drawing together themes and ideas for our final series installment, Purcell draws for us a guide for how to think about, practice, and visualize the work of public...


Terrorism and the Politics of Worship

How do wise and mature Christian citizens respond to national traumas like 9-11 or the events in Charlottesville? How can the church prepare its disciples to follow Jesus into a divided and traumatized world? Does what Christians do together in worship have political consequences? Matthew Kaemingk offers compelling answers to these questions in his article that explores the political nature of worship. Kaemingk discusses six concrete ways that worship forms Christian citizens to resist the politics of fear, to humble their political agendas, to respond well to trauma, to reach across divides, and to seek and pray for the flourishing of their diverse and divided...


Re-forming Citizens For A Just Politics

How can the church form disciples for lives of public faithfulness and a politics of solidarity and justice? Jonathan Chaplin responds to that question in this article with a rich theological exploration of the dynamic summons of biblical justice. Chaplin discusses the implications of our being created as justice-seeking people whose God-given desire for and pursuit of justice has been dulled and twisted by the fall. Chaplin argues that humans need just familial, cultural, economic, and political relationships if they are to fulfill their original calling to be images of God, tending and unfolding creation’s gifts. Therefore, one of the distinctive tasks of the...


Educating the Political Disciple

Christians often assume that non-educational institutions, like churches and families, are the primary seedbeds of good citizenship. And while we have given some attention to what good citizens are and why they are necessary, we have not devoted the same critical energy to how we form those citizens through the pedagogies most prevalent in formal education. In this article, Kevin den Dulk argues that formation is not held by any monopoly, and our schooling systems have unfolded as key cultivators of young citizens. Den Dulk explores the ways that our most prominent educational frameworks reproduce rather than meet key challenges to citizen formation in the current age,...


Caring for Elected Officials in Our Local Congregations

Many elected officials find it difficult to engage with their local church congregations about their work in public service or about government and politics in general. In this article, Jim Talen, a Kent County Commissioner, reflects on his experience with this in his own congregation. Talen explores some of the reasons why he thinks this challenge is a reality for so many in elected office. Talen argues that if we recognize the appropriate role of government in our lives, alongside other institutions like families, businesses, schools and churches, then it follows that we can support, in a distinctive way, those in our congregations who labor in the political...


Citizenship as Craft

How can we cultivate the craft of citizenship as an expression of the divinely given vocation to steward and order the earth? In this article, CPJ Fellow Rachel Anderson explores our political calling as Christian citizens and its implications for our practice of the craft of...


Awaiting the King

Stephanie Summers, CEO of the Center for Public Justice, recently spoke with James K.A. Smith about his newest book Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology, the culminating book in his acclaimed Cultural Liturgies project. Summers and Smith discussed a wide range of ideas including the deformative powers of culture on us as Christians, our society’s move away from a sense of a shared life together, and how the church can be a community of political formation in which worship is central. His book provides a number of thought-provoking starting points that our writers will...


Religious Freedom and Government Partnerships: Where Do We Go from Here?

In this series, we have explored how a public justice framework helps us positively address some of the most significant social problems of our time. As we’ve taken a closer look at issues such as natural disaster relief, the opioid epidemic, and the health care needs of underserved communities, we have seen how vital religious freedom is for serving our most vulnerable neighbors through the partnerships between government and civil society institutions that make up the social safety net. Throughout the series, we have also...


Community Restoration After Natural Disasters

Religious organizations and houses of worship are essential to communities, along with other community-based organizations, are often the first responders when natural disasters hit. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, churches and other houses of worship served as staging and distribution centers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), demonstrating how civil society institutions can partner with government to help communities recover and rebuild. However, in spite of this robust partnership, houses of worship are not eligible to compete for FEMA grants for rebuilding after damage from natural disasters because of their...


Hope and Healing in the Opioid Crisis

An estimated 30,000 people will die this year of an opioid overdose. The opioid crisis has been declared a public health emergency, affecting people of all socioeconomic levels and races and ethnicities. So many people are dying that a new study has found that the rise in opioid-related deaths has contributed to an overall decrease in the average American life expectancy. In the face of such devastation, how should Christian citizens respond? A public justice approach recognizes the indispensable role of both government and civil society institutions to combat this crisis. But what does that look like? In particular, how do faith-based organizations offer distinctive care...


Partnering for Health: Federally Qualified Health Centers

An estimated 30,000 people will die this year of an opioid overdose. The opioid crisis has been declared a public health emergency, affecting people of all socioeconomic levels and races and ethnicities. So many people are dying that a new study has found that the rise in opioid-related deaths has contributed to an overall decrease in the average American life expectancy. Faith-motivated groups across the country have long recognized the need for accessible, quality, and affordable health care in their communities, and they have organized to provide health services to vulnerable populations regardless of their patients’ ability to pay. Like many other...


Why the Black Church is Vital for Healthy Communities

Pastor Cheryl Mitchell Gaines, J.D., M.Div, is the founder and Senior Pastor of ReGeneration House of Praise, also known as the Church in the Field, in Southeast Washington, D.C. The impetus for starting the Church in the Field was the tragic death of four young people in the community. Pastor Gaines has spent her career empowering Black families and young people to thrive physically, spiritually, emotionally and vocationally. She spoke with Chelsea Langston Bombino about the vital role that Black congregations play in serving their...


Why Immigration Is First About Families, Not Economics Or Security

In the struggle between family and nation, now at the forefront of our national debate, who gets priority? The state’s power to decide, divide, and deport, is unmatched. But what is the state’s duty in the work of public justice to immigrants and their families? Does the American state, our civil society, its churches or citizens, owe anything to the millions of non-citizen families who reside...


Family Matters in the Deportation Discussion: A Theological Orientation

At a time of such complex and heated discussions revolving around deportation, it behooves Christians to base their stance on the topic in their Scriptures. This article proposes that consideration of the person of God, the centrality of the family in the Bible, and its consistent concern for widows and orphans are grounds for questioning indiscriminate deportation that leads to family separation. These three scriptural points make it clear that the separation of families is contrary to the person and will of...


The Social Justice Wars: Where Does Public Justice Fit?

Richard Mouw argues today that the efforts at promoting social justice within each of the areas of public life will be most effective when they occur in a general societal climate shaped by active patterns of public justice. This aspect isn’t simply about crafting legislation—although the need for laws is often a necessity in guaranteeing that individuals get their “due” in specific areas of civil society. But as Gideon Strauss nicely puts it, public justice also requires “shaping a public life for the common good.” Such a public justice both...


Are Principles Enough? Virtues in Public Policy

Today, Kevin den Dulk argues that a first-principles approach assesses policies by comparing biblical/theological expectations to the outcomes of those policies. A policy outcome is “good” when it meets those expectations. But, he asks, what if we shift focus from outcomes to the practices and dispositions embedded in the policy process itself?  What if we think in terms of not only the values that define policy outcomes but also the virtues that shape policy analysis and...


Improv for the Kingdom: What Does it Mean to Equip People for Public Justice?

As important as our conviction about public justice is the manner in which we seek public justice. Today, Kristen Deede Johnson invites us to attend as much to our means as our ends in the work of justice. As the people of God, she argues, we are called to manifest such things as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in all of our...


The Postures of Public Justice

What if we treated our hostile postures as a matter of justice, as a matter of what others are due? In our everyday encounters with others, argues Kyle Bennett, how others stand before us and move in response to us is either right or wrong, fair or unfair. We anticipate and expect right and fair treatment. When events don’t go according to plan—whether at a park, museum, theatre, or municipal parking lot—we are offended, angered, and most likely hurt. This goes for the politician, lobbyist, midwife, and the security guard. I have yet to meet anyone who likes to have rolled eyes thrown at them, enjoys having a finger pointed in their face, or feels edified by shrugged shoulders. Rather, we long...


Public Justice Review: A Manifesto

In this introductory manifesto beginning my time at the Public Justice Review I want to connect, as it were, how this thing we call public justice might fit with the provisional work of public policy, and how this perspective can meaningfully, and purposefully, equip not only Christians but citizens for the public work of the American project. Contrary to the declinists and the pessimists, we are ruthlessly optimistic about that project, and we hope you’ll join us in a clear-eyed but unflinching vision for its own intergenerational reformation and...


Valuing Families in the Immigration Debate: An Interview with Jenny Yang

Over the past several weeks the Public Justice Review has been exploring the historical and current reality of family-centered immigration policy. Today, we interview Jenny Yang, who has been working with World Relief for about twelve years. She began her time with World Relief as a case manager in their refugee program providing oversight for their cases and operating as a liaison between the World Relief domestic offices and the US State Department. Now, she serves as the Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy for the organization. In addition to her passion for engaging the Church in considering its role in the national conversation about immigration,...


The Politics of a Shared Meal

When many of us think about, discuss, and take positions on immigration policy, we do so in the abstract. But for families that include husbands and wives, sons and daughters living sin papeles, abstraction is a luxury they cannot afford. When elected officials debate immigration policy, the unity of the family – that “most basic of human institutions” – is seldom part of the conversation but is always at stake. How do we, for whom immigration policy is less of a daily concern, better understand the experience of being undocumented? How might citizens from...


Will Family-Based US Immigration Survive?

Families are at the foundation of our nation, yet increasingly family-based immigration services are being challenged. Already in 2014 the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement began to detain mothers and children, in cases separating them to deter others. Family detention, separation, and capricious and retrospective terminations of family unification policies are all major challenges to an immigration system that, Meredith Owen argues, is in desperate need of support and...


The Memphis Immigration Project: A Testimony

Rondell Treviño, the founder of the Memphis Immigration Project, gives testimony of his own experience and work with immigrant families. Arguing that family unity is a bedrock belief, he tells the story of how his work led to launching a special project in February 2017, a faith based organization that exists to engage issues of immigration from a biblical perspective in order to help the church–a people on a mission - to be better equipped and challenged to think, dialogue, and act biblically about immigration...


Faith, Refuge, and Resistance: The Innovations and Impact of the Modern-Day Sanctuary Movement

In what ways do faith-based and community organizations serve immigrants and refugees as families in the United States? In this article, Dr. Catherine Wilson examines the role that faith-based organizations play in providing refuge and engaging in acts of nonviolent resistance for immigrant populations at the local level. Using Philadelphia as a case study, Wilson presents distinct kinds of micro-innovations advanced by those organizations involved in the modern-day Sanctuary...


Tending the Garden of the Real

Among evangelical Protestants, one significant rift appears between Christian realism and evangelical populism. Marc LiVecche writes for us today that while the Christian realist will share populism’s recognition of the importance of national interests, it will reject its more jingoistic expressions, which often stokes an isolationist impulse away from responsible engagement in global affairs. Against this, the Christian realist understands that human beings, made in the image of God, have a divine mandate to exercise dominion—providential care—in...


The International Institutionalism We Need Now

By Robert J. Joustra June 15, 2015   The lofty phrase “global governance” has often been met with suspicion, if not outright alarm, in the evangelical world. Global governance sounds vaguely like one-world-government on the one hand, or the hegemony of a misbalanced capitalism on the other. And evangelicals are hardly alone in their reaction. The conventional wisdom about global governance, writes Daniel Drezner in The System Worked: How the World Stopped Another Great Depression, resembles an old Woody Allen joke: the quality is terrible – and yet such small portions! I want to make three arguments about this pessimistic picture of global governance-- that set of formal and informal rules that regulate international order and the collection of authority relationships that extend, coordinate, monitor, and enforce them. (1) Suspicion of international...


The Supreme Court: Guardian or Threat?

By Jesse Covington June 8, 2015   Many Americans focused their attention on the Supreme Court when it heard oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges and its three companion cases in April of this year. These cases involve one of the more prominent social issues of our time: whether the Constitution requires states to license same-sex marriages (and, even if not, whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states). People of goodwill on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate are looking to the Supreme Court to resolve policy controversy in this area, to place the stamp of judicial approval on one view or the other. Many see Obergefell as an opportunity to make full access to same-sex marriage the law of the land. Others hope that this view will be decisively rejected. But are these hopes for decisive judgment well placed? To what extent should we expect the judiciary to...


Overcoming Poverty: Beginning with the End

Policy proposals to overcome domestic poverty have been largely absent from the most recent electoral cycles. Acting on the advice of campaign advisors, presidential hopefuls have instead outlined their agendas for middle class voters. In the 2016 campaign season, presidential candidates will be asked by Christian leaders to specifically articulate their agendas for overcoming domestic poverty. Shifting the focus to policy prescriptions has the potential to clarify the distinctive visions of candidates. This in turn has the potential to equip citizens to consider the well-being of the entire political community and not just vote their own interests. But shifting the focus of presidential campaigns is insufficient in and of itself to overcome domestic poverty. Good sound bites and good policy prescriptions often seem irreconcilable. Yet the real challenge to overcome is not one of rhetoric, but of direction. Policy prescriptions are most often made by looking...


Driving with the Brakes On: Why Doing Justice Is So Difficult

By Clarke E. Cochran May 25, 2015   Why does the health care system continue to fail millions? Why have poverty rates remained the same for thirty years? Why do problems like drug addiction, education reform, and world-record murder and incarceration rates remain resistant to resolution? Citizens and policy makers across the political spectrum recognize these social ills. Policy experts regularly propose plausible solutions. Health care, education, and prison reformers come and go with their suggested reforms. All are convinced of the rationality of their proposals for a more just and decent system, with considerable agreement across the spectrum. Yet very little changes. Why? Cultural Anchors Defined Have you ever tried to sail a boat without hoisting the anchor? Or perhaps had the more familiar experience of starting a car and trying to...


Millennials Care About Political Community (and Just Tweeted About It)

Millennials Care About Political Community (and Just Tweeted About It) Katie Thompson May 18, 2015   I am part of a selfie-taking, Netflix-watching, parents’ couch-surfing, Uber-riding, tweeting generation. If you don't know what those things are, then you are probably not a millennial. These are a few of the things that characterize my generation of 18- to 34-year-olds, otherwise known as millennials. Stereotypes of a self-obsessed, social media-addicted generation tend to define us. For millennials who move to cities (we love to do that, according those who study us), this can be even more pronounced. And while some of these characterizations might be true, I want to contest that we are so much more. I was recently on a panel tasked with offering a response to a lecture by Rev. David Kim, Executive...


Serving the City, Shaping the Political Community

By David Kim May 11, 2015    [This article is based on remarks delivered by David Kim at the Center for Public Justice’s 20th Annual Kuyper Lecture.] Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther put forward the idea of the priesthood of all believers. Five hundred years later, Dorothy Sayers wrote an essay discussing how the church has no sense of what is going on in the world. We might start to wonder what we aren’t seeing if, after five centuries, we still don’t seem to get secular vocation right in the church. Much of our posture at the Center for Faith and Work is really about exploration. We are trying to understand what it is like to be a Christian in a place like New York City and what resources the church can provide for there to be a faithful witness in the world. The big question for us all to wrestle with is how our theology works on the ground and how it enables us to approach our world in...


The United Nations: A Global Institution Still Worth Engaging?

By Kathryn Yarlett May 4, 2015   The global landscape is increasingly connected – both in its opportunities and its challenges. The world now has more mobile devices than it has people, and more than 50 percent of people in developing countries are expected to be using the internet by the end of the year. Technology has transformed access to information and communication across the globe. Borders have become more porous; from tourists to refugees, millions of people move across national borders each day. Financial markets in one country determine the economy in other. As we have become more connected, so have the challenges that face us. By 2050, the global population is projected to increase to 9.6 billion and the demand for food will increase by 70 percent. In only fifteen years, 47 percent of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress. While advances in technology and connectivity...


Championing Our Kids

By Michael J. Gerson April 27, 2015   Robert Putnam’s new book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis has quickly become the context for America’s national debate on poverty – cited, praised, disputed, criticized – but often at the center of think tank debates and conference discussions. And if the forthcoming presidential election ever rises to a minimal level of sophistication on issues of inequality and social mobility, Putnam’s work will figure prominently. This is a very good thing for our country. Putnam is playing the essential role of reintroducing America to itself, and the experience is unpleasant. A nation once divided between north and south has become bifurcated by a line of class. A single society has become two different worlds of opportunity.  One is the world of the educated and wealthy, characterized by greater family stability, economic prospects, and community cohesion. The...


A Different Kind of Campaign

By Ted Williams III April 20, 2015   “You lost because you didn’t use the information I gave you about your opponent. Remember, as I told you, in politics nice guys finish last.” These were the words from a political mentor and friend as we discussed why my recent campaign for the Chicago City Council came up short. He went on, “If you had spread the negative information we had, we could have gotten the incumbent’s numbers down, but you chose to run the campaign without doing that.” His words stung. As we talked, what had initially been a point of pride for me now made me feel foolish. I thanked him for the conversation and hung up the phone. Was he right? Was I simply a naïve little fish swimming with the sharks in Chicago politics? Is it impossible to run an effective campaign while bucking the traditions of the approach to politics in this country? And then there is the larger question for Christians: How can...


April 15 Is Tax Day -- and It’s Time for Tax Reform

By John Anderson April 13, 2015   During tax season, the presence of the federal income tax becomes palpable as we rush to pay our taxes before the deadline, or eagerly await our refunds. We wonder whether the fiscal foundation of our country is solid. As Christians concerned with sound public policy, we are also confronted with the question of whether the present tax system can be made more consistent with biblical principles of stewardship and justice. In order to provide both fiscal sustainability and a more biblically sound system that enables human flourishing for all, we need fundamental reform of the tax system. How Should We Think About Taxes? Because taxes are a means by which government is financed, our thinking about taxes should be based on an understanding of the proper roles of government. Scripture makes clear that in a fallen world, God mandates that the state should preserve order and...


After the End: An Easter Meditation

William Edgar April 6, 2015   As a child at the movies, I always wondered what happened after the final embrace. Where did the drifter go after he rode off into the sunset? What does the bad guy in jail do for the rest of his life? Movie endings are often so good that if we imagine the next scene, there is bound to be a letdown. Did the young couple set up a household, pay bills, send their kids to school? Did the drifter stop drifting and settle into middle class life? Would the prisoner learn to cooperate with his warden? After the buildup of the story, the increasing tension, and the height of the conflict, the end comes with no potential for anything more. One could think it would be the same for the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus Christ. How could anything be added to that dramatic pinnacle? After a long, long wait, Jesus came to die and be raised up. “But when the fullness of time had...


Magna Carta at 800

By David Koyzis March 30, 2015   It doesn’t read like a constitutional document. It contains odd provisions like, “All fish-weirs [fish traps] shall henceforth be entirely removed from the Thames and the Medway and throughout all England except along the sea-coasts.” It wasn’t formulated by a meeting of political leaders intending to establish constitutional government but was drafted in the wake of battle. Nevertheless, Magna Carta, whose eight-hundredth anniversary we observe this year, has come to be considered a seminal document in the constitutional history of the English-speaking peoples, including Americans. Although Magna Carta is the constitutional ancestor of both American and Westminster parliamentary systems, Americans seem...


Changing Flags, Shifting Identities

by Bruce C. Wearne March 23, 2015   The New Zealand government has recently "flagged" a referendum to determine whether this former British colony will adopt a new flag, just as Canada did fifty years ago. The intention is that the national flag will no longer carry the Union Jack, but rather reflect New Zealand's current place as an independent nation. The Prime Minister has even "flagged" his preference: the national flag would feature the silver fern, the emblem known around the rugby world from the jersey of New Zealand's all-conquering international team, the All Blacks. Following suit, the recently elected Fijian Prime Minister has announced that Fiji will have a new flag by October when his country will celebrate the forty-fifth anniversary of independence. The time has come, he says, to show that Fiji is independent of former colonial ties. This...


Rationing Pharmaceuticals in Medicaid: Putting a Price on Human Life?

By Michelle Crotwell Kirtley March 16, 2015   The recent pace of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry is staggering. Emerging technologies have facilitated the production of a new generation of cancer drugs, have resulted in life-saving therapies for debilitating infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C, and have produced novel treatments for genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis. Although welcome news for many patients, the steep prices of these new pharmaceuticals have forced payers (insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid) to face complex ethical dilemmas about how to allocate scarce resources among patients. These health care resource allocation decisions are not new– transplant organs are routinely rationed using wait-lists that are prioritized using strict criteria. But these decisions are becoming more difficult as both the price of pharmaceuticals and the number of patients needing treatment continues to increase....


Sticks, Stones, and Speech

By Jesse Covington March 9, 2015   The old nursery rhyme “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” conveys both a basic truth and a well-worn falsehood. Physical coercion has a unique ability to cause sudden and often irreversible bodily injury; the impact of words is usually less devastating. Nevertheless, the idea that words cannot hurt remains patently untrue. Words can and do cause a variety of harms both tangible and intangible. Our laws account for both realities. Physical assault is subject to greater legal regulation than are speech and press; allowances for self-defense or protecting others are the exceptions rather than the rule. In contrast, legal protections for speech are the rule, to which exceptions are made for fraud, libel, incitement, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the like. Each such limit on the norm of expressive freedom aims to prevent a particular kind of harm...


Israel’s Future

By Steven E. Meyer March 2, 2015   On March 17th, Israel will hold what many commentators argue could be the most significant national election in a generation. Its significance depends not only on who wins (right-of-center Likud or left-of-center Labor), but what the winners do with the victory. Nothing will change unless the victor is willing to break the inertial slugging match that has hamstrung relations between Israel and most of the rest of the Middle East and has shaken support for Israel throughout the West. Current neck-and-neck polls reflect a fluid situation in which voters are unsure where they are going and what they want. But why is this election and, more importantly, this period of time, so significant? The entire Middle East is changing more fundamentally than any time since the end of World War I, and the domestic environment in Israel is splintering more than at any time since its founding in 1948....


Religious Freedom: Cause of Discrimination or Foundation for Diversity?

By Stanley Carlson-Thies February 23, 2015   A common argument heard today is that when a nonprofit, business, or church serves the public, it should be required to leave behind its sectarian limits, its biases and restrictions, and treat everyone equally, “without discrimination.” Isn’t that what it means to serve “the public,” as opposed to dealing with fellow believers in a private organization or private activity? After all, shouldn’t everyone have a right to receive the services offered to the public without being affronted by alien practices and beliefs, or by standards and convictions that imply that their own values and convictions are lesser, or even wrong?  This line of thought is based on the assumption that what is public is always uniform, and that to exist in and serve the public world requires setting aside religious and other distinctive convictions and practices. But this does not accurately reflect...


The Modern Presidency: Populism Vs. Public Justice

By Timothy Sherratt February 16, 2015   Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primaries, and Super Tuesdays will plunge us into another presidential campaign season before long (the pre-campaign is already underway). As we look ahead to this, we would do well to consider not the possible presidential candidates, but rather the office to which they aspire. The aspirants in 2016 will promise us the moon and will want to be our friend. “We Bushes,” George H.W. once declared, “wear our hearts on our sleeves.” Even a populist like Andrew Jackson would have felt no need to make such a claim, but he ran for office long before the bully pulpit, opinion polls, and public relations. I would argue that Jeb and Hillary, Mitt (no longer, it seems), Elizabeth (well, not yet), Chris, and the rest seek an office only partially resembling the one the framers crafted. The framers’ president kept the people at bay, and their congress kept him on a...


My People: Properly Subversive Theology

By William Edgar February 9, 2015   Duke Ellington once remarked that “the foundation of the United States rests on the sweat of my people.” He had just composed the lengthy symphonic suite My People (1963) which addressed race more directly than usual in his music. A close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., Ellington included in the suite a piece dedicated to the civil rights reformer entitled “King Fit the Battle of Alabam.” Yet Duke insisted that social commentary was not the main theme of My People. Rather it was love, woven as a golden thread throughout the suite. This twentieth-century jazz masterpiece shows one of the fundamental principles that has driven African-Americans to respond to their circumstances with both resiliency and generosity toward their oppressors. “Lord, dear Lord above, God Almighty God of love… Please look down and see my people through,” says the refrain from Come...


Citizenship is Our Common Calling

For many Christians, our citizenship can best be characterized by the hope that it is somebody else’s job. I am regularly told what I should do or not do to “fix our broken government,” where government is always the adversary, the sole arbiter of our society’s disagreements, or the chief provider for the common good. I am more frequently told that when one looks at the extent of injustice in the world, being a responsible citizen seems overwhelming and futile.  A core part of our vision at the Center for Public Justice is to equip citizens to understand that citizenship is our common calling. Our citizenship responsibilities are a direct response to the command to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God as articulated in Micah 6:8 and throughout Scripture. Yet God’s good invitation to citizenship in political community has become an invitation many dread receiving.   Can we rediscover God’s good purpose for...


Freedom, Tolerance, and Respect

By Stephen V. Monsma January 26, 2015   News reports have been filled the past weeks with reports and comments on the Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris. Among the seventeen persons killed were editors at the magazine Charlie Hebdo, police officers, and Jewish shoppers at a kosher grocery store. There is no possible justification for the murder of these individuals. One searches for words strong enough to condemn these wanton acts of violence. But that does not say all there is to be said. The murders of the editors at Charlie Hebdo in particular raise important questions for those of us who believe in principled pluralism, a basic commitment of the Center for Public Justice. Principled pluralism recognizes that all societies—including French and American societies—are marked by a diversity of ideological, political, ethnic, racial, and religious groups. The need is for these millions of diverse people...


Selma’s Communal Commitment to Justice

By Josh Larsen January 26, 2015   In the real world, justice is often achieved through mundane means: committees, courtrooms, conversation. In the movie world, however, it’s usually won by a guy in spandex and a cape. So consider Selma a rarity, not only for the attention it gives to procedural history (covering things like logistics and strategy), but also for the way it emphasizes the communal aspect of justice seeking. Sure, there’s a hero here – David Oyelowo’s Martin Luther King, Jr. – but even he is sidelined at times in favor of a more holistic sense of community. The movie, recently nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, dramatizes the three marches staged by King and other civil rights activists in 1965, with the intent of pressuring President Lyndon Johnson to introduce voting rights legislation on behalf of ostracized African-Americans. It’s a stirring picture, directed by Ava DuVernay, with an eye and...


Race and Adoption in America

By Jedd Medefind January 26, 2015 Even as we celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this past week, it’s hard not to feel a shadow over the land. For many whites, it is the wrecked illusion of a post-racial America. For people of color, it is the numerous recent reminders of how elusive Dr. King’s dream remains. Yet as disheartening as the bird’s eye view can be, a closer look yields many micro-trends that give good reason for hope. These include the notable growth of interracial marriages, up 28 percent from 2000 to 2010 and now comprising one in every ten marriages, and the increase of multiracial churches across the United States, actively cultivating communities of authentic relationships.  Another micro-trend is the growing number of cross-racial adoptions, particularly among committed Christians, who adopt...


The Cradle Fund: A Bridge for Shalom in the Middle East

By Charles Strohmer January 26, 2015   A few months ago, I presented some ideas from the biblical wisdom tradition about shalom. I discussed the vital work of repairing socially, economically, and politically damaged and broken lives and relationships, whether domestically or internationally. I want to extend that thinking here. Many Christian and Jewish circles today talk about shalom as God’s vision for a future of peace and harmony for all of creation, including, of course, collective human life. To give that vision legs in the here and now, shalom is also often described as social, economic, and political “flourishing” or “well-being” in this world. Those of us in the West already blessed with goodly degrees of well-being typically maintain the latter idea.  But there seems...


Seeking Just Lending Practices (2)

By Stephen K. Reeves January 19, 2015   This is the second article in a two-part series.   A young father had trouble paying his bills and turned to his Baptist congregation for help. They gave freely from their benevolence fund, no questions asked. When he returned for help a few months later, a mentor was provided to assist with budgeting, and it became clear that there was no way for the family to make ends meet. When his monthly income had fallen short of expenses, the father had taken out a payday loan of $700. Now, $200 was being automatically deducted from his checking account every two weeks, making it impossible for him to keep up. After several months, he still owed the original principal and the same amount of fees and interest as the day he walked away with the loan thought to be the answer to his problems. By the time the church helped pay the balance, that $700 cost over $3,300 in less...


On King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

By Stephanie Summers January 19, 2015   While many Americans are familiar with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech from the March on Washington, fewer are familiar with his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” – and even fewer with the context in which it was written. On April 3, 1963, a non-violent campaign of coordinated marches and sit-ins against legal racial segregation in Birmingham, AL began. Seven days later, a circuit judge issued a blanket injunction at the request of the city against “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing, and picketing.” Leaders of what had come to be known as the Birmingham Campaign said they would disobey the ruling, based on the First Amendment, which articulates “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Two days later, on Good Friday, King was arrested for disobeying the injunction and...


Military Humanitarian Intervention and International Justice

By Paul Edgar January 19, 2015   Ten years ago, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami compelled us to pay attention for a longer duration than we normally grant a crisis. Within hours of the disaster, the US military flew reconnaissance jets overhead. Unable to provide direct relief, they collected information and provided it to a global network. Within a week, in an operation called Operation Unified Assistance, the military deployed more helicopters to the affected area than any other organization. For many months, all kinds of military units served those who suffered, and their role in that humanitarian crisis has been widely praised.  Borrowing from the name of that historic effort, Operation United Assistance currently includes about 3,000 US service members supporting a USAID-led response to Ebola in West Africa. These two examples hint at the...


“The Hobbit Party” and “Called to the Life of the Mind”

By Byron Borger January 19, 2015   The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot Jay W. Richards and Jonathan Witt (Ignatius Press; 2014) $21.95 Called to the Life of the Mind: Some Advice for Evangelical Scholars Richard J. Mouw (Eerdmans; 2014) $10.00   It is said that many of our most popular actors, filmmakers, and contemporary novelists have a liberal political bent; from John Steinbeck to Robert Redford, from Barbara Kingsolver to George Clooney, I suppose this is so. But J.R.R. Tolkien, one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century whose epic books have been made into some of the most popular films of our time, was a classic Roman Catholic conservative. Indeed, he often described himself as a hobbit “in all but size” and was, as this new book winsomely explains,...


Seeking Just Lending Practices

By Stephen K. Reeves January 12, 2014    This article is the first installment in a two-part series. An estimated twelve million Americans take out a payday loan every year. In recent years, small-dollar lending has ballooned into a multi-billion dollar industry, aided by a systematic and deliberate dismantling or avoidance of traditional usury laws that has allowed this exponential growth. The result is an industry built not on expensive loans given to risky borrowers, but on the creation of previously illegal loan products designed to act as debt traps for working Americans desperately trying to make ends meet. As widespread as the practice is, many do not understand how these products work, particularly those who will never need such a loan. Twenty-five years ago, the storefront payday lender was essentially nonexistent; current industry members trace their heritage back only to the early 1990s. At present,...


Faith-Based Organizations Responding to Ebola

By Anne Peterson January 12, 2015   In October, I visited Liberia and Sierra Leone to conduct an assessment for World Vision of the faith-based response to the Ebola outbreak. My task was to determine what faith-based organizations were doing, what they and their communities could be doing, and how they could be better integrated with the US government Ebola response.  The spread of Ebola has drastically changed everyday life for those living in Liberia and Sierra Leone. People do not shake hands or touch in greeting. As I stood in a church in Liberia, surrounded by children, I had difficulty resisting the urge to hold the children or touch their hands in greeting. Businesses are closed, school is not in session, and half of children are kept at home without school or social outlet. The usual gregarious and joyful African spirit I had experienced here in the past...


Unquotable Quotes

By Aaron Belz January 12, 2015   Al Gore recently made minor headlines by incorporating poetry into a speech at the United Nations Climate Summit in Lima, Peru. The Daily Caller reported that Gore had “recited” poetry, the Washington Times that he’d “gotten lyrical”—when in fact he’d merely quoted three poets. The selection was topical, each passage proclaiming the virtue of continuing to forge ahead where no trail has yet been blazed: Hope is a path on the mountainside. At first there is no path. But then there are people passing that way. And there is a path. –Lu Xun   Traveler, there is no path. You must make the path as you...


Blessed Complexity

By William Edgar January 12, 2015   As we enter this new year, we should remember that the heart of the gospel is simple. It can be put several ways, and never better than John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (ESV)” Intellectualism has often plagued the church. Academic theologians like me have a way of making simple matters needlessly complicated. Instead of “sins of the mind” we say “the noëtic effects of sin.” Instead of “the end” we say “eschatology.” Instead of “the study of salvation” we say “soteriology.” I recently read a blog which made a plea to get back to the simplicity of the gospel and away from things that muddle it up--denominations, complex arguments about evil, apparent contradictions in the Bible. Isn’t this church sign appealing, “God said it; I believe it; That settles it.”? ...


An Important Year for Religious Liberty

By Timothy Sherratt January 5, 2015   The place of religion in public life drew mixed messages in 2014. In Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores, arguably this year’s most important decision, the Supreme Court found that the owners of a “closely held” for-profit company cannot be required to set aside their religious convictions in deference to a government mandate to provide contraceptive services to employees. In its decision, the Court’s majority stressed the unconstitutional burden this would impose on religious liberty. On the question of abortion and contraception, the courts proved willing to uphold the legislative framework created to secure religious liberty two decades ago—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). When the issue was sexuality, however, RFRA was deemed much more controversial. In April, the Supreme Court let stand a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that a Christian photographer’s...


A New Year for Congress

By Amy E. Black and Kira Dittman January 5, 2015   As we ring in 2015 and look ahead to a new year, many of us will make (and later break?) New Year’s resolutions. Likely no one is in greater need of a fresh start than the new Congress that will be sworn in this month. Congressional approval ratings are at near-record lows, and the institution and its leaders are the constant brunt of jokes on social media and late-night comedy shows. But is it true, as President Obama and others have criticized, that the outgoing Congress has been the “least productive Congress in modern history”? Yes, if we measure productivity by number of laws enacted. The 113th Congress (2013-2014) is projected to enact fewer laws than any Congress since at least 1973, the year govtrack.us began keeping such records. The pattern follows a general downward trend in congressional productivity: 772 laws were enacted during...


The Power and Principle of Nonviolent Protest

  By Harold Dean Trulear January 5, 2015   "You cannot fight a war in the name of the Prince of Peace!" This apocryphal statement is attributed to Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, founder of North America's largest Pentecostal denomination, the Church of God in Christ, upon word that Kaiser Wilhelm prayed for his troops as they entered into World War I. Recent attacks on police combine with police shootings of civilians to paint a picture of communities and police at war with one another. We are not at war. War, by definition, requires adversaries. But police and communities are not adversaries. The killing of New York City police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjien Liu points to an adversarial relationship to police. The protestors who responded to the killing of an armed black teen in a...


Christians: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?

By James W. Skillen January 5, 2015   This edited version of James Skillen’s essay, originally published in 1987, offers a timeless exhortation for this new year to “give public evidence of a selfless concern for justice.” The May 25, 1987 issue of Time magazine portrayed the United States as undergoing a grave ethical crisis. Some dismiss such alarmist rhetoric as inappropriate for a weekly secular news magazine. Others say our society’s sick condition is much worse than imagined—that the United States is under severe judgment. What do news stories revealing sexual immorality in the televangelism world, deception among top appointed political officials, and unethical trading on Wall Street tell us? Beyond the questions of personal misbehavior lie numerous additional problems of serious national concern. Will we ever put the destructive drug culture behind us? Are the schools...


