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Showing posts from May, 2013

What Money Can't Buy (A Review)

Michael Sandel’s What Money Can't Buy : The Moral Limits of Marketsaims to awaken the public to the increasingly perverse role prices play in our lives. Everything appears to be up for sale. We appear to have moved from having a market to being a market. This triumphal encroachment of the price mechanism in every facet of life has been defended by its proponents as necessary for our “social good”. Sandel believes it’s precisely the opposite. Far from being neutral, as usually assumed by economists, prices corrupt the good things we value and care about in life. Reliance on prices diminishes social value hence the urgent need for everyone to take a step back and decide the moral limits of markets. For in doing so we are ultimately defining what society we want to live in.

According to Sandel, the increasing reliance on the price mechanism could be socially tolerated if it was a true measure of value. Unfortunately not only is it broadly accepted that prices can be a poor signal of…

War on Christians, 2nd Edition

Fiorello Provera (Foreign Affairs Committee, EU Parliament) recnetly wrote an article in Project Syndicate noting that increasing persecutions of Arab Christians in the wake of the Arab spring. For many Christians in these lands the spring it certainly is not :
The Endangered Arab Christian, Fiorello Provera, Project Syndicate, Commentary :
The recent abductions of Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and his Greek Orthodox counterpart, Paul Yazigi, reflect not only the increasing brutality of Syria’s civil war, but also the escalating crisis for Christians across the Arab world – one that could end up driving them away altogether.
According to the International Society for Human Rights, 80% of all acts of religious persecution worldwide in 2012 were directed at Christians. This surge in discrimination against Christian communities in countries where they have lived for many centuries can be explained largely by increasing Islamist militancy and the rise of political Islam in the…

Work as Worship

An excellent short video on work and worship. It has great graphics and gets the message across very clearly! A lot of work went into this thats for sure!


Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Christian Ethics 101

Theologian John Frame in his excellent large book The Doctrine of the Christian Lifepresents an approach to ethics that has been very useful to me in how I analyse difficult moral questions. Frame says that "ethical judgement involves the application of a normto a situation by a person".  When we have a problem there are three pieces of information we need to reach an informed ethical judgement : the situation, the Word of God, and person with the problem. These are summarised in the triangle of ethics below The situational perspective examines the situation or problems. It asks, "what are the best means of means of accomplishing God's purposes?". That is, how can we take the present situation and change it so that more of God's purposes are achieved? Here we explore the consequences of our actions. We ask, "if we do this, will it enhance the glory of God?". Will it please God in the end?

What is the nature of human existence?

Equilibriumis an excellent movie set in a futuristic world where a totalitarian government has solved the problem of violence by suppressing emotions. Books, art and music are strictly forbidden and feeling is a crime punishable by death. Christian Bale starts as Cleric John Preston, a top ranking government agent responsible for destroying those who resist the rules. When he misses a dose of Prozium, the mind-altering drug that hinders emotion, Preston suddenly begins to question the regime. In one of the most fascinating scenes, John interviews Mary, a sense offender under custody : Mary: Let me ask you something. [Grabs John's hand] Mary: Why are you alive? John Preston: [Breaks free] I'm alive... I live... to safeguard the continuity of this great society. To serve Libria. Mary: It's circular. You exist to continue your existence. What's the point? John Preston: What's the point of your existence? Mary: To feel. 'Cause you've never done it, you can neve…

Exceptional People (A Review)

International migration debate has risen on the global public agenda in the last few years. Sluggish global economic performance has given a platform for nationalistic forces to agitate for stronger limits on migration, largely fuelled by concerns that foreigners may take away local jobs and impose costs on public services with little benefit to domestic European economies. Such arguments, usually made without any empirical evidence, in practice have only served to highlight the inherent inconsistency in current migration policies being pursued by western governments. While most continue to preach global liberalisation of economies and poverty reduction, they erect borders that diminish competition and reduce labour choices available to the poor. Goldin, Cameron and Balarajan’s Exceptional People represents a challenge to this inconsistency by seeking to demonstrate that properly considered the historical, contemporary and future case for migration is strong.

Glorious Loneliness!

I have been looking for a good book on Job. I remember asking a very active Facebook group of Christians, "Can someone please recommend a good book to read on the book of Job?". No one responded, except one chap who simply answered "the book of Job". A clever or silly response depending on your vantage point. But ultimately unhelpful.

Thankfully, I bumped into a wonderful pastor whose preaching during my lunch tme at work has been life changing. He had been preaching on Ecclessiates, so I asked him for tips on Ecclessiates and Job. Well, one of the books he recommended is the short book (115 pages) Out of the Storm : Grappling with God in the Book of Job by Christopher Ash.  
The best compliment I can give this short book is that it has made me want to read more and study Job. The book has so many excellents points and will post a few quotes from it going forward. But here is one of the excellents observations he makes :  Even a non-serious illness cuts us off fro…

The Science of Pornography Addition

A very useful short video on the affect of pornography on the brain. Also worth checking out the fuller piece from Gospel Coalition's Joe Carter on 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain.


Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Getting Better, By Charles Kenny (A Review)

The economics of underdevelopment is big business. Books increasingly litter our shelves advising donors and poor governments alike on the best way to address the blight of global poverty. It is usually the case that the more negative and radical the message, the more the book sells. In recent memory we have become accustomed to negative views of the current state of global development, perhaps best exemplified by such pejorative phrases as “bottom billion”, “global south”, “new age primitivity"  and, most recently ,“dead aid”.

