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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Risen

In Risen (2016), A Roman Tribune, Clavius, is tasked with overseeing Jesus’s crucifixion; more importantly, Pilote tasks his Tribune with making sure that no one steals the body out of the tomb so no one could claim that Jesus is arisen. This would put the Jesus movement within Judaism as much more of a threat to Pilote as well as the Jewish leaders. More than Christians can glean interesting lessons from the film. That is to say, it is by no means a remake of The Greatest Story Ever Told and Son of God.


The full essay is at "Risen."

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Evolution of Just War in Roman Catholic Social Ethics: The Case of Libya

According to The Catholic Herald, there were originally only three conditions laid down by Thomas Aquinas for a just war. According to The Catholic Herald, “The Church later added two more rules, though St Thomas usually gets the credit for them (and why not?). The first is that the conflict must be a last resort. The Catholic Herald describes the last criterion of Catholic just war theory as follows: “Lastly, the war must be fought proportionally. 

Christianity by State: The Religious Dimension of Federalism

According to the  2010 U.S. Religious Census of Religious Congregations & Memberships Study by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, less than 50 percent of the people living in the United States identified themselves as Christian adherents in 2010. There were more than 150.6 million out of 310 million. Even so, candidates for the U.S. presidency still felt the need to vocalize the fact that they are Christian (while the opponent doesn't quite measure up in that respect). President Obama made a point during his first two years in office to stress his Christianity as if it were the membership card to the Oval Office. It would seem that the litmus test was already antiquated and thus needlessly constrictive on potential candidates.

The full essay is at "Christianity by State."

Lawbreakers at the Mexico-California Border: Appealing to Law

At the Tijuana-San Diego border between Mexico and California on November 25, 2018, a “peaceful march by Central American migrants veered out of control . . . as hundreds of people tried to evade a Mexican police blockade and run toward a giant border crossing.”[1] In response, the U.S. Government shut down the border crossing in both directions and fired tear gas to push back migrants from the border fence. The American media made much of the use of tear gas, with convenient stories from migrants of their kids having been affected. To be sure, the suffering of innocent children is horrible, so at the very least the use of gas is debatable. Yet this focus came at the expense of another on the mentality and conduct of the adult migrants, including parents, largely from Honduras.

The full essay is at "Lawbreakers at the Border: Appealing to Law."




[1]Maya Averbuch and Elisabeth Markin, “Migrants in Tijuana Run to U.S. Border, but Fall Back in Face of Tear Gas,” The New York Times, November 26, 2018, italics added.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

God's Gold through the Centuries

In the wake of the financial crisis that came to a head in September of 2008, people might have been wondering if sufficient moral constraints on the greed on Wall Street are available, even possible. The ability of traders to create complex derivative securities that are difficult for regulators to regulate, much less understand, may have people looking for ethical or even religious constraints. It would be only natural to ask if such “soft” restraint mechanisms really do have the puissance to do the trick. Here’s the rub: the tricksters are typically the last to avail themselves of ethical or religious systems, and they the wrongdoers are the ones in need of the restraint. Blankfein said of his bank, Goldman Sachs, that it had been doing God’s work. About a week after saying that, he had to walk his statement back and admit that the bankers had does some things that were morally wrong. Although divine omnipotence is by definition not limited by human ethical systems, it is hard to imagine a divine decree telling bankers to tell their clients one thing (buy subprime mortgage derivatives) while taking the opposite position on the bank’s proprietary position (shorting the derivatives, beyond being a counterparty to clients). Divine duplicity seems to represent an oxymoron on a megascale rather than a justification for greed. As the crisis erupted and was subsequently managed by public officials in government and new managers brought in to salvage AIG, I was researching the history of Christian thought on profit-seeking and wealth. I have since published an academic text and a nonfiction book, which develops further on the treatise on the topic. As the book is too recondite for sane people (i.e., outside of academia), I am writing a non-fiction book on the topic for a broader readership. To whet the appetites of those of you who are waiting for something more readable than a recondite thesis, I present a brief account of my original research on the topic here. 


For the full essay, see "God's Gold through the Centuries."
________________________

See related essay: "Religious Sources of Business Ethics"

The academic treatise: Godliness and Greed: Shifting Christian Thought on Profit and Wealth 

Saving the Fisheries: Greenpeace Praised Safeway for its Ethical and Stately Leadership

In April 2011, Greenpeace gave fifteen supermarket chains a passing grade; five others failed. Surprisingly, Safeway came out on top, above even Whole Foods. Safeway pledged to stop selling Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish) because current fishing levels are unsustainable. Furthermore, the grocer called on governing bodies to declare the area in the southern Antarctic where the bass is fished a marine reserve. According to Casson Trenor of Greenpeace, such an act of “corporate marine activism” had “never been done before.” Safeway also discontinued the sale of orange mughy, which is unsustainably being fished in the deep sea off New Zealand.  In fact, the company stopped adding red-list species to its inventory.


The full essay is at "GreenpeacePraised Safeway."