The Limits of European Unity

By David Koyzis December 22, 2014   World War II had been over for only six years, and Europe was a shadow of what it had been four decades earlier. Its people were exhausted by the effects of two world wars that had laid waste to large swaths of the old continent. Millions of people had lost their lives, and millions of survivors continued to suffer from physical infirmities caused by the conflict. Entire peoples were uprooted from their homelands and sent packing because they happened to find themselves on the wrong side of the new borders. Could Europe ever recover from these apocalyptic events? In 1951, six European countries – France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries – began to do so by forming the world’s first supranational organization, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which secured a common market in these...


Torture, Ethics, and the Law

By Steven E. Meyer December 22, 2014   Earlier this month, the Senate Intelligence Committee published the results of a five-year long investigation of interrogation programs employed by the CIA during the years immediately after September 11, 2001. The report is more than 6,700 pages long, and while most of it is classified, the executive summary—which is itself over 500 pages--is unclassified. The report paints a detailed, grizzly, often disturbing picture of what the program’s detractors call “torture” and its supporters describe as “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EIT). Two major issues divide the proponents and opponents of the interrogation programs. First, has any useful actionable intelligence been received as the result of these programs? Second, were these programs really torture or were they truly EIT? Both issues have shaped up to be a zero sum game, with neither side willing to concede ground to the...


Corruption and Transparency: Who the Data Revolution is Forgetting

By Jenny Hyde December 22, 2015   Corruption reporting websites are gaining popularity. In India, ipaidabribe.com lets users report when, where, and under what circumstances they paid a bribe throughout their day. In the Philippines, citizens can upload data on the condition of services and facilities in their public schools to checkmyschool.org. While the contexts for these websites vary, they all share a common goal: allowing cases of corruption to go public. Corruption is a very real problem that hinders the potential of social programs and civil society groups in every country. Corruption reporting websites, despite their limits, get to the heart of the problem. The data revolution has, for better or for worse, changed the way we look at civic participation. If there’s...


A Christmas Reflection for Ordinary People

By Roy Clouser December 22, 2014   Perhaps it’s a sign of my age, but every year I find the Christmas story more emotionally powerful than the year before. To be sure, its celebration has been grossly commercialized, cheapened by over- decoration, slickly packaged for movies and TV, and even declared illegal in government buildings. And it’s often been badly eclipsed by the charming nineteenth-century fairy story a New England father wrote for his children about Saint Nicholas. But, at least so far, it hasn’t been completely stifled. Just when it seems about to be replaced by its own trappings, the real story shines through again: a section of The Messiah on the radio, the words of a carol in a shopping mall, a picture on a greeting card, or Linus’s moving recital of Luke 2 in A Charlie Brown Christmas. What has struck me recently harder than ever before is how the central characters of the story are such...


Can a Nuclear State be a Just State?

By Robert J. Joustra December 15, 2014   Nuclear weapons are a scourge, but so far the position of western Christian social and political thought has been largely to default on their possession as a necessary evil. They’re the kind of thing in a perfect world we’d all rather be without, but in this one we may just need. That was the refrain from the P5 states that showed up to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons last week: we all share a vision for a world free from nuclear terror, but in the interim, “minimum credible deterrence” combined with a “no first use” policy provides an environment of international security and stability. This is a powerful and persuasive position, one which rejects absolutely the use of nuclear weapons, but provisionally accepts their existence and possession as deterrents and stabilizers. I am, however, increasingly convinced it is wrong on...


Clergy and Millennials Pursuing Justice in Ferguson

By Harold Dean Trulear December 15, 2014   A recent trip to Ferguson, MO gave me and some forty religious leaders an opportunity to reflect on the integration of spiritual development and social justice. Organized by Sojourners, members of the Faith Table retreat interacted with local religious and civic leaders, and heard (with head and heart) their ongoing responses to the killing of Michael Brown, Jr. and the local grand jury’s failure to indict the officer who shot him. Although TV cameras have focused on the violent responses, those with whom we met had been peacefully protesting and even putting themselves in harm’s way to dissuade others whose anger boiled over to violence. They have discovered that the issues they face go beyond just the killing itself. While all are clear that an unarmed black teenager should not have been killed, the incident is being viewed through the...


Civil Discourse and Principled Pluralism on University Campuses

By Chelsea Langston December 15, 2014   Local chapters of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a well-known and long-established student ministry, have lost their official student group status at the twenty-three campuses of California State University. This evangelical Christian student organization, international in nature and present in the United States since 1941, espouses a leadership policy analogous to virtually all student affinity organizations in any college or university in the United States. InterVarsity requires its leaders to follow the basic belief system and viewpoint that it puts forward, which in this case, are the tenets of the Christian faith.   The California State University system, with its 447,000 students, claims that InterVarsity’s requirement that its leaders reflect the beliefs and mission of the organization contradicts the university’s nondiscrimination policy. This policy mandates that the...


“Fierce Convictions”

By Byron Borger December 15, 2014   Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More – Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Karen Swallow Prior (Nelson; 2014) $24.99   The Center for Public Justice holds two important and complementary convictions that may appear to be in tension. First, as faithful Christians, we must develop a coherent view of the task of the state, which subsequently shapes our role as citizens. As such, CPJ has a distinctive political voice. A second pillar of our perspective, however, is that not all of life, not even all of civic life, is particularly political. While we want a robust, positive view of government, and we long to see more Christian citizens wisely relate faith and politics, we know that most social problems are not the sort that the government can solve.  Historically, CPJ has taken its cues from the religious and social renewal brought...


Judicial Action and Marriage Inequality

By Stanley Carlson-Thies December 8, 2014 In October, by choosing to let stand the decisions of various federal appeals courts, the US Supreme Court in effect legalized same-sex marriage in eleven additional states, bringing the total (then) to thirty. Advocates of such marriages celebrated while defenders of the historic definition of marriage were puzzled and disappointed by the Court’s inaction. Neither side pointed out that when same-sex marriage arrives by judicial decisions (and non-decisions), it hardly institutes marriage “equality.” Instead, such judicial action creates a legal environment and climate of opinion in which proponents of same-sex marriage triumph over those who hold that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. How so? When the official definition of marriage changes to include same-sex couples along with opposite-sex couples, the government requirement of nondiscrimination (in employment, housing, the provision of services, the renting of...


Protest Psalms

By Greg Ayers December 8, 2014 Does protest music matter to Christians? In an age in which a Republican congressman cites a progressive rap-metal group as his favorite band and contemporary protest songs seem to pale in comparison to their forebears, it’s a question being asked a lot. As it turns out, Christianity and protest music have a long history, with the Psalms being an early example. In Psalm 137, the author laments the ancient Israelites’ Babylonian captivity and pours out his revenge fantasies to God: O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock! (Psalm 137:8-9, ESV) This Psalm and others like it, be they laments or expressions of doubt, are protests against the hard realities of a sin-stricken world. Psalm 88 is another good example, with the author...


Christmas Schmaltz

By William Edgar December 8, 2014 I love going to my local barber shop. Not the tedious haircut part, but the conversations. It’s really a social center, where both customers and barbers share the latest about our local sports teams (usually losing ones – we’re in Philadelphia!), whose children are not enjoying school, vacation plans to the Caribbean, where to get firewood, and much more. One of the barbers is from Italy and I try to practice my rusty Italian and talk about the old country with her. There is always background music from the local cable television, which sometimes elicits a lively debate about what to like and what to dislike in the latest pop songs and the singers. It is such a different world from the academic environment I inhabit, and I love it. Just before Thanksgiving, I was in there and Christmas music was already playing. Well, it was the music played around Christmas time. The songs were the usual: “Santa Claus Is...


Native American Education: One (Mostly) Successful Story

By Ron Polinder December 8, 2014 Ben Gibson’s Capital Commentary articles these past months regarding Native American education have been instructive and, may I say, sadly familiar. Ben spent two years of his life immersed in one of the greatest educational challenges of our time. Native education around the country, even continent, remains a grim story. We hear talk about failing inner city schools—just add “inner city and reservation schools” and you get the picture. The story of Rehoboth Christian School in Gallup, New Mexico offers some hope. Rehoboth was started in 1903 by the Christian Reformed Church to serve Navajo and Zuni children. Rehoboth was one of a number of mission schools (three others were started by the Methodists in Farmington, NM, the Presbyterians in Ganado, AZ, the Roman Catholics in St. Michaels, AZ) that did most of the early...


Governing After the Midterms: Intransigence or Productivity?

By Timothy Sherratt December 1, 2014   Despite the strong reactions to President Obama’s decision to take unilateral action on immigration, government will survive the dire forecasts of its reduction to executive diktat. The pull of 2016 and the Republican leadership’s successful resistance to the party’s right wing, together with the spoils of victory and a scarcity of realistic options for responding to the president’s action, should combine to prevent a major conflict between Congress and the White House. Some fruitful policy making may even result. Given six years of quasi-gridlock, the midterm results did not make President Obama a lame duck. They may even have liberated him from those in his own party less willing to reach across the aisle. The president’s unilateral action on immigration did not diminish the...


What Does it Mean to Enforce the Rule of Law for Undocumented Immigrants?

By Stephanie Summers December 1, 2014   On November 20, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration, which were initially met with joy or derision. Loud denouncements of the president’s intentions quickly followed. Many immigration reform advocates stated that the president was doing too little to protect immigrants from deportation. Many members of Congress addressed the means, but not the substance, of the proposed actions, saying that the president had gone beyond constitutional limitations. The president, for his part, responded to his critics with an exhortation to members of Congress to “pass a bill” and an explanation to immigration reform advocates about why certain actions were undertaken, but not others. Some members of Congress responded with numerous ideas having little to do with providing needed reforms to the nation’s immigration system. As Christian citizens committed to public...


Law and Violence

By John Inazu December 1, 2014   The most important thing I learned in law school was that the law is violent. In the unforgettable words of Robert Cover: “Legal interpretation takes place on a field of pain and death.” Lawyers, judges, politicians, and police officers—and grand juries—don’t interpret poetry. They interpret laws and facts. And those interpretations have consequences. As Cover notes: “When interpreters have finished their work, they frequently leave behind victims whose lives have been torn apart by these organized, social practices of violence.” Legal interpretations pronounce guilt, deny custody, demand payments, and destroy lives. These are violent acts. The grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson was a violent act. Like many acts of legal interpretation, it confronted two different narratives, two different claims of truth...


The Role of Young Alumni in Closing the Graduation Gap

By Roy Chan December 1, 2014   In the last ten years, the college completion agenda has defined both national and state policy discussions in American higher education. Notably, many colleges and universities have acknowledged the importance of increasing student access and completion rates. Higher education is the gateway to upward mobility, and one of the most serious challenges facing post-secondary education is the number of low-income students leaving college before graduation. Approximately 56 percent of students who start a four-year degree graduate within six years. At the same time, less than 30 percent of students who start two-year community colleges will graduate with their...


Living and Dying

By Stephen V. Monsma November 24, 2014   On November 1, Brittany Maynard, a 29-year old woman and wife with a terminal brain tumor, committed suicide with the drugs legally prescribed by an Oregon physician. Before her suicide, she recorded a video in which she explained why she chose this course. It has been viewed by millions on YouTube and has raised the issue of whether our laws should allow doctors to help terminally ill persons take their own lives. Three states—Oregon, Washington, and Vermont—already allow physician-assisted suicide. Others are considering such laws, and advocacy organizations are pushing hard for their passage. So how does a Christian understanding of persons, human society, and the God-given, justice-seeking role of governments inform our reaction to Maynard’s suicide and the issues it raises? Certainly, we must consider what level of care should be available to a person when...


Transformative Justice in Ferguson

By Mikael Pelz November 24, 2014   As our nation waits for the grand jury's decision on the shooting death of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, we will find no shortage of views on what justice demands in this and similar situations of racial divisions. In one obvious respect, justice in Ferguson could mean the conviction of the white officer who shot this black teenager. This is a determination based on the facts of this case, which may be emblematic but separate from the larger question of racial justice for all. A charge or no charge in this case, as symbolic as both might be and as much relief as it would provide those aggrieved by this tragedy, will not likely lead to a systematic change in how Ferguson or any other city addresses racial relations. In any case, justice should not stop here. This moment requires larger societal transformation.  The greatest danger at this juncture...


Patriotism, Personal Ambition, and “Foxcatcher”

By Josh Larsen November 24, 2014   Truth is darker than fiction in Foxcatcher, a dramatization of the real-life relationship between millionaire philanthropist John du Pont and Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz, who was sponsored by du Pont in a bid for glory at the 1988 games in Seoul. Although the movie lays the doom and gloom on a bit thickly and is undermined by Steve Carell’s exaggerated performance as du Pont, it does explore what happens when patriotism becomes co-opted for other purposes. According to the movie, du Pont’s motivation for putting his considerable resources behind the United States wrestling team is twofold and somewhat at odds. On the one hand, he sees it as a way of separating himself from his family’s legacy of competitive horse training. On the other, he’s somewhat obsessed with his family’s place in American history and sees his sponsorship as an expression of extreme patriotism....


Public Justice and Education in Indian Country (3)

By Ben Gibson November 24, 2014   [This article is the third installment in a series on education in Indian Country.] The two previous articles in this series discussed the main challenges facing schools on Native American reservations and highlighted the perspectives of a Native teacher and student reflecting on the particular strengths and obstacles present in Indian education. These pieces were intended to provide a background and context for understanding the unique challenges of working toward public justice in Indian Country. In addressing potential solutions in this final piece, I hope to communicate two conjoined realities: solutions will not present themselves in quick fixes, yet the ingredients for constructive change are already present on reservations across the country. In his book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, James Davison...


Enlarging Our Understanding of Institutional Religious Freedom

By Stephanie Summers November 17, 2014   Recently, I participated in a small meeting with a delegation of evangelical leaders visiting the United States. These leaders represented many of the traditionally marginalized Christian denominations in their nation, which has in recent years undergone substantial changes in the posture of its political leaders towards religious freedom. One facet of this change has been an increase in visa restrictions, such that many foreign nationals who have served alongside nationals in ministry for years will no longer be eligible to return. With significant implications for international ministries and organizations, this change will effectively sideline many of the groups in the country providing the most aid to the poor and marginalized, regardless of the faith commitments, or lack thereof, of the people being served. Yet when asked directly about this change in their religious freedom landscape,...


A Post-Election Opportunity for Perspective

By Vincent Bacote November 17, 2014   One consistent theme in the aftermath of the recent election is the triumph of Republicans and the significant losses for Democrats, complete with bragging rights and counter narratives. For many people, these party affiliations are a significant aspect of their identity, operating as emblems of their personal convictions and public commitments. These are often indicative of religious commitments as well, sometimes to the point that one’s fidelity to Christ can come under suspicion if you are for the “wrong” party.  What happens when we put these political labels in tension with some dimensions of Christian identity that we find in Scripture? For example, how does the Bible’s proclamation that we are created in the image of God factor into our perspective? This is an important question because this aspect of identity has implications not only for our self-concept, but also for our...


“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption”

By Byron Borger November 17, 2014   Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel & Grau; 2014) $28.00 There is no more compelling way to be introduced to the painful realities of our land than through the study of racially charged mass incarceration and the unequal treatment of poor people by the criminal justice system. It is crucial for our understanding of the need for greater public justice and how legal practices and complex cultural attitudes about poverty and race in the United States too often subvert “liberty and justice for all.” We can learn much from the experiences of those courageous lawyers who toil over legal details at low wages as they serve in legal aid clinics to help the under-represented get a fair hearing in court. In such a world, even stalwart conservatives like the late Charles Colson have spoken out against the death penalty, showing...


The Fall of the Wall

By Steven E. Meyer November 17, 2014   The Berlin Wall fell twenty-five years ago this month. In November 1989, I was the chief of the East German branch at the CIA and was privileged to be in Berlin when the wall came down. Like thousands of others, I took a hammer and pounded on the wall much of the night. I still use a piece of the wall as a paper weight today. Celebrations of this anniversary were capped last week with huge crowds swirling through the city, singing, drinking, and dancing. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev—treated as a hero in Germany and a traitor in Russia--attended the ceremonies.  The wall was built in 1961 to keep East Germans from fleeing to the west. Upon completion, it was ninety-seven miles long, with twenty-seven miles of the wall constructed in the city itself, and seventy miles of the wall zigzagging through the surrounding countryside. Its existence was more than a symbol of the...


Neither Utopia Nor Indifference

By William Edgar November 10, 2014   The realist theologian Reinhold Niebuhr famously said “Democracy is finding proximate solutions to insoluble problems.” During the “Reagan Revolution” of the 1980s, various evangelicals, including Francis Schaeffer, thought there was a new window of opportunity for Christians in politics. Accordingly, various conservative individuals ran for election, and various organizations were created for the purpose of raising consciousness and lobbying politicians and school boards. The best known of these was Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, founded in 1979. Pat Robertson famously asked simply for “a place at the table.” And several evangelicals were indeed elected. The Republican Party, usually the party of choice, courted the New Christian Right (NCR), which often gave them the support they needed in order to stay in power. The title of a conference in 1990, followed by a publication, best expressed...


Memorization

By Aaron Belz November 10, 2014   What could English spoken-word poet John Cooper Clarke and recently appointed Chief Whip of the Conservative Party, the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, have in common? Besides both being incredibly British, they are, as one might suspect, almost entirely different creatures. Clarke’s career began in the legendary British punk scene of the 1970s. His poems—often caustic and funny, delivered rapid-fire into a microphone—depict tough street life, drug use, and sexual activity in a mode perhaps reminiscent of Tom Waits. That is to say, Clarke’s“honest and outlandish rhymes” embrace the counterculture in an over-the-top, romantic way. And he’s had a great deal of success: he has...


The Local Church: A Place of Compassion in the Syrian Crisis

By Rupen Das November 10, 2014   In the “fog of war” in Syria, it is very easy to miss the small signs of hope in the midst of the evil. One of these signs is the role that many local Arab churches have assumed during the Syrian civil war. As the Syrian crisis developed and spilled into Lebanon over the past three years, the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) decided to respond to the unfolding humanitarian crisis. As a church-based agency, it has worked to empower local churches inside Syria and in Lebanon to reach beyond their comfort zones and social boundaries to help those in need. This is a story of reconciliation that has not yet been told. Syria had occupied Lebanon for twenty years and every Lebanese family has stories of their homes being destroyed, family members killed, imprisoned, and tortured, and the country systematically ruined. The decision by a...


Barriers to Higher Education for Low-Income Students

By Hilary Yancey November 10, 2014   A college education provides a particular kind of benefit for low-income students. It’s an access point that doesn’t, at least on its face, require more than the hard work, grit, and intelligence to successfully enroll and persist. But only about one in ten people from low-income families have a bachelor’s degree by age twenty-five, compared with nearly half of people from middle-income families. The introduction to a White House report on higher education and low-income students states, “The benefits of post-secondary education are well documented and have major implications for economic growth, equality, and social mobility. Getting a post-secondary credential leads to greater lifetime earnings, lower unemployment, and lower...


“Boring” Election, High Stakes

By Timothy Sherratt November 3, 2014   Tomorrow’s elections may cap what David Brooks called the most boring campaign he could remember. But they reflect truly enough a society in flux, divided on what it should ask government to do and unsure about government’s capacity to deliver. With no presidential candidates running, the expected electorate will be smaller, but also older and whiter, a modest boon for Republicans, who look set to reap modest gains. Those gains may give the G.O.P. control of the Senate and thus the entire Congress. They do not otherwise suggest a vote of confidence in the Republicans’ approach to governing. “Boring” may prove to be a relative term and even a welcome one, given the kinds of issues that have fueled polarized politics over many electoral cycles. In 2014, contentious social issues are driving the campaign in few races. Tea Party groups appear muted or lack candidates of their...


Instruction vs. Education

By Charles Glenn November 3, 2014   A distinction exists between instruction and education, one that is enforced more clearly in French, Italian, or Spanish than in English. Instruction refers to teaching of the skills and knowledge essential to successful participation in a particular society and economy; it typically occurs in schools and in workplaces. Education refers to development of the person, his or her character and loyalties, everything required to be a decent human being, family member, neighbor, and citizen. Education also occurs in schools, but begins in the family and is commonly sustained by voluntary associations, typically religious or cultural. In any society characterized by very significant cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity, the instructional and educational missions of schools pose distinct policy challenges. Government appropriately sets standards for the outcomes – though not...


Abortion Regulations and Public Justice

By Clarke Cochran November 3, 2014   Last month, the US Supreme Court stayed a federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld new Texas regulations mandating that abortion facilities must comply with health and safety codes applicable to ambulatory surgery centers. Other similar regulations, enacted up until now by about half of the states, also require physicians who perform abortions in their own offices or in separate abortion facilities to have admitting privileges at a local hospital or an admitting agreement with a physician possessing privileges. Most abortion providers traditionally have not met these requirements. In states with such laws, the number of abortion providers and abortion facilities has declined, in some cases dramatically.  These laws have created intense controversy. As the challenged clinics remain open until a final decision, it is worthwhile to consider these regulations from a public...


Changing the Currency of Rural Poverty

By Annelise Jolley November 3, 2014 Many farmers in rural areas of the world depend for their survival on what they grow from their land. Although they earn a small amount of money selling produce at local markets, they have nowhere to save their income. Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) are an innovative approach to microfinance that provides structure for the rural poor to save their money and easily access loans. Instead of walking to the nearest bank, which could take hours, rural families can save in a community VSLA group. If they need a loan – to pay for children’s school fees or farm improvements – they can access one safely without fear of loan sharks. Convenient, safe, and self-sustaining, the VSLA may just be the secret to tackling rural poverty. Simply put, a VSLA is a group of people who pool their money and take out small loans from shared savings. Developed by CARE International, the VSLA model lends a new layer...


Freedom as Authority

By David Koyzis   October 27, 2014   More than half a century ago, Roman Catholic philosopher Yves René Simon observed that authority has come to have a bad reputation in the modern world. Our western societies value personal freedom so highly that any intervention by an authority outside our own wills is deemed an imposition at best and outright oppression at worst. The French Revolution of 1789, perhaps more than any other event in recent history, has implanted in western consciousness the myth of the heroic popular revolt against oppressive authority. So thoroughly did the Revolution succeed in this that the default position for many of us today is to be suspicious of authority’s claims from the outset, whatever their content. The cultural shifts of the 1960s further exacerbated this...


The Church’s Role in Education

By Mackenzie Harmon October 27, 2014   Christian traditions vary widely in their views of church involvement in government-run schools. The Bible does not speak directly to the issue of church interaction with schools, and different church communities can legitimately draw different conclusions from faithful study of Scripture. However, churches should take into account basic guidelines for engagement with schools. In identifying those basic guidelines, the focus here will be on these roles as they relate to government-run schools. Determining just guidelines for church-school relationships requires that we must draw distinctions between Christians as the church and Christians as citizens, as well as between the church as an institution and the church as a body. These distinctions allow us to determine just guidelines for church-school relationships. Each manifestation of the church is called to play different roles. Each one...


The European Union at a Crossroads?

By Alice-Catherine Carls October 27, 2014   The making of Europe has taken a long century. When World War I broke out in 1914, the fighting was less about competition for land in Europe proper than about access to Central Asia’s lands, resources, and commercial routes. One century later, this competition looks eerily similar, but it is now overt, and the stakes are considerably higher. Between Gavrilo Princip the assassin in 1914 to Gavrilo Princip the hero in 2014, from the Pale of Settlement in 1914 to resurgent anti-Semitism in 2014, from the search for oil in Mesopotamia in 1914 to the dependence on Russian natural gas in 2014, from the first colonial soldiers dying in France for the Allied cause during the Great War to continued Muslim immigration, from the creation of the “Middle East” in 1918 to its collapse in 2014, Europe has had to constantly renegotiate its geographic, economic, cultural, and religious boundaries. It has...


Study Abroad and Health Professions Education

Study Abroad and Health Professions Education By Jessica Ventura October 27, 2010   Four years ago, I created a course for pre-health profession students at Gordon College. Most of these students have grown up in the US health care system and will go on to be educated in that mindset. My goal was for them to spend time abroad getting a taste of what health care means to the 80 percent of the world’s population living in developing countries [1]. Study abroad is largely absent from physical and life sciences programs. Whereas 19 percent of social science students participated in overseas programs in 2012, only 8.4 percent of science and 3.8 percent of health professions students did the same. And only eight of the top twenty-five destinations where US students study abroad are developing countries. So we traveled to Copan, Honduras...


ISIL and the International System

By Paul S. Rowe October 20, 2014   The US decision to lead an Arab coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in northern Syria and Iraq and the month-long ISIL siege of the Syrian Kurdish  town of Kobani have seized the attention of the world. Media interest fastens on the dramatic successes of ISIL and its lauded brutality. And certainly ISIL trades on the reputation it has developed over the past few months as a group too violent and radical even to be allied with al- Qaeda. But beyond the violence and disorder fomented by ISIS, there is a deeper reason why the international community must view it as a threat. When the militant Islamic State movement invaded northern Iraq in the middle of June 2014 and declared that it had restored the age-old Islamic caliphate, it instantly became more than a threat to the Syrian and Iraqi governments. Up until that time, it was a leading faction in the civil...


“Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith”

By Byron Borger October 20, 2014   Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith Mae Elise Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Troy Jackson, Soong-Chan Rah (Zondervan; 2014) $22.99 Perhaps you have seen that Facebook cartoon showing an indigenous First Nations person musing, “Speaking of bringing deadly diseases to our shores…” The cartoon intends to remind us, in the midst of the fear over the Ebola crisis, that white Europeans have wreaked havoc on local populations in the past, and that the horrific impact was only matched by the gross malfeasance. It is appalling to think about the intentional genocidal decimation of whole populations and the later abuses in North America such as the Trail of Tears, the sins of Kit Carson, the dubious treaties signed and broken, and the injustices of Native American schools and reservation policies. Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith...


Public Justice and Education in Indian Country (2)

Public Justice and Education in Indian Country (2) By Ben Gibson October 20, 2014 This article is the second installment in a series on education in Indian Country.   The first article in this series discussed how schools on Native American reservations struggle to meet just standards of education due to the distorted power dynamic between the federal government and local tribes. As a result, situations that are far more practically, historically, and culturally complex than the government acknowledges are met with improper and inadequate policies. In approaching Native education, there has been a...


When Water Poverty Hits Home

By George McGraw October 20, 2014 Imagine for a moment, turning on your kitchen tap and nothing comes out. When you visit the bathroom, the same thing. You even try your garden hose before realizing that your neighbors don't have water either. Twelve hours later, the water still hasn’t come on. Three months later, no change. There’s no utility company to call, no National Guard to intervene… just the pervasive feeling of powerlessness and disbelief. You thought that spending hours a day collecting water was something only rural Africans worried about. Suddenly, water poverty hits much closer to home.  Not too long ago, the people in Tulare County, CA would have dismissed this thought experiment as a distant nightmare. But today, over 1000 of Tulare’s 7300 residents rely on...


Learning from the French

By William Edgar October 13, 2014   New York Times columnist Roger Cohen wrote recently about a revealing incident. Cohen loves France and owns a house in an old village there, one that he was planning to sell. When the real estate agent came in to talk business, she carefully looked around at various parts of the house and proceeded to tell him with passion that he must not sell. “This is a family home. You know it the moment you step in. You sense it in the walls… This is a house you must keep for your children…” How often would you hear “Don’t sell!” from an American realtor? Why would this woman turn down a potentially tidy commission for selling this property? Cohen called this a “cultural moment.” Simply put, French people have emotional intuitions coming from the soil that trump economic...


Marilynne Robinson’s America

By Aaron Belz October 13, 2014   Is Jonathan Edwards, as Marilynne Robinson called him in NYT Magazine last week, a “pillar”? Is she right to enshrine John Calvin as a “visionary” who admired the human mind? At first blush, they certainly don’t seem to be humanists. Calvin believed in “original sin” which he defined as “a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused through all parts of the soul, rendering us obnoxious to the Divine wrath” (Institutes II, i). Edwards, in his famous sermon, wrote, “Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the...


Why a US Counter-Terrorism Strategy to Defeat ISIL Must Include Women

By Christy Vines October 13, 2014   Though the Obama administration’s strategy for dealing with the ISIL crisis continues to attract widespread criticism and concern—some of it partisan cable news nonsense, some of it intellectually serious—there is usually a glaring analytical omission: the international gender dimension of Muslim radicalization and counter-radicalization. And though religion is now recognized as a primary framework for understanding the security issues at the nexus of these conflicts, the gendered dimensions of ISIL’s continued terror, and government responses to it, are conspicuously absent. ISIL’s war of ideas has now overtaken national and gender boundaries, with their ideological propaganda finding its way into the homes of women and girls worldwide. While their attempts to target girls and women usually eschews the barbaric and tragic images often witnessed in those targeting male...


Law, Politics, and Society: A Special Challenge for Christians

By James W. Skillen October 13, 2014   In his important book on religion and American politics, The Naked Public Square (Eerdmans, 1984), Richard John Neuhaus saves for his last chapter a discussion of law. In that chapter he tries to give an account of the special, authoritative character of law. When we speak of “the law,” he says, “we imply that it is something distinct from ordinary experience. It has a normative status by which we order, remedy, and judge the interactions that make up what we call ‘life’” (p.249). This “high” view of law is connected with religion, according to Neuhaus, because we experience law as a normative, binding power. The word “find” or “bound” comes from the same root as the word “religion,” namely, religare (p.250). At the same time, of course, law does not stand outside of reality. It is part of our experience, part of our moral sentiments, part of our...


Pulpit Freedom, Good News, and Public Justice

By Timothy Sherratt October 6, 2014   Last Sunday was Pulpit Freedom Sunday, initiated by the Alliance Defending Freedom. Since 2008, ADF has challenged the 1954 “Johnson Amendment” in the IRS Code prohibiting churches from intervening in election campaigns on behalf of candidates. Participating pastors were asked to “preach a sermon on a specific day discussing the intersection of the political realm with Scriptural Truth.” This event was featured in a Wall Street Journal article reporting a reversal of Americans’ aversion to “a voice for religion in politics,” which is taking the form of urging pastors to address social and political issues from the pulpit. Fueled by the perception...


Preserving Pluralism in University Student Organizations

By Chelsea Langston October 6, 2014   In college, I was involved in a University of Michigan student organization called the Detroit Partnership (The DP) which connects Detroit and the University of Michigan through mutually beneficial community partnerships. The DP’s mission states that “As a multicultural organization, we strive to raise awareness, break stereotypes, and promote social justice through our service-learning programs.” As a group, we were Jewish and Atheist and Christian and Muslim. We were gay and straight. We were of different races and ages and genders. We were vegetarian hippies and three-cheese meat-lover pizza types (which made our dinner meetings interesting). The DP leadership encouraged students get involved in the Detroit Partnership to challenge their preconceived notions of Detroit and to develop relationships with Detroit residents doing amazing things. We encouraged students to volunteer for a...


The New Climate Economy

By Rusty Pritchard October 6, 2014   The planet and its people are at war. That’s the most popular frame through which to view the issue of climate change—a frame that unites the political left and right. According to conservatives, any effort to forestall climate change threatens economic growth. The progressive view agrees at a fundamental level, seeing capitalism as the enemy of ecological sustainability. An estimated 150,000 people marched this past September in New York City to focus the world’s attention on climate change in advance of the UN Climate Summit. Not many appeared to be fans of the business community. Yet perhaps the most promising development happened prior to the march. Cutting through the narrative that pits economic growth against climate action was a report issued on the...


Why Justice Requires Educational Diversity

By Peter Mitchell October 6, 2014   Principled pluralism reminds us that humanity thrives when it embraces God-given difference rather than when it seeks to impose uniformity. Families and their children are different and diverse; we come from different cultures and countries, different neighborhoods, and different socio-economic backgrounds. We practice different religions and have different views of how children thrive in learning; all these, and more, are important dimensions of diversity. Therefore, an essential part of justice in the education system lies in its ability to promote the flourishing of the diversity that exists, rather than conformity with any one view of education, one language, one religion or one approach to education. Educational diversity is not only something governments should allow, but something they should pursue. Indeed, to fail to pursue flourishing through...


Does Religious Diversity Count?

By Stephen V. Monsma September 29, 2014   California State University (CSU) recently withdrew official recognition from the evangelical student organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, on all twenty-three of its campuses. InterVarsity chapters welcome all students as members, but have a policy that their student leaders must adhere to the basic beliefs of traditional, historic Christianity. InterVarsity’s derecognition means it will no longer have free or discounted access to university rooms for its meetings or other events, it cannot participate in student orientation fairs, and it must work under the onus of an organization that the university has decreed “discriminates” and is unworthy of university recognition. The end result, in the words of a Federal Court of Appeals judge in a similar case at San Diego State University, is “to marginalize in the life of the institution those activities, practices and...


Fiscal Justice for Tomorrow’s Children

By Todd P. Steen September 29, 2014   Throughout 2013, Washington was the scene of an extended battle concerning potential cuts in government spending. Because our nation was about to reach the debt ceiling, some agreement had to be reached. After several months of political theater, as well as a partial government shutdown, Congress ultimately suspended the debt ceiling and reopened government. Most people said that this was no way to run a country. The debt ceiling was criticized as archaic and unhelpful and seen as an opportunity for all sorts of political shenanigans. Americans then returned to business as usual-- the business of spending beyond our means. Since then, there has been hardly a peep about reining in government spending. Our politicians have moved on to other issues, and spending is near an all-time high. Although a midterm election is right on the horizon, it is nearly impossible to find a campaign where...


Why are We Prosecuting Sex Trafficking Victims?

By Nate Frierson September 29, 2014   Human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, is a horrific reality in the world today. Girls, boys, men, and women are tricked, seduced, and threatened into forced servitude of different types, with the most infamous being sex slavery. Unfortunately, we don’t have many credible estimates about the true size of the problem, and a huge part of this tragedy takes place in the United States, with an estimated 20,000 children forced into prostitution by human trafficking networks each year. Human trafficking has received a great deal of publicity recently, with many groups and individuals raising awareness, in addition to law enforcement and government attempting to crack down on traffickers. A few months ago, several bills passed through the House of Representatives that were targeted at slowing human trafficking in the...


Improving Health in Ethiopia Through Partnerships with the Church

By Emily Robinson and Getahun Asres September 29, 2014   Religion, culture, and health are so closely tied that it is often difficult to decipher where one ends and the other begins. Strengthening Care Opportunities through Partnerships in Ethiopia (SCOPE) was founded as a response to this reality. The founders were spurred by the conviction to promote justice in all its forms, not the least of which is the right to access life-saving health care. With these things in mind, University Presbyterian Church (UPC) in Seattle, WA and the Global Health Department at the University of Washington (UW) reached out to the University of Gondar (UoG) and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) in Gondar, Ethiopia and a partnership was born. The prevalence of HIV in the North Gondar zone of northwest Ethiopia is twice that of the national rate. Despite access to HIV testing and treatment, participation in these services remains low. This is a...


