Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

Just in TIME for the opening of Calvin's Coffee House at the FSU Presbyterian University Center, TIME magazine declares Calvinism one of the Next Big Things (technically # 3 on the list of the Next Big Things). One of the most understated lines in the article by David Van Biema is "Calvinist-descended liberal bodies like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) discovered other emphases." Among the people highlighted in the article, John Piper and Alfred Mohler are Baptists, Marc Driscoll pastors an independent "New Calvinist" church (Mars Hill in Seattle), and Collin Hansen was raised as a Methodist and now is in preparation for ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The irony of this is something for those of us who care about the future of the PCUSA to ponder.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday Musings: This Little Light of Mine Fades to Purple

I thought I was the only one who was cranky about the fact that some of the new "green" fluorescent bulbs actually glow a pale purple. Now the New York Times asks "Do New Bulbs Save Energy if They Don't Work?"

Saturday Musings: You, Too, Can Exit

One of the problems of government as a solution to social problems is that its monopoly position leaves very few mechanisms for discipline. One of those few is exit, which is a whole heck of a lot easier the smaller scale is the government we're talking about. In Pima County, Arizona, you can move across the street and get into another fire district or school district, or move not too far at all and live in another city or in no city at all. Even this reflects the typical American approach of tying K-12 education to the parents' address. But notice that we usually stop there. If we at FSU (or the faculty at any other Florida university) mess up on the quality of education we deliver, then any high school senior anywhere in Florida has a long list of other places to go. At the university level, "school choice" is not a abstract policy debate, it's a fact of life.

Mark Steyn emphasizes the importance of "exit" somewhat of the way into his article on "Obama's False Choice." When reading this, I saw that he asserted that social activist Bono had moved some of his business from Ireland to the Netherlands to reduce his tax bill. I wondered what the details were on this, and "through the magic of the internet," I found them in the Irish Times. Not suprisingly, social activist Bono is "stung" by criticism of hypocrisy. I say, "Way to go guys" and "I hope you keep in mind how important "exit" is in disciplining government when you continue your campaign to help Africa."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Bonus...

....nor, for that matter, steal it back, nor declare falsely about whether you knew that the bonuses were not only legal but specifically protected by your own legislation. If you are really careful, you might even be cautious about bowing down to the false God of valuing whatever the overnight tracking polls are saying.

If we think the 10th Commandment is just about oxes and donkeys were are deluding ourselves. If we think that our "neighbor" is just someone who lives on our block, then we've probably never read any of the Gospel, becuase she is also that Samaritan in suburban New York who was asked to stay on a job at a dying company (something my Dad was once asked to do). It is precisely because we think that it seems so obvious that "I don't like that the stranger far away has that bonus" that we need to tread very carefully.

Finally, as has been a constant theme in my posts, it seems to me that where the Lord really gets upset is when these sins are enabled by the forces available to the powerful. Or, as Protein Wisdom currently puts it, "They came for the AIG bonuses, but I was not an AIG employee..." (My thanks to Instapundit for pointing out the link).

Friday, March 13, 2009

Taking Aim at The Independent Sector (!)

Perhaps it was because Doug and I are doing research on "reverse crowd-out" (research in which we have cited repeatedly the work by Gruber and Hungerman on the New Deal), but I wrote my February 26th post, below, only a couple of hours after reading about the Obama Administration's double-pronged attacks on private charitable giving. Not surprisingly, many other people dove in and have written on this subject.

One disconcerting note is that there are people in the world of charitable giving (a few, but not mostly, church-connected) that offer the apology that we have to remember the indirect effects. The Obama tax increases will go into the general U.S. revenue pool and that there will be some corresponding increase in "good things for the poor" (that assumes that the massive increase of government presence in our health care system will actually help the poor, but that's a debate for another post). The problem with this argument is that these folks are actively accepting the "crowding out" of private, voluntary charitable activity by coercively-based, government programs as, at worst, some kind of value-neutral trade-off. Despite the fact that this trade-off is pretty much gospel (pardon the pun) among many of the social activists that populate my own denomination (Presbyterian Church USA), I think that this was a terrible deal with the devil (and I don't mean that as a pun) in the 1930s and and equally so today.

Thanks to a link from Kathryn Jean Lopez, I found an extensive and forceful discussion of the broader consequences for Christianity of a new wave of crowding out. The author is Prof. Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, and it is linked to the Wall Street Journal. The title is great: "God Will Provide --- Unless the Government Gets There First."

Discerning the appropriate response to such a march of secularlism is not an easy call, and I hope to explore the issues more in future posts.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Sean Collins has just e-mailed me a thought-provoking article from the New York Times by Stanley Fish. I'm not sure exactly where Prof. Fish is going with his argument, but it is a good discussion-starter.