Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Is Consumerism Harmful?

Among secular scholars, there is some debate as to whether consumerism is a real problem. James Twitchell, in his book Lead Us into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism, argues that consumerism is a beneficial phenomenon because it provides a meaning for people to replace the meaning formerly provided them by religion.


The empirical evidence, however, indicates that consumerist attitudes are associated with reduced consumer well-being. People who are more consumeristic tend to have lower satisfaction with their lives, a greater tendency to compulsive spending, higher incidences of depression, and also lower ethical standards. Tim Kasser, in his recent book summarizing his own extensive work and that of other researchers in this area,...

Why does the Acton Institute operate the Catholic High School Honor Roll?

Since the Acton Institute’s work to build a free and virtuous society includes serving future religious and moral leaders, it makes sense to begin where these leaders are first formed in social and economic issues: high school.

Why Catholic high schools? Because they provide a starting point for broader educational work we plan to do with religious-based high schools.

Catholic schools are also of particular focus because they have shown an increasing trend toward secularization in recent decades. Having long set the benchmark for moral and academic formation as well as education in the classical liberal tradition, many schools now see a loss of traditional Catholic identity, a weakening of academic standards, and the support of views contrary to church teaching. It is no surprise that the majority of Catholic secondary students are taught to be suspicious...

A Law Beyond Law: Life Together in Deadwood

Deadwood Cover

The Black Hills of Dakota in the 1870s may seem like an unlikely place for a dramatic narrative pursuing themes of justice, service, and community, but that’s exactly what the audience gets in compelling fashion in HBO’s recently concluded series Deadwood. When creator and executive producer David Milch first pitched the idea to HBO executives, the setting was in fact ancient Rome.

Speaking of Deadwood’s setting, a mining camp, Milch says, “This was an environment, as was Rome in the time of Nero, where there was order but no law whatsoever.” The character Merrick, who runs the camp’s newspaper, the Deadwood Pioneer, observes in the first episode that the camp is officially and formally “...

The Works and Words of Love

In July 2007, the Rev. John A. Nunes was named president of Lutheran World Relief. He becomes only the fourth president to lead the international development and relief organization since it’s founding in 1945. Nunes, 44, is a former research fellow at the Acton Institute and a long-time lecturer at Acton University and the Toward a Free and Virtuous Society student conferences. At Baltimore-based LWR, Rev. Nunes will lead a staff of nearly 100 people, directing projects in thirty-five different countries, and managing a budget currently at $34.6 million. The author of the book, Voices from the City, Rev. Nunes is a contributing scholar for Modern Reformation magazine, and holds membership in the American Academy of Religion. He spoke recently with Religion & Liberty executive editor John Couretas.


Editor's Note

When the Acton Institute was first established, part of our mission was to influence future leaders. We have done that in countless way through our array of programs, but this issue of R&L highlights one particularly important example. The Reverend John A. Nunes, a Lutheran minister, is our feature interview this month. Nunes was recently appointed to head up Lutheran World Relief. Aside from the genuine pride we have that one of our colleagues has been entrusted with such an important mission, we are also excited to see how the principles that Pastor Nunes wrote about for Acton will now animate LWR’s service to those in material need, and in need of the Gospel.

In our interview, Pastor Nunes speaks about his experience doing community work in Detroit, and what he learned about “accompaniment”—meaning not doing something for or ...

Walter Eucken

An intellectual architect of West Germany’s post-war economic miracle, Walter Eucken was the primary founder of the Freiburg ordo-liberal school of economics. The son of Rudolf Eucken—winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize in Literature—Walter Eucken studied history before turning his attention to economics during his studies at the universities of Bonn, Kiel, and Jena. Eucken became a professor of economics at the University of Freiburg in 1927, remaining there until his death in 1950.

Though proficient in technical economics, Eucken was primarily interested in the broader issue of the legal rules that make both freedom and market economies...

Solzhenitsyn and Russia's Golgotha

In the “Ascent,” one of the autobiographical sections of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, you will find the justly famous assertion that “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between political parties—but right through every human heart.”

And read just a little further and you come to these words, not so well known but just as true, which describe the evil that roots itself not in the personal, but in the political:

… I have come to understand the falsehood of all the revolutions in history: They destroy only those carriers of evil contemporary with them (and also fail, out of haste, to discriminate the carriers of good as well). And they then take to themselves as their heritage the actual evil itself, magnified still more.

Solzhenitsyn was a writer whose vast body of work, beginning with the great artistic...