Seeking Peace in Election Season

By Stephanie Summers September 22, 2014   This article is the third installment in a series on political campaigns and public justice. “The obvious starting point should be to heed the teaching and example of Jesus who we confess to be the Christ. We should do what he taught his followers to do: serve your neighbors in love, do justice, seek to live at peace with everyone, do not lord it over others but act as servants (Luke 9:23-27, 46-48; 22:24-32).” – James W. Skillen in The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction Scotland’s recent national referendum witnessed record-setting political participation with 97% of eligible voters registered and 85% voter turnout. This level of participation is unimaginable for most of us in the United States facing the prospect of midterm elections. Predictions of voter turnout are grim. In many...


Beyond the “Genderization” of War: Women, Religion, and the Future of Iraq

By Christy Vines September 22, 2015   The “genderization” of war is not a new phenomenon. Yet the rise of religiously motivated conflict has greatly exacerbated problems that women experience within the boundaries of war and conflict, and the Iraq crisis is exposing yet again the international community’s failure to fully understand and adequately respond to these realities. In her poignant and highly charged article on the Islamic State’s persecution and murder of Iraq’s religious minorities, Mariz Tadros, author and fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, draws attention to the absence of a gendered framework within the growing conversations on Iraq’s religious and sectarian conflict. Over the last several months, the world has witnessed an almost unprecedented attack on the...


Starred Up’s Model Prisoner

By Josh Larsen September 22, 2014   There are, for the most part, two types of movie prisoners. One is the societal menace – think Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs or Tom Hardy’s caged animal (based on Britain’s most notorious prisoner) in Bronson. Then there are the unjustly jailed, such as Michael Fassbender’s Irish protester in Hunger or yet another real-life figure, Mandela. What’s remarkable about Starred Up, a new British prison drama available in select theaters and via online streaming, is that the movie gives us a character who is both a menace and a human being of...


Public Justice and Education in Indian Country

By Ben Gibson September 22, 2014   This article is the first installment in a series on education in Indian Country.   Before my first week of teaching high school math on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Ed Youngman Afraid of His Horses, a modern day chief and cultural leader within the school, told me “The children are sacred.” I still grapple with the significance of his statement, but I believe that such a belief is central to fulfilling broken treaties between the United States and tribes all across the country. President Obama’s historic trip this past summer to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota provides us with an opportunity to explore one of the most important issues faced by reservations today: the education of Native American children. (John Oliver...


Despair or Renaissance?

Despair or Renaissance? By William Edgar September 15, 2014   A rapid glance at events across the globe might drive us to conclude that the Grim Reaper is slowly but surely advancing, dispensing unsparing cruelty from his scythe. Does it not seem that lately we are being assaulted from every corner? Consider Vladimir Putin’s call for “statehood” for the South East, the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Beijing’s increasing restrictions on Hong Kong banking, clashes over oil in the Niger Delta, the frightening advances of ISIS, and so many more headlines of volatility. These are grim by any measure. Perhaps it is worse than we think. French sociologist Jacques Ellul often urged us to look deeper below manifestations of unrest. We mistakenly consider our civilization “quite stable and quite satisfactory, even if, and especially if, we protest against iniquity, inequality, slavery, etc…,” he...


Pluralism, Education Policy, and the Reality of Unintended Consequences

Pluralism, Education Policy, and the Reality of Unintended Consequences Kevin R. den Dulk September 15, 2014 Before his untimely death in 1993, Paul Henry, Calvin College professor, member of Congress, and namesake of the Henry Institute, left his fellow Christians with a treasure of reflections on public life.  (You can find a collection here.)  Some of it is deeply theological; some is historical or biographical.  But I am most intrigued by his clear-eyed wisdom about the nitty-gritty of policy making. His cautions, considered across the intervening twenty years, are often quite prescient. Even before the so-called culture wars had reached their full heat in the 1990s, he warned Christians against the triumphalist tendency to claim moral certainty in their policy goals and political strategies. He also insisted...


"Secular Government, Religious People"

Politics and Prose By Byron Borger September 15, 2014   Secular Government, Religious People Ira C. Lupu and Robert W. Tuttle (Eerdmans; 2014) $25.00   The Center for Public Justice has long advanced certain principles to faithfully and wisely guide the just formation of public policy. Yet we must continually take up the living project of developing fresh ways to think about these principles and integrate them into our citizenship and political activism, applying them to concrete policies and proposals. While we should strive for overall consensus on principles and frameworks, we will undoubtedly disagree about the best legal and legislative route to enact these larger civic goals. One policy area that generates considerable debate and disagreement is what might broadly be called church-state relations, or, perhaps more accurately, the contours of religious...


The Past and Future of War

The Past and Future of War By Steven E. Meyer September 15, 2014   This year has been awash in publications, conferences, and memorabilia commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War-- a war that changed the world more profoundly than any other major conflict in modern history. World War I started in the Balkans, a poor backwater of Europe in the far southeastern corner of the continent. Although the Balkans was the fuse, it was not the powder keg. While the countries of the Balkans were not immune to indigenous conflict, there were very few characteristics that would have made the Balkans a logical place for a world war to begin. It was, rather, that corner of the world where the Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires came together and where not only they, but Germany, Britain, and France had intense interests—not only with the three empires, but...


Christ and Crisis

By Timothy Sherratt September 8th, 2014 Entering the new academic year, I found myself reading Charles Malik’s Christ and Crisis.* Published in 1962, these seven Christian meditations on the state of the world prove surprisingly prescient now at the end of a long summer full of wretched stories of human evil in Syria and Iraq, ongoing atrocities in Nigeria, Ebola in West Africa, Russian meddling turning more deadly in Ukraine, and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Malik may not be much read today but Christians pondering the relationship between politics, economics, culture, and the Church have much to gain from consulting his writings. Lebanese diplomat extraordinaire, philosopher by training, and sometime President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, he helped shape the 1948 U.N. Declaration on Human Rights. He was well placed to appreciate the challenges of the postwar international order, and the...


Priests and Prophets in Ferguson

By Harold Dean Trulear September 8, 2014 On August 25, 2014, Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri was laid to rest. The controversy was not. On a local level, the citizens of the St. Louis area have seen historic tensions in their community exposed. On the national level, policy discussions on criminal justice abound. From policing to profiling, second chances to sentencing reform, racism to reentry, national, state, and local officials and citizens debate the state of criminal justice in America with passions revealing adversarial positions that reflect a fractured nation. We do not know exactly what happened the night Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown. Conflicting reports of Brown having surrendered and Brown having charged the officer should be settled in the courts. But they also point to a sharp divide between law enforcement and community that we cannot ignore. People are taking...


Kairos in Ferguson

By Aaron Belz September 8, 2014 On August 9, Michael Brown was shot six times on a street in Ferguson, Missouri. He was a black teenager; his killer was a white police officer. The public response, which began the same day with chants like “kill the police” and has remained vitriolic for weeks, has put this event in the same category as the Rodney King beating. How in the world are we supposed to respond? What can one begin to say about such a thing? Fourteen years ago I began teaching college rhetoric using Writing Arguments (Longman, now in its 9th edition). Since then I’ve taught the same course at different institutions using Perspectives on Argument (also Longman), Everything’s an Argument (Bedford/St. Martin’s), Inquiry: Questioning, Reading, Writing (again, Longman) and other textbooks. Some stress personal...


The Virtue of Acting Slowly

By Bradford Littlejohn September 8, 2014 In my last piece for Capital Commentary, I ended by suggesting that when it comes to foreign policy, we need to re-learn the lesson that sometimes the most responsible thing to do is to do nothing. No sooner did I write that (chiefly with the example of our debacle in Libya in mind), than the ISIS crisis escalated, drawing in US forces, as did the Ukrainian crisis, with Russian troops entering the country. Such events make the idea of “doing nothing” seem intolerable and the pressure to act irresistible. At a juncture like this, then, our leaders need to be reminded of the virtue of acting slowly, a good conservative virtue if there ever was one. Of course, this is not something generally associated with the label “conservative.” With...


One Hundred Years Later: The Psalms and the First World War

By David Koyzis August 25, 2014  Everyone knows how it all started. It was the end of June in 1914. Tensions had been building for decades among the rival European powers. The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was visiting Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, when he and his wife were assassinated by a Serb nationalist named Gavrilo Princip. Vienna’s annexation of that province six years earlier had nearly led to war then, but now the real thing was only one month away. When the dust had cleared and the war was over four years later, some sixteen million people had died, and the world was never the same again. Ancient empires fell, with kings and emperors toppled from their thrones and exiled. Entire populations were cruelly uprooted from their homes, simply because they happened to live...


The Public Good of Public Health

By Jess Hale August 25, 2014 At a time when domestic health policy in the United States contorts itself in near violent disagreements about the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, we would do well to remember the unheralded activities of public servants who labor in the realm of traditional public health and their invaluable contributions to the common good of our society. As important as access to public or private health insurance undoubtedly is to the health of millions of Americans, so is the ministry of public health to just about every single person. The contributions of public health promotion and protection to the well-being of Americans at large and of vulnerable populations in particular constitute a vastly unappreciated public good. The common good does not have to manifest itself in high-profile political combat. Public health initiatives range from securing clean...


The Diplomacy of Wisdom: Agency of Peaceful Change

By Charles Strohmer  August 25, 2014 This is the second installment in a two-part series. “Wisdom is better than weapons of war.” Ecclesiastes 9:18 In recent decades, the strong, religious-like faith that we have placed in the state to solve all of our social problems has given political ideologies an unprecedented authority to control how these problems are defined and solved. The same is true when it comes to ideological analyses of international problems. This ideological control over foreign policy thinking painfully limits what political imaginations consider wise or foolish analysis and policy, and greatly strains the foreign relations between states with conflicting ideological checklists. In this second of two articles on wisdom and foreign policy, I want to introduce some ideas about the non-ideological nature of the agency of wisdom by considering three norms of wisdom...


Gentrification and Urban Transformation: A Local Developer’s Perspective

By Mikael Pelz August 25, 2014 This is the final installment in a four-part series. In the first article of this series, I argued that gentrification should first be evaluated based on whether changes taking place in a neighborhood successfully bridge the new with the old.[i] Changes along these lines have the potential to foster diverse and participatory communities, particularly when supported by the intentional leadership of citizens, churches, and local developers. In subsequent articles, I highlighted the active role of citizens in transforming West Greenville, South Carolina and the mission of...


Midterm Elections: Turning Battles into Opportunities

By Amy E. Black August 18, 2014 War chests. Battleground states. Armies of volunteers. Political arsenals. Military metaphors have become such common election parlance that many of us toss around these terms with little thought for their bellicose roots. In many ways, such terms are apt descriptors. Political campaigns are rough-and-tumble affairs, and most contenders end up metaphorically bloodied in the process. Opposing campaigns act as if they are at war with each other, leaving many voters feeling caught in the crossfire. As the summer draws to a close, general election campaigns will shift into high gear. Political ads will flood the airwaves, robo-calls will jam phone lines, and mailboxes will overflow with menacing postcards. What are some practical ways to prepare for the November elections...


Politics and Prose

By Byron Borger August 18, 2014 DVD For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles Acton Institute (Gorilla Pictures; 2014) Ordinarily, I use this column to review books that would be of interest to ordinary citizens working for public justice, and I recommend ones that are particularly useful for forming our vision of citizenship and inspiring us to be more active in the public square. This week, I am thrilled to highlight a new DVD curriculum that has been inspired by many books.   For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles is a seven-week film series about Christian cultural engagement. It is an upbeat and colorful overview of a robust Christian worldview, rooted in the theology of the goodness and order of creation and the scope and everyday consequences of grace and redemption. Filmed...


Other Cheek Diplomacy?

By William Edgar August 18, 2014 The ongoing conflicts between Israel and Hamas, between Russia and the Supreme Council of Crimea, and in so many other places, pose the age-old question: when to be patient, and when to fight? Advocates of patience would appear to have the Sermon on the Mount on their side. In his radical restating of the Old Testament commandments, Jesus seems to reject the “eye for an eye” doctrine of retaliation in favor of nonresistance, turning the other cheek, and giving away your goods (Matt. 5:38-42). Not stopping there, he tells his hearers to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors (vv. 43-44). The renowned atheist Bertrand Russell once said that Jesus’s teaching to turn the other cheek was lovely but unworkable. Don’t go and strike the Prime Minister (no doubt a sincere Christian) on the cheek; you would find out he believed Jesus’s idea to be only figurative. Similarly, he thought “judge not...


Wisdom: The Missing Agency of Foreign Policy

By Charles Strohmer August 18, 2014  This is the first installment in a two-part series. “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” - Albert Einstein  In The Mighty and the Almighty, Madeleine Albright writes that in university she was taught that religion had no part in shaping the world of foreign policy. Hans Morgenthau, George Kennan, and Dean Acheson, she writes, theorized in almost exclusively secular terms. Religion wasn’t rational. To talk about it invited trouble and diplomats were taught not to invite trouble. “This was the understanding that guided me while I was serving as President Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations and secretary of state.” Because of the events of September 11, 2001, however, “I have had to adjust the lens...


Responsibility, Power, and Irresponsible Intervention

August 11, 2014 By Bradford Littlejohn The last few weeks have seen more than their fair share of political chaos worldwide: the escalation of the Ukrainian civil war and the shocking attack on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, the lightning occupation of northern Iraq by ISIS extremists, the Israeli assault on Gaza, and the collapse of the Libyan government as the nation spirals into sectarian violence. Each of these tragedies raise pointed questions of responsibility. In what sense were Ukrainian rebels responsible...


The North Carolina Poet Laureate Question (2)

By Aaron Belz August 11, 2014 This article is the second in a two-part series. My previous column ended with the questions, “So how should we select a poet laureate? On what terms ought we accord honor to not only poets but other sorts of artists?” With truisms like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “I may not know art, but I know what I like,” we’re prone to view art the way many Americans also view religion: It’s a personal choice. If you find something you like, good for you, and no one should try to convince you...


The Local Church: Mosaic and the Renewal of Little Rock 72204

August 11, 2014 By Mikael Pelz This article is the third installment in a series on gentrification. In the first article of this series, I argued that gentrification should first be evaluated based on whether changes taking place in a neighborhood successfully bridge the new with the old.1 Moreover, gentrification along these lines also can foster diverse and...


Welcome to Jury Duty

August 11, 2014   By Hilary Sherratt Yancey A version of this article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, an online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice.The other week I got that notice in the mail, the reminder about jury duty: “Report by 8:30 am to the Lawrence District...


Polarization, Representation and Diversity

August 4, 2014 By Timothy Sherratt  It used to be said of the polarized Congress that it misrepresented the American people themselves, who were far less divided than their elected representatives. That was true in 2004 and remains true today. But according to a recent Pew survey, the public has moved in Congress’s direction. In ten years, the numbers of consistent liberals and conservatives have jumped by a combined ten percentage points while the percentage of those with mixed views has dropped by ten, from 49 to 39 percent. Unlike some measures of Congressional polarization, there is not yet “clear blue water” between Democrats and Republicans in the population, but 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat while 94% of Democrats are to the left of...


Intelligence: A Noble Profession?

August 4, 2014 By Steven E. Meyer  When Edward Snowden went public  last year, revealing that the National Security Agency (NSA) had access to virtually every phone call made by almost anyone in the world, including the leaders of some of America’s closest allies, the role of intelligence has again become the focus of intense debate. Earlier, the “wiki leaks” operation revealed reams of classified intelligence information, and most recently the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Station Chief in Berlin was ordered to leave Germany. This is a highly unusual move, especially among allies, and signals deep anger on the part of the German government about U.S. intelligence activities.  But this is not new. Controversy has been part of intelligence since it was dubbed the “world’s second oldest profession” eons ago. The Bible recounts at least two...


Responding to the Unaccompanied Minor Crisis

August 4, 2014 By Aaron Korthuis A few weeks ago, the New York Times published an opinion piece describing the violent situation facing children in Nueva Suyapa, a neighborhood located in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The author documents murders in the street, recruiting by drug gangs in schools, death threats, and virtual imprisonment in the home. The article moved me powerfully, almost to tears. Having lived in Nueva Suyapa for two years, I am persuaded that we must offer protections to the Central American children flowing over the U.S. border as they flee life-threatening situations. Other sources also suggest that the influx of minors arriving at U.S. borders stems from humanitarian need. A report from the United Nations revealed that 58% of these children cited violence as the preeminent...


What are the Responsibilities of Teachers Unions?

By Theodore Williams III and Mackenzie Harmon July 28, 2014 When considering the right roles and responsibilities of teachers unions, it is first necessary to understand the role unions hold in a differentiated society. Unions represent diverse groups such as teachers, policemen, firefighters, hospital workers, and many others who provide vital services. Examples of this representation include collective bargaining, health and safety measures, and political activity. Unions exist for and are primarily responsible to their members. Members must have the ability to participate in the union, or to not participate, as they see fit. Because unions are involved in matters of law and because they take political action, they have additional responsibilities. Unions whose members include state employees (including most teachers) have an even greater level of public responsibility...


Pragmatic Conservation

By Rusty Pritchard July 28, 2014 I was dipping tuna casserole onto my plate at a church potluck dinner for grad students, when the man behind me asked what I studied. Tropical deforestation, I said. “I don’t understand,” he replied. “I thought you were an economist. What does economics have to do with deforestation?” My wife beat me to the reply: “Why do you think people cut down trees? Just for the fun of it?” The cognitive leap required for many people to consider the economics of the environment continues to amaze me. Asked about environmental issues, most people think about polar bears and global warming, or wilderness preservation-- not about people and their livelihoods. But a new generation of conservation scientists are hearkening back to what is actually an older form...


The Eurasian Dream and MH17

By Robert J. Joustra July 28, 2014 As I write this today, half-mast flags fly in the homes of the Dutch for the victims of the fallen Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. The Russian-supported rebels in eastern Ukraine are deep into it now, notwithstanding the inconclusive finger pointing for who pulled the trigger, and they might take Putin with them. For Putin, there is no backing down, partly because of the myth of Russia’s rising, and partly because he’s built that myth on populist, anti-Western conservatism. He is trapped in an iron cage of his own making. Keith Gessen at Foreign Affairs tells a story of flying from Moscow to New York with a drunk man talking loudly of geopolitics beside him. Gessen recalls that the man “was thrilled that Russia had seized Crimea, if only because in doing so, it had extended a big middle finger to the West.” Oh, we’ll lose, he recounted, “but what a lot of...


The North Carolina Poet Laureate Question (1)

By Aaron Belz July 28, 2014 This article is the first in a two-part series.  On July 11, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory appointed Valerie Macon to the office of state poet laureate. As Macon was unknown to almost everyone in the state, the appointment came as a general surprise, and not the good kind. It was the kind that brings out the worst in otherwise respectable, benevolent folks. “Why her?” was one repeated response. “How did this happen?” was another. “We stand for excellence,” responded the NC Writers’ Network, and Valerie Macon “does not have a body of work comparable in size or recognition to those of our past...


Artists Unite: Gentrification and the Village of West Greenville

By Mikael Pelz July 28, 2014 This article is the second installment in a series on gentrification. In the first article in this series, I called for a more balanced perspective on gentrification. Citing the work of noted scholar Sharon Zukin, I argued that gentrification should be evaluated based on whether changes taking place in a neighborhood bridge the history, landmarks, and long-time residents with modern trends, new enterprises, and recently transplanted residents. Furthermore, I proposed that gentrification along these lines can create communities that are both diverse and participatory, but only if citizens, churches, community organizations, and developers are engaged in this project. This article, which tells the story of West Greenville, South Carolina, is the first of several that apply...


Principled Personhood

By Chelsea Langston July 21, 2014  Personhood.  It is a word that evokes strong feelings about when life begins, who decides what constitutes personhood, and what the legal ramifications around personhood are. Personhood also inevitably brings up words like “dignity” and “individuals,” but often distances itself in the public conscience from “organizations.” Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held corporations (such as companies owned by families) embody another element of personhood that is often overlooked. The court recognized that these family-owned businesses are, at their foundation, groups of individuals who have come together around a common goal. Sometimes, as in the case of the Green family, a family business is run by individuals of a certain faith, and that faith shapes and influences foundational aspects of their business.  At a religious freedom forum in Minnesota last October, I...


Is There a Why? Thoughts on the Holocaust

By William Edgar July 21, 2014 Seventy years ago this summer, the Nazis began the mass deportation of some 440,000 Jews from newly occupied Hungary. They had begun to realize that the coming months would bring certain defeat, and so they became more and more desperate. On January 27, 1945, the Russian army liberated Auschwitz; what the allies saw there was harrowing. The Polish government appropriately decided very shortly thereafter to turn the complex into a museum. One of the most enlightened Holocaust survivors, Primo Levi, spent much of his life reflecting on his experience at Monowitz, the third site in Auschwitz (where the teenaged Elie Wiesel was also detained). He had escaped certain extermination because his talent as a chemist led the Germans to place him in this factory as a slave laborer to produce synthetic rubber for the war effort. He then escaped the infamous death march, a last-minute attempt to hide the evidence as the...


The Ethical Conflict Underlying the Disagreements Over the Hobby Lobby Ruling

By Jason E. Summers July 21, 2014 Although discussing politics on Facebook can be perilous, I’ve found more illumination than aggravation in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision—particularly with respect to understanding the ethical issues underlying our disagreements. At root, the issue is not a conflict between a religiously motivated prohibition (deontology) and a rational process that seeks the greatest good for the most people (utilitarianism), but rather a conflict between two competing deontologies that our common utilitarian moral language is too thin to bridge. One line of dissenting argument suggests that Hobby Lobby represents a class of employers driven by a religious prohibition to deprive a significant group of women of a manifest good—an immoral privileging of the views of a few over the rights of the many. Moreover—a variant continues—the end result of the decision is provision of contraceptives by another means, which...


Politics and Prose

By Byron Borger July 21, 2014 Cultural Education and History Writing Calvin G. Seerveld (Dordt College Press; 2014) $23.00 Cultural Problems in Western Society Calvin G. Seerveld (Dordt College Press; 2014) $17.00 Those familiar with the history of the Center for Public Justice will remember that a sister organization with a similar name was also started in Canada in the 1970s. One of the legendary Ontario leaders, Gerald Vandezande, was closely connected to the scholar and teacher, Dr. Calvin Seerveld. Seerveld was born in the United States and although he moved to Toronto to teach at the Institute for Christian Studies, he remained an inspiring and encouraging voice for CPJ here. Seerveld is a renowned multilingual Christian scholar, with degrees in theology and philosophy, and one of the world’s leading experts on Dutch philosophers Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven....


Hobby Lobby's Implications for Women

By Michelle Crotwell Kirtley July 14, 2014 The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. has been perceived and portrayed as another frontal assault in “the war on women.” A complex case about religious freedom has been reduced to a battle between the rights of a right-wing evangelical corporation (hardly a sympathetic petitioner in the eyes of many Americans) and the reproductive rights of women. But as some sober-minded publications have noted, such a dramatic characterization of the arguments is unwarranted, although perhaps understandable in light of the intense emotion stirred by any issue related to contraception and abortion.  In reality, whether or not you believe that making most forms of contraception effectively free will help reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion, the...


Gentrification: Building Diverse Communities?

By Mikael Pelz July 14, 2014 This article is the first installment in a series on gentrification. The word “gentrification” evokes contradictory meanings and emotions. Gentrification can refer simply to a process of transition in which an outside group of residents such as young professionals, artists, or new homeowners move into a specific neighborhood and remake it. However, this same process is frequently associated with displacement of long-term residents from different backgrounds and with fewer economic means. Because of this latter connotation, some are opposed to all forms of gentrification. But they often overlook the benefits associated with these geographic transitions and miss the fact that change is at the heart of a vital urban center. Gentrification’s benefits and losses are best evaluated when we look at specific instances where it has taken place, and when we weigh various considerations with an eye toward creating...


Employers Aren’t Generic: Hobby Lobby and Institutional Religious Freedom

By Stanley Carlson-Thies July 14, 2014 The Supreme Court ruled recently in favor of two Christian-owned companies, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, that object to including some contraceptive drugs and devices in their employee health plans. Churches have been exempt from the 2010 contraceptives mandate that has generated so much controversy, and after widespread protest, religious nonprofits such as colleges and hospitals were offered an “accommodation” in which the insurer provides the organization with a health plan that excludes the objectionable contraceptives; those particular contraceptives are then paid for by the insurer. The Court’s ruling and the content of its concurring and dissenting opinions raise again the complicated question of the religious freedom of institutions—a much more complex matter than the already difficult issue of honoring the religious freedom of individuals in our diverse society. In her dissent...


Civilization(s) on the Brink in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

By Josh Larsen July 14, 2014 After human experiments enhanced their intelligence, apes have escaped and established a colony in the woods outside San Francisco. The humans, most of whom have been wiped out by a virus that was also a result of those experiments, have hunkered down in a fortified remnant of the city. Does the survival of one group depend on the demise of the other? Tragedy that it is, Dawn goes even further and traces the dismantling of both societies. And like the Shakespeare it heavily draws upon (the lead chimpanzee is named Caesar for good reason), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes recognizes that downfall comes from within. Deep within. If this movie’s predecessor Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a nod to how we’ve...


Capital Punishment Revisited

By Stephen V. Monsma July 7, 2014  Capital punishment is being reconsidered today. In 2013, Maryland became the sixth state in the past six years to abolish the death penalty. Last year, a majority of the thirty-nine executions were carried out in only two states—Texas and Florida. Public support for the death penalty has dropped from 78 percent in favor of it in 1996 to 55 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, those opposed to the death penalty increased from 18 percent to 37 percent. This reconsideration has been spurred on by the findings that since 1976, some 143 persons who had been condemned to death were later exonerated, often due to DNA testing. Renewed questioning of the death penalty increased in June when Oklahoma botched the execution of Clayton Lockett. The supposedly lethal combination of drugs failed to kill Lockett, who died later of a heart attack.  In the context of this trend, I, along with...


The Unbearable Lightness of the Responsibility to Protect

By Robert J. Joustra July 7, 2014 As debates go in Canada’s Senate, there is usually very little in urgent need of reporting. But recently the resignation of a famous Canadian, retired Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire of the Canadian Forces, was occasion for his last speech in that chamber. He used it to remind Canada, and the world, that his fame as Major-General of UNAMIR (the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda) was earned in a terrible service, and he pled for a revival of the responsibility to protect. "I wanted to bring to your attention a subject that I consider a reality. Some consider it simply a news item. It is another one amongst some of the sadder news items that go on,...


An Economics Lesson from Hobby Lobby

By Stephanie Summers July 7, 2014 Following last Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, Bloomberg View contributor Megan McArdle addressed a dozen frequently asked questions about the ruling. Her answer to “What can stop a company from arguing that it is against the owner's sincere religious beliefs to pay workers a minimum wage?” focused on the limits of the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In the face of inane questions such as “What if my employer says it has a sincere religious belief in human sacrifice -- can he kill me?”, she ironically and simply began her answer with “Yes.” McArdle also addressed “Why does the Supreme Court think corporations are people?”  Her response painted a picture of a political community where government could otherwise consistently trump...


Hobby Lobby and the Messy Face of Public Justice

By Timothy Sherratt July 7, 2014 In his opinion last week in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., Justice Samuel Alito wrote: If the owners comply with the HHS mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions, and if they do not comply, they will pay a very heavy price—as much as $1.3 million per day, or about $475 million per year, in the case of one of the companies. If these consequences do not amount to a substantial burden, it is hard to see what would. The Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby, a “closely held” for-profit company, cannot be required to provide certain contraceptive services to employees that would be in contradiction to the owning families’ religious scruples. This is a welcome ruling. It is welcome because Hobby Lobby is not a church or a religious non-profit but a for-profit company whose owners seek to practice their religion consistently in every area of...


The Affordable Care Act Becomes “Normal” Policy

By Clarke E. Cochran June 30, 2014 Although taking far longer than typical, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) finally attained “normal” status. On May 16th, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a 436-page “rule” establishing parameters for 2015 ACA implementation. There was nary a peep from the commentariat. (Though CPJ did notice and ask me to comment!) Major implementation of ACA was formerly instant fodder for political battle. The absence of uproar over this rule suggests that the ACA is now part of the permanent policy landscape, a “normal” part of the American system of health insurance. Although calls for “Repeal!” will still echo leading up to November’s balloting, the law is deeply embedded. There will certainly be significant changes, but not repeal. The goal of the HHS rule is to wrap up loose ends from the messy 2014 rollout of the Individual and Small Group Insurance Marketplaces...


A Political Campaign Worth Savoring

By Stephanie Summers June 30, 2014   This article is the second installment in a series on political campaigns and public justice. “The obvious starting point should be to heed the teaching and example of Jesus who we confess to be the Christ. We should do what he taught his followers to do: serve your neighbors in love, do justice, seek to live at peace with everyone, do not lord it over others but act as servants (Luke 9:23-27, 46-48; 22:24-32).” – James W. Skillen in The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction Christ’s lordship extends to every area of life, including political campaigns. One implication of this theological reality is that political campaigns ought to do justice. The seeming impossibility of this feels a bit like being behind schedule on a road trip and craving a nourishing meal and a good stretch. But because we need to keep going, we settle for...


The Collapse of Iraq

By Steven E. Meyer June 30, 2014   Iraq is on the verge of collapse as a unified state, and the United States has no good options to reverse the situation. The forces of the Sunni-dominated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ultimately may not be able to —or want to— conquer the entire country, but Iraq’s problems are so deep seated that it will be virtually impossible now to stitch the country back together. The context is instructive. The Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 between France and Britain in the concluding days of World War I constructed Iraq and other countries in the Middle East from the remnants of the collapsing Ottoman Empire. These new countries were established to serve the imperial designs of France and Britain, not the interests of local inhabitants; there was no internal logic to Iraq.  Iraq was not built as a democracy and has had little tradition and historically few institutions of...


Adoption: Redemption or Exploitation?

By Becca McBride June 30, 2014   A version of this article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, an online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice. As a Christian political scientist studying how adoption can protect the rights of vulnerable children, I have been living between two conversations about the practice. When I talk to Christians about adoption, or interact with the Christian community of orphan advocates, the conversation is about how adoption is transformative and redemptive. Adoption is a reflection of our understanding of how we have been adopted into God’s family, and as such, it communicates the Gospel. Many Christians see adoption as one of the best ways to protect...


Hunger for Justice: The Impact of the Cyprus Tragedy

By David Koyzis June 23, 2014 The contrast between justice and injustice could not have been starker. In a matter of days, they had lost everything dear to them, refugees in their own land unable to return to their homes or to the villages where they were born and grew up. All they had worked for was gone, and they had to start over again in a new place. Tourist hotels were empty and would remain so for the next four decades, and perhaps much longer. Sandy beaches were now bereft of the sunbathers who had flocked to them from all parts of Europe. This was the sorry fate of my paternal relatives in Cyprus during that tragic summer of 1974, when they found themselves caught up in a civil conflict complicated by the machinations of the surrounding states. It began with a coup d’état against President Makarios instigated by the military régime in Athens in an effort to...


Harnessing the Potential of Religion and Reform in China

By Jean Wu and Sarah Brown June 23, 2014 Over the past twenty-five years, China has transformed itself into the second largest economy in the world, urbanized over half of its population, and made significant strides in providing for the education and welfare of its citizens. Despite this progress, the problems of corruption, uneven distribution of wealth, and imbalanced governance that were present in 1989 remain an issue today. The current leadership in Beijing has taken some bold moves in addressing these problems, most notably an anti-corruption drive that has removed several high-ranking officials from their positions as well as a party-wide “Mass Line" education campaign to improve how officials respond to citizens’ needs. Nevertheless, these are...


History Is Messy

By William Edgar June 23, 2014 Or so many historians tell us. In his fascinating book The Lost History of Christianity (Harper/Collins, 2009), Philip Jenkins explores one of the mysteries of church history-- why churches die. He describes how the church in Europe and the Middle East, once thriving, basically withered. Jenkins argues that persecution is one of the main factors in the decline of a Christian presence in a particular area, as is a weak government. But we cannot always know. And there are surprises. As the European church became virtually ineffective in the twentieth century, the Christian faith witnessed tremendous growth in places such as sub-Saharan Africa. Trends and patterns are not always easy to trace. One frequent fallacy in how we interpret history is “providentialism.” In Victorian Religious Revivals (Oxford University Press, 2012), David Bebbington warns against over-zealously identifying the finger of...


A View from Za’atari Refugee Camp

By Joan Knaus June 23, 2014 Editor’s Note: June 20th marked World Refugee Day, originally established in 2000 by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. Every year, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and civic organizations around the world commemorate World Refugee Day as a way to draw the public’s attention to the millions of refugees and internally displaced people who have fled their homes due to war, conflict, or persecution.   Responding effectively to refugee crises demands the combined effort of governments, international agencies, non-profit organizations, religious entities, and individual citizens. The public justice issues at stake are complex and are impossible to fully address without these entities working together. As the number of refugees worldwide is now the largest it has been since World War II, resources and public response are stretched and falling...


Engaging the Domestic Church over Religious Persecution

By Kevin R. den Dulk June 16, 2014  In the past few years, think tanks and advocacy groups have sounded renewed alarms about the prospects for religious freedom across the globe. The Christian church’s experience in particular has been a key trigger for their concerns. The scourge of religious persecution has arguably affected Christians disproportionately, and the situation appears to be worsening.  While North Americans face their own challenges to religious freedom, their experience of serious persecution is largely vicarious. Nearly every denomination or large non-denominational church has an outreach abroad. These international efforts in traditional evangelistic missions, development work, and media ministry entail staff and other resources in the regions a church wishes to serve. This physical presence can expose people and infrastructure...


Politics and Prose

By Byron Borger June 16, 2014 Christian Political Witness edited by George Kalantzis and Gregory W. Lee (IVP Academic; 2014) $26.00 For more than twenty years, Wheaton College has hosted a theology conference, the presentations from which are published by InterVarsity Press. Last year’s conference focused on political theology, and the resulting book, edited by George Kalantzis and Gregory W. Lee, is titled Christian Political Witness. This fine volume, with tremendous, substantive chapters, is important for anyone interested in the interface of faith and politics, and particularly how Christian theology can inform our thinking about a faithful and relevant Christian political witness. While I think this is an important book and a wonderful resource, I would note a weakness: there are no (Christian) political scientists included and no one writing as a scholar of statecraft....