Servant Leadership Christianized: Self-Effacing Love in Business

Although servanthood is a very important biblical concept for leadership, according to Richard Higginson, the role of servant “is not reserved only for those who are leaders. Christians in general are “servants of God” and are expected to serve other people.”[1] Moreover, to be ethical in a servant style is not distinctly Christian; leaders who are not Christian can nonetheless operate as servants. The term servant does not in itself have a religious connotation. Yet under theological auspices, a distinctly theological sense of servant leadership can be understood and practiced. I contend that such servant leadership is something more than the notion that has been popularized.

The complete essay is at “Christianized Ethical Leadership.”


[1] Richard Higginson, Transforming Leadership: A Christian Approach to Management (SPEK: London, 1996), p. 48.

Ethical Leadership: Pruning Off the Debris

As business practitioners grapple with the intangible yet potentially valuable notion of ethical leadership, it is left to scholars to assess whether those practitioners are “coloring within the lines.” It is admittedly all too easy to draw in exogenous material that is pleasing to the eye; it is all too easy to deem such material required for ethical leadership rather than ballast weighing it down, unnecessarily. One business practitioner characterizes ethical leadership as that which “inspires the behaviors in people necessary to create competitive advantage.” As achieving a sustainable competitive advantage is the task of strategy, inspiration alone can be extracted as that which is particular to leadership. Strategy is what is left once one has extracted inspiration from the characterization.

Material from this essay has been incorporated in The Essence of Leadership, which is available at Amazon.

Toward a Theory of Ethical Leadership: Beyond the Ideologies

Constructing an accurate ethical-leadership concept that is not over-extended by one’s ideological agenda ought to begin with defining leadership itself. That is to say, more attention should be paid to thinking about what leadership is. Beyond its attributes and any contextual artifacts, leadership itself must be identified as a distinct phenomenon before we can go on to highlight the ethical dimension that completes “ethical leadership.” Then what counts as the ethical dimension of leadership can be clipped back to that which is implied in the definition of leadership, which in turn is entailed in the essence of the phenomenon.
Often overlooked, what is leadership?    Image Source: Gaebler.com

Material from this essay has been incorporated in The Essence of Leadership, which is available at Amazon.

The Banks’ Consultants: Guarding the Hen House

Leaving it to consultants hired by mortgage servicers to right the wrongs that the services inflicted on foreclosed homeowners was the unhappy consequence of bank regulators giving ambiguous guidance and failing to install viable oversight mechanisms. According to the Government Accounting Office, “regulators risked not achieving the intended goals of identifying as many harmed borrowers as possible.” Even if the reviews had been completed, there was on guarantee that wronged mortgage borrowers would have received any compensation. On the other side of the ledger, the banks had received billions from the U.S. Treasury with no strings attached. Whether intentional or not, the banking regulators put too much stock in the consultants, who, after all, had been hired by the mortgage servicers."
The full essay is at "The Banks' Consultants: A Conflict of Interest." For other cases, see my book, Institutional Conflicts of Interest: Business & Public Policy, available at Amazon.
Sources:
Ben Hallman and Eleazar Melendez, “GAO Foreclosure Report Finds Bank Regulators Failed to Provide ‘Key Oversight’,” The Huffington Post, April 3, 2013.
Dan Fitzpatrick, "'A Dose of Healthy Competition' For Banking Regulators," The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2013.


Business Ethics Through Rose-Colored Glasses

That business ethics scholars are as though children playing in the clouds in claiming that the vast majority of business practitioners are good-intentioned, or ethical, is an empirical statement that is in need of empirical verification. I suspect the scholars' typical utopian perspectives, curiously coincident with prescriptive ideological "Thou shalt nots," suffer from not touching ground from gazes atop ivory towers. That is to say, the scholars are factually incorrect. Let us, therefore, sweep away the fog so at least we have a realistic picture of what is actually going on "on the ground."

The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business: A Malignant Mentality of Mendacity, available at Amazon.

Larry Summers Bowed Out of the Race for Fed Chair: “Advise and Consent” Triumphant

On September 15, 2013, the White House announced that Larry Summers, Barak Obama’s prior chief economic advisor and a Secretary of the U.S. Treasury during the Clinton administration, no longer wanted to be considered to fill the upcoming vacancy as chairman of the Federal Reserve. In the announcement, Obama (or an advisor) wrote, “Larry was a critical member of my team as we faced down the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and it was in no small part because of his expertise, wisdom and leadership that we wrestled the economy back to growth and made the kind of progress we are seeing today.”[1] Unfortunately, this statement suffers from a sin of omission, which admittedly had been minimized by the media as well. Accordingly, the Democrats in the U.S. Senate who had just come out against a Summers nomination can be regarded as done the nation a vital service. Moreover, the “check” of the “check-and-balance” feature of the U.S. Senate’s confirmation power worked.
The Full Essay is at "Why Summers Bowed Out."


1.Annie Lowrey and Michael D. Shear, “Summers Pulls Name from Consideration for Fed Chief,” The New York Times, September 15, 2013.