Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Prison Entrepreneurs: From Shark Tank to Redemption

Shortly after the day’s guests arrive at the East Texas prison, and well before they begin to mix with the inmates, they hear a low rumbling noise in the distance. As they make their way closer to the prison gymnasium, the low rumbling grows into a constant and thunderous clamor. For those making their first visit to the Cleveland Correctional Center, located 45 minutes north of Houston, the roar of the inmates’ husky voices is disconcerting—maybe even intimidating—as they wonder what awaits them. The energy inside the prison is relentless, almost palpable. When the doors swing open to the gymnasium, the day’s guests walk single file through a sea of shouting inmates. One hundred and twenty-six prisoners to be exact.


Molding Men, Shaping Futures: An Interview with Bert Smith

The vast majority of prison ministries focus on evangelism and engage with inmates much as they would with any other mission project. The Houston-based Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), which receives no state funding, is receiving national and international accolades for its unique integration of entrepreneurial skills and character transformation. Prisoners who come to the program are treated much as a blacksmith takes a “crude, formless, and totally moldable” piece of metal and turns it into something useful, even beautiful. (See related feature story in this issue, Prison Entrepreneurs: From Shark Tank to Redemption.)

Bert Smith has been actively involved in PEP since 2005 and CEO since 2010. Smith has a business background in power plant engineering and energy technology. He holds an AB in economics from Princeton University and a Juris...

How can I more deeply engage with Acton if I don’t live in West Michigan?

Acton has been blessed with a wonderful building in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids where we host dozens of events each year. Despite our presence in this community, most of Acton’s constituents live outside of West Michigan. If you’re one of those individuals, there are plenty of ways to engage with the institute or share Acton’s mission and message in your own community. Our online PowerBlog ( features new blogposts daily, but you can also keep up with Radio Free Acton, a podcast featuring engaging videos and interviews about current events dealing with the intersection of faith and economics. There are videos of nearly every Acton Lecture Series and evening speaker, as well as videos of Acton analysts appearing on local and national news broadcasts. You can also subscribe to Acton at There,...

Faith is the Cross

Sitting in a comfortable chair in a warm home makes it easy to forget how close religious persecution really is. The 20th century saw the most martyrs in recorded history, and the 21st century is off to a bloody beginning. As I write this, the world mourns the deaths of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya at the hands of the Islamic State group.

The remarkable writer, Flannery O’Connor, once said in a personal correspondence, “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe.” Unfortunately, far too many in our world today know exactly how much faith costs. From the current persecution of Jews in Europe, to the slaughter of Christians by Islamic terrorists, to those who struggle to bring faith to nations with dangerous regimes,...

Nathaniel Macon

Nathaniel Macon

Ours is a government of suspicion; every election proves it; the power to impeach proves it; the history of Caesar, of Cromwell, and Bonaparte proves that it ought to be so to remain free.

Long before there was Jesse Helms, dubbed “Senator No,” North Carolina had another vigorous dissenter of centralized power and federal expenditures. Nathaniel Macon was born in Warrenton, North Carolina, almost two decades before American independence. After attending The College of New Jersey, later renamed Princeton, Macon joined a New Jersey militia company in 1776. Four years later, Macon turned down a military commission and enlisted in a North Carolina unit during the American Revolution and was soon elected...

Why is PovertyCure starting the Outreach Program?

PovertyCure is an initiative of the Acton Institute that works to bring about change in the way we think about aid and poverty alleviation. PovertyCure has interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from developing nations, former NGO leaders, nonprofit leaders, and more in the hopes of finding out what leads to economic growth and prosperity. This program works with students, nonprofits, and the PovertyCure Partner Network to share this message. We know that enterprise, not aid, is the longterm solution to poverty. And who would benefit more from this knowledge than churches and missionaries?

Missionaries are the boots on the ground in poverty-stricken nations. While they work tirelessly to bring their faith to new nations, they often also bring material goods and their own labor. It aims to transform the paradigm of thinking among short- and long-term mission workers, empowering...

Awakening the World’s Moral Conscience

Watchers of the Sky

The mass killings of minority groups, which have occurred time and time again throughout history, are often beyond comprehension. How can humans be capable of such evil?

But even more inexplicable and troubling is the fact that many of these atrocities have gone largely unnoticed. They have not received due recognition and response either from heads of states or the public at large.

Fortunately, these tragic historical events have not eluded all. The new documentary, “Watchers of the Sky,” released on DVD in February 2015, details the story of Raphael Lemkin, the largely unknown Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the word “genocide” and almost singlehandedly lobbied the United Nations to...

Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word - Psalm 53:2-4

God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on God.

Sometimes it seems evil is more powerful than God. Especially when we see and hear of brutal and devastating beheadings of Christians in the Middle East. The rise of Islamic State group and their ghastly, violent acts is particularly disturbing. If we look at the world, or even our own sphere of influence, it may appear that the wicked prosper and the Lord has little control over the events of the day.