Fathers and Global Maternal Health

By Michelle Crotwell Kirtley June 16, 2014  Recent progress in improving global health has been partly driven by the recognition that maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, and other health challenges are formidable barriers to economic development. In 2000, the United Nations (UN) established a series of Millennium Development Goals designed to focus international efforts on the ten most critical issues hindering development, including maternal mortality, a shortage of clean water, and a lack of education. Although most of these goals will not be fully met by the target date of 2015, laudable progress has been made in many countries, reinforcing the effectiveness of such a cooperative, international approach.  But as the world, and especially the West, evaluates various public health interventions, it is important to take a step back and consider whether our well-meaning attempts to help are doing justice to the range of roles and...


Twisted National Conversation: The Boko Haram Saga

By Stephen S. Enada June 16, 2014 In April, Nigeria woke up to Boko Haram’s shocking abduction of over 270 school girls in the quiet town of Chibok, in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria. The kidnapping has pricked global conscience and generated overwhelming protests with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign. The United States spearheaded the first phase of international support towards freeing the girls, and the United Kingdom, China, and France quickly followed in volunteering their technical and intelligence support to Nigeria to rescue the abducted girls. Sadly, our girls are still missing, and the search continues. Boko Haram (which means “Western education is abomination”) came to attention in 2009 on the heels of several religious agitations, skirmishes, and killings dating to the1960s. It renewed the long-standing push for establishing an Islamic caliphate and Sharia law in Nigeria, an ideology promoted by its late leader...


Public Justice and the Security Gap

By Timothy Sherratt June 9, 2014 On June 2nd, a particularly horrifying case of rape in northern India made headlines in major American newspapers. Two young girls were raped and murdered, their bodies left hanging in a tree. The girls were only the latest victims, not of an epidemic, but of an ingrained practice from which authorities usually look away. When the rapes were discovered, the girls’ families chose to leave their bodies as they found them to try to ensure the visibility of the crimes and the possibility of justice. At this writing, two arrests have been made, with other alleged perpetrators thought to be still at large. The same day this story broke, another caught my eye. The Anglican archbishop of Egypt, the Right Reverend Mouneer Anis, issued a brief statement in support of the election of Field Marshal Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi as the...


2014 Kuyper Lecture Response

By James W. Skillen June 9, 2014 This article is based on remarks given by James Skillen in response to the 2014 Kuyper Lecture, delivered by Victor Boutros, co-author of The Locust Effect. Victor Boutros presents a keen and urgent message: We as citizens, as well as our governments, should no longer abstract the conditions and measurements of poverty from the criminal justice institutions that are crucial for the protection of human life. Where there is little or no justice, there can be no end to poverty. Along with many others, I applaud the work of Victor Boutros and Gary Haugen and the wide network they have developed through the International Justice Mission (IJM) in fighting countless instances and modes of violence that impoverish and kill poor people around the world.  Victor emphasizes that the underlying the problem of poverty is the problem of violence against the poor. What is needed, he says, is to...


Moving Beyond the Blame Game

By Amy E. Black June 9, 2014 As Winston Churchill famously remarked, “Many forms of Gov­ern­ment have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pre­tends that democ­racy is per­fect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democ­racy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” In his recent book, Why Government Fails So Often: And How it Can Do Better, Yale Law School’s Peter Schuck shines a light on some significant imperfections of American democracy. His detailed exploration of domestic policy concludes that most federal programs fail basic tests of cost-benefit analysis and too rarely reach their intended targets. Politically popular programs continue, even if they consistently fall far short of meeting their stated...


Music: Where Words Leave Off

By Aaron Belz June 9, 2014  Where words leave off, music begins.” –Heinrich Heine “Words, after speech, reach / into silence.” –T. S. Eliot  “Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.” –Alphonse de Lamartine These observations are either plagiarized or so true that they’ve been formulated at least three times in almost exactly the same way. Words have a certain power, of course, but music has arguably more. While words appeal primarily to one section of the human brain, the language center, scientists have found that “Listening to Music Lights Up the Whole Brain.” After words are spoken, silence ensues, ambient sound quietly makes its presence felt, and that’s where music begins. Eliot often uses an image of silence filled with distant sounds, as in...


Religion: The Missing Dimension of Statecraft

By Robert J. Joustra June 2, 2014 This article is based on remarks given in response to the 2014 Kuyper Lecture “Public Justice – A Matter of Life and Death for the World’s Poor” delivered by Victor Boutros, coauthor of The Locust Effect (2014). I’m a runner. To look at me you’ll know that’s a bit generous, so let’s say I’m a jogger. I’ve been jogging now for a little over five years. Where I live in Hamilton is nestled right next to an escarpment. My route takes me up “the mountain” – which is a mountain in the same way that I’m “a runner” – and back down again. About a month ago, I was running in the late afternoon when I got flagged down by another runner. I was startled. As an introvert and an unattractive jogger, I like to keep to myself and to extend the same courtesy to others: namely, to firmly pretend they don’t exist. This runner stopped me, told me that he had seen me running...


Pubs and Coffeehouses: A Drinker’s Defense of Democracy

By Matthew Kaemingk June 2, 2014 “Our democracy had its origins in the local taverns of the revolutionary era.”  -     Ray Oldenburg Politicos on both the right and the left quarrel stridently over the true birthplace and soul of American democracy. The right typically lifts up either the family or the church. The left commonly points to movements for social justice and equality waged throughout American history. Both sides insist, with great vigor, that if American democracy is going to endure, these particular wellsprings of democratic life need to be remembered and revived. While I certainly agree with both sides on the considerable civic importance of families and civil rights rallies, churches and labor unions, I think both sides have tragically overlooked the value of a critical democratic institution—the neighborhood pub. I have long admired Ray...


A Telling Election

By Steven E. Meyer June 2, 2014  Last week, European voters went to the polls to elect all 751 members of the European Parliament. As expected, voters handed “mainstream” parties a resounding defeat by boosting the membership of left and right wing “fringe” parties. While far from having a majority, these parties may bring up their seat total from the twelve percent they had in the last Parliament to twenty-five percent now. The success of the fringe parties—many of whom oppose the European Union—has sent a shock through the entire system and raises their prospects in the elections for national parliaments over the next two years. Right wing parties did especially well in France (National Front), Denmark (People’s Party), the Netherlands (Party for Freedom) and Britain (where the United Kingdom Independence Party outpolled the established Conservative, Labour, and Liberal parties.) Within the next few months, the Parliament...


Godzilla, X-Men, and Rightly Remembering Tragedy

By Josh Larsen June 2, 2014 X-Men: Days of Future Past is a fairly forgettable entry in the increasingly crowded superhero canon, but there’s one element of the movie worth pondering: its multiple references to historical tragedies. Based on the Marvel comic books, the X-Men movies center on humans who have been born with a variety of superpowers, from the ability to read minds to the ability to heal wounds at a rapid rate. Dubbed mutants, they’re greeted with both fear and awe by the rest of society. As such, they’re inherently symbolic figures, easy stand-ins for any ostracized group – be it the European Jews of World War II or the African Americans of the Civil Rights Era. (The comics notably debuted in 1963.) X-Men, the first film adaptation, made this connection explicit, opening in a World War II concentration camp, where a boy prisoner with the ability to bend metal attracts the...


Mendacium Offisiosum

By William Edgar May 23, 2014 On April 30, 2014, the Don Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling was awarded to Edward J. Snowden and Laura Poitras at the National Press Club for their role in exposing a set of documents revealing widespread American government surveillance. The former intelligence officer who first sprang the leaks and the documentary journalist and film-maker who helped him obtain much of the information were cited for their work in exposing the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of millions of people. While admitting the Snowden decision was controversial, selection committee member Danielle Brian added that this “does not diminish the fact that his exposure of NSA domestic surveillance has had an extraordinary impact on the public policy debate — we are already seeing movement in the Congress and the White House directly because of his truth-telling.” The purpose of the annual Ridenhour Prize is to...


A Curmudgeon’s Guide to The Curmudgeon’s Guide

By Robert J. Joustra May 23, 2014 Thank God for Charles Murray, an honest curmudgeon, who has broken the curmudgeon code of silence with urgent advice for today’s young and aspirational. A serious sociologist at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Murray has written bracing and original research about the state of American society. His latest, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead is essential reading for my (Millennial) generation.  The book is about the transition from college to adulthood and the unwritten rules and conventions that can vault you into success or sandbag you into obscurity. Why care what curmudgeons think? Because any person in a successful role of authority is one. They didn’t get there by accident, and neither will you. Admittedly, this short book reads at points like a laundry list of things that Murray finds obnoxious, perhaps because the average young person’s attention span doesn’t...


The Lessons and Challenges of Syria

By Steven E. Meyer May 23, 2014 The bloody conflagration in Syria is now in its third year with over 150,000 dead, more than two million refugees, an estimated nine million internally displaced people, and catastrophic destruction of the physical environment. The city of Homs, the rebel “capital,” is now in government hands, and the Assad regime seems to be winning the war. The international community remains at a loss as to what to do. The effort to negotiate an end to the conflict collapsed almost as soon as it started and Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, has resigned after two years of failed efforts at resolution. Syria is a perpetual topic for conferences, editorials, newscasts. In one recent roundtable discussion sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, a group of foreign policy experts discussed what to do about Syria. Former US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, normally a friend of military intervention,...


From the Streets to the Pews: A Story of Holistic Healing

By Emily Davisson May 23, 2014 A version of this article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, an online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice. If you asked Reverend Darrel Fiddermon to show you around Washington, DC, he would tell you that he knows the streets better at night. As a youth selling drugs, he regularly roamed the city at 3:30 a.m. Darrel was a poor young man, going to all measures just to earn some money, but eventually, the inevitable happened. He was arrested and sentenced to community service, but little did he know that those hours he spent cleaning the Central Union Mission would lead him into the most transformative time of his entire life. Thousands of people in Washington,...


A Sober Survey of the Middle East in 2014

By Paul S. Rowe May 16, 2014 I’ll admit to having some hope that change was coming to the Middle East back in 2011. The Arab Spring had set so much in motion: Egyptian President Mubarak was forced to step down, Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddhafi was defeated in the Libyan civil war, and even Syria seemed likely to see major shifts. In Turkey, the AKP government was finally wresting power away from the military that had interfered so many times over the past few decades. And violence began to decline in Iraq. Since then, there have been reversals on every front. Egypt’s first democratically elected president was ousted for his increasingly dictatorial behavior in 2013, only to have a new strongman come to power in a bid to return to an authoritarian presidency. Libya has not recovered its stability. The civil war that the Syrian government seemed likely to lose has shifted clearly in its favor. This hasn’t calmed the crisis in Lebanon over...


Reaching the Mentally Ill Millions

By Melissa Steffan May 16, 2014 A version of this article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, an online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice. More than sixty million people suffer from some kind of mental illness, from mild depression to debilitating neuroses that, left untreated, manifest in dangerous ways. Fortunately, modern treatments for many mental conditions are as effective as antibiotics or vaccines are for physical conditions. Yet nearly two-thirds of people don’t seek mental health care, even when they desperately need it. Our society has not acknowledged mental illness as a policy priority, leaving us with no comprehensive system of mental health services. Instead of recognizing mental...


Politics and Prose

By Byron Borger May 16, 2014 The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames Kai Bird (Crown Publishers; 2014) $26.00 In an earlier “Politics and Prose” column, I recommended James Skillen’s new book The Good of Politics. It has gotten rave reviews, although this stiff critique from James K.A. Smith is notable. Don't miss Jonathan Chaplin’s reply to Smith. It is fascinating how one book can be perceived so differently. In this month’s review, I shift from the nature of Christian political theory to a very different book that chronicles the life of a spy. Pulitzer Prize winner Kai Bird’s...


Transforming the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Todd Deatherage May 16, 2014 Pro-Israeli, Pro-Palestinian, Pro-American, Pro-Peace. For five years, the Telos Group has been trying to live into these words and what it really means to dedicate ourselves to the common flourishing of Israelis and Palestinians.  For those who’ve long held to a traditional “pro-Israel” or a “pro-Palestine” position, our approach sounds either foolish or dangerous. We’ve been called both. And any who are skeptical or cynical about finding ways to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be forgiven; the pessimists indeed command the facts. This is a conflict that has defied solution for more than sixty-five years with too much war and violence, too much hatred, and too many missed opportunities.  And in that time, there’s a lot that has been broken that can never be restored. Lives have been lost that cannot be brought back. It would indeed be...


The Heart of the Sexual Assault Crisis

By Ryan O’Dowd May 9, 2014 Imagine this scenario: the parents discovered severe cuts and gashes covering their three young children’s bodies. The source was a broken window in their living room and its innumerable, transparent, and jagged shards that littered the children’s play area. The injuries sometimes occurred inadvertently, but just as often as a result of conflicts that naturally arise between mischievous and often bored children.  The parents instituted a threefold intervention plan providing immediate treatment, punishing perpetrators for cutting, and initiating a multilayered educational effort. There would be first-aid kits, classes on emergency medical aid, sessions focused on anticipating situations that lead to severe wounds, as well as discussion groups, videos, and peer-to-peer dialogue. They resolved, finally, to liberate children to report their injuries – and the injuries of others – without fear of reprisal or...


Why Art is Inherently Political

By Aaron Belz May 9, 2014 "In our age, the mere making of a work of art is itself a political act. So long as artists exist, making what they please and think they ought to make, even if it is not terribly good, even if it appeals to only a handful of people, they remind the Management of something managers need to be reminded of, namely, that the managed are people with faces, not anonymous numbers, that Homo Laborans is also Homo Ludens." —W.H. Auden, from "The Poet & The City" (1962) Humans tend toward falsehood. Alone or in community, we continually develop wrong ideas about why we’re where we are and how we therefore ought to live. Our values shift like tectonic plates, metanarrative goes askew, and suddenly what appeared to be a civilized society is allowing slavery or committing genocide. Or our personal moral commitments erode, undergo scores of tiny revisions, and we find ourselves indulging in...


Declaring Candidacy

By Stephanie Summers May 9, 2014  This article is the first installment in a series on political campaigns and public justice. At a time when many Christians, if asked, may identify only one of their political responsibilities (voting), let us consider another. God has called us as citizens to shape the political community according to a vision of Christ’s kingdom, which has not yet been revealed in its fullness. Not all of us will be called to serve as elected political officials, but we must all face the question of how the vision of Christ’s kingdom should be reflected in and guide political campaigns. Campaigns are a topic that generates intense revulsion among many Christians. It is indeed sad that so many political candidates and campaigns do not meet a baseline of speaking with civility, engaging in campaigns that are based on true statements, and upholding ethical practices. But while this revulsion...


Facing National Retirement with Grace

By Bradford Littlejohn May 9, 2014 You don’t have to look far these days for signs that Uncle Sam is starting to get old and a little slow. After coming off very flatfooted in the showdown over Syria last summer, American foreign policy has looked downright immobile as the crisis in Ukraine has unfolded over the last couple of months.   Critics on the right may blame an incompetent, indecisive, or even cowardly Obama for these missteps, but recent polls suggest that Obama’s approach to foreign intervention is actually largely in tune with the sensibilities of the American people. Even in the traditionally hawkish GOP, primary races are increasingly dominated by anti-interventionist candidates, with outspoken foreign policy dove Rand Paul emerging as a leading 2016 presidential hopeful, leading some pundits to begin talking about the “new...


Speaking Openly and Candidly on the Subject of Race

By Timothy Sherratt May 2, 2014  For Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the goal of affirmative action is cultural belonging. Writing in dissent in Schuette v BAMN, she declared, “Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: ‘I do not belong here.’ ”  Where Brown v Board pulled a vital thread to begin the unraveling of racism, affirmative action was adopted in an attempt to speed up that unraveling, to make up in a few decades the losses incurred over two-and-a-half centuries. Chief Justice Roberts argues that progress can best be achieved by putting those lost centuries behind us. Hence his formula, “The way to stop discriminating by race is to stop discriminating by race.” Justice Sotomayor evaluates progress or the lack of it by appealing to a different measure. “Race matters to a young man's view of society when he spends his...


The Supreme Court and Race in America

By Stephen V. Monsma May 2, 2014 Last week saw three events that spoke powerfully to questions of justice and race in our nation. First, the Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision, upheld the constitutionality of a 2006 initiative approved by Michigan voters that, among other things, prohibited public universities from any consideration of race in their admissions policies. The effect of the Court’s decision is to leave in the hands of a majority of state voters whether or not race can be one factor among others in public university admissions.  Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a long and passionate dissent in which she argued that it goes against our nation’s basic principles to leave the protection of the rights of minorities in the hands of the majority. “Our Constitution places limits on what a majority of the people may do,” she wrote.  Some commentators, in supporting the Court’s decision, urged that race should...


A Eulogy for the Quebec Charter of Values

By Robert J. Joustra May 2, 2014  Now begins the long funeral dirge for the Quebec Charter of Values, and we’re better for it. Of the eulogies orated for this unloved legislation, let one of them be for the profound limits of political power for making, and unmaking, the fundamental consensus at the basis of our social contract. When governments stray too far into telling us not just what to believe, but how and why to believe it, they’ve crossed a moral line.  We are in a delicate moment of Canadian pluralism; it is a moment of transition where the old “thick” Catholic-Protestant merger has almost dissolved, and the new “multicultural” consensus seems too weak and too thin to protect us against the pressures and the powers of resurging politics of identity, culture, and religion. It is an anxious age. The Quebec Charter of Values, which included a proposed ban on public employees displaying conspicuous religious symbols,...


On the Ground

Catherine E. Wilson May 2, 2014  In November of last year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the US Department of the Treasury issued regulatory guidance on “candidate-related political activities” of 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations. Since the proposed regulations were made public, the IRS received more than 150,000 comments, mostly critical, of these intended directives. The bipartisan criticisms have centered upon the expansive definition of political activity, which would restrict participation by 501(c)(4)s in nonpartisan voter registration and general communication efforts about candidates running for office. Independent Sector (IS)...


The Continuing Saga

By Steven E. Meyer April 25, 2014 More than two months into the Ukrainian crisis, the West—mostly the United States—has not been able to “solve” the issue. From Washington’s perspective, it has only gotten worse. Not only is Crimea in Russian hands, but much of eastern and southern Ukraine is now bedeviled by insurrection. This crisis resists resolution for three interrelated reasons. First, the complex state of affairs defies the usual American propensity to identify international situations as a Sisyphean struggle between virtue and turpitude. Although the Russian military has been active in eastern Ukraine, just as it was in Crimea, Russian interference has been clouded by strong, indigenous pro-Russian sympathies that have been simmering for years. While the majority population in the east is Ukrainian, much of eastern and southern Ukraine had been part of the Russian Empire since the rule of Catherine the Great during the second...


Evaluating the Affordable Care Act (2)

By Clarke E. Cochran April 25, 2014 This is the second installment in a two-part series. Preliminary indications are that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made substantial progress in reducing the number of Americans without health coverage. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports that in early March (before the final enrollment surge), uninsured adults declined by 5.4 million, bringing down the rate from 17.5 to 15.2 percent. But what are the law’s prospects from 2014 into the next presidential administration in 2017? Three paths are possible: the current road, the hopeful road, and the repeal road. The current road is the most likely scenario, no matter the 2014 election outcome. From the Center for Public Justice’s good governance and public justice perspective, it’s a road of potholes and dead ends. ACA implementation features strident political stalemate, with Republicans and Democrats...


Engaging Our Veterans: A Simple Start to Bridging the Civil-Military Divide

By Erica Borggren April 25, 2014 Since leaving the Army and returning home to Illinois in 2009, I have discovered that revealing that I have served in uniform is usually a conversation stopper. Generally, a very awkward silence follows the inevitable response of "Thanks for your service."  My sense is that the silence flows from a mix of good intention -- a desire to not say the wrong thing -- and of a perceived lack of knowledge of how to engage.  I'm clearly not alone in this experience. In a Washington Post editorial last year, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey commented on the growing sense of separation between the military and society. He noted that we "need to maintain a shared...


A Mobility Agenda

By Michael J. Gerson April 25, 2014 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa. Economic debates are always complex, and the range of economic opinion is so wide that it yields support for nearly any policy prescription.  President Harry Truman once famously asked for a “one-handed economist” because all his economic advisors were prone to say “on the other hand.”  But there is a rough consensus when it comes to defining America’s economic challenge.  Job creation is slow and wages have been stagnant for some time.  But the stock market and housing markets have recovered and advanced.  This has produced two very different outlooks on the economy.  Wall Street is generally doing well and corporate profits are high.  But many working and middle class Americans, with good reason, think the economy remains in...


Defying Authority in Obedience to Authority: Milgram’s Experiment

By David T. Koyzis April 18, 2014 Half a century ago, a junior faculty member at Yale University undertook a notorious experiment familiar to anyone who has taken an introductory psychology course. Stanley Milgram set up the experiment to find out the extent to which people will obey authority. This was motivated, in large measure, by the horrors that had taken place scarcely two decades earlier in Nazi-occupied Europe, where large numbers of otherwise decent people were caught up in an effort to eliminate entire categories of humanity. In the experiment, two persons came into the laboratory. One of them, designated the “teacher,” believed he would be taking part in a study of learning and memory. The other person, designated the “learner,” was an actor privy to the real aim of the experiment. The learner was brought into a room, strapped into a chair, and attached to...


Evaluating the Affordable Care Act (1)

By Clarke E. Cochran April 18, 2014 This is the first installment in a two-part series.  The deadline for enrolling in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) just passed. The numbers are in, and the ACA is a _____________. Well, we really don’t know if it is a success or failure at this point. The deadline is merely a milestone – important on the path that began in 2010, but only a marker on a long road. In this article, I will consider the law in light of the core mission and commitments of the Center for Public Justice. Next week, I will describe likely paths for the law over the next three years. Three essential commitments frame the work of CPJ: good governance, religious freedom, and public justice. Good Governance and the Transformation of Public Life. CPJ’s mission states that “We aspire to a United...


Good Friday and Politics

By William Edgar April 18, 2014 From the beginning of Christendom and through the end of the Middle Ages, most theologians put considerable distance between the rule of Christ and human institutions. This was an unintentional result of the attempt to have Christ rule directly, but only through the church. In his great masterpiece The City of God (c.422), Saint Augustine (354-430) began a tradition which saw the heavenly city as the ultimate goal, echoed only poorly by life on this earth; the “city of man” is only a shadow of the full reign of Jesus Christ in the “city of God.” Much later, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) divided reality into the natural and the supernatural (nature vs. grace). Christ lives in the supernatural realm, and politics exists in the natural realm. Such approaches often led to a confusion of realms. Many of the so-called “Imperial Cities” were ruled by a bishop who was in effect a governing prince....


Politics and Prose

By Byron Borger April 18, 2014 We Answer to Another: Authority, Office, and the Image of God David T. Koyzis (Pickwick Publications; 2014) $29.00   David Koyzis’s earlier book Political Visions & Illusions is one of the must-read books for those who want to understand the Center for Public Justice’s uniquely Christian view of civic life. More than being merely non-partisan, CPJ is trying to work out a distinctively Christian approach to politics. Koyzis gives us an astute, Biblically based critique of contemporary ideologies, those of the left and the right, pointing us to better understandings. Last month, I reviewed The Good of Politics by CPJ founder James Skillen. Skillen explores how the state is qualified by legal authority and how our common life as citizens should be informed by a proper...


Genome Editing, Designer Babies, and the Common Good

By Michelle Crotwell KirtleyApril 11, 2014 Although relatively absent from the news lately, the pace of progress in the field of biotechnology continues to accelerate. Researchers have now developed technology (called CRISPR, for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) that can specifically modify DNA in human cells, allowing researchers to “edit out” damaging mutations with precision at the level of a single DNA base pair. While still in its infancy, the technique could significantly improve the health and quality of life for many people who would otherwise suffer from debilitating or deadly diseases, including HIV/AIDS and cystic fibrosis.  As is the case with “traditional” gene therapy, researchers using CRISPR to fix genetic problems inside the cell must find a way to deliver the edited cells to the right location in the body or to deliver...


Poetry, Protest, and Propaganda

By Micah MattixApril 11, 2014 The poet John Ashbery once wrote that “All poetry is against war and in favor of life, or else it isn’t poetry, and it stops being poetry when it is forced into the mold of a particular program. Poetry is poetry. Protest is protest.”    The context here is important. In “Frank O’Hara’s Question” (1966) Ashbery had praised O’Hara for not tying his poetry to a political agenda. “It does not advocate sex and dope as a panacea for the ills of modern society,” Ashbery wrote, it does not speak out against the war in Viet Nam or in favor of civil rights…it does not attack the establishment. It merely ignores its right to exist, and is thus a source of an annoyance for partisans of every stripe. Whether or not O’Hara’s poetry annoyed, Ashbery’s comment did. As James Longenbach notes, Louis Simpson took exception in a Nation...


Precedent over Prudence: McCutcheon and the Scandal of Campaign Finance Jurisprudence

By Bradford LittlejohnApril 11, 2014 Last Wednesday, in a much-maligned decision in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court struck down the $117,000 aggregate limit on individuals’ campaign donations in a given election cycle. The landmark decision, which accelerated the recent deregulation of campaign finance heralded by the 2010 Citizens United decision, has drawn a firestorm of criticism from various points on the political spectrum, but especially from the left. The narrative could hardly fit the liberal script better: a wealthy Republican businessman and activist, chafing at how little he can finance Republican campaigns, teams up with the Republican National Committee to overturn established law and give the GOP’s wealthy donor base free rein. The five Republican appointees on the court uphold this coup, and the most “conservative,” Clarence Thomas, argues for the abolition of...


Building Up the Common Good

By Michael J. Gerson April, 14, 2014 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa. Recently I returned from a short visit to the Central African Republic, a country that has descended from political chaos into mass murder.  Political leaders have fed a religious conflict that has taken on a life of its own, resulting in looting, killing and endless reprisal. More than 2,000 are dead.  Perhaps 20 percent of the population is displaced. Muslims, as the targets of brutal militias, are being attacked and lynched every day.  Religious leaders – Catholic, Protestant and Muslim – are desperately trying to work together to prevent the society from being permanently torn apart.   And all this is doubly frightening because it emerged in a country with a history of religious tolerance and even intermarriage between Christians and Muslims. ...


Simply Because It’s the Right Thing to Do

By Timothy Sherratt April 4, 2014 Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Foundation and Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, refer to immigration reform as a “moral imperative” in an editorial in last Monday’s Wall Street Journal.  They identify several principles that they believe could form the foundation of a conservative approach to immigration.  They argue that a principled Christian policy should rest on “the rule of law, security and safety, family unity, and human dignity." And they call for policies to keep families together, substantially expand H1-B visas for skilled persons, and provide safe and legal work opportunities for those who enter the United States legally. They reject favorable Republican poll numbers as justification for the G.O.P.’s foot dragging on immigration reform.  Neglect of serious policy issues in the...


Training Egyptian Surgeons for Service in Rural Settings

By Jayson Casper April 4, 2014  A version of this article was first published by www.lapidomedia.com and is used with kind permission.  A new collaboration – in an old mission hospital – will train Egyptian surgeons to serve in rural settings. Sixty percent of Egyptian doctors work abroad, but this unique collaboration aims to fight this trend. Incredibly perhaps, Egyptian Christian Dr. Hanna Sherif is relocating from an élite life in Toronto, Canada to the small village of Menouf in the Nile Delta for the next five years, in defiance of a US State Department warning of “risks of travel.” An acclaimed liver surgeon and academic, Sherif is returning to his country of birth after a forty-three year absence to run a new in-country surgical training program that could help make rural provision the envy of North Africa. The Harpur Memorial Hospital...


Common Core Standards and Public Justice

By Stephanie Summers April 4, 2014 Last week, Indiana governor Mike Pence signed a measure voiding the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for education. Indiana will likely replace the CCSS with a nearly identical set of standards. The development of the CCSS was spearheaded by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Designed to “ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade.” Proponents and detractors have lauded and decried this recent development, and as is the case with most changes in public policy, the change has prompted a number of what can only be described as baseless conspiracy theories about the CCSS....


Religion and Security in the Heart of Asia

By Cory Bender April 4, 2014 It is easy to forget that the states of post-Soviet Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—are only twenty-three years old. Before 1991, they existed only as administrative divisions of the Soviet Union, which gave them their current names and borders. The Soviets did their best to mold the peoples of Central Asia into “Soviet men,” hijacking Central Asian cultures and customs to communist ends. When communism collapsed, the five newly independent states of Central Asia were left with no guiding ideology and only a weak conception of nationhood. This is a dangerous situation. If the citizens of the Central Asian republics do not identify closely with their new countries, competing identities will draw them away. Central Asians are divided among national, clan, ethnic and religious identities; if national identity is weak, the other identities could create fault lines...


Christians Don’t Own the Copyright on Noah

By Josh Larsen March 28, 2014 A few years ago, my daughter was in a church musical production of the Noah story (she was the cutest alligator you’ve ever seen). The thing is, the ark they had on stage wasn’t exactly 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. In fact, quite a few elements were downright unbiblical. So it is the case with Noah, a big-budget Hollywood version from Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky - at least if you listen to the early naysayers. While some of the complaints have actually been about measurements, others have had more thematic concerns, accusing the movie of being a tale of...


More Light, Less Heat Needed on State Religious Freedom Bills

By Stanley Carlson-Thies March 28, 2014 The freedom to exercise one’s faith out in the world–beyond personal belief and worship–has become very contested in the United States, and the impulse to confine and curtail religious freedom when it gets in the way of other rights has been steadily growing. But it seems to have become supercharged recently as some groups and commentators and many in the media have used deliberations over religious freedom bills in various states to try to permanently rebrand religious freedom that goes beyond thought and worship to be discrimination. The actual goal of these bills seems to be preservation of the status quo in these states, where marriage has not been redefined and anti-discrimination laws do not reference sexual orientation. But that status quo might be upset any day by a judge who declares same-sex marriage to be constitutional. Because judges are not empowered to craft religious freedom...


The Power of Restraint in Ukraine

By Robert J. Joustra March 28, 2014 “Showing strength” is very much in vogue in the Crimean crisis. Does it make Putin look strong? Does the United States look weak? Is the European Union handcuffed by Russian gas? Eastern Europe, ironically, has a long history of inverting what we call strength, of pulling down empires and tyrants that guns and bombs could never crush, with courage, resolve, and patience. The world owes Ukraine a debt for showing that strength of late. Putin said Russia has no desire to intervene in Ukraine beyond Crimea, the justification for which he claimed was protecting Russian-speaking people in other parts of the country. But it’s far from clear that Russian speakers are in any kind of peril. The power move of the Ukrainians has been to totally unmask Putin’s gambit; he threw up a smoke screen, and the world quietly watched as the wind carried it away and showed it for what it was-- a naked attempt to rebuild a...


The Example of Pope Francis

By Michael J. Gerson March 28, 2014 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa. The very idea of a pope has been divisive within Christianity since the Reformation.  But the views of American Protestants – and many evangelicals – shifted significantly during the papacy of John Paul II, who offered such a bold and consistent defense of human dignity.  At the same time, conservative Protestants and many Catholics found themselves allies in public debates such as abortion – and now on religious liberty.  Some deep theological differences remain, but the cooperation and sympathy between Protestants and Catholics have never been stronger.  In this light, many of us non-Catholics have been rooting for the new pope.  His task of internal reform – following sexual and financial scandals – is massive.  But...


The Venezuelan Crisis Needs a Real Mediator … Not Sean Penn

By Ruth Melkonian-Hoover March 21, 2014 Most of us have followed the troubling news coming from Venezuela: the first year of Maduro’s presidency is ending with student protests and violent government overreaction, resulting in over a dozen deaths and hundreds wounded. Sean Penn, an (in)famous celebrity ally of the socialist government, has said little about the recent turn of events; he was, however, asked by Maduro to use his keen diplomatic skills to serve as a spokesperson to the United States. Sean Penn’s ex-wife Madonna, though often politically in line with Penn, broke with Penn in a recent highly re-tweeted message, noting, “Apparently Maduro is not familiar with the phrase ‘Human Rights’! Fascism is alive and thriving in Venezuela and Russia.  . . .” Since early February, university students in Venezuela, stirred up by certain factions of the opposition, have been staging protests and blocking streets. These protestors...


DACA, ENFORCE and Faithful Execution of the Law

By Stephanie Summers March 21, 2014 Beginning this week, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began receiving renewal applications from the first individuals who received two years of deferred action under the Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. To be DACA-eligible, applicants seeking renewal must demonstrate that they meet an extensive set of criteria and pay a $465 fee. Research conducted by the Brookings Institution on the one-year anniversary of DACA found that most applicants were between fifteen to eighteen years old and were born in Mexico. Sixty-nine percent of applicants were age ten or younger when their families brought them to the...


Politics and Prose

By Byron Borger March 21, 2014 The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction James W. Skillen (Baker Academic; 2014) $22.99 It is with exceptional gladness that we announce the publication of the new book by James W. Skillen, the founder and former president of the Center for Public Justice. The Good of Politics is stunning in its scope and exceptional in its discerning insight, offering a fresh articulation of the foundational vision of CPJ. Skillen helps us ponder what we mean by public justice and how God’s good gift of the state should use legitimate authority to help order a pluralistic political community. He explores who is responsible for what and in what way political-legal authority is unique among other sorts of legitimate exercises of cultural power. As many know, Skillen possesses a remarkable ability to see the underlying presumptions and...


Ukraine: The Plot Thickens

By Steven E. Meyer March 21, 2014  On Sunday, March 16, an overwhelming majority of voters in Crimea passed a referendum to secede from Ukraine and join with Russia. On Tuesday, Crimean and Russian leaders signed a treaty to formally join Crimea with the Russian Federation. The crisis that has enveloped Ukraine for more than a month has provided an opportunity for Russia to press its interests in Ukraine, which dovetail with the interests of Russians living in Crimea who have chafed under Ukrainian rule.   The issue is a lot more complicated than the “good versus evil” scenario that defines American foreign policy in this and most other cases. Crimea was part of Russia until 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine. About two thirds of the population is Russian and many of them still resent Khrushchev’s action. The heavy Russian presence has assured Crimea a special place in Ukraine—it is the...


Legality, Morality, and Plausibility in the Crimean Crisis

By Bradford Littlejohn March 14, 2014  When Russian troops entered Crimea at the beginning of this month, Western media and diplomats quickly sought to outdo one another in their expressions of incredulity, outrage, and bellicosity, with Secretary of State John Kerry’s March 2nd NBC interview probably taking first prize in all three categories. But this firestorm of outrage has tried to make up in intensity for what it has lacked in clarity. Is Russia’s action being condemned on moral grounds, legal grounds, or both? Most of the rhetoric has centered upon Russia’s violation of “international law,” a somewhat curious emphasis given current international law’s noted shortcomings both as a rule of law and a standard of morality, and given the legal complexity of the present situation.  Although the rule of law always aspires to reflect the rule of justice, law and morality never achieve anything like...