Why is the Acton Institute producing documentaries?

In a word, audience. With this year’s release of The Call of the Entrepreneur, Acton is embarking on one of the most important—and potentially most influential—media programs in its seventeen-year history.

Acton has always been a leader on the communications front. This is true for our high quality journals and newsletters, and for our web presence, which makes use of the latest tools such as podcasts, video, and the Acton PowerBlog. The move into documentaries is a natural progression and one that taps into the dominant medium of our age—the motion picture—in high definition video.

The Call of the Entrepreneur tells the story of three very different entrepreneurs—a farmer, a financial executive...

What is Capitalism?

Rev. Robert Sirico

It’s not entirely easy to understand why, but the term capitalism is almost universally used derisively, particularly in religious circles. To say something is capitalist is to condemn it without argument, as if the label alone settles the question.

Let’s say that we believe that there are only two possible systems of organizing the economic forces of society: capitalism and socialism. It would seem from experience and logic that there is no contest. The experience with socialism has been one long and grueling disaster for every country that has tried it, while capitalism has created prosperity consistent with human rights.

And yet I suspect that this is not what people mean when they refer to...

The Leaky Bucket: Why Conservatives Need to Learn the Art of Story

In his biography of St. Thomas Aquinas, G. K. Chesterton said that “most men must have a revealed religion, because they have not time to argue.” The same might be true for political philosophy. In the Age of Information, most men do not have time to sift critically through the barrage of information that comes their way. So if most people do not have time to reason out their own political philosophy, how do they decide which to adopt as their own?

Sixty years ago, in a time of less noise, Friedrich Hayek offered an answer. His essay, The Intellectuals and Socialism, examined “the character of the process by...

Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

Matthew 6:1–4

“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let you left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving may be in secret. And you Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

In this passage and those surrounding it, Jesus compares the rewards of “the hypocrites” and those who follow his words. But some of the subtlety of the lesson is lost in translation. When describing the reward of the hypocrites, the Greek word used for reward denotes giving of a receipt for a full payment—in other words, a...

Ideology vs. Reality

© Free Software Foundation, Inc.

If one becomes aware that the original moral argument for socialism is wrong—that capitalism is actually benefiting people and serving the common good—why would one hold on to the ideology rather than abandon it? Clearly, it is difficult to abandon a lifelong ideology, especially if one considers the only available alternative to be tainted with evil. Thus socialism was for generations of socialists simply an entrenched dogma. It was possible for them to argue the finer points, but not to abandon it.

However understandable this might be, it is not praiseworthy. To hold on to a doctrine that is demonstrably false is to abandon all pretense of objectivity. If someone could demonstrate to...

Editor's Note

In this issue of Religion & Liberty we meet a giant of the Twentieth century: Alexander Solzhenitsyn of Russia. He has been both widely celebrated and widely reviled. His courage is admirable-—risking his life and suffering the torment of the Soviet gulag. Now in his old age, his place is secure as a hero in the history of liberty.

For those unfamiliar with the great Russian, Acton’s own John Couretas provides an excellent introduction to Solzhenitsyn in his review essay. As Couretas notes, because Solzhenitsyn was at the same time a serious Christian, devoted patriot, and defender of liberty, he was not well received by those who thought Christianity and patriotism were enemies of freedom. For those of us who believe in both religion and liberty, Solzhenitsyn is a friend.

I would like to use this space to note the death late last year of Milton Friedman....

The Culture of Charity

What motivated you to write this book? What questions were you hoping to answer?

Arthur Brooks

I’m an economist and I’ve been doing charitable giving research for a long time. When economists look at charitable giving now, they always ask these prosaic questions like, “what will happen to charitable giving if we decrease the death tax by a quarter?” They’re important questions, but they’re really all about economic incentives. Over the years I’ve been involved in a lot of charitable giving efforts from the university and through my own church. Nobody has ever said to me privately, “The reason I give is because of that sweet tax break.” That’s not...

Mandated Giving Doesn't Come from the Heart

Rev. Robert Sirico

It seems that some Biblical fallacies never go away, especially as regards redistribution and the poor. Hardly a day passes when I don't hear some version of the following: The Gospels speak clearly on the issue of the poor. They must be cared for. Special obligation falls to the rich who have the resources to care for them. This country has programs in place that are designed to do just that. Therefore, Christians have an obligation to politically support these programs.

The problem here is the slick move from personal ethics to public policy. What is required of us as individuals may or may not translate into a civic policy priority. In the case of the welfare state, it is possible to argue...