The problem of evil and suffering is one of the chief reasons people abandon their faith and belief in God. The psalmist in Psalm 53 echoes Psalm 14, reminding humanity...

The Consumer Conundrum


Those of us who affirm the market economy as a path to human flourishing need to offer an alternate to the basically negative view of human consumption that critics as well as apologists of the free market too often assume. This is especially true for men and women of faith who hold to a higher vision of human life, its purpose, and the means required for the person to become fully and truly who they were created by God to be.

To that end, it is worth looking at two seminal figures in the history of economic thought: the mid-20th-century economist and retail analyst Victor Lebow and the late 19th- and early-20th-century economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen. These two thinkers illustrate the analytical dangers inherent...

A Journey from Religious Radical to Nothing New

A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir

Review of Thomas C. Oden’s “A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir,” (IVP Academic, November 2014) Hardcover, 384 pages, $30.58

One reason Thomas C. Oden wrote “A Change of Heart” was “to alert people to question the realism of those collectivist and unexamined illusions.” The “illusions” and collectivism Oden refers to is a fashionable abandonment of the truth and Christian orthodoxy within academia, especially by mainline Protestant seminaries. This abandonment of classic Christianity led to the rise of Marxist liberation theology, sexual libertinism, and the radicalized parish pulpit. Oden offers a fascinating...

Common Grace in Business: A Roundtable Discussion

An Interview with Sidney Jansma, Jr., Milton H. Kuyers, and Michelle Van Dyke

In Reformed theology, common grace refers to the special favor of God common to all humankind. But how do you translate this conceptual knowledge into actual understanding and practice in the workplace?

Abraham Kuyper

Abraham Kuyper

The Acton Institute and the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business at Calvin College explored this question on October 31, 2014, during a cosponsored Symposium on Common Grace. The event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, brought members of the faith, academic, and business communities together to explore and discuss Dutch theologian, journalist, and statesman Abraham Kuyper’s work on common...

Editor's Note

In the fall of 2014, business people, scholars, and theologians converged on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Symposium on Common Grace in Business. The event was conceived and cosponsored by the Calvin business department and the Acton Institute as a way of highlighting Abraham Kuyper’s theological work on common grace—the grace that God extends to everyone that enables him or her to do good—in the business world. The gathering was also a celebration of Acton’s translation and publication in English of volume one of Kuyper’s seminal three-volume work on common grace (De Gemeene Gratie).

We’re leading this Winter 2015 issue of Religion & Liberty with a roundtable discussion by three prominent business people who discuss how common grace has a direct, and transformative, application in...

Joy in the New Year

On the cusp of a new year, it is human nature to spend time looking to the past and anticipating what is to come. January, of course, is named for Janus, the Roman god of two faces, one looking back and one looking to the future.

We wish the best for the coming year. We hope and pray for goodness and peace, but we know that humans often choose otherwise. I suspect it is part of the melancholy that settles in for some people this time of year.

God willing, Pope Francis will visit the City of Brotherly Love in the U.S. in 2015. Philadelphia is a fit setting for a pope who so embodies an openness to all people. In my mind's eye, I see Pope Francis embracing the handicapped, the disfigured, the young, and the old: all who gather in St. Peter's Square, hoping just to catch a glimpse of him.

For Catholics, Pope Francis has declared 2015 the Year of...

Leonard Liggio

Leonard Liggio

Mankind has survived by moral customs and by law, and has been undermined by momentary decisions and by legislation. Based on change over time and by the test of standards by trial and error, traditions and law provide guidance for success in contrast to momentary decision and legislation.

On October 14, 2014, the free market movement lost a great friend with the passing of Leonard Liggio (1933-2014), affectionately known as the "Johnny Appleseed of Classical Liberalism." Liggio was a thinker, a doer, and a giver. He was known not just for his profound thought and powerful influence, but his great service to other people. He played a central role in the revival of classical liberalism, famously saying...

What's left to accomplish in the Acton@25 Capital Campaign?

Very soon, Acton will arrive at its 25th Anniversary and the conclusion of the Acton@25 Capital Campaign. In response to a burgeoning demand for our work, we launched a capital campaign in 2012 to support Acton's physical expansion and programmatic growth. Since moving to our new workspace, we have been able to plan larger-than-ever conferences, produce a DVD curriculum and documentary, and situate our unique collection of 13,000 books. Perhaps most encouraging, nearly 2,000 people have attended our in-house lectures to learn more about free enterprise, individual liberty, and personal responsibility!

We are just under $1 million away from reaching our $12.5 million campaign goal, which we are determined to accomplish by our twenty-fifth anniversary next year.

Some of the projects that we hope to complete:

  • Finishing our television studio...