Signature Achievements

By Aaron Belz March 14, 2014 One of my uncles, recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, lamented on the phone that his legacy would be eroded and eventually lost. His life work, all that toil, would wind up the way his mind ultimately would: less and less legible until finally blank. I tried to encourage him with the thought that God is on his throne, and that’s where we put our trust, but I knew I was one of Job’s counselors. Whether or not we have Parkinson’s, nothing prevents the onset of meaninglessness, and nothing feels worse to humans than the suspicion that we might, after all, be filed “miscellaneous.” The same suspicion haunts a friend of mine who is working on a Ph.D. in Art History at Duke. The first time I met her was at a sunny local bistro called Geer Street Garden; she was lost in an esoteric debate with the bartender about pop music while she sipped a glass of champagne. I later told her she struck me as quite...


The Skillen Lectures in El Salvador

By Lou Wagenveld March 14, 2014 In a recent letter, President and CEO John B. Hardman of the Carter Center writes of “… build[ing] a world where…the greatest fruits of peace - free and honest elections, … transparent governance…traditions like human rights, rule by law, and equal access to justice - can take root.” That vision offers a perspective on a series of lectures delivered by Jim Skillen, the Center for Public Justice’s former president, before a cross section of religious groups in El Salvador during the week immediately following the presidential elections in February. I had attended the elections as an international elections observer and then accompanied Skillen on his lecture tour. A run-off election on March 9 between Sanchez of the National Liberation party and Quijano of the Republican National Alliance is still being contested, although the Election Tribunal has called in favor of the former by the...


Anti-gay Laws are Disastrous Health Policy

By Michael J. Gerson March 14, 2014 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa. At least since the reformation, Christian thinkers have devoted a lot of attention to the idea of vocation.  Martin Luther was among the first to apply this concept to work outside the institutional church. He argued that every legitimate occupation is a calling.  Those in ministry have an important role in society.  But laypeople in various jobs and professions have their own duties and authority.  And we often get into trouble when these roles are confused. The challenge is vividly demonstrated on issues of public health such as HIV/AIDS.  Religious institutions have an essential role in calling individuals to lives characterized by morality, integrity, restraint and commitment.  If churches, synagogues and mosques do not play this...


When Religious Liberty and Other Civil Rights Collide

By Timothy Sherratt March 7, 2014 When Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoed the religious freedom bill SB 1062, a lot of sober minds nodded in approval and relief, including both US senators and a posse of business and religious leaders. A clumsy attempt to protect religious liberty had given businesses a blank check to discriminate against gays, discrediting the important First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty. Governor Brewer had acted to save Arizona from a rash of boycotts—including, it was suggested, next year’s Super Bowl—by rejecting unnecessarily broad legislation that caused more problems than it solved.  In politics, perception has a way of insisting that reality conform to it, especially if reality reflects a complex legal history. Suffice it to say that the bill did almost none of the things its critics accused it of doing. While a first reading of the bill could lead one to conclude that it was an...


Robocop Recycled: Tired Heroes, Exhausted Justice

By Robert J. Joustra March 7, 2014 Picture this: Detroit, despoiled and corrupted by failed manufacturing, is laid waste by bottom-line profiteering, its crime-ridden streets pleading for a hero of justice. Not hard to imagine. But it’s1987 with the Cold War still in swing, the Berlin Wall teetering but not toppling, and our now mighty technological societies coming into the flower of their youth. Here our imaginations meet a series of no-holds-barred sci-fi shoot-‘em-ups, none bloodier, or more bruising and brutal, than RoboCop.  That original RoboCop, an R-rated epic, was definitive in postmodern cinema. Jesse Wente, the head of film for TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, says: “On face value, RoboCop is just pure entertainment: guns and explosions. But it’s also a deeply disturbing portrait of why we find movies like that so entertaining.” Director Paul Verhoeven was famous for inverting the Hollywood...


The New Silk Roads and Beyond: Reshaping World Energy Routes (3)

By Alice-Catherine Carls March 7, 2014 This is the final installment of a three-part series on the reopening of the inland Silk Road. The first installment discussed the recent completion of two major east-west railroad routes (the Trans-Siberian route, or Eurasian Land Bridge, and TRACECA) and the emergence of north-south corridors. The second installment examined the emergence of regional organizations to manage the growth of Central Asia. This installment will look at the Silk Roads’ integration into the emerging global trade and energy routes. Integrated Global Energy and Trade Routes: Security or Insecurity Since the 1990s, the emergence of parallel inland rail and road routes, along with gas and oil pipelines along the...


International Elections Observation in El Salvador

By Lou Wagenveld March 7, 2014 This is the first installment in a two-part series.  For the first years of the twentieth century, El Salvador had weak but civilian governments. Owing in part to the ripple effects of the Bolshevik revolution during the 1920s, the military took over with a violent start in the 1930s and ruled for the next fifty years. Attempts to return to civilian rule were fraught with difficulty, and clashes between the country’s right and left factions led to a twelve-year civil war. The Peace Accords of 1992 finally made provision for elections that would include all sectors of society, including the newly forming coalition of leftist groups in a National Liberation Front (FLMN).  In many ways, the conflict in the mountains and streets was transferred to the ballot box and halls of government. El Salvador today is very polarized, which is not all that different from how it was in the past. On the right are the...


Ukraine: In the Balance Again

By Steven E. Meyer February 28, 2014 Last weekend, Ukraine pulled back from almost certain disintegration and possible civil war. The current crisis is far from over and could deepen further, impacting not only Ukraine itself, but the future of relations between a resurgent Russia and a defensive West, both of which are heavily involved there.  After weeks of violent demonstrations that spread from Kiev to other cities, the deposed president Viktor Yanukovych has fled; his government has collapsed and opposition politicians have stepped in to prepare for new elections in May. But Ukraine remains a fractured, dysfunctional state whose future is very much in doubt. The economy is in shambles, the government’s treasury is virtually empty, corruption is rampant, and security forces are in disarray. This is the second time in a decade that Ukraine has gone through such a wrenching upheaval.  In 2004, a tainted election triggered...


Edward Snowden and the Call for Just Intelligence

By Aaron Korthuis February 28, 2014 A version of this article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, an online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice. Edward Snowden has caused a lot of angst among the American people and his actions have sparked a debate that has become increasingly acute in our post-9/11 world with the unusual security problems facing the United States. However, this debate is not a new one for liberal democracy: balancing rights, especially those of privacy and security, has long stirred controversy. Developing a thoughtful response from an intentionally Christian perspective to the questions Snowden presents is very difficult. Our intellectual resources are limited, and the...


Ethiopian Migration: Opportunity or Loss?

By Becca McBride and Joanna Bascom February 28, 2014 We tend to think of migration in two ways. On the one hand, we think of it in terms of heroic individuals who exercise their agency by moving to a foreign land to increase their economic opportunities and to provide for their families. On the other hand, we perceive migrants as victims who are forced to move because of circumstances beyond their control such as war, persecution, and natural disasters, and we look for ways that they can reclaim their agency. While the dichotomy of the migrant as hero or victim can be useful in thinking about migration, our increasingly globalized context complicates this view and necessitates a more nuanced understanding. A recent news article about the migration of Ethiopian citizens to Gulf states to pursue jobs as domestic...


Seeing Syria

By Michael J. Gerson February 28, 2014 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa. Recently I returned from Jordan, one of the countries on the front line of the Syrian crisis.  I visited the massive Zaatari refugee camp, once again swelling to about 100,000 residents.  I also went to a remote, desert border crossing between Syria and Jordan, about 100 km from Iraq, where I talked to refugees just as they were finishing a risky journey and beginning a difficult new life.   Most were from besieged areas within Syria – about 40 communities in Homs, Aleppo and the suburbs of Damascus that the Syrian regime is surrounding, cutting off from humanitarian aid and attempting to shell and bomb into submission.  The refugees talked of homes destroyed by barrel bombs – oil barrels, filled with fuel and metal shards, dropped...


Missionaries, Democracy, and Political Culture

By David Koyzis February 21, 2014 Missionaries are out of fashion these days, especially in the more secular Western societies. The negative stereotypes often find their way into film. The 1991 drama At Play in the Fields of the Lord tells the story of naïve young American missionaries sent to evangelize an aboriginal community in the Amazon jungle of Brazil, with tragic consequences for everyone. As one of the characters in the film puts it, “The Lord made Indians the way they are. Who are you people to make them different?” Perhaps missionaries are cultural imperialists, imposing the culturally specific ways of the sending country on others to their detriment. Yet what if it turns out that, in bringing the life-giving message of salvation in Jesus Christ to unbelievers, missionaries were inadvertent...


Politics and Prose

By Bryon Borger February 21, 2014 Evangelicals on Public Policy Issues: Sustaining a Respectful Political Conversation edited by Harold Heie (foreword by Richard J. Mouw) with Amy Black, Paul Brink, David Gushee, Lisa Sharon Harper, Stephen Monsma, and Eric Teetsel  (Abilene Christian University Press; 2014) $17.99 In the mid-1970s, the organization now known as the Center for Public Justice created an advocacy documentary film called “What If They Gave an Election and Nobody Came?” A few of us who had run for student government at our large state university showed it there as an early argument for the relevance of principled pluralism and to suggest that religion played a role in public discourse. The film argued that apathy about and alienation from politics may be so prevalent precisely because people have little genuine choice in political options, and because the secular hegemony brackets out faith...


Evaluating Policy Proposals

By Stephanie Summers February 21, 2014 One of our many responsibilities as citizens is to understand proposed changes to government policies. With the numerous policy proposals that are beginning to attract attention in this even-numbered election year, I’m often asked how we evaluate proposed reforms to existing government policies. The short answer is that if the God-given responsibility of government and citizens in political community is to ensure public justice, then our task is to identify how policies promote governments’ upholding of structural and confessional pluralism. But how do we wrap our minds around these ideas when researching a ballot initiative or a proposed policy change?  Let me suggest two thought experiments to conduct when doing so. First, consider the roles you hold in life. For example, I am a wife and a sister, an executive in a corporation, a board member, a church member (and the list goes on). Each...


Is Fracking the Great American Success Story? (2)

By Rusty Pritchard February 21, 2014 This is the second installment in a two-part series. The first article in the series explored the phenomenal growth in shale gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, more commonly called “fracking,” and the environmental impact of this growth. But while shale gas and oil constitute a boom industry, will there be a bust? It’s not yet clear whether fracking will generate decades of energy production in the United States or if it is simply facilitating a last hurrah for American fossil fuels, postponing the inevitable decline that we started on in the 1980s. What is clear is that individual wells peter out much more rapidly than conventional oil and gas wells do. According to one financial analyst, conventional wells may remain productive for decades, but shale wells decline by sixty percent in the...


Disabled and Forgotten

By Michael J. Gerson February 14, 2014 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  Attending a Special Olympics event in Africa – like the one for young children I attended in Lilongwe, Malawi – is very much like attending a similar event in America. There is a mix of abled and disabled children, designed to encourage an inclusive experience. The intellectually disabled children have grown close to the coaches, who both affirm and challenge them. Parents seem pleased with the social and physical progress their children have made, and the children themselves often find abilities that no one suspected. For the intellectually disabled, sports and play have tremendous value.  But outside this wonderful event here in Africa, the cloud of stigma lies heavy. Tribal elders and others often tell parents that their children are worthless...


The Devil’s in the Details (Literally)

By Stephen V. Monsma February 14, 2014 A controversy erupted in Oklahoma recently when the Oklahoma legislature erected a privately commissioned stone memorial inscribed with the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol. The Oklahoma ACLU and an organization called American Atheists filed lawsuits in federal court, claiming a violation of the First Amendment and the separation of church and state.   But what has stirred the most media attention is a formal application to the state’s Capitol Preservation Commission by the Satanic Temple of New York to place a seven-foot statue of Satan on the capitol grounds. The proposed statue depicts Satan as a goat-headed being with horns and a long beard, flanked by two children with adoring looks.  The head of the Satanic Temple has said that in placing the Ten Commandments on the Capitol grounds, Oklahoma has opened “the door to public places for us.” The...


The Virtues of Shutting Up

By Adam Joyce February 14, 2014  Washington, DC is a city of words. American democracy is loud, obese with speech, and bursting with word manufacturers: advocacy groups, public figures, think tanks, newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio stations, talk shows, debate shows, manifestos, political satire shows, endless iterations of the talking head, all congested with opinion. This is nothing new. The sky has been falling since 1776. America has always enjoyed garrulousness. George Orwell once said, “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.”[1] This is not entirely true. One of the clearest statements in twentieth-century politics was “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Our national politics is not short on sincerity, but sincerity does not save our discourse. Amidst the babble of point, counterpoint, pseudo-point—the incessant Hegelian dialectic of the news cycle—there is something to be...


SOTU and the Failure of Politics

By Bradford Littlejohn February 14, 2014 In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama surprised many observers with his not-so-veiled threats to sidestep Congress and act unilaterally when possible: The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress. . . . Some [of my proposals] require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.  At several points throughout the speech, he announced his intention to use the extensive bureaucracy and discretionary power of the executive branch to take action where Congress had failed. Needless to say, such remarks provided an easy target for criticism from the...


Six More Weeks of Ideological Winter?

By Timothy Sherratt February 7, 2014 What would it take to reboot the political debate for 2014 to give more attention to policy issues in their own right and less notice to the ideological dynamics that engulf them? Some will answer that there’s nothing on the horizon to suggest such a rebooting. But in the last two weeks, some movement on this front has come from both the president and from Republican leaders. Widely expected to launch a major initiative on income inequality in his State of the Union address, President Obama resisted that temptation. The language of income inequality is the language of redistribution, most associated with big government, and that would have restarted an endless loop of accusation and rebuttal, our political version of Groundhog Day.  Instead, the president kept his proposals modest and discrete, with a focus on extending unemployment benefits, hiring the long-term unemployed, and raising...


Challenging Sex-Selective Abortion in the United States

By Michelle Crotwell Kirtley February 7, 2014 In 2012, the sensational events surrounding the defection of Chen Guancheng—a vocal opponent of China’s one-child policy—to the United States brought national attention to the tragedy of sex-selective abortion, particularly in countries such as China and India.   Sex-selective abortion is indeed appalling because it combines two evils that subvert human dignity: elective abortion and gender discrimination. But as we in the United States race to defend the dignity of girls and women abroad, we have done very little to prevent these same evils here at home.  Because of advances in genetic testing technology, parents in the United States no longer need to wait until eighteen to twenty weeks into pregnancy for an ultrasound to determine the gender of their...


The Religious Freedom Wars

By Robert J. Joustra February 7, 2014  If it’s God’s Century, like Philpott, Toft, and Shah say, we’d best get an idea of what he’s doing. Divination has a long and distinguished history, but don’t fret the pig entrails and tea leaves. Knox Thames, Director of Policy for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, has given a sober and clear-minded account of what to expect in religion and foreign affairs in 2014. But what’s surprising, and not a little baffling, is the renewed resistance religious freedom is getting not just abroad, but at home. The religious freedom wars have just begun. Thames names several trends for the year ahead. He predicts increasing pressure on Christians in the MENA region, especially...


The New Silk Road and Beyond: Reshaping the World Economic Geography

By Alice-Catherine Carls February 7, 2014 This is the second of three installments discussing the reopening of the inland Silk Road. The first installment discussed the recent completion of two major east-west railroad routes (the Trans-Siberian route, or Eurasian Land Bridge, and TRACECA) and the emergence of north-south corridors and numerous spurs and extensions. This installment examines the emergence of regional organizations to manage the growth of Central Asia. The third installment will look at the Silk Roads’ integration into the emerging global trade and energy routes.  Integration, Security, and Regional Development A growing number of international organizations have formed alongside the Silk Road to support regional stability and state economic development, both vital to...


Is Fracking a Great American Success Story? (1)

By Rusty Pritchard January 31, 2014 This article is the first installment in a two-part series. The decline of America’s fossil fuel industry is a thing of the past, thanks to the booming growth of shale-gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), a decades-old technique increasingly applied to marginal deposits of gas and oil. Shale gas production grew by 45 percent a year between 2005 and 2010, and it now accounts for about a quarter of US natural gas production (up from 4% in 2005). Domestic oil production, which had peaked in the 1980s and then steadily declined, increased as well. By the end of 2013, the United States was poised to overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia in oil and gas production, providing national income, thousands of energy jobs, and a bewildering array...


Health Care Redux

By Roy Clouser January 31, 2014 Amid all the controversies that have swirled around the Affordable Care Act, a more basic issue has become obscured. But while that issue has receded into the background, it still remains a driving motivation behind much of the opposition to the Act. That issue is this: does it fall within the proper scope of government to pass any act at all to make health care accessible to its citizens? We should not confuse this question with people’s opinions of the actual provisions of the Act: just about everyone thinks the Act needs improvement. But some opponents of the Act think government has absolutely no responsibility in health matters, while others think that state governments may have such a responsibility but the federal government does not. Let’s consider first the objection against any and all government involvement in health matters. The Declaration of Independence, one of the...


A Way Out of the Syrian Debacle

By Steven E. Meyer January 31, 2014 The first session of UN-sponsored talks in Geneva between representatives of the government of Syria and the main opposition groups has now ended. The talks are fragile; just getting two of the warring parties in the same room has been a long, difficult process. The Syrian civil war is now in its third year, well over 100,000 people have been killed, and both sides have engaged in incredible brutality. Despite the great need to end this war, the likelihood of success—at least right now—is very slim for two interrelated reasons.  First, the Geneva I communiqué’s stipulations, which lay out the terms of a future settlement, will be difficult to accomplish. The communiqué calls for a cease-fire, humanitarian measures, and a transition government to replace the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Each of these involves what are considered zero-sum surrenders by one side or the other. Relinquishing...


Congress and the State of the Union

By Michael J. Gerson January 31, 2014 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa. Having worked, in one way or another, on six State of the Union addresses, I know the effort and energy they require.  For months, it is the main focus of the president’s speechwriters.  For weeks, it occupies the White House senior staff.  The press buildup is intense.  The evening of the speech is dramatic as the president takes the center stage of American politics, making his congressional opposition look small in comparison.  And yet there is little evidence that State of the Union addresses have a large or lasting influence on public opinion.  The speeches themselves, which are required to be a laundry list of policy, are seldom memorable.  And even a day after the speech, the political discussion moves on.  After all the...


The State of the Union: Hope with Guts in It

By William Edgar January 24, 2014  On January 28, 2014, President Barack Obama will deliver the State of the Union address, his sixth since entering office in 2009. According to tradition, the Speaker of the House officially invites the president to deliver the message before a joint session of Congress. Although the dispatch is somewhat pro-forma, this year, Speaker John Boehner stated, “In the coming year, Americans expect Washington to focus on their priorities and to look for common ground in addressing the challenges facing our country. In that spirit, we welcome an opportunity to hear your ideas, particularly for putting Americans back to work.” Certainly the president will have to address the jobless and the underemployed. In last year’s State of the Union address, he announced that, “After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created six million new jobs.” One of the many applause lines was,...


What is a Monument to Justice?

By James W. Skillen January 24, 2014 This article was originally published in 1989 for the Christian Legal Society. It has been republished as a collection of pieces in the Journal of Christian Legal Thought (2 J. Christian L. Thought, at 13 (Fall 2012)) This past January I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Memphis, Tennessee, on the weekend of the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. At one break in the conference proceedings, several of us set off to find the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King had been shot and killed in 1968.  Certainly my motives for going to the Lorraine were mixed. Simple curiosity would have been enough to drive me there. But I also wanted to catch a sense of that important moment in history. Most northern, white, evangelical Christians of my age were slow to appreciate the great civil rights...


The Thin Satire of The Wolf of Wall Street

By Josh Larsen January 24, 2014 In principle, I’m on the same page as The Wolf of Wall Street, director Martin Scorsese’s savagely black comedy about debauched, unscrupulous stock brokers. The movie, recently nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, lampoons the frat-boy amorality of finance culture and sniggers at the largely ineffectual governmental attempts to rein it in. You need not have camped out with the Occupy Wall Street crowd to be open to a biting satire about such subjects.  Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort, a blazingly ambitious young trader who parlays shady stock deals into his own Wall Street empire. Awash in questionably obtained cash, he and his merry band of (mostly male) cohorts blow it on drugs, prostitutes, and outrageous parties in which the drugs and prostitutes converge in one tragic, dehumanizing package. Scorsese,...


Sister Wives, Polygamy, and Cohabitation

By Julia K. Stronks January 24, 2014 Last December, a federal judge in Utah ruled that some state laws regulating living arrangements violate the Due Process and First Amendment clauses of the Constitution. This case caused conservatives to reiterate their ongoing concern that once same-sex marriage became legal, the barrier against polygamy would be the next to fall. While the Utah decision focused on how laws are enforced and not on polygamy, those concerned with how government supports marriage are right to note that the conversation is not over. No matter what our own tradition teaches about marriage, we have more thinking to do about the role of government, the granting of a marriage license, and legal prohibitions on behavior. In Brown v Buhman, the family highlighted in the reality show Sister Wives filed a complaint...


The Second Chance Act: What Smart Bipartisan Legislation Can Do

By Harold Dean Trulear January 17, 2014 In the late 1990s, a small group of political, religious, and community leaders saw an unforeseen consequence of the bipartisan efforts of government to get "tough on crime." Between the War on Drugs launched by the Republicans and harsh mandatory minimums supported by Democrats, jails and prisons filled rapidly without much thought that 95 per cent of prisoners return to society at some point. Evangelical leaders gathered on the eve of the new century to develop Operation Lifeline in anticipation of the swelling numbers of formerly incarcerated persons due to return after 2000. President-elect Bush met with religious leaders in Austin, Texas in December 2000 to unveil his plans for an Office of Faith-Based and Community Affairs, with prisoner reentry as the leading agenda item in its portfolio. African American church leaders created Operation 2006...


Politics and Prose

By Byron Borger January 17, 2014  The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence  Gary A. Haugen with Victor Boutros (Oxford University Press; 2014) $27.95 One would be hard-pressed to suggest a more emotionally gripping, compelling, and persuasive book than this new one by CPJ friend and ally, Gary Haugen, loaded as it is with intimately told stories of injustice, rape, and unprosecuted crime. Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission (IJM), reports from his work on the frontlines against human trafficking with relentless passion and hope. This may be his most important book yet. Haugen opens his book with riveting descriptions of his on-the-ground documentation of genocide in Rwanda when he worked for the United Nations Special Commission. His stunning insight -- the theme and purpose of this new work -- began as...


The Decline of US Power

By Steven E. Meyer January 17, 2014 Once again, Iraq and Afghanistan are front page news. Iraq is torn by a violent Sunni-Shiite split and al-Qaeda has taken control of two prominent cities. The country once again is near civil war.  Earlier this month, the US intelligence community produced a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) predicting that once US forces leave Afghanistan, the US-backed government almost certainly will collapse. (One agency, usually the CIA, writes an NIE and coordinates with most of the other fifteen intelligence agencies to publish the report as an intelligence “community” product.)  Coming on the heels of the NIE is the publication of a new book by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates which slams President Obama for not believing in his own Afghanistan policy.   On top of this, Afghan President Karzai’s refusal so far to sign a bilateral defense agreement with Washington has added fuel to the...


The Fight Against Poverty

It has been 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson declared an unconditional war on poverty, and the result is still hotly debated.  Conservatives tend to dismiss it as failure; liberals declare it a success. The reality, as usual, is more mixed and complex than a shorthand political judgment.   Some Great Society programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, are great achievements of compassion – but also in need of serious reform.  Johnson’s expansion of Social Security benefits took millions of seniors out of poverty – but this system is now under serious demographic strains.  The war on poverty was most successful in helping the elderly – their poverty rates sharply declined.  It was less effective in helping young mothers with children.  The expansion of Aid to Families with Dependent Children created a cascade of unintended consequences.  It took a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, to eventually sign welfare reform...


Now is Not the Time for a Major Initiative on Inequality

By Timothy Sherratt January 10, 2014 Ever since a speech President Obama gave at the Center for American Progress in December, journalists have predicted that he would seek to boost his party’s chances in November by wrapping several related items into a major initiative on income inequality, akin to President Johnson’s War on Poverty. If the president does so, the State of the Union address later this month will be the likely setting. But in his White House speech on extending unemployment benefits earlier this week, President Obama concentrated on the human face of unemployment, made only a passing reference to inequality, and he offered little criticism of his Republican opponents. I think the president would be wise to hold his present course. This first full week of the New Year, American media outlets are suddenly abuzz with the 2014 elections. From St. Louis, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Denver to Washington, New York, and Boston, staff...


Shedding Christian Blood: The Perils of Naïve Solidarity

By Bradford Littlejohn January 10, 2014 With the spread of globalization has come a growing consciousness among Western Christians of the global extent of Christianity, and with it, a growing concern for the challenges faced by our co-religionists living in the developing world. The resulting sense of global Christian solidarity, especially with those suffering for their faith, has borne remarkable fruit. Organizations such as Voice of the Martyrs, the Barnabas Fund, and Christian Freedom International advocate for persecuted Christians and assist them in their plight. Churches in America and western Europe have added the persecuted to their prayer lists and used social media to invoke intercession for particularly urgent needs. Christians have even lobbied for foreign policies geared toward protecting Christians.  In his recent book Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective, theologian Peter J. Leithart...


Snow Poetry

By Aaron Belz January 10, 2014  When a friend recently asked for winter poem recommendations, Wallace Stevens’s “Snow Man” was the first that came to mind: “One must have a mind of winter / to regard the frost and the boughs / of the pine trees crusted with snow…”  The next was Robert Frost’s “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and the third was T. S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi,” which begins, “A cold coming we had of it, / Just the worst time of year . . . The ways deep and the weather sharp, / The very dead of winter.”  What is it about snow that moves us? Snow is a perennial, multipurpose literary symbol suggesting many things. One is forgetfulness; in The Waste Land Eliot writes, “Winter kept us warm, covering / Earth in forgetful snow, feeding / a little life with dried tubers.” Another is purity, as in Isaiah 1: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white...


John Kerry and Middle East Peace: Negotiating a Hard Bargain

By Paul S. Rowe January 10, 2014 I recently finished reading a biography of the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Up until the time that he signed a peace treaty with Egypt, Begin was an uncompromising revisionist. He had maximal ambitions that Israel would eventually include all the territory it now occupies – and the state of Jordan as well. He rose to power condemning the Labor governments of the 1970s for seeking compromises in return for peace. And yet, he was eventually persuaded to commit Israel to returning the entire Sinai to Egypt as a necessary concession to ensure a peace treaty. One point that stood out to me in reading his biography was the importance he placed on bargaining hard.  He argued that if one entered negotiations promising concessions from the beginning, the game was lost already. That assertion gives me some marginal feeling of hope for Secretary of State John Kerry as he continues on with his...


Society and Dependence

By Michael J. Gerson January 3, 2014 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  In recent weeks, I’ve had a vivid, personal reminder of how suddenly dependent on others we can become.  After a cancer diagnosis, I had surgery to remove a tumor.  The procedure was successful, but left me in the hospital for a few days and recovering for a few weeks.   Many have had a similar experience at some point in their lives.  One day, you are self-sufficient and self-reliant.  The next, you are dependent on machines and drugs and the care of doctors, nurses and your family.  It is not a pleasant experience to feel helpless, even if you know it is probably temporary.  You are grateful for all the help – but particularly grateful when you no longer need it.  For me it...


Elshtain’s Epiphany

By John D. CarlsonJanuary 3, 2014 James Joyce’s classic “The Dead” unfolds over the Feast of Epiphany. The story’s final passage is replete with contradictions, evoking splendor and melancholy, lightness and darkness; it captures the levity of spirit that is born of solemnity, as it brings the living into communion with the dead: It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and...


The New Silk Road and Beyond: Reshaping the World Economic Geography

By Alice-Catherine Carls January 3, 2014 On October 29, 2013, on the ninetieth anniversary of the Turkish Republic’s founding, a long-awaited and crucial segment of the Silk Road was officially opened. Just under one mile long, the Marmaray Tunnel is the deepest of its kind in the world at 62 meters under the Bosporus. Loaded with historical symbolism, yet a harbinger of the future, it places Turkey again at the center of the Silk Road.  The inland Silk Road, a 5500-mile trek from China to Istanbul, remained closed for six centuries (1349-1945). A late nineteenth century dream, its reopening was delayed by World War I and the rise of the Soviet Union, and the Cold War caused further roadblocks. Only after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 did its reopening become possible. It was the last great endeavor of the twentieth century, and today, twenty years later, it handles a significant part of...


2014, The Year of the Christian College

By Robert Joustra January 3, 2014 Staring down the barrel of 2014 my gut is that we’re living on the cusp of a renaissance of the Christian college, of its rediscovery not as merely ‘Christian’ education, but as public education. The tipping point on recycling elusive brands like ‘liberal arts’ is coinciding with a post-secular moment, one in which the ends of public service, of the common good, have started to redefine the means of liberal arts. The idea that human knowledge is plural, and useful human knowledge must therefore have a plural character, lacks the subversive ethos that it once had during the halcyon collegiate days of positivism. Postmodernism became post-secularism, and the coffee shop zeitgeist has feasted to bursting on a deconstructive hubris, a perpetual suspicion of singular, positive arts...


“Orange States” and “Tricolor States” in Post-Soviet Ukraine

By David Koyzis December 20, 2013  The last several national elections have revealed the United States to be nearly permanently divided into “red” and “blue” states, labels originating in the electoral maps posted by television networks as they cover presidential campaigns. But few Americans are aware that Ukraine is similarly, and more intractably, divided along political lines. In the United States, the red states tend to support the Republican Party while the blue states support the Democratic Party. But, as more than one observer has pointed out, every state is actually a slightly different shade of purple, with blue counties concentrated in the metropolitan areas and red outside these regions. In other words, red and blue appear to represent not so much separate cultures and ideological commitments, but rather a traditional rural-urban split, exacerbated by considerable partisan petulance. While antagonism between Republicans and...


Christianity’s “War on Christmas”

By Matthew Kaemingk December 20, 2013 I am beginning to suspect that American Christians are waging a secret, subtle, and altogether devastating war on Christmas. Left unchallenged, this Christian assault on the “reason for the season” threatens to leave the holiday with little or no public power at all. Each year, with the liturgical regularity of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, countless stories emerge on cable news of anxious and fretful Christians protesting the loss of their cultural dominance. And each year, with the same liturgical regularity, the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart (a Jewish kid from New Jersey) stands in mocking amazement at American Christianity’s inexplicable insecurity. From a position of overwhelming cultural power, American Christianity continues to protest its lack of total cultural hegemony. I might be completely wrong, but from what I can tell, American Christianity’s public anxiety and angst appears to...


Politics and Prose

By Byron Borger December 20, 2013  Evangelical Peacemakers: Gospel Engagement in a War-Torn World edited by David P. Gushee (Wipf & Stock; 2013) $19.00.  On a crisp autumn morning in September 2012, a fascinating group of diplomats and citizen activists, missionaries and experts in interfaith dialogue, just war theorists and advocates of nonviolence, gathered for the Evangelicals for Peace Summit on Christian Moral Responsibility.  As booksellers, we were thrilled to see this diverse crowd and to be a part of the event.  The short version of the longer story behind this gathering is that Rick Love, a missionary in mostly Muslim countries who learned to deeply love and desire to understand Muslims, slowly developed a great passion for peacemaking.  He started Peace Catalyst International, a multidimensional organization that trains people to be Holy...


Seeking Asylum, Seeking Work

By Jeremy Taylor December 20, 2013  A version of this article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, an online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice. Imagine that you have just escaped your home country by foot, boat, train, or air because of an imminent danger or risk of persecution. If you are fortunate enough to survive such a trip to American borders, you will be greeted as an asylum-seeker, not a refugee. Although you might see yourself as a refugee, the United Nations classifies you as an asylum-seeker, since your claims have not yet been evaluated for verification. While this evaluation and verification proceeds, it is possible that...


Thinking Like a Third Party

By Timothy Sherratt December 13, 2013 Demonstrations by immigration reform advocates at the homes, offices, and favorite diners of Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor over the Thanksgiving holiday gave imaginative symbolism to the plight of families divided by or living in fear of deportation. Stalled immigration legislation is one more casualty of the deep divisions known collectively as polarized politics. Polarized politics has gorged on issues whose sensitivity for Christians obliged them to take sides, with a resulting politicization of Christianity. With nowhere else to go on abortion or religious liberty, for example, many made their way to the G.O.P. Hostility on those issues from the other side of the aisle created an apparent seamlessness to the Christian Right’s alignment with neo-conservatism. Understandable though that identification has been—and recall that we are speaking of overwhelming support for...


Can the Government Keep Me Healthy?

By Michelle Crotwell Kirtley December 13, 2013 Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a measure that would eliminate artificial trans fats from food marketed in the United States. Citing decades of medical research and the conclusions of several expert panels, the FDA stated that the agency has “tentatively determined that there is no longer a consensus among qualified scientific experts that PHOs [partially hydrogenated oils], the primary dietary source of industrially-produced trans fatty acids, are safe for human consumption, either directly or as ingredients in other food products” (78 FR 67169). Indeed, the weight of medical evidence indicates that...


Better People

By Aaron Belz December 13, 2013 Does reading poetry make us better people? Reading fiction does, or so The Guardian reported in October, tending to confirm a long-standing core assumption of the humanities. By creating empathy and providing models of human interaction, literary fiction helps its consumers care about each other’s lives and so, the reasoning goes, become better neighbors. If this is true, it has obvious implications for democracy. But what about poetry? Poetry might make its readers more eloquent, clever, interested; it socializes us into patterns established by our distant ancestors. Reading Frost we feel the organization of fields and homesteads in turn-of-the-century Vermont. Reading Dickinson we’re tuned to the clockwork of the mind and psyche. In Hopkins’s “Pied Beauty,” words like...


Justice in the Minimum Wage Debate

By Brad Littlejohn                                                                    December 13, 2013 In recent months, and particularly in recent weeks, a series of campaigns and strikes by fast-food workers have put the issue of the minimum wage squarely back onto the national radar. The minimum wage, first established by law in 1938, began at the equivalent of $4.25/hr. in 2013 dollars (CPI adjusted) and rose to nearly $11/hr. (2013 dollars) by 1968. Minimum wage hikes roughly kept pace with inflation through the 1970s, but then stagnated for nearly 30 years, resulting in a minimum wage today of $7.25/hr., or only $15,000 a year on a full-time salary. Recent campaigns by fast-food workers have called for the wage to more than double to a “living wage” of $15/hr., while more sober...


Religious Freedom vs. Civil Rights

Religious Freedom vs. Civil RightsBy Stanley Carlson-Thies The claim is being made more and more often: when a religious organization asserts its religious freedom right to exempt itself from a general government rule, civil rights critics say that the organization actually is seeking to oppress people who don’t share its convictions.  The ACLU says that is what is happening when Catholic hospitals won’t perform elective abortions. Sara Kohn argues that when Hobby Lobby does not want to cover certain contraceptives in its employee health plan because of religious conviction, it is actually trying to “contort government to impose the religious views of some onto many.” A Political...


