The Moral Limits of Psychology | Acton Institute

Defenders of the free market insist that virtue is essential to a just and thriving economy. If morality is relevant to economics, it is equally so to allied fields of social science, all of which have as their object of investigation the human person. Indifference to the moral dimension distorts the study of human action in economics; so too does it deform the discipline that reaches behind that action to the human mind: psychology.

 

Built on a sound anthropological foundation and guided by an equally sound morality that is clear on the proper goals of human life, the empirical findings and practical techniques of psychology can foster the flourishing of both persons and communities. Unfortunately, as Theodore Dalrymple argues in his most recent book Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality, contemporary psychology has long been not only hostile to traditional morality but also indifferent to and dismissive of the larger context of Western culture within which it arose. As a result contemporary psychology, according to Dalrymple, “is not a key to self-understanding but a cultural barrier to such understanding as we can achieve.”

Source: The Moral Limits of Psychology | Acton Institute

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The “least of these” are not the poor…

In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says,

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

This text is not about poor people generally. It’s about Christians getting the door slammed in their face while sharing the gospel with a neighbor. It’s about the baker/florist/photographer who is being mistreated for bearing faithful witness to Christ. It’s about disciples of Jesus having their heads cut off by Islamic radicals. In other words, it’s about any disciple of Jesus who was ever mistreated in the name of Jesus. This text shows us that Jesus will judge those who show contempt for the gospel by mistreating gospel-bearers.

Read the rest: The “least of these” are not the poor but the Christian baker, photographer, and florist | Denny Burk

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The Way Forward

Charlotte Allen’s editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal writes that if “the Supreme Court rule[s] … that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right” she anticipates “bubonic plague-level hysteria … threats of business boycotts” and even “death and arson threats” like those made against the “Catholic owners [who] told a reporter that, while they would gladly serve gays in their restaurant, they wouldn’t cater a gay wedding” against proponents of traditional marriage. While it is tempting to dismiss this as paranoia during when “Justice Samuel Alito asked Obama administration Solicitor General Donald Verrilli whether a religiously affiliated college that opposed same-sex marriage could lose its tax-exempt status after such a ruling. ‘It is going to be an issue,’ Mr. Verrilli replied.”

Whether or not the culture is lost or whether Christians will face persecution are open questions for me.  For what it may be worth to you, I’m not sure that our culture—any culture—isn’t already lost. This isn’t to dismiss culture, far from it. But like any culture, America’s is not monolithic. At best it is a mix of vice and virtue composed as it is by the many often contradictory and disordered loves of the men and women who live here.

Even traditionally minded Christians and other religious believers have surrendered to the attacks on biblical morality that we’ve seen in the last 40 or 50 years.  Even among Orthodox Christians the level of support for liberal abortion laws and for changing the definition of marriage are worryingly high. Many of us have simply fail to preach what we practice. Continue reading

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Nativity and Theophany Encyclical 2014

Be glad, you just, heavens rejoice, mountains leap for joy; Christ is born and the Virgin sits like the Cherubim throne carrying in her bosom God the Word made flesh. Shepherds glorify the one that is born; Magi offer gifts to the Master; Angels sing praises, saying: Lord beyond understanding, glory to you! (Lauds of Christmas Matins)


To the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of Parish Councils, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Members of Philanthropic Organizations, the Youth and Youth Workers, and the entire Orthodox Christian Family of the United States of America.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we gather in our communities to celebrate the Great Feasts of the Nativity and Theophany, we offer praise, honor and worship to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who has rendered us worthy once again to rejoice with the Shepherds, pay homage with the Magi, and to exclaim with the Angelic Powers, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all!

During this time, each of us looks forward to experiencing our local customs and traditions, which we have received from our ancestors. We adorn our homes and our churches with lights, garland and tinsel; we sing carols together and exchange gifts with each other; and we crown our celebration by receiving the Holy Eucharist. Continue reading

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Homily: Disciples, Apostles and Fishers of Men

Sunday, September 28, 2014: 16th Sunday after Pentecost & 1st Sunday of Luke

Venerable Chariton the confessor, abbot of Palestine, Prophet Baruch; Venerable Neophytos and Auxentios of Cyprus; Martyr Heliodoros and companions in Pisidia; Martyr Wenceslaus, prince of the Czechs

EPISTLE: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
GOSPEL: Luke 5:1-11

St Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church
Palos Heights, IL

During His earthly ministry, there were three groups of people who followed Jesus: the crowds, the disciples and the apostles.

Think of them as concentric rings with Jesus as the hub.

