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 →
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.
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.
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.”
…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…
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.
I have five kids. I thought I was sane, but apparently, I’m living a crazy alternative lifestyle.
Freestyle halfpipe skier David Wise won gold at Sochi. NBC, rather than being impressed with his world-class athleticism, focused on his“alternative lifestyle.” You see, Wise is married to Alexandra, and they have a young son. Wise is also considering becoming a pastor.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers has had his critics in terms of his play, but there are also critics of his “alternative lifestyle”: he and his wife, Tiffany, have six kids (they recently had a seventh child.) ESPN noted with this comment:
Six kids? Regardless of your profession, it’s impossible to be a good parent to six kids. Not enough hours in the day.
Why is our society so afraid of families and children? Why is there a backlash against women being fertile and men raising their own children?Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist has some thoughts.
The media remind us regularly that the most important cultural value relative to family life is what’s euphemistically called “choice.” The choice of whether to have kids or not is held so sacrosanct that our laws permit the decision to be made many months after a new human life begins. Some even advocate extending the choice to a period of time after birth. So why the weird reaction to people receiving children as a blessing instead of fighting them tooth and nail with hormones, chemicals, surgery and scissors? Do we need some remedial courses in how babies are made? It’s entirely natural, of course, for babies to be conceived when men and women have sex. Treating the entirely expected procreation of children as something to be avoided at all costs — and an unspeakable atrocity if one has, say, three children already — would be weird even if our culture weren’t obsessed with sex at all times, in all places, in every context, at every moment.
Hemingway goes on to point out that the press seems to give a pass to scoundrels like former Denver Bronco Travis Henry, who has eleven children with ten different women or NBA player J. J. Reddick, who made sure he wasn’t going to be responsible for any children. She tells:
…a supremely weird and horrifying tale of a 2007 contract drawn up by lawyers representing NBA player J.J. Redick and his then-pregnant ex-girlfriend Vanessa Lopez. The document discusses how Lopez’s abortion of an unborn child should be handled, including that Redick was not admitting paternity.
Another guy living the crazy alternative lifestyle of marriage and children is comedian Jim Gaffigan. Let’s give him the last word on why he and his wife live this way:
Well, why not? I guess the reasons against having more children always seemed uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life … each one of them has been a pump of light into my shriveled black heart.
Writing at PovertyCure Ismael Hernandez offers five principles to alleviate poverty:
Freedom is simple; slavery entangles your life in myriad of manacles. Comprehensive systems of care kill the light of freedom and incentivize permanence in the condition of poverty. They see the things we give or the services we render as the end of a program to meet the “unmet needs” of the poor. It is a trap. Simple programs focus on one aspect of individual or social life to show the way and see what the person receives as instrumental to the communication of a value and the offering of incentives toward action.
Yes, successful programs attempt to target a real need; practicality implies usefulness and usefulness attracts people. Some who defend freedom or want to insist on the truths of faith are often out there, afar from the realities of the poor. They do not dare to touch the poor themselves! They write these wonderful books that the already-convinced read, the books goes into a shelf and the ideas die right there. They often are detached from the lives of the poor so they cannot acquire the needed information to actually help people. Practicality is only correctly perceived in closeness and encounter.
The communication of a value or the creation of an incentive toward action must become the end of every effective poverty-alleviation project. Programs of great meaning avoid looking at the poor as helpless victims and passive recipients of magnanimity. The meaning of a program must be informed by your anthropology, that is, by what you think of the persons you aim to assist. Once you see a person as the protagonist of the story of his or her own life, instead of as scenery in the drama of your good intentions, you are going somewhere. Remember, the end of a program is the value it communicates.
The term has a similar root as the principle of subsidiarity but it means “of secondary importance.” A subsidiary furnishes aid or support but never becomes of the essence for the completion of a task; others control it and in this case it ought to be the poor themselves. Even better, every individual person controls it as it pertains to him or herself. The temptation to control, what theologian Michael Novak has called the totalistic impulse, is there every time your organization grows so much that you begin to take yourself too seriously. No one else but you can do the task so you need a chapter of your organization everywhere. Comprehensive systems thrive in bureaucratic ways that end up stifling initiative. There is no life there because the poor themselves become subsidiary to the system. Ironically, many programs are invested in poverty because poverty brings the money in; thus rendering the poor subsidiary to their efforts.
Because your program is simple, it is something that others can adapt to the realities of their local communities. As with scientific studies, if we cannot replicate a program and get similar results, then this suggests error, leading to potentially detrimental questions about the reliability of the program. However, some take it as a testament of their own importance, which leads to comprehensiveness and the temptation to create top-down approaches.
Eric Metaxas has an interesting commentary of the resurgence of Christianity in Eastern Europe. He writes that
…the turn toward Christianity in Central and Eastern Europe is born of an acknowledgment that something vital is missing from people’s lives. People who were force-fed atheism have a hard-earned appreciation of how empty life can be when God is automatically excluded from the equation.
He’s mindful that there are political implications to all this, but dismisses, rightly I think, the idea that this is merely a political phenomenon. As he writes while
…Russia, “more monasteries and parishes are reopened, growing numbers of Russians profess belief in God, and more young Russians are choosing a religious vocation.” Vladimir Putin may be taking advantage of Russians’ hunger for God, but he didn’t create that hunger. Seventy-four years of state-sponsored atheism, and the wreck it left in its wake, did that all by itself.