The “Crack-Smoking Mayor of Toronto” and the Politics of Middles

By Robert J. JoustraDecember 6, 2013  Hardly could you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than the Toronto City Council these days. It’s theater, not fine theater, mind you, more Trailer Park Boys meets House of Cards, but it gets huge ratings. This is a real problem for the actual work of politics which has not only ground to a halt, but has derailed in a firebomb to rival the Hindenburg. Now most pundits are wondering if these pieces can even be put back together again. Shrapnel from the blast has literally reached around the world.  What a delicious scandal for those of us who can now tune into the nightly news to get our Springer fix: councilors bowled over, lewd shouting matches, NSFW gob smackers, all but WWF collapsible metal chair throwing, which I predict is still ahead.  The old counterintuitive maxim among political scientists is that too much politics in the news, too high of a...


Nelson Mandela and the World After Apartheid

By Gideon Strauss December 6, 2013 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18, 1918 - December 5, 2013) first came to national prominence in the 1950s as a leader of the African National Congress’s Defiance Campaign against laws oppressing black South Africans.  Following the March 1960 Sharpeville Massacre in which police officers killed sixty-nine protesters, Mandela renounced nonviolent resistance and with other members of the ANC formed its armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). In 1962 Mandela was sentenced to prison for life because of his participation in this armed struggle. During his twenty-seven years in prison, Mandela became the most widely recognized symbol of the struggle against apartheid. In February 1990 Mandela was released from prison as part of a process of negotiations that eventually led to a relatively peaceful transition from apartheid to a non-racial constitutional...


The Twentieth Anniversary of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

By Kim Colby December 6, 2013 The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) remains a singular achievement in our country’s long history of religious freedom. When Congress enacted RFRA in 1993 by overwhelming bipartisan majorities, it rededicated the United States to religious liberty for all Americans.    RFRA’s bipartisan passage. President Clinton signed RFRA into law on November 16, 1993.  Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy together led the effort to pass RFRA in the Senate. The Senate passed RFRA by a vote of 97-3 on October 27, 1993, followed by a unanimous voice vote in the House on November 3.                  Why RFRA was necessary. RFRA was an urgent response to the Supreme Court’s decision in 1990 in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990). The Smith decision,...


Our Faulty Health Care Anchors

By Clarke E. Cochran November 22, 2013  American political and social life is driven partly by obvious ideological and partisan commitments – liberal, conservative, progressive, and libertarian; Democrats and Republicans and Independents. Underlying these, however, are deep cultural anchors, unacknowledged beliefs and commitments that possess a quasi-religious character.[i] I count at least five such anchors that profoundly affect the health care system and perpetuate its ills: Fear, especially fear of lost privileges. Those with good insurance and providers with comfortable incomes worry about health care reform, including Medicare reform, which might upset their prerogatives. Physicians fear loss of income and loss of independence if spending is reined in or if they must join Accountable Care Organizations or follow evidence-based guidelines. Average citizens fear “rationing” and “death...


Finding Common Ground in the Culture War

By Stephen V. Monsma November 22, 2013  The Senate recently passed and sent to the House of Representatives the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) legislation. Its basic goal is to protect LGBT persons against discrimination in employment by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the bases on which persons may not be discriminated against. This is, of course, a controversial issue and an example of what many refer to as an ongoing “culture war” in American society.  Many faith-based colleges and universities, social service agencies, and overseas relief and development organizations rooted in religious traditions believe that those involved in sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage are violating God’s will for human beings and thus those faith-based entities should not hire them. These faith-based organizations would no more hire someone engaged in sexual relations with someone of the same sex as they...


Non-State Efforts to Monitor Corruption in Intercountry Adoption

By Becca McBride and Brooke Bonnema November 22, 2013 This article is the final installment in a three-part series. The first two articles in this series identified government efforts to monitor corruption in intercountry adoption. I discussed the challenges of the international legal framework for intercountry adoption and identified the ways that states try to overcome these challenges. However, since governmental regulation should never substitute for community or individual responsibility, how can Christian organizations and Christian individuals claim responsibility for ethical adoptions and partner with the governmental layers of accountability?   As the gatekeepers facilitating the adoption process, adoption agencies and advocates are at the heart of monitoring and preventing corruption in intercountry adoption. These groups educate adoptive parents on the proper channels for adopting from other countries and help...


The Modern Witness of 12 Years a Slave

By Josh Larsen November 22, 2013 What is it we’re doing when we watch 12 Years a Slave, the critically acclaimed film based on the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup, a free African-American who was kidnapped and sold into slavery? Are we simply remembering? Are we mourning? Is a form of reparation taking place? Is watching and acknowledging a small way of enacting justice? Or is it the opposite – a way to feel good about feeling bad, to shake our heads in disapproval at the past without reckoning with the injustices of the present? 12 Years a Slave doesn’t really allow that last option. One of the things that distinguishes it from other dramatizations of historical atrocities – Schindler’s List being the most prominent example – is the way the movie refuses to let its audience be passive. Director Steve McQueen, who previously made...


A Papal Antidote for Our Doctrinaire Politics?

By Timothy Sherratt November 15, 2013 When House Republicans agreed to reopen the government last month, few regarded that agreement as anything but a temporary truce in the ideological warfare fought by the two parties over many years. The shutdown resembled a conflict in which one side violated an unstated agreement not to use certain kinds of weapons. True, the Republicans fared badly in public opinion polls during the shutdown, so G.O.P. leaders may avoid another shutdown in the near term.  As we enter the next election season, the governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia failed to deliver a negative verdict on the strategies of the Tea Party and other conservatives in the Republican Party. Moderate G.O.P. Governor Christie’s win was widely expected against a weak opponent, while conservative Republican Attorney General Cuccinelli’s narrow loss in Virginia was as much a function of being outspent many times over by Terry...


Politics and Prose

By Byron Borger November 15, 2013 Justice Matters: Personal Encounters in the Global South Nicholas P. Wolterstorff (Baker Academic; 2013) $21.99 Nicholas Wolterstorff is one of today’s most esteemed philosophers. Raised in a conservative Dutch Reformed community in Minnesota, Wolterstorff studied and eventually taught at Calvin College in Grand Rapids and later moved to a significant chair at Yale University. Those who know the early history of the Center for Public Justice will know his name, along with those of other colleagues and public intellectuals who came of age in the heyday of what was sometimes called the reformational movement.  Some of these public thinkers -- Richard Mouw, Alvin Plantinga, Mark Noll (along with Lewis Smedes, Bernard Zylstra, and Gerald Vandezande) -- are considered elder statesmen within Reformed evangelicalism today. CPJ would not be where it is without the intellectual...


State Efforts to Monitor Corruption in Intercountry Adoption

By Becca McBride November 15, 2013 This article is the second installment in a three-part series. The first article in this series identified the challenges in getting states to commit to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, the multilateral treaty governing the practice. Because the states with overwhelming numbers of vulnerable children tend to hesitate to commit to the treaty, what are the implications of this reality for ethical adoptions?  How can we control corruption if other states fail to commit to the treaty designed for that very purpose? This second article focuses on how adopting states have taken on responsibility for controlling corruption, even in the absence of binding international law on the practice. When the United States allows its citizens to adopt from states that have not committed to the Hague Convention, this presents several problems in controlling corruption. The first problem...


Dignifying Elder Care

By Melissa Steffan November 15, 2013 A version of this article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, an online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice. The majority of conversations I have as a young professional center on just that: being young and professional. In many discussions, it seems as if those two descriptors are immutable elements of my identity. They are not. One day I will be neither young nor a working professional—and at the risk of stating the obvious, the same is true for every other person. Yet I can’t remember the last time I engaged in a conversation about the elderly and the issues related to them. My apathy is symptomatic of an all-too-common concern: We tend...


For the Love of Cliché

By Aaron Belz November 8, 2013 Why do the rhetorics of business, politics, academia, and journalism develop their own dialects? We might assume forward-thinking leaders in each vertical would want to keep their respective vocabularies, how shall we say?—“impactful.”   Cliché and jargon perform a valuable service to the extent that they enable us to more easily traffic complex or nuanced concepts. “Word around the campfire” and “water cooler gossip” are fair ways of describing a particular type of office buzz. These phrases mean something to “the team.” But cliché is better known for being harmful, reflecting laziness and even boredom with its subject matter. “At the end of the day” such considerations do matter, because the way we speak reflects, fundamentally, who we are.   Lauren Collins’s “Mother Tongue”...


International Efforts to Regulate Adoption

By Becca McBride November 8, 2013 This article is the first installment in a three-part series. A recent Wall Street Journal article cautioned Christians about the need to monitor corruption in overseas adoptions. The unfortunate reality of corrupt practices in intercountry adoption raises the question of who is responsible for monitoring these adoptions and enforcing standards to protect children, birth parents, and adoptive parents. Intercountry adoptions require coordinating legal systems across borders where adoptions must be processed in the origin state of the child such that the child can legally be transferred to another family in another state. With such a process, we can imagine the multiple levels of responsibility held by international organizations and treaties and the policies and actions of the states sending and receiving children....


Prudence: The Forgotten Conservative Virtue

By Brad Littlejohn November 8, 2013   In my previous contributions for Capital Commentary on the drones and surveillance debates, respectively, I focused on the danger of allowing undue preoccupation with the virtue of prudence to result in neglecting the virtue of justice. When our authorities worry so much about taking pre-emptive steps to protect us—surely an exercise of prudence—that they no longer make adequate distinctions between the guilty and the innocent, then justice has been sacrificed.   The recent kerfuffle surrounding the government shutdown and debt ceiling debate furnished a sad example of the opposite phenomenon: a public stand for what we were told were principles of justice, with no thought given to considerations of prudence. Conservative leaders promised to fight tooth and nail to stop the injustices of Obamacare (and, for some, of a mounting federal debt), but with very little...


Why Truthfulness Matters

By Michael J. Gerson November 8, 2013 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  America is engaged in a long-running debate about the role of morality in politics. What difference does character make to leadership? Does it matter if a politician used drugs as a youth? Or breaks a pledge of marital fidelity? The arguments run back and forth.  But few will dispute the importance of truthfulness in politics – the most public of the virtues.  This issue is, once again, in the news.  In making his argument to pass the Affordable Care Act, President Obama assured voters that they could keep their current health insurance plans. The pledge was made repeatedly and without qualification, becoming a centerpiece of Obama’s rhetoric on health reform.  It was not a slip, but a strategy. Now millions of...


Justice Versus Justice

By David Koyzis November 1, 2013 In Plato’s Republic, Socrates’ conversation with his friends over the nature of justice takes a startling turn when Thrasymachus drops a bombshell. It is more profitable, he argues, for people to be unjust than just, if they can manage to get away with it without incurring a bad reputation. Of course, no society could function on this principle for very long, as individuals would seek to exempt themselves from the rule of law and to gain at others’ expense. Criminal activity is universally condemned as an obvious violation of justice. Here justice is evidently set against injustice of the worst kind. However, most political issues do not have such a simple dichotomy between justice and injustice. In the real world, conflict is likely to lie not between just and unjust, but between different visions of justice. Partisans everywhere often have difficulty understanding this. A good example of...


Why Religious Liberty is More than Coexisting

By Jeremy Taylor November 1, 2013 A version of this article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, an online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice. For all of the warts and exceptions, Americans enjoy a fair amount of liberty in matters of faith. Writing from Fredericksburg, Va., in 1777, Thomas Jefferson said, “All men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.” And, while his theology was opaque, Jefferson’s Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom became the catalyst to the Bill of Rights and modern-day religious freedom initiatives. Although the practice and...


Step Into My Office

By James W. Skillen November 1, 2013 This article was originally published in 1988 for the Christian Legal Society. It has been republished as a collection of pieces in the Journal of Christian Legal Thought (2 J. Christian L. Thought, at 13 (Fall 2012)) Asking someone to step into your office might mean as little as inviting that person to “come in out of the cold,” or to join you “where you can have some privacy.” But it can also mean much more. You might be asking someone to “step into your shoes” in order to see a situation from your point of view. If you hold a “high” office of judge or governor or attorney general, you might be inviting someone to recognize the special responsibilities that your office holds—responsibilities that can only be fully appreciated from an inside view.  Although the word “office”...


The Tenth Man

By Robert J. Joustra November 1, 2013 Few things galvanize foreign policy decision making like a zombie apocalypse. The latest undead epic film World War Z singles out Israeli intelligence for special praise in its response. Indeed, as the world bends and breaks under the swell of the underworld denizens, Jerusalem stands proud atop the tide. Why is that? According to Max Brooks, whose original 2006 novel inspired the film, Israeli intelligence beat the one enemy stronger than zombie hordes: group think. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War (also known as the Arab-Israeli War), a war so spectacular in its exposure of intelligence failure that it revolutionized Israel’s approach to decision making. While Egypt and Syria led the Arab states against a largely unsuspecting Israel, it was not entirely ignorant of the threat. In fact, Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence (Aman) was almost completely...


Education Reform in Chicago Public Schools

By Theodore Williams III October 25, 2013 In 1995, the Illinois legislature, supported by Mayor Richard Daley, passed the Chicago School Reform Amendatory Act (CSRAA). In an effort to provide the mayor with full control over the Chicago Public Schools, this legislation eliminated public input in the selection of the school board members and gave the mayor the responsibility for the choice of its president. Armed with this power, Mayor Daley and the current mayor Rahm Emanuel have embarked upon an aggressive program of educational reform with significant efforts to change the culture of Chicago’s failing schools.    Chicago is a case study of the impact of urban poverty on public education. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has over 400,000 children, 87% of whom are classified as low-income. This district has long possessed some of the nation’s highest dropout...


The Iranian Nuclear Conundrum

By Steven E. Meyer October 25, 2013 The first round of nuclear talks in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, and Germany) is now complete; the second round will begin on November 7. The talks are being conducted in secret and both sides have announced that they are satisfied with the first-round discussions. A senior U.S official said the talks were “intense, detailed, straightforward, and candid” and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif described the first round as a “very important step” and that Iran was “looking to the future with some hope.”    However, the fact that the talks were being conducted in secret, reputedly to protect their confidentiality and to encourage honesty, has led to considerable criticism and opposition in Iran and the United States. One of the most significant obstacles to any deal to restrict Iran’s nuclear development is the “rejectionists” in both...


Androgyny or Antigone: Jean Bethke Elshtain’s Feminism

By M. Christian Green October 25, 2013 On August 11, 2013, Jean Bethke Elshtain passed away. Elshtain was a leading public intellectual at the University of Chicago, where she held a rather unusual joint appointment in both the divinity school and the political science department. One of Elshtain’s greatest legacies was her intellectual commitment to bringing God into the discussion of politics. Elshtain participated in various events with the Center for Public Justice over the years and references to her work and ideas have appeared frequently in CPJ’s publications. This is the third installment in a series of reflections on Elshtain’s work and legacy. When I went to study with Jean Bethke Elshtain, just a year after she joined the faculty of the University of Chicago Divinity School, there was a pronounced subterranean hum, especially among her female graduate students, about her work on women, family, and feminism. Was she or...


Apocalypse Not Now

By Michael J. Gerson October 25, 2013 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  One of the most notable features of modern political discourse is the increase in urgent, even apocalyptic, political appeals. We all get fundraising letters or hear political activists asserting that unless some action is taken or resisted, America will find itself on the brink of disaster.  This type of discourse is a temptation on every side of the political spectrum, but it has become particularly pronounced on the Tea Party right. Leaders of that movement argue that implementing Obamacare will fundamentally alter the character of the country, transforming America into a nation of dependents. The old self-governing republic will cease to exist, and we have only a few years before the damage is irreversible. I have been in the middle of...


No Ultimate Political Solutions

By Timothy Sherratt October 18, 2013 “The land of the free...because of the brave.” Even the uncertain calligraphy on the homemade sign along the roadside lent that lapidary truth a certain dignity. On a bright fall day of breathtaking colors, the highway from Grand Junction, CO going south passes through one All-America City award winner after another, from the farming towns of Delta and Montrose to the old mining town of Ouray, and over the passes to Silverton and Durango. The neat red, white, and blue signs describing the awards, as well as the homemade ones displayed outside homes and businesses, advertise a determined commitment to family, home, and civic responsibility-- a clear-eyed embrace of the links between liberty and sacrifice. But all is not well in this corner of the Rocky Mountains. “We the People…are p….’d off,” declared another patriot. The sentiment is widely shared, however expressed. And though it may...


Christians in the Middle East: More than Leaseholders?

By Paul Rowe October 18, 2013 This article originally appeared on September 30 in the Cardus Daily. The violence that has befallen Christians in Egypt is a crisis that threatens the most important bastion of the faith in the region. It falls on the heels of crises that have forced massive emigration of Christians from Iraq and the Palestinian territories over the past two decades. Indeed, there is much to be concerned about when we hear authors and journalists predicting “the extinction of Christianity in the Middle East”, as quoted by Ed West in The Spectator last month. But will Christian response repeat errors of the twentieth century, or aim instead for a more productive movement? West calls out the international media for ignoring the plight of Christians in the Middle East, while...


Politics and Prose

By Byron Borger October 18, 2013Some Of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America  Tanner Colby (Penguin) $16.00We are living in a golden age of creative nonfiction with many excellent books that combine memoir, cultural history, and social analysis. Tanner Colby’s recently released study of the history of “the strange story of integration in America” is a wonderful example of this type of work. Colby, an energetic and clever storyteller, conveys an exciting story full of pathos, humor, and huge import. What really happened in the post-Jim Crow era as the nation moved from the crass racism of separate drinking fountains and schools through the era of “forced busing” to the present when there have been huge strides in civil liberties for racial minorities but where self-segregation and racial anxieties continue to plague?  Have political and social efforts to...


Supreme Court Watch: Prayer and Pluralism Revisited

By Julia K. Stronks October 18, 2013 The US Supreme Court opened its 2013-14 term on Monday October 7th. While conversations about Syria, the government shutdown, and the debt ceiling dominate the news cycle, it is important to think about how the upcoming year’s legal decisions could impact the lives of ordinary Americans. Although recent deliberations around same-sex marriage, immigration, and the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act focused the public’s attention on the Court in ways that we haven’t seen in quite a while, the cases facing the Supreme Court this year do not have the same high profile, hot button excitement. However, these upcoming decisions, although perhaps less exciting, have the potential for long-term impact in wide-ranging areas. The Court is reconsidering past precedent for abortion access and the ability of...


Imagining Peace, Practicing Hope

By Erik Borggren October 11, 2013 As a nation, we practice remembering well. We promise "we will never forget," and after twelve years since the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, we have not forgotten. However these twelve years have not only been marked by deliberate remembering, but also scarred by war. With the war in Afghanistan coming to a close as US troops withdraw by the end of 2014, one has to wonder what healing, reconciliation, and peace look like—not only for the people of Afghanistan, but also for those of us here in the United States. What does just peace look like for a people who will never, indeed who cannot, forget?  I respond to this question as a pastor. While we in the church belong to a larger “we” as citizens of this country, we, as a community of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, ultimately belong to the slain Lamb and resurrected Messiah who sits on the throne sovereign over history. Therefore,...


Pluralism and Challenges in Employment

By Julia K. Stronks October 11, 2013 A story broke recently that challenges those of us interested in the employment rights of faith-based institutions. A longtime theology professor at Azusa Pacific University in California told administrators that she was transgender and would be undergoing gender reassignment surgery.  Heather Ann Clements is now known as H. Adam Ackley. It isn’t clear what Azusa Pacific will do. Initial reports indicated that Ackley was asked to leave, but he is still teaching. Moreover, faculty members at Azusa Pacific are saying that the administration is handling this matter with tremendous grace and sensitivity, which is a wonderful thing. Ackley has consulted an attorney, and it remains to be seen if he will be allowed to finish the last two years of a five-year contract. One of the important questions will be whether the state of being transgender violates any university policy or the employment contract signed...


Sebelius vs. Stewart: A Clash of Rhetorics

By Aaron Belz October 11, 2013 On Monday night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart presented Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius with what he called “a challenge”:  “I’m going to try to download every movie ever made, and you’re going to try to sign up for Obamacare, and we’ll see which happens first.” Sebelius’s pained look and instinct to reply in kind disappeared into a genial “okay.” This Daily Show episode highlights the contrast between political and comic rhetoric—and the separate but complementary role of each. Sebelius genuinely tries to explain how Obamacare is intended to work. Stewart, more focused on its reality, alternates between earnest questioning and comic relief. Of Obamacare’s faltering start he asks, “Is this working? Is this not working?” “Well the great news is, we have...


The Value of Realism in Politics

By Michael J. Gerson October 11, 2013 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  In the complex, continuing debates over funding the government and increasing the debt limit, one consistent demand of the Tea Party movement has been the repeal or defunding of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. And activists have accused Republicans who oppose this approach of being compromised, going so far as to run political ads against some of them.  It was never a realistic strategy. President Obama would certainly have vetoed any repeal of his defining legislative accomplishment. A veto override would require 67 votes in the Senate – a body that currently has a Democratic majority. The repeal of Obamacare was hopeless from the start.  So why have these calls persisted?  Some legislators and groups have clearly...


Lumen Fidei and the Politics of Trust

By Robert J. Joustra October 4, 2013 Epistemology is a big word, and I try to avoid using it in conversation mostly because I don’t want to be “that guy.” But the word recurred, it returned and repeated, through my recent reading of the encyclical of Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, on my Toronto Union-bound train. Craig Bartholomew defines epistemology as how you go about knowing something such that you trust the results of the knowing process. Lumen Fidei, the light of faith, is pregnant with Christian epistemology, with rejoinders that “unless you believe, you will not understand” and “self-knowledge is only possible when we share in a greater memory.” Trust, and the faith which it reveals, is the first virtue of knowledge. But it’s also the first virtue of politics. Trust, wrote Francis Fukuyama famously, is the...


Beyond “The Right to Privacy”: A New Look at the Surveillance Debate (2)

By Brad Littlejohn October 4, 2013 This is the second article in a two-part series. In the previous installment, I highlighted some of the problems with the language of the “right to privacy” in the debate over government surveillance. Indeed, the language of “rights” tends to reinforce the individualism of the language of “privacy,” focusing attention on the abstract claims of the would-be victim, rather than the concrete responsibilities of the would-be aggressor. What if we spoke rather of a duty to respect one another’s privacy?  While this may seem logically equivalent to a right to privacy, it helps foreground the interpersonal element, hints at the need for circumstantially-dependent application, and places the initiative on the...


Renewal in the Shadow of Great Power Politics

By Becca McBride October 4, 2013 Something is broken in the United Nations system. I realize that I am not the first to notice this, nor can I offer the last word on the subject. However, events in the past two weeks have highlighted the underlying tension in the UN Security Council, a tension that we need to recognize in order to contribute to the debate about how to formulate and support effective foreign policy within the realities of a broken system.  In September, the world’s leaders gathered to debate, discuss, and build consensus around solutions to international problems at the UN General Assembly meeting. The backdrop to this picture of multilateral engagement was the standstill in the UN Security Council on how to hold Syria accountable. President Obama’s insistence that any Security Council resolution must promise severe consequences if Syria fails to follow through on its obligation to identify and surrender its chemical...


Jean Bethke Elshtain, Václav Havel, and the Ethics of Responsibility

By Lubomir Martin Ondrasek October 4, 2013  On August 11, 2013, Jean Bethke Elshtain passed away. Elshtain was a leading public intellectual at the University of Chicago, where she held a rather unusual joint appointment in both the divinity school and the political science department. One of Elshtain’s greatest legacies was her intellectual commitment to bringing God into the discussion of politics. Elshtain participated in various events with the Center for Public Justice over the years and references to her work and ideas have appeared frequently in CPJ’s publications. This is the second installment in a Capital Commentary series on Elshtain’s work and legacy. Jean Bethke Elshtain had a soft spot for East-Central Europe and particularly for two of its remarkable leaders who each contributed in different ways to the demise of communist totalitarianism in Europe: Pope John Paul II and Václav...


Our System is Designed for Compromise

By Michael J. Gerson September 27, 2013 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  Washington has entered another series of high stakes budget showdowns over spending and the debt limit.  Democrats are debating Republicans, but Republicans are also debating among themselves.  Republican leaders are pushing for budget restraint using the constitutional leverage that comes with controlling the House of Representatives. Over the last few years, this strategy has often been messy and difficult, but it has also yielded significant results. Congress has cut spending by about $2.6 trillion over ten years and raised taxes by about $700 billion. America’s short-term debt position has gotten better – though our massive long-term debt problem, mainly caused by unsustainable health entitlements, remains largely unaddressed. ...


Education – Our Responsibility as Citizens

By Stephanie Summers September 27, 2013 In a September 20 article, Frederick M. Hess, Director of Education-Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute writes about the bipartisan coalition pursuing education reform.  Hess contends that the missing half of education reform is comprised of needed resources from non-governmental organizations that can equip a cadre of leaders to implement the policy changes being made within the existing school system. Hess writes, Rewriting [education] policy constitutes only half of a reform agenda. It is equally vital to produce leaders willing and able to leverage new opportunities and to support them as they do so. In a vibrant private sector, this process unfolds organically and invisibly. In a publicly governed system, it needs to be helped along. Indeed, doing so can represent a crucial private,...


Seeing the Imago Dei in Fruitvale Station

By Josh Larsen September 27, 2013 The foundation of any Christian pursuit of justice is the understanding that we are, despite our flaws, created in the image of God. Any confrontation of wrongdoing that has been committed against a fellow human being starts here. Fruitvale Station - a dramatization of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed in 2009 by transit police in Oakland, CA - functions as just this sort of building block. Rather than offering an angry harangue on racial profiling or a clinical procedural on the details of the case (both of which would be legitimate artistic responses), first-time writer-director Ryan Coogler offers something quieter, simpler, and more elemental. By letting us live with Grant (Michael B. Jordan) for twenty four, mostly uneventful, hours, experiencing his kindness, his anger, his missteps, and his nobility, the movie captures...


Beyond “The Right to Privacy”: A New Look at the Surveillance Debate (1)

By Brad Littlejohn September 27, 2013 This article is the first installment in a two-part series. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden set off a firestorm early this summer by leaking documents exposing the nature and extent of US government surveillance programs. He claimed that what he wanted above all was to provoke a debate about what sort of surveillance our society thought was appropriate. Whatever else you think about him, he certainly succeeded in that. Although the news media and public policy pundits have found other topics to spotlight over the last three months, Snowden’s steady release of new revelations has kept the debate simmering without any clear resolution.  Given the terms of the debate, it seems doomed to sterility: a tradeoff between the “right to privacy” and the “responsibility to protect.”  We are stuck within a zero-sum game, an endless tug-of-war between private and public, between...


It’s Your Turn to be Vladimir Putin

By Timothy Sherratt September 20, 2013 How ironic it is that Russian President Vladimir Putin, via the influence he exercises on the Syrian regime, should have saved President Obama from the no-win consequences of his “red line” pledge on chemical weapons made last year. When his bluff was called by last month’s atrocity that left over thirteen hundred Syrian civilians dead, the president seemed first to imply that a military strike was imminent before he pivoted and called on Congress to give him broad authority to act. The change of heart sent mixed messages and a “no” vote was widely predicted. With the vote delayed and diplomacy on the brink of an important achievement, the President can still rattle the saber but to a more constructive end: Syria must abide by the accord reached in Geneva by Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, or military strikes may take place.    The accord creates space to...


Are We Exceptional?

By Steven E. Meyer September 20, 2013 Last week, President Obama described US policy as “exceptional” in arguing his case for military action against Syria. The next day, Russian President Putin had an editorial in the New York Times that took issue not only with Obama’s argument, but more broadly with American exceptionalism. Although arguments about American exceptionalism are not new, the Obama-Putin dispute has once again raised the issue of America’s understanding of its role in the world. But what exactly does American exceptionalism mean and what should it mean for Christians?  First, the United States does not have a monopoly on the concept. At various times through history, many other countries at the height of their power—Britain, Russia, France and Spain--considered themselves exceptional. The first recorded allusion to American exceptionalism was in a 1630 sermon delivered by the Puritan minister Jonathan Winthrop, who...


Politics and Prose

By Byron Borger September 20, 2013 A year ago, Os Guinness wrote A Free People’s Suicide, examining the clause within the US Bill of Rights that assures US citizens freedom of and freedom from religion. He evaluated the nuances and implications of such freedoms and proposed guidelines for more profound conversations on these themes. He insisted that a culture of responsibility for the common good is needed to make all this work, and such values emerge most robustly from a culture that is religiously open. Through an illuminating reading of history and the ideas behind the US Constitution, Guinness argued passionately and eloquently that religious freedoms can create religious habits among people, sustaining a democratic society. I was glad to commend his book here for CPJ friends. This year, Guinness has graced us with another...


Evil and the Politics of Hope

By Marc LiVecche September 20, 2013 On August 11, 2013, Jean Bethke Elshtain passed away. Elshtain was a leading public intellectual at the University of Chicago, where she held a rather unusual joint appointment in both the divinity school and the political science department. One of Elshtain’s greatest legacies was her intellectual commitment to bringing God into the discussion of politics. Elshtain participated in various events with the Center for Public Justice over the years and references to her work and ideas have appeared frequently in CPJ’s publications. Over the coming weeks, Capital Commentary will be running a series of reflections on Elshtain’s work and legacy. This is the first installment in the series. Last week, our nation observed the twelfth anniversary of the events of September 11th, 2011. In the immediate wake of “the terrible anniversary,” as one commentator described it, it...


Christian Service is Not a Parachurch Activity

By James W. Skillen September 13, 2013 This article was originally published in 1986 for the Christian Legal Society. It has been republished as a collection of pieces in the Journal of Christian Legal Thought (2 J. Christian L. Thought, at 13 (Fall 2012)). The prefix para means alongside of, or beside. It characterizes something that may be auxiliary or supplemental to something else. A paramedic is someone who assists a medical professional. A parasite is something that lives off something else. In the New Testament, the believers in Christ are variously referred to as the people of God, the bride of Christ, the house or temple of God, the Church and the body of Christ. In this sense, the Church is the body of believers in an all-encompassing sense. Everything they are and do belongs to Christ. Their lives are being totally renewed and...


The Poetry of 9/11

September 13, 2013 By Aaron Belz On the morning of September 11, 2001, I disembarked a city bus at Saint Louis University. It was a cool day under a brilliant blue sky; I remember well the hiss of the bus door as I exited and walked toward Pius XII Memorial Library. When I arrived at the reference desk, in search of a map to serve as a visual aid for the 19th-century poetry class I was teaching, the librarian looked shocked. She didn’t respond to my request but turned around her desktop computer monitor so I could see the news headline. It was after one tower had been struck but before the second. “How can you ask for a map at a time like this?!” she asked, then handed me off to a student worker, who walked me to the map room. I didn’t divine the import of that morning’s events while they were happening. I didn’t dismiss my classes, nor did I watch the news at all, even after I’d heard the initial reports. I didn’t want to hunger...


Justly Fighting Job Discrimination

By Stanley Carlson-Thies September 13, 2013 The Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) raises big issues about how to justly reconcile differing convictions about sexual conduct and the sometimes conflicting interests of employees and employers. ENDA proposes to forbid job discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity (transgender status). This bill has broad consequences for religious freedom and religious organizations. ENDA bills have been proposed regularly in Congress since the mid-1990s. But while a number of states and big (and small) cities have adopted this worker protection, the federal bills have never gotten far. Most recently, the House adopted an ENDA bill in 2007, but the Senate did not act. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) recently voted favorably on the current bill (S. 815), and Senate leaders promise floor action this fall. However, it seems unlikely that the current...


Chemical Weapons and Our Moral Response

By Michael J. Gerson September 13, 2013 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  President Obama’s recent speech to the nation on Syria focused on a serious challenge: the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. He pointed, in particular, to the August 21st attack that killed well over 1,000 people, including many children. But the regime probably used chemical weapons in smaller amounts more than a dozen times before that, without much attention or consequence.  The president’s description of the suffering caused by those weapons was moving. And he is correct that they occupy a uniquely horrifying place in the history of warfare. They are essentially and purposely indiscriminate. They produce not only casualties, but also mass terror, driving mass refugee flows. And they have been banned from use...


The Perils of Taking Sides

By David KoyzisSeptember 6, 2013 In Malcolm Magee’s fascinating book on Woodrow Wilson’s “faith-based foreign policy,” What the World Should Be, the author notes that, in the two major conflicts during Wilson’s  administration, the president took sides largely out of a desire to divide the world into obvious “good guys” and “bad guys.” In the Mexican civil war, Wilson intervened on behalf of the faction to which he ascribed the most righteousness, although the murky realities of that country’s politics should have elicited a more cautious response. Similarly, during the First World War, Wilson’s admiration for British political institutions and his instinctive distrust of “German theology” predisposed him to commit the United States to the cause of London and Paris against Berlin and Vienna. A century later, we face similar...


Fresh Air for the Environmental Conversation

By Rusty PritchardSeptember 6, 2013 Climate change is real, but it isn’t the only environmental issue. Although global warming will be a concern for generations to come, the current shouting match about whether, when, and how to deal with it will gradually subside, to be replaced by the grim work of adaptation and mitigation.  For now, though, the challenges the climate debate presents to the body politic are serious. Just a few years ago, climate was thought to be the locomotive issue that could pull all the other environmental issues in its train. If the nation could just pass an enlightened climate policy, environmentalists figured they would get many of the other things they’d been wanting as side-effects (“co-benefits” was the label used). Clean air, energy efficiency, reforestation, and urban sprawl reduction...


When Power Goes to Your Head

By Robert J. Joustra September 6, 2013 Over at the Acton Institute, they’re fond of saying that power corrupts, and the bank of evidence is pretty hefty. Even Andy Crouch has turned his prodigious faculties to the problem of power and the Gospel in his book Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. Just how do we parse this Jesus, who spent so much time sticking it to the man, when we Christians become the man? There are a lot of different ways to think about power, of course, and hardly a social or cultural situation exists in which some kinds of power do not operate, often beyond our acuity. Christians (even the kind that take Jesus seriously) know that power is a gift, meant for service, for bended knees and washing feet, and – in the words of Andy Crouch – for answering the question: who is flourishing because of my power? But power is also an experience, a...


From Nagasaki to Damascus: Just War and American Consistency

By Daniel R. Allen September 6, 2013 As the world weighs a response to chemical weapons attacks in Syria, it is helpful to reflect on the larger issue of the United States’ nuclear arsenal. Just over sixty-eight years ago, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Syria’s recent WMD usage compels us to consider to what extent humanity is capable of preventing the next use of nuclear weapons. I encountered this issue head-on when I traveled recently to Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the anniversaries of the atomic bombings, alongside a group of faculty from Christian universities throughout North America. Two renowned activists committed to abolishing nuclear weapons led our group, one of whom had the unenviable task of trying to craft a policy position for the...


Beyond Purely Economic Solutions to Poverty

By the Editorial Team, Shared Justice August 30, 2013 A version of this article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, an online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice. The Great Recession is behind us, but the worst may be yet to come. According to the Associated Press, nearly 80 percent of Americans are struggling to stay afloat even though the economy has begun to recover from the recession that began in 2008. William Julius Wilson, a Harvard University professor whose expertise includes joblessness and urban poverty, told the AP that...