The crowds were those who followed Jesus not out of any great love for Him for their own reasons. They might have been curious—Jesus was after all the latest thing, even Herod heard of him and was curious about him (see, Luke 23:8)—or maybe they came to see a miracle (John 6:2), to be feed (Matthew 14:13-21) or even to hear a consoling sermon (Luke 5:1-11). Whatever their motivation those they followed Jesus they did so only from a distance and His teaching had little influence on their lives.

But this wasn’t true for all in the crowd. Continue reading

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EKK! NYC Council to Walmart: Stop Giving Money to Our Local Charities!

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Have we as Americans really become THIS estranged from each other?

Source: Joe Carter (Acton PowerBlog).

Last week, Walmart announced that it distributed $3 million last year to charities in New York City. The giving included $1 million to the New York Women’s Foundation, which offers job training, and $30,000 to Bailey House, which distributes groceries to low-income residents.

Naturally, there was one group that was appalled by the charitable giving: local politicians.

More than half the members of the New York City Council sent a letter to Walmart demanding that it stop giving millions in charitable contributions to local groups in the city.

Twenty-six of the 51 members of the Council charged in the letter that the world’s biggest retailer’s support of local causes is a cynical ploy to enter the market here.

“We know how desperate you are to find a foothold in New York City to buy influence and support here,” says the letter, obtained by The Post and addressed to Walmart and the Walton Family Foundation.

“Stop spending your dangerous dollars in our city,” the testy letter demands. “That’s right: this is a cease-and-desist letter.”

For the sake of argument, let’s concede Walmart is trying to “buy influence and support” in New York City. Such activity is called “lobbying.” Are these NYC council members against lobbying? Will they soon be sending a cease-and-desist letter to their political contributors who are trying to “buy influence and support”?

There’s an old bumper sticker that reads, “Don’t Steal! The Government Hates Competition.” Maybe we need a new one that says, “Don’t Give to Charity! The Government Hates Competition.”

(Via: Hot Air)

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Breaking the Chains of Poverty: Good Intentions Not Enough

…I don’t think the aim should be to keep the poor poor and feel sorry for them and give them alms; I think the hope for the poor is to help them to break the chains of poverty and become independent people of initiative and energy on their own…

Michael Novak

Stephen Moore (chief economist at the Heritage Foundation) and Richard Vedder (a professor of economics at Ohio University) have an editorial in this morning’s Wall Street Journal (The Blue-State Path to Inequality States that emphasize redistribution above growth have a wider gap between lower and higher incomes) that speaks Michael Novak observation that concern for the poor is not enough, we need as well a “to help them to break the chains of poverty and become independent people of initiative and energy on their own”  (read  the rest here).Among other things they quote a Cato Institute report (“The Work Versus Welfare Trade-Off: 2013) that “measured the value of all welfare benefits by state in 2012.” What the research found is that generally “the higher the benefit package” paid by welfare the higher the rate of income inequality. They aren’t arguing “that state redistributionist policies cause more income inequality.” But their research does “suggest that raising tax rates or the minimum wage fail to achieve greater equality and may make income gaps wider.”

They go on to say that they “believe these income redistribution policies fail.”  After having spent “more than 25 years examining why some states grow much faster than others” they conclude that it “is nearly inescapable that liberal policy prescriptions—especially high income-tax rates and the lack of a right-to-work law—make states less prosperous because they chase away workers, businesses and capital.” After offering some examples of the differences among states with different economic policies they observe that

When politicians get fixated on closing income gaps rather than creating an overall climate conducive to prosperity, middle- and lower-income groups suffer most and income inequality rises. The past five years are a case in point. Though a raft of President Obama’s policies—such as expanding the earned-income tax credit and food stamps, and extending unemployment benefits—have been designed to more fairly distribute wealth, inequality has unambiguously risen on his watch. Those at the top have seen gains, especially from the booming stock market, while middle-class real incomes have fallen by about $1,800 since the recovery started in June 2009.

They conclude that the higher income inequality “is a reversal from the 1980s and ’90s when almost all income groups enjoyed gains.” Income inequality in “the United States has risen in each of the last three years and was higher in 2012 (.476) than when George W. Bush left office (.469 in 2008), though Mr. Bush was denounced for economic policies, especially on taxes, that allegedly favored ‘the rich.’”  Novak is correct, good intentions aren’t sufficient to raise the poor out of poverty. As a practical matter, at least in the US, policies in the service of income redistribution don’t work.

That said, and I merely ask this as a sympathetic outsider, do you think Pope Francis isn’t interested in lifting the poor out of poverty? I doubt this but, like I said I’m looking at his words from the outside.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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