An underlying narrative in many of these books is that current development policies are not working and something more radical is needed. Some extreme voices have even urged aid freezes to break perpetual dependency on foreign aid. Charles Kenny’s Getting Better is a refreshing departure from the current pessimism and offers a more grounded perspective on global development.
According to Kenny despite many negative assessments, the developing world is ma…

Suicides in the USA

Suicides among midde-aged Americans has been on the rise in the United States. More people die from suicides than vehicle accidents : In 2010, an average of nearly 18 out of every 100,000 people aged 35-64 died from suicide - four more than a decade earlier. In 2010, motor vehicle accidents killed 33,687 people, while 38,364 died from suicide that year, according to the CDC, the government agency tasked with providing research and recommendations on US health and safety.
Among non-Hispanic whites and Native Americans, annual suicide rates leaped 40 percent and 65 percent, respectively. Nearly three times as many men as women in this age group killed themselves: around 27 men compared to eight women per 100,000 in 2010. And the CDC found that, while most suicides were committed with guns, the number of people dying from suffocation and hanging rose the fastest - by more than 80 percent - over the last decade.
Experts are not certain why suicide rates are increasing so markedly among m…

God of Diversity

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. (Acts 13:1 ESV) God the Holy Spirit loves diversity and where He is at work diversity is always present in one form or another. Here in this single verse we see many forms of diversity in cosmopolitan church of Antioch :
(a) diversity of race (b) diversity of geographical background (c) diversity of social class (d) diversity of religious background (e) diversity of sinners (f) diversity of spiritual gifts
Barnabas was a 'Levite from Cyprus’. Therefore Jewish like Saul of Tarsus. On the other hand Lucius of Cyrene, was most likely an Arab from from North Africa. Cyrene was a Roman province in Libya. That takes care of (a), (b) and (d).

How Should Christians Engage Society?

That is the question addressed in To Change The World : The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity In The Late Modern World by James Davidson Hunter. He is the LaBrosse-Levinson Distinguished Professor of Religion, Culture and Social Theory at the University of Virginia and Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. In short, a man who knows something about something!
The book seeks to address how Christians should engage themselves in the modern world. But it is more than that because within this book he explains to us how cultural change comes about. I was particularly struck by the simple but not so obvious idea that cultural change is not democratic but comes largely from overlapping networks. We certainly see this in both Amerindian and African independence struggles. We also see it today why many Zambians have failed to bring about a paradigm shift in thinking. The majority may want a different Zambia but the majority don't run the country. Equally vi…

Warrior Princess, By Princess Kasune Zulu (A Review)

It was quite exciting stumbling on Princess Kasune Zulu’s Warrior Princess. Unfortunately, just as I was about to start reading it, my dear wife beat me to the book shelf, consequently putting this review on hold. Indeed it speaks to the special nature of Warrior Princess that that every single day as I wade through the pages my wife has asked, “what page are you on?” “have you got to this page with Mrs Banda?” “Can you believe she jumped on those trucks?” and the list goes on. As you might guess my wife is enthralled by the book and she made a point of telling me about it before I finished it! Naturally that fostered high expectations, which were quickly replaced by worries after she told me that she shed a few tears reading it! Setting aside the possibility of suffering the same fate, I braved on onto this review.
Warrior Princess is a story of many proportions, written with the primary purpose of inspiring you into action. Kasune writes, “I simply hope that my story, a story that ec…

A Heavy Burden

Two scriptures came to mind when I saw this recently. The first is from the Old Testament : "What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?" (Ecclesiastes 1:3). The second is from the New Testament : "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). The first states the problem which we dare not ignore. The second provides the answer. Life is indeed pointless and purposeless without Jesus Christ. 
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

The Life of Bonhoeffer

One of the best books that is worth spending time and money on is Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. At 591 pages it was worth every word! It is hard for me to describe this book without doing some injustice to it. The book truly opened a window to a dark era of human history in which one light shown brightly before all others. One quote sums up Bonhoeffer's life : "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil : God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act". May we know the full meaning of these words!
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

A Hardware Problem

Thomas Friedman commenting on the impact of internet on radicalisation of terrorists has wider warning and advice for everyone :  So more people are more directly exposed to more raw information and opinion every day from everywhere. As such, it is more important than ever that we build the internal software, the internal filters, into every citizen to sift out fact from fiction in this electronic torrent, which offers so much information that has never been touched by an editor, a censor or a libel lawyer. That’s why, when the Internet first emerged and you had to connect via a modem, I used to urge that modems sold in America come with a warning label from the surgeon general, like cigarettes. It would read: “Attention: Judgment not included.”
And that’s why the faster, more accessible and ultramodern the Internet becomes, the more all the old-fashioned stuff matters: good judgment, respect for others who are different and basic values of right and wrong. Those you can’t download. …

Economic Justice in An Unfair World, By Ethan Kapstein (A Review)

It is usually the case that books on "distributive justice" either tend to be abstract yet detailed, or largely empirical but unsatisfactorily brief. Economic Justice in an Unfair World aims to narrow the divide by offering a model of international justice that is both theoretically credible and realistic enough to be applied by the undefined "international community".
According to Kapstein, approaches to economic justice typically falls between two extremes that influence competing nations’ attitude towards international engagement. “Communitarians” approach international relations largely from a “national perspective”. Within this framework nations prioritise domestic social and economic arrangements, engaging the international community only in line with what is purely good domestically. “Cosmopolitans” adopt a “global citizens” approach, viewing economic justice as fundamentally being about individuals. This view has tended to dominate thinking among internatio…