Politics and Prose

August 30, 2013 By Byron Borger Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) Jordan J. Ballor (Wipf & Stock) $26.00.  In this column, I sometimes highlight books that help us deepen our citizenship and be thoughtful about contemporary political involvement. Other times, I explain the strengths of books that help ordinary Christians nurture the Christian mind so that we can think Biblically about responsible civic life. Sometimes those books are more basic, suitable for small groups to read together, and occasionally they are more academic and complex, important for scholars and those called to mature political reflection.  And then there are books like this one, a new and splendidly tricky book to categorize. Ballor, currently pursuing a PhD in historical theology at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, is very well read and a dedicated student of political and economic...


Poverty Alleviation, Social Innovation, and the Nonprofit Sector

By Catherine E. Wilson August 30, 2013 On August 17, I attended my first baseball game of the 2013 season – the Phillies versus the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. While the Phillies were not fortunate enough to capture a win that night, Phillies players and Citizens Bank captured the hearts of the region’s residents as that evening’s game was dedicated to the Phans Feeding Families program, an initiative providing hunger relief in the Delaware Valley. Phillies fans were encouraged to donate non-perishable food at the stadium’s entrances, purchase a commemorative pin, and attend a pregame party to help fight hunger and malnutrition in the region. A socially innovative partnership forged among the Phillies, Citizens Bank, and the Halladay Family Foundation, Phans Feeding Families donated its proceeds that evening (as it has done in the past) to the nonprofit Philabundance, the largest food bank in Greater Philadelphia....


Responding to Syria’s War

By Michael J. Gerson August 30, 2013 This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  Last week I returned from Jordan, a nation strained to the breaking point because its neighbor, Syria, has descended into violence and chaos. About 600,000 refugees have come across the border into a county of only seven million people. One refugee camp, which was an empty stretch of sand a year ago, now has about 120,000 residents, making it the fourth largest city in Jordan. Over several days, I talked with Syrian refugees, both in the camps and those living in towns and cities in Jordan. They told terrible stories of suffering. While there are abuses on all sides of the complex Syrian conflict, the Assad regime has engaged in mass violence against civilians, using artillery, aerial bombing, SCUD missiles, and chemical weapons on...


American Political Values and the Egyptian Dilemma

August 23, 2013 By Timothy Sherratt  Earlier this week, Senator John McCain argued for cutting off military aid to Egypt in response to the bloody suppression of protests by the Egyptian military: “For us to sit by and watch this happen is a violation of everything that we stood for.” And he went on, “We’re not sticking to our values.” Maybe I need a primer in diplomacy or moral reasoning, or both, but Senator McCain’s black-and-white world looks gray to me. Egypt appears on the brink of civil war, or at least a period of prolonged conflict. Supporters of ousted President Mohammad Morsi insist they will continue protests that have seen nearly a thousand fatalities in the last week. Those supporters include ordinary citizens and heavily armed fighters capable of launching deadly rocket-propelled grenade attacks on...


Ginsberg’s “America” Revisited

August 23, 2013 By Aaron Belz Allen Ginsberg’s 1956 poem “America”  relies on a form of personification known as apostrophe, an address to an inanimate object as though it were a person. The object of the poem is America as a nation, as its citizens, and as a historical and political idea. It’s as boisterous as any Ginsberg poem, leaping, line to line, from declamation to confession to accusation to seemingly private resolution. It jumps from earnest to comical and back again. “I’m addressing you,” the poet reminds himself in line 38, then follows with “Are you going to let your emotional life be run by Time Magazine? / I’m obsessed by Time Magazine. / I read it every week.” Four lines later: “It occurs to me that I am America. / I am talking to myself again.” Then, much later: “America how can I write a holy litany in your silly...


The Problem of Elections and Australia’s Two-Party Parliamentary System

August 23, 2013 By Bruce Wearne Australian voters go to the polls on September 7th for parliamentary elections. The Australian Labor Party (ALP) has held the Treasury Benches since Prime Minister Rudd led it to victory in December 2007. By 2010, the Rudd government was in trouble, in spite of helping Australia weather the global financial crisis. Anticipating an election in 2010, the party’s power brokers removed Rudd to make way for Julia Gillard, who became Australia’s first female Prime Minister. However, by late June of this year, a clear majority of Labor’s federal parliamentarians believed that Gillard was in fact an electoral liability. Rudd won a leadership ballot among his parliamentary colleagues and has been back in the top job for the past few months. Now pundits have given Labor a greater chance although most polls indicate a Liberal-National coalition victory. I suspect that Rudd’s reinstatement came about...


Seeking Justice in the International Arena: A Christian Vocation?

August 23, 2013 By Steven E. Meyer Promoting justice, both domestically and internationally, has always been of paramount importance for the Center for Public Justice and Christians in general.  By justice, we have in mind right (i.e. moral) action; rectitude. However, establishing concrete action that is just has always been a difficult proposition; one person’s justice easily can be another person’s injustice.  Philosopher Simone Weil once said that “there is one, and only one, thing in modern society more hideous than crime, namely repressive justice.”   There are as many understandings of justice in the United States as there are currents of political, social, and religious thought. Even Christians, who share a common commitment to basic faith principles, have no consensus about what justice means. In the domestic realm, some people see justice in providing public money for private education; others do not. ...


A Public Square Parable from Beyond the Hills

August 16, 2013 By Josh Larsen Capital Commentary is taking a two-week editorial break. As some of you may be enjoying some time off with family or friends, consider picking up a book or watching a movie recommended and reviewed in these Editor’s Picks from previous Politics and Prose and Politics and Film columns. Same-sex marriage. Contraception and health-care coverage. Historical Adam. As these divisive issues continue to back some Christian churches and institutions into a corner, it’s become increasingly crucial to find an answer to this question: how can such places stay true to their religious convictions while also maintaining a vital presence in the public square? As we consider this dilemma, an applicable parable can be found in the excellent Romanian film Beyond the Hills. The movie won a top prize at last year’s Cannes International Film Festival and played at select...


Disney, Gender Equality and the Bold Move made by Brave

August 16, 2013 By Josh Larsen Capital Commentary is taking a two-week editorial break. As some of you may be enjoying some time off with family or friends, consider picking up a book or watching a movie recommended and reviewed in these Editor’s Picks from previous Politics and Prose and Politics and Film columns. We usually think of the struggle for gender equality as taking place in courtrooms, boardrooms or in Congress. Last year, in fact, the Paycheck Fairness Act—meant to address data suggesting that women earn about 77 cents compared to every dollar earned by men—failed to pass the Senate. Sometimes,...


Politics and Prose

August 16, 2013 By Byron Borger  Capital Commentary is taking a two-week editorial break. As some of you may be enjoying some time off with family or friends, consider picking up a book or watching a movie recommended and reviewed in these Editor’s Picks from previous Politics and Prose and Politics and Film columns. The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define Us as a Nation by Stephen Prothero (HarperOne; 2012)   The title of Prothero’s amazingly interesting and thorough work, recently out in paperback, is at once helpful and troubling. Biblically balanced readers will be on guard against insinuations of civil religion and may even recoil at a book that uses the metaphor of sacred Scripture for a compilation of significant texts that have developed within the public conversation of US history.  Does it confuse matters to...


Politics & Prose

August 16, 2013 By Byron Borger Capital Commentary is taking a two-week editorial break. As some of you may be enjoying some time off with family or friends, consider picking up a book or watching a movie recommended and reviewed in these Editor’s Picks from previous Politics and Prose and Politics and Film columns. Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement by Ronald J. Sider (Brazos, 2012)    Nearly two decades ago there was much discussion about the "scandal of the evangelical mind.”  As the press releases, book title and punch lines put it, evangelicals were good at a lot, but thinking deeply and distinctively wasn't a strong suit. Still, even in Mark Noll's initial book, he admitted there were glorious exceptions, and the faith-based scholarship of Center for Public Justice—in the historic line of Abraham Kuyper in Holland and...


Waiting for Superman—and Self-Sacrifice—in Public Education

August 9, 2013 By Josh Larsen Capital Commentary is taking a two-week editorial break. As some of you may be enjoying some time off with family or friends, consider picking up a book or watching a movie recommended and reviewed in these Editor’s Picks from previous Politics and Prose and Politics and Film columns. The teachers’ strike involving Chicago’s public school system came in the shadow of the acclaimed documentary Waiting for Superman. Released in 2010, Superman follows a handful of families who have been failed by their neighborhood schools and are hoping to land a coveted spot in one of the better-performing charter schools in their respective districts.  Recalling...


Challenging Interpretations of Zero Dark Thirty

August 9, 2013 By Josh Larsen Capital Commentary is taking a two-week editorial break. As some of you may be enjoying some time off with family or friends, consider picking up a book or watching a movie recommended and reviewed in these Editor’s Picks from previous Politics and Prose and Politics and Film columns. Zero Dark Thirty, a dramatization of the hunt for and killing of Osama bin Laden, went up for five Academy Awards, but the movie has hardly been universally adored. While most critics swooned, political pundits in particular have taken the picture to task over its handling of the topic of torture. The debate began in last December when The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald – before having seen the film – denounced it for fabricating history and glorifying torture as an...


Politics & Prose

August 9, 2013 By Byron Borger Capital Commentary is taking a two-week editorial break. As some of you may be enjoying some time off with family or friends, consider picking up a book or watching a movie recommended and reviewed in these Editor’s Picks from previous Politics and Prose and Politics and Film columns. Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent by E.J. Dionne, Jr. (Bloomsbury)  The Center for Public Justice steadfastly maintains that we are neither left nor right; to even say we are centrist yields too much to the very metaphor of a continuum with two opposite ends.  To deconstruct this image is vexing since most Americans have such a continuum inextricably burned into their political imagination.  Nonetheless, we need help seeing and understanding the competing political traditions in...


Politics & Prose

August 9, 2013 By Byron Borger  Capital Commentary is taking a two-week editorial break. As some of you may be enjoying some time off with family or friends, consider picking up a book or watching a movie recommended and reviewed in these Editor’s Picks from previous Politics and Prose and Politics and Film columns. Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat by James Bratt (Eerdmans; 2013) On Kuyper: A Collection of Readings on the Life, Work & Legacy of Abraham Kuyper Edited by Steve Bishop & John Kok (Dordt College Press; 2013) The Center for Public Justice is broad-based citizen movement drawing on a variety of political theorists, theologians, and public intellectuals.  In this column, I am delighted to review an assortment of books that help us think more fruitfully about politics and...


The Big Picture

August 8, 2013 By William Edgar A quick glance at some of the headlines in the news leaves one rather breathless: - The Muslim Brotherhood faces opposition from fellow Muslims- Car bombs kill dozens in Iraq- Interactive art show comes to Central Park- Pope Francis says he won’t judge gay priests- Bob Dylan is on tour with “Americanarama”- Saks sells to Hudson Bay, owner of Lord & Taylor- Progress is made in understanding eczema- Rio de Janeiro prepares for the World Cup- Legislation is pending to rein-in N.S.A. surveillance And the list goes on. How can we begin to interact with all of these issues, made all the more vivid and urgent by constant media coverage, bringing them hourly on to our screens and apps? The Center for Public Justice has been addressing these “headline” topics since its inception, but with a deliberate difference. Avoiding piecemeal responses based...


The Porn Wall and Christian Politics in the Digital World

August 2, 2013 By Robert J. Joustra David Cameron’s ambitious plan to block the naughty bits from the British internet inked up headlines again with one of our most pervasive anxieties: can we still control the machines and systems of our own making? Look no further than drone strikes, the surveillance society, or Facebook psychoses; this angst is real and manifest. The specter of Weber’s iron cage haunts social and political debate.  None of this is nearly so novel as the technocrats suggest, and Derek Schuurman’s important new book, Shaping a Digital World, gets that right on the nose. The politics of apocalyptic frenzy that have accompanied technology’s rise polarize between humankind’s divinity, our godlike technocratic ascension, and our depravity, becoming death and destroyer of worlds. Somewhere between cyber-utopia and cyber-dystopia, says Schuurman, lies technology as a human artifact and as craft. This...


The Hobby Lobby Case and Principled Pluralism

August 2, 2013 By Chelsea Langston This article discusses the Hobby Lobby case, mentioned last week in Timothy Sherratt’s piece on principled pluralism. A version of this article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, an online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice. "Would an incorporated kosher butcher really have no claim to challenge a regulation mandating non-kosher butchering practices?” This quote came from a ruling that both shook up and shed light on the ongoing birth control mandate debate. On Thursday,...


New Israeli-Palestinian Talks: Playing at the Edges?

August 2, 2013 By Steven E. Meyer The Obama administration has announced the beginning of new peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Secretary of State Kerry pushed Israel hard to restart the talks and convinced Prime Minister Netanyahu to release more than one hundred long-term Palestinian prisoners to satisfy a Palestinian pre-condition to resurrect the negotiations. The Israeli cabinet approved Netanyahu’s decision, but several members of the cabinet and a large number of Israeli citizens strongly opposed the release. Netanyahu and the US government have pointed out how difficult it is to release prisoners who killed Israeli citizens and have been condemned as terrorists. But as difficult as this was, a prisoner release is peripheral to the main questions that have bedeviled peace efforts for sixty- five years. The real stumbling block to a permanent peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority revolves...


Small Steps Towards Principled Pluralism

Small Steps Towards Principled Pluralism July 26, 2013 By Timothy Sherratt   Over the last few weeks, two very different processes have nudged the US polity in the direction of principled pluralism. These are the Senate’s decision to retreat from the “nuclear option” to weaken the filibuster and the Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling that for-profit businesses may be exempt from the provisions of the HHS contraception mandate on conscientious grounds. Principled pluralism entails that a society provides legal space for a range of worldviews—the basic beliefs with which people operate in the world. The simplest of these orders of pluralism guarantees people freedom to worship and freedom from being required to support religious commitments to which they do not subscribe. In the American constitution, this form is enshrined in the First Amendment and in Article Six, which rejects religious tests for office...


Race and the Image of God

Race and the Image of God  July 26, 2013 By Harold Dean Trulear   Fruitful discussion concerning the Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman case suffers from the ongoing failure to distinguish between racism and racial prejudice. They are not the same.   Racial prejudice refers to an individual belief in the inferiority and defective humanity of persons based on race. Racial prejudice lives in the mind of an individual, reflects personal views about people of a particular race, and leads to individual actions reflecting those biased views. Racism refers to the systemic, culturally embedded norms concerning race, values, standards, and beliefs that reflect a prevailing cultural ethos and institutional reality. An individual may internally live those norms and exhibit prejudice, but those norms predate such individual adaptation and point to an era when one group or race had the...


In Defense of Disaster Movies

In Defense of Disaster Movies July 29, 2013 By Josh Larsen   Every summer brings complaints that Hollywood leans too heavily on 9/11 imagery in its action blockbusters, and such criticism has been louder than usual this year.   Citing the wanton destruction of cities that features prominently in Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel and World War Z, Kyle Buchanan of Vulture wrote, “It’s lazy, it’s cheap, it’s deadening and it needs to stop.” And he hadn’t even seen the giant monsters vs. robots extravaganza Pacific Rim yet.   Critics like Buchanan – and there have been others - have a point. There is a difference between evoking an...


An Egyptian Revolution? Yes… but Shwaya Shwaya

An Egyptian Revolution? Yes… but Shwaya Shwaya July 29, 2013 By Paul S. Rowe   I’m not fluent in Arabic, but I speak enough to get by. When Arabic speakers ask if I speak Arabic, I typically respond “shwaya shwaya” (a little bit). The same term could mean “little by little,” as in “little by little, I’m learning Arabic.” I think Egyptians wanted just such a revolution back in 2011-- one that ushered in change, but little by little. What they got was something different. Just over a year ago, there was great cause for optimism as the first free elections for president of Egypt took place. A year later, the first democratically elected president of Egypt was overthrown by the military. There is a sense that the country is descending into a chaotic gloom.  What happened? Many Egyptians might cynically fault democracy itself for the crisis. But it is easy to...


Immigration Policies at Odds with Family Values

July 19, 2013 By Jen Smyers As the US Senate recently passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill, policymakers of varying perspectives agree that the current US immigration system is broken and in need of repair. Our country’s immigration policies force families to wait decades to be reunited, while simultaneously separating families through raids, detention, and deportation. In the first principle of its Guideline on Family, the Center for Public Justice holds that "Government should recognize and protect the family as an essential expression of its responsibility to uphold a just society." The US government's immigration policies must be reformed in order to respect and protect the institution of the family. Current immigration law narrowly restricts options for family reunification. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) or "greencard holders" can only sponsor their spouse and children. US...


Politics and Prose

July 19, 2013 By Byron Borger Following Jesus: Journeys in Radical Discipleship- Essays in Honor of Ronald J. Sider edited by Paul Alexander & Al Tizon (Regnum) $39.99 SALE PRICE $25.00 A week ago, representatives of the Center for Public Justice attended a gathering to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) and to mark the changing of their executive leadership, as founder Ron Sider steps down. The gathering included the launch of a new book written to honor Sider, a collection of excellent essays called Following Jesus: Journeys in Radical Discipleship, compiled by Sider's successors Paul Alexander and Al Tizon. The book is a great treat for those who appreciate Sider and his work and is beneficial to those wanting an anthology of some of the best...


A Hole in “The Heart of the Matter”

July 19, 2013 By Cherie Harder This article was originally published on July 16, 2013 by the Trinity Forum. Last week, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) released a compelling report affirming the necessity and centrality of the humanities and liberal arts in developing citizens and perpetuating democratic self-government. Entitled "The Heart of the Matter," the report was drafted in response to a bipartisan request from Members of Congress, and incorporated input from a large commission of luminaries, including university presidents, scholars, business executives, artists, journalists, and even poets such as our own Trinity Forum Senior Fellow Dana Gioia. The report articulates goals of educating Americans in the knowledge, skills and understanding necessary for citizenship, fostering a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong, and equipping the...


A Real Discussion on Race

A Real Discussion on Race July 19, 2013 By Michael J. Gerson This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  The trial and verdict in the Trayvon Martin case have provoked a vigorous and bitter national argument. We know that an innocent young man lost his life.  We know that a jury examined the evidence and did not believe a murder was committed. We still don’t know all the details of that terrible night.  Some argue this was a case of racial profiling; others argue that it was criminal profiling, in which race played only a limited role.  There is little question, in my view, that George Zimmerman’s aggressive tactics helped provoke an unnecessary confrontation.  The tragic outcome, however, does not fit neatly into anyone’s political or ideological narrative. ...


Bridging the Political Gap: Haidt’s Righteous Mind

July 12, 2013 By David T. Koyzis It is axiomatic that contemporary Americans are divided into two political camps: liberals and conservatives, or leftists and rightists. In recent decades, these tendencies have become more polarized, with each side claiming near redemptive status for itself and demonizing the other as an obvious danger to the republic and its ideals. Each is increasingly eschewing compromise, threatening to paralyze the political process in the midst of continuing economic and other crises. Enter New York University’s Jonathan Haidt, whose book, The Righteous Mind, shows promise in helping to bridge this yawning chasm, persuasively explaining “why good people are divided by politics and religion,” as the subtitle puts it. Haidt pulls off this seemingly impossible feat by studying the responses to hypothetical moral dilemmas by ordinary people,...


President Obama’s Perspective on Government, Market, and Climate

July 12, 2013 By Perry Recker On the day that President Obama delivered his speech on climate change, I happened to be walking the halls of Congress, along with several hundred volunteer members of the Citizen Climate Lobby. We were there to pitch the idea of a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. As I read the transcript of the speech later, it brought to mind several observations on the roles and relationships of government, market, and environment, particularly as they relate to the principles and guidelines of the Center for Public Justice. First, the dominant theme of the president's speech was the ability of the US civil national community, including businesses, to exercise our ingenuity to reduce carbon pollution through innovation, new technologies, science, and R&D. In doing so, we can address the primary cause and...


Tweetable Rhetoric

July 12, 2013 By Aaron Belz It’s called an elevator pitch, a sound bite; it’s what you’re saying in a nutshell. For public speakers and marketing professionals, the ultra-short form is necessary to communicate complex messages succinctly and memorably—to make them “sticky.” Now, according to Yahoo!News reporters Chris Wilson and Olivier Knox, Twitter is making this short form even shorter, notably for American politicians. Keeping complete sentences to fewer than 140 characters increases the likelihood of viral propagation via the world’s most popular text-sharing platform. The folks at Yahoo! have created an online widget that rates any given text’s “tweetability,” or the percentage of its sentences that weigh in under 120-characters (leaving 20 characters for attribution). Although the...


Agricultural Subsidies and Public Justice

July 12, 2013 By Eric Hilker The recent failure of the 2013 farm bill to pass the House is an oddity in US political history.  Farms bills typically pass with bipartisan support-- the 2008 bill passed with enough support to overcome a veto from President Bush. Farm bills are broadly made up of two parts: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the food security program commonly known as “food stamps”) and various agricultural subsidies for US farmers.  The farm bill presents us with a range of public justice issues, and agricultural subsidies in particular have profound effects on domestic farmers and the developing world.  On the whole, the proposed farm bill makes a few steps in the right direction in justice issues surrounding agriculture subsidies, but more progress is needed.  While the arguments for and against subsidies are often stated in obvious terms, the reality is complex and requires thoughtful consideration of...


Same-Sex Marriage and the Continuing Conversation (2)

July 5, 2013 By Julia K. Stronks This is the second article in a two-part series. On June 26th, the Supreme Court handed down two highly anticipated same-sex marriage rulings.  While the decisions were fascinating, they did not really offer much guidance on how to think through disagreements related to marriage law. In Hollingsworth v Perry, the Court was asked to rule on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8.  In 2008, the California Supreme Court had said that limiting marriage to heterosexual couples was a violation of the equal protection clause of the state constitution.  After that ruling, California voters passed Prop 8 amending the California constitution so that the only marriage recognized by the state would be that between one man and one woman. In response, two same-sex couples brought a lawsuit in federal court saying that Prop 8 violated both the due process and...


Declaring Independence?

July 5, 2013 By Stephanie Summers In recent weeks, the world has been treated to another media frenzy following the leak and “leaker” of classified information. This time, former CIA and major defense contract employee Edward Snowden divulged details of a classified NSA surveillance program called PRISM. Amid cries of “hero” or “traitor,” charges of espionage and refusals by foreign governments to meet US requests for extradition, this most recent leak of classified information, as well as the largest leak of classified information in US history allegedly perpetrated by Bradley Manning, have generated much speculation about the seemingly growing problem of leaks perpetrated by young adults. New York Times columnist David Brooks recently described Snowden’s “lens” as one that “makes you more likely to share...


Agricultural Subsidies and Public Justice

Agricultural Subsidies and Public Justice By Eric Hilker  The recent failure of the 2013 farm bill to pass the House is an oddity in US political history.  Farms bills typically pass with bipartisan support -- the 2008 bill passed with enough support to overcome a veto from President Bush. Farm bills are broadly made up of two parts: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the food security program commonly known as “food stamps”) and various agricultural subsidies for US farmers.  The farm bill presents us with a range of public justice issues, and agricultural subsidies in particular have profound effects on domestic farmers and the developing world.  On the whole, the proposed farm bill makes a few steps in the right direction in justice issues surrounding agriculture subsidies, but more progress is needed.  While the arguments for and against subsidies are often stated in obvious terms, the reality is...


Federalism and Pluralism

This piece is a transcript of a radio address composed for the Center for Public Justice and broadcast on KDCR. The end of the Supreme Court session provided a confusing mix of signals on the issue of same-sex marriage.  In his decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy strongly affirmed the right of states to determine marriage laws – a right so strong that their decisions are binding on the federal government.  Kennedy accompanied this decision with a moral lecture, asserting that the only source of opposition to same-sex marriage is bias and a desire to harm.  Kennedy essentially told the states: While the choice is up to you, there is only one valid choice – to approve same-sex marriage.  Supporters of federalism on the marriage issue avoided the worst outcome – an ambitious, Roe v. Wade-like decision that would have imposed laws permitting same-sex marriage on the 37 states that...


Explosions in Egypt

After two weeks of massive anti-government demonstrations throughout Egypt, the military has removed President Mohamed Morsi from office a year after he was elected by a solid majority of the Egyptian people. The opposition has argued that Morsi has been an abject failure. The ensuing debate as to whether this was a military coup is essentially irrelevant. A duly elected president has been removed from office by the military, who quickly replaced him with the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, pending new elections.  According to General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Egypt’s highest-ranking military officer, the military wants to distance itself from the political process and wants to be seen as the protector of democracy, in a stable, non-violent environment –as is true in Turkey. Like Turkey, the military in Egypt today, unlike the case as recently as the 1980s, does not want to control the government.  While the military still plays a vital role in...


Special Elections and the Paradox of Voter Fatigue

June 28, 1013 By Timothy Sherratt “Political chaos seen as cause of voter fatigue,” headlined Frank Phillips’ article in the Boston Globe ahead of Tuesday’s special Senate election to fill John Kerry’s seat. With two special Senate elections in short succession, plus a wide-open mayoral race to succeed the towering figure of Thomas Menino and a governor’s race just around the corner, citizens may now resume their basic democratic responsibilities after a string of lengthy incumbencies.  How can this be a time for fatigue? Mr. Phillips’ sentiments strike at the core principles of citizen sovereignty. Instead of celebrating the more meaningful choices voters may now get to exercise, he equates voter power with “chaos” and likens the stasis of entrenched incumbency to a desirable “order.” If this were only a case of yearning for some golden age of Democratic dominance, one might simply let the voters...


Explosions in Turkey

June 28, 2013 By Steven E. Meyer For the past four weeks, many Turkish cities have experienced a series of often violent demonstrations that have been eerily similar to upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia. The proximate cause has been plans by the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdo?an to reconstruct an Ottoman-era barracks in Gezi Park in Istanbul. But the deeper issue is fed by the same spirit and sense of outrage that has marked the poorly named “Arab Spring.”  The characteristics of the socio-political wave of violence and change that has swept through much of the Middle East since December 2010 have varied significantly from country to country, but there is one common thread across the region. In each case, the discontent and violence has been aimed at a leadership denounced as anti-democratic, heavy-handed, and even dictatorial. Despite Turkey’s impressive economic growth and increasing strength as a regional power, many...


Affirmative Action, Voting Rights, and Balancing Power (1)

June 28, 2013 By Julia K. Stronks This is the first article in a two-part series. This has been a big week for Supreme Court watchers.  Former students and I have texted and tweeted with abandon as each decision has been released. Our first response is almost always about policy. People convinced that racism remains a critical struggle are frustrated with the Court. They had hoped affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act would remain untouched. Others are frustrated because neither affirmative action nor the Voting Rights Act were held unconstitutional.  But, if we believe that the structure of government is a tool to achieve public justice, we have another issue to consider. Does the Court’s approach to jurisprudence advance or detract from a just public order?  To answer this, we have to consider the history and the purpose of judicial balancing tests. When the framers wrote the...


New “Faith in Giving” Coalition

June 28, 2013 By Stanley Carlson-Thies An earlier version of this article was published in the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance eNewsletter for Faith-Based Organizations on June 18, 2013. Faith-based service organizations, like other nonprofits, depend on private donations to help fund their services. As such, they rely on tax incentives, like the federal deduction for charitable contributions, to encourage sustained giving. However, because they are religious organizations, they may have distinct interests in the fight that has broken out in Washington, DC and in state and local politics concerning tax breaks for donations and tax breaks for nonprofits themselves. That's the premise of a new coalition just forming, tentatively called the "faith in giving" coalition, headed up by Rhett...


The Farm Bill and Agricultural Policy

June 21, 2013 By Ronald J. Vos A few weeks ago, the US Senate passed a new five-year farm bill.  It also passed a similar version of the farm bill last year. Since the US House of Representatives did not pass a new farm bill last year, the existing farm bill was extended for one year. The Senate version of the farm bill differs from the expected House version of the same, so a conference committee will need to deal with the differences between the versions. If the members reach a compromise, the bill will then be resubmitted for passage by both houses.  The president has indicated that he is uncertain if he will sign the farm bill as it stands now. At this point, frustration about inaction seems to be the driving force in moving the farm bill forward. The farm bill has already been delayed months from what was originally anticipated. One important difference between this year’s farm bill and last year’s is that the Speaker of the...


Sexual Assault, the Military, and Public Justice

June 21, 2013 By Julia K. Stronks This past year, sexual violence in the United States military has been the focus of Congressional hearings, investigative journalists, and filmmakers. While everyone agrees that military sexual assaults (MSAs) must end, there is disagreement about whose job it is to hold our military accountable. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), commanders have significant control over their units in deciding when and how discipline should be meted out. In sexual assault cases, commanders often decide what to do with a complaint; senior commanders even have the ability to quash court martial convictions. However, the US Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate the land and naval forces, so Congress has the right to change any or all of the UCMJ procedures. Sexual assault by the military has always existed. War rape is recorded as far back as Homer and the Bible. However, three things...


Legislative Compromise: Virtue or Failure?

June 21, 2013 By Michael J. Gerson As the immigration debate has moved forward in the Senate and begins in earnest in the House, there have been many disagreements on matters of substance.  Members of Congress have debated border security, employer verification and the details of a path to earned citizenship.  The language of amendments, and of the bill itself, are the result of compromise – which means they don’t please most people completely.  The gap between parties and ideologies in America is wide.  The areas of policy overlap are relatively small.  This means that middle ground proposals will always have built in critics.  The media loves to cover ideological arguments.  And the partisan media, on left and right, has an interest in feeding controversy.  But even prior to such ideological disagreements, people concerned about politics need to answer a question: Is legislative compromise a...


Politics and Prose

June 21, 2013 By Byron Borger It has been several decades since the founders of the Center for Public Justice raised the call for a uniquely Christian perspective on public justice. Many of the guiding principles came from the hundred-year-old heritage of the Christian political movement in Holland, inspired by Abraham Kuyper and Groen van Prinsterer. While James Skillen and other CPJ founders were not the only evangelicals calling for a worldview that informed our citizenship in those years, there were not many mainstream evangelicals in the 1970s who were interested in such concerns.   CPJ friend Dr. Ronald Sider was an early and consistent voice. He founded Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) forty years ago this year, and his many books have inspired multitudes to care more about the poor, about creation care, about the rights of the unborn, and about Biblical principles for social and political reform. (See the invitation...


Sustaining Medicare: Controversies and Alternatives

June 14, 2013 By Clarke E. Cochran Medicare is among the most successful public entitlement programs in American history. Medicare is in deep trouble. The very success of Medicare is a source of its predicament. Because of Medicare, America’s elderly and disabled now live longer and healthier lives. Yet the pathologies of the United States health care system, combined with the baby boom generation reaching age 65, ensure that federal expenditures for the program are unsustainable. In normal political times, these problems would be difficult, but not intractable. The vicious ideological trench warfare of the last decade, however, makes it very thorny to craft policies to extend Medicare’s successes, while keeping it fiscally solvent. In general, Democrats and progressives wish to preserve Medicare’s current structure, making modest changes to improve quality and to ensure financial sustainability. Republicans and conservatives...


Wise US Foreign Policy Begins at Home

June 14, 2013 By Charles Strohmer It’s no secret that the United States faces critical policy choices at home and abroad and that a disabled political process in Washington lacks the skill to find wise ways ahead in either area. In addition, a widespread lack of understanding exists among the American public about the place of domestic life in foreign policy.  Perhaps this is because of a perceived dualism between the two areas (excepting rare moments of truth for the nation sent from afar). Or perhaps it is because foreign policy decision making is not particularly democratic; it is superintended by the President, Congressional activism, and a relatively small community of elite analysts and advisors, none of whom submit their policies to a direct popular vote. Only afterward, do we the people get to decide. Lack of public understanding about the importance of the domestic to the foreign, and vice-versa, diminishes the ability of...


Taking the Long View

June 14, 2013 By Brant Himes Reading James Bratt’s new biography, Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat (Eerdmans, 2013), reminds me that political progress seldom comes easily.  Democracy is about debating the great issues, from education reform, labor laws, and suffrage in Kuyper’s day to immigration reform, gun control, and the budget in our own, and then capitalizing on the ebb and flow of opportunity to find a consensus.  This can be an excruciating process.  Yet Kuyper’s life and work demonstrate that participating in democracy is less about exercising raw political power in order to squash the opposition and more about acting from a consistent and thoroughly grounded world and life view. Party platforms change; ultimate loyalties should not.  Kuyper provides an apt starting place for such a Christian world view: a commitment to the Lordship and sovereignty of Jesus Christ over all areas of...


The Elephant Whisperers

June 14, 2013 By Robert Joustra Imagine a rider on an elephant. That, says Jonathan Haidt, is what our conscious, cerebral process is like compared to our unconscious, gut instincts. Our conscious reasoning can guide, but it usually retrospectively justifies and prods where the elephant was going anyway. Haidt’s new book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, makes some basic points about moral, political, and religious decision making that pundits and policy makers can hardly afford to miss. That first basic point is probably his most fundamental, and it has a long history. The idea that habits eventually produce virtue and create instincts which guide us more directly than does conscious reflection is likely older than Aristotle.  In The Politics of Piety, Saba Mahmood uses Aristotle to explain women wearing the veil in the Islamic pietistic movement in Egypt. The veil, she...


Economic Growth: Always Good?

June 7, 2013 By George N. Monsma, Jr. Economic Growth: Unleashing the Potential of Human Flourishing by Edd S. Noell, Stephen L. S. Smith, and Bruce G. Webb (AEI Press; April 2013) The authors of this short book, all professors of economics at Christian colleges, state that “the core proposition of this book is that growth is a moral issue because of its impact on the flourishing—or shriveling—of human society.” With an interest “in how growth relates to Christian moral norms in particular,” they state that sustained growth is good because “At its best, sustained growth raises the poor out of poverty, improves the lives of the rich, and helps nations avoid intergenerational conflict and the deprivations of...


The American Eagle

June 7, 2013 By Aaron Belz  The eagle has served from time immemorial as a symbol of power, speed, and dignity. Biblical authors, ancient Greeks and Romans, tribes, families, nations, and institutions down through the centuries have rallied around eagle imagery. The eagle has inflamed poets’ imaginations too, memorably Alfred Lord Tennyson’s, whose 1851 poem “The Eagle” begins, “He clasps the crag with crooked hands,” and concludes with a memorable display of quiet strength: “He watches from his mountain walls, / And like a thunderbolt he falls.” The American eagle, designed by Charles Thomson in 1782, has played a more specific role in our history. Bearing in its right talon an olive branch and in its left thirteen arrows, it signifies the dualism of peace and war—grace and justice. A banner in its beak says, “E Pluribus Unum.” (Out of many, one.) With a shield on its...


