A few days after I attended the Acton Institute's three-day student conference, National Public Radio aired a new study about societal views towards poverty in America. Normally I would have tuned out, but this time I listened intently. I even went to the study's web site to look at the survey results more closely. I credit the Acton Institute for both a resurgence of my interest in such matters, and for giving me a new set of critical tools to evaluate the interrelation of faith and freedom.
When I arrived at the Acton Institute’s Student conference outside Chicago, Illinois, I didn’t know quite what to expect, but it didn’t take me long to realize the unique blend of ideas that make up the Institute’s programs and philosophies. The conference was simultaneously very philosophical and very practical. We discussed religious issues of theology and morality, relating them to secular societal issues.
The Acton Institute is conservative in the modern political sense, and is founded on classical liberal ideas. They advocate the need for a strong government, but with limited roles. They focus specifically on the nexus of morality and markets, and this leads into discussions on a broad range of issues such as welfare, human rights, and the environment.
The conference itself was a wonderful blend of lectures, discussion, and time for conversation. The highly ecumenical and international diversity of the participants made for broad and rich interactions. The facilities were excellent and they took very care of us.
Central themes that surfaced were the nature of freedom and virtue; the implications for our being made in the image of God for societal life; the nature and implication of human rights; and Roman Catholic social principle of subsidiarity. In working with these themes they made a persuasive case for the power of free markets and a limited government to promote the common good.
I am very grateful with the deep sincerity and respect that characterized the discussions, even though I can’t say I left agreeing with everything that was presented. The conference enabled me to examine and develop my thoughts and beliefs in a way that doesn’t happen every day.