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Acton Notes - May 2008

The Birth of Freedom Premieres in Grand Rapids

Acton's new documentary, The Birth of Freedom will premiere for the first time ever in Grand Rapids at the city's public museum on May 8. The Birth of Freedom wonderfully traces the progression of human freedom within Western civilization. Medieval theologians, Christian dissenters, and political leaders tied to Christianity all played a role in expanding these God-given freedoms. Commentators in the film are Samuel Gregg, Susan Wise Bauer, Glenn Sunshine, Alan Crippen, II, William Allen, Robert P. George, George Weigel, John Witte, Jr, and Rodney Stark. The Acton Institute is privileged to feature so many fine scholars and authors in The Birth of Freedom.

"There has been a systematic campaign to reinterpret our past, as if it meant to disallow free expression of religion," says William Allen. Allen is a political science professor at Michigan State University. By simply portraying the history of Western Civilization and the church, the film powerfully reclaims the faith contribution to freedom from a tendency to secularize this narrative. "European humanity learned its dignity in the school of freedom, which taught European people they were somebody not just some thing," adds George Weigel. "When you take God out of the picture you take this notion of higher law of the whole framework of liberty out of the picture," says Alan Crippen, II. Crippen is the founder and president of the John Jay Institute for Faith, Society, and Law.

Special attention is also given to the heroic struggle for civil rights in America. "The idea that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain rights is not at all a new idea. It is in fact as the phrasing indicates in the creation story", says William and Mary professor Susan Wise Bauer. Please plan on joining us for the premiere of The Birth of Freedom. It will be a powerful and memorable tribute to the story and meaning of freedom, and that is why it is so important for us today.

Acton PowerBlog Celebrates Three-Year Anniversary in April

The Acton Institute's PowerBlog celebrated its anniversary on April 4. The PowerBlog allows for Acton staff and thinkers to engage in thoughtful religious, cultural, and political thought. The site is also essential for networking, as Anthony Bradley's recent appearance on Glenn Beck to discuss Black Liberation Theology came to fruition because of a media member reading the blog.

"In the last four months, we've averaged 88,000 visitors per month. To put it in perspective, that's anywhere from a fourth to a third of all Acton web traffic," said Acton's director of communications, John Couretas. Additionally, other bloggers will be attending this summer's Acton University Conference, and Couretas noted that we will be reaching out to them to cover the conference.

The continued professionalism and improvements of the PowerBlog would not have been possible without the hard work and experience of Acton's website administrator Jonathan Spalink. Also of note is Acton associate editor Jordan Ballor, who has penned 48 percent of all entries. Plans are in the works to increase the number of popular and scholarly book reviews on the site as well. The Acton Institute would like to thank the readers of the PowerBlog.

Anthony Bradley Discusses Black Liberation Theology with Glenn Beck

Acton research fellow Anthony Bradley discussed Black Liberation Theology on CNN Headline News with Glenn Beck. Bradley, whose Ph.D. dissertation is titled Victimology in Black Liberation Theology, is also an assistant professor of theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. Bradley penned a series of essays on Black Liberation Theology for the newsletter of the Glenn Beck Program.

The recent media attention on Dr. Jeremiah Wright, the former minister of Senator Barack Obama's church, Trinity United Church of Christ, allowed for Bradley to discuss his research in high exposure news outlets. Dr. James Cone, who is a professor at Union Theological Seminary, is widely credited as being the chief architect of Black Liberation Theology. "One of the tasks of black theology, says Cone, is to analyze the nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ in light of the experience of oppressed blacks. For Cone, no theology is Christian theology unless it arises from oppressed communities and interprets Jesus's work as that of liberation," says Bradley.

Bradley examined in-depth the Marxist roots of Black Liberation Theology. "Among all of the controversial comments by Jeremiah Wright, the idea of massive wealth redistribution is the most alarming. The code language "economic parity" and references to "mal-distribution" is nothing more than channeling the twisted economic views of Karl Marx," says Bradley.

Rev. Robert Sirico on the Religious Left

Rev. Robert Sirico discussed the “Rise and Eventual Downfall of the Religious Left” to a packed room for the Acton Lecture Series on March 13. The lecture hall had over 120 attendees to hear the address by Acton’s president. Rev. Sirico warned the audience of common misguided beliefs that characterize the religious left. A couple of notes of warning declared that the religious left embodies, “A conviction that the cause of material inequality is due to injustice that must be rectified, usually by a forced redistribution of the wealth.” Rev. Sirico also declared how the religious left has become overly fixated on government programs, vastly preferring these solutions to private charity and communal efforts.

In a critique of Jim Wallis and his brand of religious politics, Sirico noted, “Wallis’s view of the role of Christianity is obsessively focused on the goal of social change, and in using the state as the primary, and indeed sometimes the only, tool to achieve such change. ...Truly, Wallis needs to be reminded that the primary purpose of Christianity is the transformation of the human heart toward the goal of salvation, with cultural and social consequences that may follow,” Sirico added.

Rev. Sirico also traced the rise of Christian socialism in the twentieth century and declared how the National Council and World Council of Churches have been strongly influenced in this direction. Sirico noted how their goals call for higher taxes, more bureaucracies, more market regulations, and a curbing of the sphere of free enterprise in society.

He pointed out that over the long run their political philosophy will lead to their demise. “The religious left and its romantic attachment to the socialist ideal fails to come to terms with the nature of the human person and the need for social space for creativity and the need for freedom,” Sirico said.

Acton and You

The Acton Institute is now accepting online applications for the Samaritan Award. Please encourage your favorite charity to apply for the 2008 Samaritan Award. You can visit the website samaritanaward.com to access the application and receive more information. The application deadline is May 30, 2008. Acton rewards the winning charity with $10,000 for embodying the principles of effective compassion. The winning charity will be primarily supported by private funds, will display a high level of transparancy and accountability, and will incorporate faith into its programming. The second and third place prizes are awarded with $1,000 each. The top ten charities are highlighted in a special edition of World Magazine. All of the applicants are included in the online Samaritan Guide database of U.S. charities, which is a unique and valuable tool for marketing and development. Last year we recieved over 300 applicants and the top award went to Arkansas Sherrifs’ Youth Ranches.