Who Should Decide How to Allocate Science Funding? (3)

June 7, 2013 By Jason E. Summers This article is the third installment in a three-part series. Recent draft legislation put forward by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) requires that the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) formally affirm that all funded research satisfies a set of congressionally mandated criteria designed to ensure that federally funded science “directly benefit the American people.” In the first and second installments of this series, I argued that this legislation centralizes control, undermining a robust devolutionary system of funding allocation by peer review. It proposes an ill-conceived change to the process that will restrict federal funding from fulfilling the...


The Case for US Intervention in Syria

June 7, 2013 By Michael Gerson This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  Events in Syria are in a grim, downward spiral. What began as a movement of largely peaceful protests has devolved into a bitter civil war. The brutal dictator of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, has crossed line after moral line: arresting and murdering opponents; firing at crowds; using artillery, aerial bombing, and Scud missiles against civilian targets; and employing chemical weapons, so far on a small scale.  Assad’s strategy is familiar from other conflicts such as Darfur. Those areas of Syria he cannot fully control he attempts to terrorize and depopulate. As a result, more than 80,000 people are dead, and millions of refugees are on the move, threatening the stability of neighboring countries. In Jordan, more than 10 percent...


The Limits of Self-Government

May 31, 2013 By Timothy Sherratt The appalling destruction and loss of life wrought by the F-5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma has brought fresh perspective on existing safety precautions. The size and violence of the tornado called into question the effectiveness of Moore’s “Shelter in Place” policy. In an article in last week’s New York Times, John Schwartz cites “Cost and Plains Culture” to account for the lack of safe rooms in the city’s housing stock.  This simple juxtaposition implies that the independent spirit of “Tornado Alley” is somehow its own worst enemy in the matter of safety and that if the citizens had been more receptive to government regulation, they would have taken extra precautions and more lives would have been saved. There is more to the story, however. A complex web of...


When Citizens Disagree

May 31, 2013 By James Skillen This article was originally published in 1994 for the Christian Legal Society. It has been republished as a collection of pieces in the Journal of Christian Legal Thought (2 J. Christian L. Thought, at 13 (Fall 2012)) One truth is simple enough to understand: If citizens in the same country find themselves fundamentally at odds over very basic matters such as slavery, abortion, or the legitimacy of government itself, then it is quite possible that political order may collapse into civil war or into some lesser display of chaos. Radical disagreement at the foundations cannot be papered over by handshakes and smiles.  The question about American society in this age of increasing relativism and multiculturalism is whether the disagreements are fundamental or only superficial. I think the disagreements are of both kinds, and Christians ought to work diligently to distinguish them. We...


Who Should Decide How to Allocate Science Funding?

May 31, 2013 By Jason E. Summers This article is the second installment in a three-part series. In the first installment of this series, I argued that legislative controls on the allocation of the $7 billion National Science Foundation (NSF) budget (such as those passed in Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) amendment to the 2013 NSF appropriation bill and those proposed by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) in a draft copy of the High Quality Research Act) support a populist appeal that federally funded science “directly benefit the American people,” thus undermining a robust devolutionary system of funding allocation. In the following two installments, I will outline a principled case against the type of oversight proposed in the High Quality...


Making the Right Argument in the Gosnell Murder Case

May 31, 2013 By Elisa Shearer A version of this article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, an online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice.  On May 13, 2013, Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for the death of three babies born alive at his abortion clinic in Philadelphia. The next day, Gosnell waived his right to appeal in exchange for a sentence of life without parole.  This sentence marked the end not only of a corrupt medical practice, but also of a sustained media frenzy. The Gosnell case may be over, but its coverage (and argued lack thereof) caused a wave of commentary on media coverage and the wider issue...


Who Should Decide How to Allocate Science Funding?

May 24, 2013 By Jason E. Summers This article is the first installment in a three-part series. While the scientific community has expressed significant concern over the impact of the sequester on US research, focus has most recently shifted to the question of congressional oversight of science funding and the degree to which Congress should exercise control over how federal agencies allocate this funding. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) took actions in March that limited the impact of the sequester on the nearly $7 billion National Science Foundation (NSF) budget, but with a caveat, introduced by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) in an amendment to the appropriation bill. The caveat requires that the NSF not award any of the roughly $10 million allocated for political-science research unless the director of NSF details, on an award-by-award basis, how such research will “promot[e] national security or the economic interests of the...


Star Trek’s Elusive Utopia

May 24, 2013 By Josh Larsen There really shouldn’t be this much strife in the Star Trek universe. From the early episodes, created by Gene Roddenberry in the 1960s, to Star Trek Into Darkness, the newest film in the franchise, the series has sold a world in which advanced technology, human intellect, and a reliance on reason have resulted in unprecedented cooperation – an interstellar United Federation of Planets, no less. But why does conflict still exist, be it in the form of savage Klingons or evil clones? Considering all the advances the series celebrates, it’s ironic that the problems of Star Trek often mirror our own. This is especially true with Star Trek Into Darkness, the second entry from director J.J. Abrams, the...


Dialogue

May 24, 2013 By Catherine E. Wilson This commentary is an adapted version of a lecture delivered at Villanova University’s Catholic Social Teaching and Issues of Justice Curriculum Development Seminar on May 15, 2013.  On April 17, 2013, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744).  A bipartisan bill set into motion by the “Gang of Eight,” S. 744 is one measure in a long line of legislative attempts over the years to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) in the United States.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the main objectives of the 844-page bill are to (1) strengthen border security, (2) mandate employer verification procedures, (3) reduce the visa backlog, (4) develop a “W” (guest worker) visa, (5) advance immigrant...


An Anniversary to Celebrate: PEPFAR and its Far Reaching Implications

May 24, 2013 By Michael J. Gerson On May 23, 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, making this the tenth anniversary of an extraordinary moment in American history.  When that law was being debated, there were about 50,000 people in all of sub-Saharan Africa on AIDS treatment.  According the most recent figures, that number is now 7 million – thanks to PEPFAR, the Global Fund and efforts of countries themselves. It is easy to pass over a statistic this large.  But these are millions of human lives – men, women and children with faces and names – who would have had early deaths without a massive global effort led by the United States.  I attended many White House meetings where PEPFAR was discussed and watched President Bush make his decision.  And over the years I’ve met many people in Africa whose lives were saved as...


Viktor Orbán and Hungary’s Constitution

May 17, 2013 By David Koyzis Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is no stranger to controversy. Still in his 20s when the communist régime was phased out in his native Hungary, he organized the Alliance of Young Democrats, known in its abbreviated form as Fidesz, now the ruling party in that country. Originally libertarian, Fidesz changed its orientation in the mid-1990s in a conservative direction, leading to its eventual expulsion from the Liberal International (the world federation of liberal and progressive political parties). Fidesz now allies itself with the European People’s Party in the larger European context, and currently enjoys a two-thirds majority in Parliament along with its coalition partner, the Christian Democratic People’s Party. This parliamentary supermajority has invited much of the criticism leveled at Orbán’s government....


Tough Political Choices in Syria: Recognizing the Stakes of Inaction

May 17, 2013 By Paul S. Rowe  The Syrian civil war is now going into its third year. It did not have to come to this. Relatively peaceful demonstrations that arose during the Arab Spring of 2011 were met with brutality, and the Syrian government’s apocalyptic response dashed the hopes of many that change might come without war. Amid speculation about the use of chemical weapons and Israel’s intervention, there is a growing feeling that Western states are unable and unwilling to intervene.  Bashar al-Assad’s government holds on with support from Iran and Russia.  His willingness to escalate the use of violence demonstrates a steely determination to continue the fight no matter what, all the while contributing to the radicalization of the opposition.  What started as the dramatic demonstration of people power in homage to the protests in Tunis, Cairo, and Sana’a has turned into a nasty and brutish struggle...


Politics and Prose

May 17, 2013 By Byron Borger  The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define Us as a Nation  Stephen Prothero (HarperOne; 2012)   The title of Prothero’s amazingly interesting and thorough work, recently out in paperback, is at once helpful and troubling. Biblically balanced readers will be on guard against insinuations of civil religion and may even recoil at a book that uses the metaphor of sacred Scripture for a compilation of significant texts that have developed within the public conversation of US history.  Does it confuse matters to suggest that a secular canon of authoritative civil texts is a “Bible” and does that metaphor carry too much weight here? Perhaps. But this book is not intended as a tribute to the religious right or a “Christian America” thesis.   Prothero’s use of the categories of Genesis, Law, Proverbs, Psalms,...


Responding to Threats to Religious Freedom

May 17, 2013 By Leah Seppanen Anderson Religious organizations, like individuals, need religious freedom. This is the compelling thesis of Stanley Carlson-Thies’ recent Kuyper Lecture. He argues that a widespread belief has taken hold in America that views religion as merely a private act of worship. This belief threatens to inhibit the intrinsically religious act of education or service to the poor by limiting the ability of religious organizations to maintain their distinctive religious identities as they serve the public. These challenges are real and Carlson-Thies identifies an overarching trend that connects a diverse set of conflicts between government and religious organizations.  The big picture is important, but policy details also matter, especially for how the debate is framed within and beyond the Christian community.  As Christians and religious...


“A Kind of Solution”: Cavafy’s Barbarians

May 10, 2013 By Aaron Belz  In the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy’s vision, art speaks to politics as the uncivilized to the civilized— a wild enemy approaching the gate. “What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?” begins his 1904 poem “???????????? ???? ?????????” (“Waiting for the Barbarians”). “The barbarians are due here today,” replies the indented second line, invoking a question-and-answer structure that continues throughout the poem. “Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?” begins the third stanza, and the fourth repeats the original answer, adding, “What’s the point of senators making laws now? / Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.” It’s a power play, described by unidentified voices, that escalates step by step, becoming more specific. Why are the politicians wearing “embroidered …...


The Elusive Quest for Balance in Political Legislation

May 10, 2013 By Harold Heie The biggest obstacle to politicians actually governing rather than posturing is their erroneous belief that their particular side has a monopoly on how to solve a public policy problem, and the views of the opposition have little or no value. This either/or rather than both/and thinking typically leads to politicians proposing inadequate, one-dimensional solutions to multidimensional problems, when what is needed is a proper balance that addresses the various dimensions of the issue. Examples abound of political legislation that has failed because of a refusal to seek this proper balance. The stalemate in attempts to solve the federal budget deficit problem results from one-dimensional thinking on both sides of the aisle, where the options presented are either to cut revenues or to increase revenues. However, no real solution is possible unless we pursue both strategies, creating a workable balance between...


Reconciliatory Activism

May 10, 2013 By Aaron Tolkamp In his most recent book, Just and Unjust Peace, political theorist Daniel Philpott attempts to answer the question, “What is justice after large-scale injustice?” Philpott responds by describing a concept of justice called political reconciliation that has at its heart the restoration of right relationship between perpetrator and victim. He notes that this concept is found most commonly in the scriptures of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Philpott argues that this concept of justice is fit for politics and offers the greatest chance of attaining a just peace through its promotion of human flourishing. So, does the Bible support political advocacy and should Christians be involved in it? If so, in what capacity or by what means? These important questions come up particularly...


Christian Principles for Immigration Reform

May 10, 2013 By Michael J. Gerson This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  Recently the U.S. Senate began serious consideration of what is perhaps the most important legislation of President Obama’s second term – a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  The bipartisan bill runs hundreds of pages, and hundreds of amendments have already been proposed. Precisely because it is a comprehensive approach, there is bound to be something in the bill that makes everyone uncomfortable. Conservatives, so far, have focused mainly on border security.  They are pushing for early triggers, requiring effective control of the border before other provisions of the bill – particularly the granting of legal status to undocumented workers – kick in.  This is a valid concern. The current level of illegal border crossings is actually quite low...


At the Corner of Need and Calling

May 3, 2013 By Timothy Sherratt The academic year is ending. In the first year seminar course I teach, the spring semester picked up where the fall had left off, moving from character and the good life to consideration of community and justice. Students embarked on service projects in the City of Lynn, near in miles but far in cultural and economic distance. The political backdrop to the semester saw the President inaugurated for a second term, sandwiched between the averted fiscal cliff and the looming sequester. Hopeful signs accompanied a renewed debate on firearms, occasioned by the atrocity at Sandy Hook, and on immigration, occasioned by predictions of electoral extinction for the G.O.P. The semester ends on notes of tragedy and terror. Bombings at the Boston marathon. A political rather than a popular failure to take commonsense steps to restrict gun violence, even as some in Congress excoriate federal agencies for failing to...


Hanging up Our Harps: The Fading of War(-protest) Music in America

May 3, 2013 By Ryan O’Dowd Aaron Belz recently provided a survey of war-protest music from Vietnam to the “Cold War paranoia” that followed, sampling lyrics from Dylan, Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, John and Yoko, Springsteen, REM, and Sting.  He left us wondering why we no longer have the big albums and celebrity musicians that once united young generations. Indeed, prior to the 1960s, music and national meta-narratives went hand-in-hand, gathering people around their common pro-war causes.  But as Belz and historians of music note, our haphazard involvement in Vietnam joined a sprouting cultural revolution to provoke widespread dissent among Americans and a corresponding sympathy for the people of Vietnam.  The music industry in America had matured at just the right time to spread the new anti-war narrative. Significantly, however, the...


The Aftermath of the Post-Chávez Elections: Implications for US-Venezuelan Relations

May 3, 2013 By Ruth Melkonian-Hoover When Chávez’s heir apparent, Nicolás Maduro, won the Venezuelan election on April 14th by a narrow margin (less than 2%), the United States was not one of the first countries to congratulate him. With the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles calling for an audit the day after the election, the White House immediately echoed that call. While such a stance is understandable given the closeness of the race, one did not hear such sentiments coming from other key nations and regional neighbors like Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia or Argentina, all of which have since recognized Maduro’s victory.  It is not surprising that the opposition would question the results, given a much closer margin than many expected; Capriles lost to Chávez in October by 11% and pre-election media coverage in Venezuela in April indicated a similar outcome in Capriles’ race against Maduro. To date, Capriles is pressing for...


Empowering Women in Post-Revolution Egypt

May 3, 2013 By Raafat Latif The winds of change are blowing in the Middle East. While many watch for the political and economic results of the Arab Spring, others hope for radical social transformation. In Egypt, injustice toward women takes its form in alarming statistics of school dropout rates, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, and early marriage. Yet individual cases of physical and emotional abuse do not tell the whole story. The key issue is the distorted self-image that society imprints on a girl’s mind and heart from the time she is a child. Women in Egypt today see themselves as second-class humans, of lesser value than men, weaker in intellect and capabilities. A woman’s role is limited to meeting the needs of men. Into this painful reality came the 25th of January Revolution with its demand for freedom and human dignity.  Since then, one of the most urgent issues left untended is that of women’s status...


Playing Kim’s Game?

April 26, 2013 By Steven Meyer Now that the dust has settled on the most recent episode of North Korean nuclear “saber rattling,” perhaps we can stand back a bit to assess briefly the many moving parts that comprise this issue.  It is important, I think, to understand that this was one episode in the North Korean regime’s ongoing jockeying for political position. Just like his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Un needs to address internal issues and external relations with the outside world. First, an actual nuclear strike was never the point; it was about political posturing, gamesmanship, and credibility.  Although Kim Jong Un is only twenty eight years old, he had been groomed by his father for nearly a decade to take over the reins of power.  But his right to “inherit” power in Pyongyang does not mean that his grip on that power is unassailable. He has to show the North Korean population and especially the powerful...


Blind Eyes no More, and other Bad News for Russia

By Robert Joustra April 26, 2013 All eyes turned to Chechnya this past week, with an as yet-apocryphal attachment of the Boston bombings to persistent post-Soviet warfare in the Caucasus. However, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Chechen identity, time spent in the Caucasus, and deep connection to their Islamic faith is not proof positive of their collusion in global, Islamic radicalism. But proof or not, Americans are waking up to a Chechen reality, long ignored by the international community as a matter of Russian “internal security,” that is one of the most brutal, destructive, and overlooked humanitarian disasters of the modern world. The 1990s were the setting for two major Chechen wars, what one journalist describes as one of the two most savage wars he has witnessed, the other being Rwanda. The Chechen conflict’s roots stretch back to both imperial Russian and...


Charity Tax Deduction: Important for Many Charities, Vital for Others

April 26, 2013 By Stanley Carlson-Thies An earlier version of this article was published in the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance eNewsletter for Faith-Based Organizations on March 1, 2013.  Thanks to the federal government's continuing huge debt crisis and the deep polarization about solutions (mainly more revenues vs. mainly less spending), Washington policymakers keep casting covetous eyes at the federal tax deduction for taxpayers who give to charitable organizations and who itemize their deductions. No matter that the protracted recession has meant more and more people showing up at charities for shelter, food, and other services even while the recession has made it harder to raise the donations needed to pay for those services. The House Committee on Ways and Means recently held...


The George W. Bush Museum and Library Dedication

April 26, 2013 By Michael J. Gerson This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  In Dallas this week, five American presidents gathered to help dedicate the George W. Bush Museum and Library.  For anyone who loves the American story, it was an amazing sight.  There was so much history concentrated in one place.  One president, as a young flyer, was shot down in World War II.  One tried to restore a nation’s trust after Watergate. One led America through an era of prosperity and good feeling.  One was summoned to respond to the 9/11 attacks.  One is the first African-American president in our history.  By any measure, this is a diverse group.  But the ceremony was more than a historical curiosity.  It displayed some important things about democracy.  Over the years, these leaders were...


Pope Francis, the Culture of Life, and the Care of Creation

April 19, 2013 By Rusty Pritchard There are many unexpected things about the ascension of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy: his election (unpredicted), his chosen name of Francis (the First), his country of origin (not European), and his religious order (Jesuit). He has confounded additional expectations by shunning the trappings of power and privilege in favor of modesty and simplicity, as he has throughout his career. The mainstream press has made much of Francis’s pronouncements on the environment.  In his inaugural address and in nearly every speech since, Pope Francis has mentioned it as one of the priorities of his papacy. That doesn’t mean that Francis is a left-wing theologian. Though critical of globalization, he is...


"In…the World”

April 19, 2013 By James W. Skillen This article was originally published in 1985 for the Christian Legal Society. It has been republished as a collection of pieces in the Journal of Christian Legal Thought (2 J. Christian L. Thought, at 13 (Fall 2012)). Frequently someone will ask me if I think the country would be better off if more Christians entered public office. My response is seldom an unequivocal yes. Why my hesitation? How would you respond to the following question? “Wouldn’t we all be better off if more Christians were teachers, farmers, and journalists?” Or reshape the question slightly by putting it this way: “If a group composed entirely of Christians got together to organize a school, wouldn’t they be creating a Christian school?” Most of us would respond rather quickly, I suppose, by saying that it all depends on...


Politics and Prose

April 19, 2013 By Byron Borger Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat - James Bratt (Eerdmans; 2013) On Kuyper: A Collection of Readings on the Life, Work & Legacy of Abraham Kuyper - Edited by Steve Bishop & John Kok (Dordt College Press; 2013) The Center for Public Justice is broad-based citizen movement drawing on a variety of political theorists, theologians, and public intellectuals.  In this column, I am delighted to review an assortment of books that help us think more fruitfully about politics and justice in the public square.  We read widely, think deeply, and act as we can, hoping to forge a perspective other than standard-fare liberal or conservative options. However, CPJ and its leaders stand within a particular political tradition, shaped by the socially engaged neo-Calvinism that generated spiritual...


Social Justice and the Body of Christ

April 19, 2013 By Cristina Martinez This article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, a new online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice.    Dealing with poverty, and more importantly the poor or those in need, often sharply divides people from differing political parties. While conservatives receive criticism for their lack of compassion and realization of the importance of welfare systems, liberals are often caricatured as enablers and people who squander money on the lazy. While both pictures are slightly dramatized, the underlying sentiment remains—debates about helping the needy cause strife. Looking at what the Bible says about poverty alleviation provides us with three basic, yet...


An Outbreak of Bipartisanship on Gun Control and Immigration Reform

April 12, 2013 By Michael J. Gerson This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa.  Just when it seemed that bipartisanship was dead in politics and progress on major issues impossible, Washington is seeing a minor outbreak of hope. Two bipartisan groups of Senators have hashed out compromises on gun control and rewriting our immigration laws.  Both debates are moving forward in Congress. There are a number of reasons for this progress.  First, the Senate is working in the way the Senate was designed to work. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, the authors of the expanded background check bill, both have a history of strong support for gun rights. But neither is up for reelection in this cycle, insulating them from the immediate pressure of some of their...


Is Religious Freedom Under Threat?

April 12, 2013 By Stephen V. Monsma We Americans are justifiably proud of our tradition of religious freedom for all. We take pride in the simple, elegant—even if not fully clear—words of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Supreme Court has repeatedly insisted that religious liberty is unassailable.  Nevertheless, there are voices today insisting that religious liberty in the United States is under threat, that we a losing one of our most precious freedoms. Do we need to be concerned over the real or potential loss of religious liberty?  I believe we do.  For example, San Diego State University recently withdrew official on-campus recognition from two Christian student organizations and stripped them of the privileges that all other on-campus student organizations possess. The University decided that they might not...


War Protest Music: What Is It Good For?

April 12, 2013 By Aaron Belz America’s involvement in Vietnam inspired protest songs that range in style from Bob Dylan’s plaintive “Masters of War” (1963) to Joan Baez’s “Saigon Bride” (1967) to John and Yoko’s “Give Peace a Chance” (1969) to Edwin Starr’s R&B chart-topper “War” (1970). At Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix ripped a cynical National Anthem on his Stratocaster—warped, off-key, and full of virtuosity. The Birds, Simon and Garfunkel, the Grateful Dead and others joined the fray. But the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 did not mark the end America’s involvement in war protest music. In the 1980s there was a renewal of interest in the subject, including Paul Hardcastle’s “19” (1985), memorable for its flatly-stated sound bite sampled over synthesizer: “In World War Two, the average age of the combat soldier was 26. / In Vietnam he was 19. / In-in-in-in-in-in-in Vietnam he was 19.” Frankie Goes to...


One Giant Leap for School Choice

April 12, 2013 By Dave Larsen School choice advocates who hang out in the neighborhood of voucher support felt the earth move recently. The epicenter is in America’s heartland. The focus of what the Center for Public Justice believes about education, as stated in one of its Guidelines for Government and Citizenship is on parental responsibility and the proper role of government. Parents carry the primary responsibility for educating their children. Government ought to provide just and equitable access to quality education for each and every child. At present, as the guideline observes, government “fails to do justice when it does not fund equally all of the schooling option it certifies.” Parents who choose to educate their children in non-government schools do not have access to public funding. From the Center’s viewpoint, a voucher system such as those found in most...


An Easter Tale of Two Global Churches, Fractured yet Hopeful

April 5, 2013 By Timothy Sherratt The central message of Easter is the hope engendered by Jesus’ resurrection.  As it happens, two global churches have recently embarked on new paths with new leaders, both of whose early actions call on and engender this hope. In assuming his new role, Pope Francis has declined many of the trappings of papal splendor. During Holy Week he engaged in the usual Maundy Thursday service of foot washing. But those whose feet he washed were not priests, as is customary, but teenage inmates, male and female, at a youth prison in Rome, which is decidedly unusual. This simple liturgy accentuates the centrality of service in the proclamation of the Good News. Done in such a setting it takes the Church into the places of the world’s hurt. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used his Easter sermon to caution against misplaced trust in human organizations, whose fallibility would predictably...


Engaging Politicians about Immigration Reform

April 5, 2013 By Harold Heie Those of us who have been advocating for immigration reform have been encouraged by the Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform that is being discussed by the Senate. But what is the best way to make our political representatives aware of our support of this proposal? I submit for your consideration some strategies that we have tried in northwest Iowa. We first got the attention of Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa, the leading Republican on the Judiciary Committee that is debating this proposal, when a good number of the 800 plus Iowa residents who had signed a petition “To Fix Our Broken Immigration System” (still available for signature at www.ouriowaneighbors.org) flooded his Sioux City office with phone calls encouraging the Senator...


Fixing Social Security for All of Us

April 5, 2013 By Todd P. Steen  On balance, Social Security is probably the most effective government program ever, and it may also be the most popular. Over the last 60 years, people have come to expect that Social Security will be there for them when they retire, when they become disabled, or when a spouse or parent dies. For many retirees, Social Security provides the lion’s share of their income, and the program has helped to significantly reduce the poverty rate among seniors. Since 1973 its benefits have kept up with inflation through yearly cost of living adjustments. Two of the key characteristics of the program have been its certainty and its universality.  The vast majority of the population pays into the system, and the vast majority also receives benefits from Social Security at some point during their lifetimes. This has been true for the rich and poor alike for over 50 years. However, with the graying of the baby boom...


Women in Combat: A Christian Perspective?

April 5, 2013 By Julia K. Stronks In January of this year, then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta cancelled the military ban on women in combat. Response to this move has been varied, and for Christians it has revived a gender debate. Are all men created differently from all women such that they complement each other, or has God created men and women in such a wide variety of ways that gender assumptions should be abandoned in public policy? From one perspective the administration’s new approach is not controversial because it simply formalizes what has been happening for decades. Historically, women could not be assigned to fight on the ground.  This meant that they were barred from most infantry, armor and artillery units. But, for almost a century American women have served the military overseas in organizations like the Army Nurse Corps and the Women’s Army...


The Meaning of the Resurrection

March 29, 2013 By Michael J. Gerson This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa. Recent polling by the Pew Research Center reveals that nearly 20 percent of Americans report having “seen or been in the presence of a ghost.” This is a remarkably common belief across cultures and throughout human history. We know, for example, that Jesus’ disciples believed in ghosts, because, following the Resurrection, they thought they had seen one.  The book of Luke tells us that when Jesus suddenly appeared to his followers, “They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.”  Jesus took great pains to reassure them that this was not the case.  “Look at my hands and feet,” he said.  “It is I myself!  Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”  This was an important...


In Pursuit of Holistic Justice and Human Dignity in India

March 29, 2013 By Michelle Crotwell Kirtley In December, the world was shocked by reports of a brutal gang rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi. The young girl eventually died from her injuries, prompting massive protests, outrage and demands for justice among the Indian public. In response to the public outcry, the Indian government amended its penal code, enacting stiffer penalties for rape convictions, removing barriers to prosecuting public officials for sexual assault, and criminalizing stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment for the first time. The six men, one of whom is a juvenile, were eventually arrested and charged with rape and murder. Authorities have promised a speedy trial for the other accused perpetrators.  Governments have a...


A Public Square Parable from Beyond the Hills

March 29, 2013 By Josh Larsen Same-sex marriage. Contraception and health-care coverage. Historical Adam. As these divisive issues continue to back some Christian churches and institutions into a corner, it’s become increasingly crucial to find an answer to this question: how can such places stay true to their religious convictions while also maintaining a vital presence in the public square? As we consider this dilemma, an applicable parable can be found in the excellent new Romanian film Beyond the Hills. The movie won a top prize at last year’s Cannes International Film Festival and is now playing at select American theaters (it’s also streaming online in some markets). Written and directed by Cristian Mungiu, one of Romania’s premier filmmakers, the picture largely takes place in an isolated monastery connected to the Romanian Orthodox Church. Though the...


Of Dreams and Renaissance: China’s New Government

March 29, 2013 By James Chen “We cannot hold the slightest complacency, there can be no slacking-off, [we] must redouble our efforts and, [with] our indomitable will, continue to push forward the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics and strive to achieve the Chinese dream of the great renaissance of the Chinese nation.” With these words, Xi Jinping, who had assumed leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) last November, proclaimed his vision for the nation as he assumed the presidency of the People’s Republic of China. This inauguration was the culmination of the March meeting of China’s legislative body, the National People’s Congress (NPC). Although the president is officially the head of state, the position is in practice a figurehead because the state apparatus is subservient to the party. For this reason, the NPC is largely regarded as a rubber stamp whose...


Social Welfare and the Pluriformity of Authority

By David T. Koyzis In 1944 President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a second economic bill of rights, arguing that the guarantee of political rights in the U.S. Constitution had “proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.” Among the rights he believed ought to be guaranteed were the “right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;” the “right of every family to a decent home; the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;” and the “right to a good education.” Although nothing came of Roosevelt's proposal in the U.S., similar rights were enshrined four years later in articles 22 through 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which his widow Eleanor played a significant role in developing. The key...


The Mandate for Justice

March 22, 2013 By James W. Skillen This article was originally published in 1987 for the Christian Legal Society. It has been republished as a collection of pieces in the Journal of Christian Legal Thought (2 J. Christian L. Thought, at 13 (Fall 2012)). Is talking about a biblical mandate for Christians to do justice anything more than idealistic rhetoric? After all, isn’t the reality of politics and of a law practice little more than the struggle to keep the worst from happening, an effort to mediate and accommodate differences so that the parties each get a little of what they want? We might want justice, but justice will only come with the return of Christ. Is there any reason for working toward justice now?  Contrary to the arguments of idealists and realists, I strongly believe that God’s mandate to do justice, and not simply to wish...


Youth Violence, Civil Society and the Power of Relationships

March 22, 2013 By Harold Dean Trulear Don't Shoot!  So screams the title of criminologist David Kennedy's excursus through his years of working with communities, gangs and law enforcement in a persistent quest to end inner city violence. Throughout Kennedy's detailed rehearsal of efforts in Boston, High Point, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Baltimore and other venues, he points not merely to a strategy for reducing violence, but also the context of the violence itself. Here, the discussion turns to an ethos of misunderstanding and mistrust. Kennedy claims that the three core stakeholders in inner cities—residents, gangs and police/law enforcement—misunderstand each other. Each group wants something better for the community but sees the other groups in adversarial terms. Yes, even those youth and young adults who "bring the noise.” At the core of...


Tempered Praise for New Director of White House Faith-Based Office

March 22, 2013 By Stanley Carlson-Thies An earlier version of this article was published in the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance eNewsletter for Faith-Based Organizations on March 13, 2013.  President Obama hits a triple. Melissa Rogers, a noted consensus-building church-state expert, has been appointed the new director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, succeeding Joshua DuBois, who resigned in February. She was the chair of President Obama's first Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where she also directed its taskforce on "Reform of the Office," which recommended that the president largely maintain the principles of the faith-based initiative as those were developed during the Clinton and Bush...


Conservative Soul-Searching: The Time is Now

March 15, 2013 By Paul Brink Conservatism has always been an unusual political force in America, even more so than it is elsewhere. A disparate movement to begin with, what has typically united conservatives across their other divides has been their common opponent. For decades, Communism provided the foil; more recently, Saddam Hussein kept the family together. But in Washington’s current political reality, the liberal state itself has emerged as the new target, with the Democratic Party as the state’s chief apologist. Not so surprisingly, in such a world genuine dialogue across the party divide has becomes enormously difficult, the possibility for bipartisan cooperation has faded nearly away, and non-governance has become the new normal. This is bad for the republic.  Frankly, it’s also bad for the Republican Party. For the sake of the country, and for the sake of their Party, conservatives need to enter a new round of ideological...


Politics & Prose

March 15, 2013 By Byron Borger Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, Nina Shea (Thomas Nelson; 2013)  Forty years ago, when I first heard of Amnesty International, I was nauseated to learn of gruesome torture doled out by governments of the left and right. Human rights abuses seem to be no respecter of ideology. But Amnesty’s call to citizen action on behalf of others who had no voice was a clear, specific option for involvement and served as a viable on-ramp which many used to learn about political activism.   Twenty years ago, I got involved in a decade-long campaign to help a group of Chinese asylum seekers fleeing the forced abortions and draconian one-child policy of communist China and found myself learning more than I wanted to know about global religious repression and international human rights violations. The byzantine process of changing...


Sequestration and a Failure of Leadership

March 15, 2013 By Aaron Korthius This article originally appeared on SharedJustice.org, a new online journal of the Center for Public Justice dedicated to engaging young Christian thinkers in a conversation on what it means to do public justice.    The similarities between Honduran and U.S. politics are not often a cause for reflection in my life. The issues at stake and the types of relationships and power that shape policy seem to hold little in common. But last month, as U.S. policymakers failed to create a deal to address impending budget cuts—cuts that are now official—I realized from afar in Honduras that the politics of my home country share many of the same characteristics that cripple and exacerbate the problems...


The Significance of the New Pope

March 15, 2013 By Michael J. Gerson This is a transcript of a radio address broadcast for the Center for Public Justice on KDCR radio in Sioux Center, Iowa. The selection of a new pope, Francis I, has focused the world on the struggles and splendor of one its greatest institutions. It is not necessary to be a Catholic to appreciate the history and importance of a church with roots in the ancient history and adherents across the planet. The health of the Catholic Church is inseparable from the health of global Christianity.   The serious problems of the Catholic Church over the last few decades have demonstrated something that is true about every organization. When leaders set out to defend their institution at any cost, they often end up undermining their institution in short order. This is the lesson of so many political scandals—downplaying or covering up a problem always makes the problem grow worse. The...


A New Season in Ideologically Driven Politics?

March 8, 2013 By Timothy Sherratt Can Christian perspective make a constructive contribution to improving the political climate? Barely two months into the new administration, the partisan atmosphere is as uncompromising as ever. In seeming disarray following the 2012 elections, Republicans have regained a measure of unity around the fiscal crisis. By claiming to have made a major concession on taxes—the expiration of Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans—they hold the administration responsible for allowing the Sequester to occur. Now the conservative media accuses the administration of exaggerating the impact of the Sequester, which it frames as nothing more than a five percent belt-tightening that ought to be within the competence of any departmental manager. Certainly the administration appears to have had its bluff called, although the first few days can hardly provide an adequate measure of the accumulating effect...


Christians Investing in Public Education

March 8, 2013 By Stephanie Summers In many communities around our nation, the public education system is in crisis, reflecting broader social problems. Justice demands that every member of a community invest in the quality of public education. But in many Christian circles, educational quality has often been a difficult topic. The Center for Public Justice has long upheld two principles for educational policymaking.  The first maintains that government has a responsibility to fund equitably all the types of education which it certifies, which includes religiously organized schools. The second maintains that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children. As such, the Center actively promotes the authority of parents to choose to educate their child in a religiously organized school.  At the same time, we recognize that this does not let those parents “off the hook” for doing their part, as a member of...


Disaster Relief, Climate Change and Fiscal Stewardship

March 8, 2013 By Ben Lowe This article originally appeared in Relevant Magazine’s online column “Reject Apathy.” Superstorm Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, though it was only ever a Category 2 storm at its strongest and had weakened to a Category 1 storm by landfall. Nevertheless, due to its immense size, incredible amount of moisture and record-breaking storm surge, it is estimated to be the second costliest storm in the history of the United States after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The 62-36 vote to pass a Hurricane Sandy aid package in the Senate capped off a dramatic saga that saw Republicans in both chambers struggle to...


Staying in the Political Game

March 8, 2013 By Vincent Bacote In recent years, many younger Christians (and some not so young) have arrived at place of frustration regarding political participation.  For some this is because they are disappointed with the political practice of evangelical Christians who hold public office, whi