Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Doubled-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

Deuteronomy 25:13—16

“You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and just weight you shall have, a full and just measure you shall have; that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 25:13—16

This instruction is found in a large section of legislation given to the people of Israel as part of the covenant God initiated with them. In Deuteronomy, a code of behavior is set forth that articulates the nation's distinct relationship with God.

Yet interspersed between these laws dealing with major issues, we find several regulations regarding what would be considered rather commonplace...

Defending the Weak and the Idol of Equality

The Acton Institute has begun a series of lectures—eight in Rome and one in Poland—celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of Centesimus Annus , Pope John Paul II's landmark social encyclical. The lecture series started in October of 2005 and will continue through 2007. For the next year , Religion & Liberty will feature excerpts from these conference lectures .

The following is taken from Catholic Social Teaching on the Economy and the Family: an alternative to the modern welfare state, delivered on January 21, 2006, at the Pontifical North American College in Rome .

People unfamiliar with Catholic social teaching may be surprised to learn that the church has consistently condemned socialism. The Catholic Church has never embraced “equality” the way socialism has. The church is not indifferent to the poor. Rather,...

Fairness in the Market

How, in a market setting, can you be assured that you are getting a good deal? We all know people who distrust every price, believe that most business people are concealing something important, and have a vague suspicion that every enterprise is a racket.

These people might have a bias, but they do serve a market function. Business must always be aware that its promotionals and marketing plans must be balanced against the need to inspire trust always. It is a business asset like no other, and those who foster it thrive, while those who do not lose out.

But we need to be aware that the price of goods on the market is not fixed by some eternal law but rather by fluctuations based on supply and demand. There is nothing in the structure of the universe that makes paper towels pennies a piece, dish towels a dollar, and linen tea cloths as high as fifty dollars. These prices...

How does Acton communicate its ideas to the world?

As a research and educational institution, the Acton Institute has always held that its advancement of a “free and virtuous society” must reach the widest possible audience to be effective. You don't change the world by shutting yourself up in an ivory tower.

You may think of Acton's research, publication, and communications efforts as a spectrum that, on the one side, starts with serious, well respected academic work and, at the other, reaches into the popular media of newspaper commentaries, talk radio, and online media such as Web sites, blogs, and podcasts. Video will be an increasingly important tool for Acton in the future.

All of Acton's intellectual work is based on the firm foundation built by the institute's research department and its flagship publication, The Journal of Markets & Morality. Other communication vehicles include books, monographs, policy...

Edmund A. Opitz

God has laid down rules for us in every walk of life, including the proper organization of our economic affairs. The free economy is a system of voluntary arrangements that brings together people who have work skills, who use tools and machinery to increase their output, thus producing the incredible abundance of goods and services we enjoy as consumers. Economics … is in the realm of means, but it supplies the essential means for enriching our lives in the realms of the mind and spirit; as well as in music, art, and literature.

The Rev. Edmund A. Opitz was a Congregationalist minister who for decades championed the cause of a free society and the need to anchor that society in a...

The Right To Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War over Religion in America

Mary Dyer was regarded as a “very proper and comely young woman”—that is, before she broke the law and was hanged. Her crime: being a Quaker in Massachusetts Bay Colony. Laws against this were on the books and notice had been given. Everything was legal. Was it moral?

Three hundred years later, Zach, a first-grade student, was excited to learn that his teacher was going to let him read in front of the class for the first time. She added a personal touch to the experience by allowing him to read from his favorite book, which Zach brought the next day: the Beginner's Bible. The teacher told him he could not read it in front of the class and would have to read it to her in private. Is this right?

These are just two of the many anecdotes Kevin Seamus Hasson relates in The Right To Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War over Religion in America, his narrative...

A Tsunami Every Day: An Interview with Tony Hall

How has your faith shaped your political priorities, especially with regard to the fight against hunger?

It's quite a major part. A friend of mine who used to work [with me]—a believer—would come in and pray with me, and we would read the scripture. He said, “Don't you think it's time you started to take God into your workplace?” I thought, “Yeah, I do, but I don't know how to do it. I don't want to wear religion on my sleeve, because I see so many people do that and to me it looks hypocritical. I want to do it in a way in which I honor God, but I really don't know how to do it.” So in 1984, when I was a member of Congress, we heard about this amazing famine in Ethiopia, and at the time I was chairman of a subcommittee on international hunger. I decided to go and see it, to try to understand it. So I went to Ethiopia, and I saw...

Editor's Note

The many works of the Acton Institute bring us constantly into contact with the creative power of human liberty—we regularly are impressed, I think, with the potential for economic growth and dynamism. In this issue of Religion & Liberty, our thoughts turn to situations where that growth and dynamism is most needed—the desperate situations of poverty and hunger that still persist.

“To feed the hungry” remains a basic work of mercy, the goal of much charitable activity. It is also the work of major institutions such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Our feature interview in this issue is with Tony Hall, former Democratic congressman and, until recently, U.S. Ambassador to FAO in Rome. He spoke with the head of our Rome office, Kishore Jayabalan.

“To feed the hungry” is also a basic economic imperative. Indeed, the...

Loving Our Neighbor-Near and Far

St. Augustine once wrote, “You cannot love what you do not know.” He was making a disarmingly simple point about the first great Christian commandment to love God, wholeheartedly. However, Augustine's words also apply to the second great commandment—to love our neighbor, unselfishly. The application is especially important now, in our newly globalized world, and Pope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical, Deus Caritas Est , provides a timely framework for seeing how that is so.

In the second half of the letter, Benedict XVI writes: “Today the means of mass communication have made our planet smaller, rapidly narrowing the distance between different peoples and cultures.” As suggested in an earlier passage, this dramatic...

Doubled-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

Deuteronomy 8:3

“He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3

It was never easy to be God's chosen people. As some have noted, God singled out Israel from among the nations to beat into their heads certain truths about himself so these truths would not be lost to the world; for this the world is immeasurably in debt. One specific lesson God relayed through his people to the world is recounted in the passage above.

As Moses led his people through the desert, God allowed them hunger to teach a lesson: You are more than your stomach. For a group of people lost in the desert, hungry and grumpy at the very least, this may have seemed like...

I, T-Shirt: Lessons from the Cotton Industry

I remember being a teenager, proudly lacing up a new pair of Nikes as a news story blared on the television. The story reported on the poor children in Asia who crafted my new fashion statement in cruel conditions for mere pennies a day. I won't lie; it stole the luster for me. I was unaware then that there was more to the story than simply poor children in a sweatshop and fancy me in my Nikes. Now that I am older, I recognize that trade and globalization—issues so vital to the extension of human rights—are rarely presented evenhandedly in the media. This is why Dr. Pietra Rivoli's The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy is so refreshing. Detailing the life cycle of a t-shirt, Rivoli approaches the politics of world trade on a personal—not an ideological—level. Along the way she introduces us to the cotton farmer in Texas, the factory worker in...

For I Was Hungry and You Fed Me: Ag-biotech and Hunger

Photo: © Peter Williams / WCC

To well-fed (sometimes overfed) people in Western countries, it is certainly odd to think of food as a life-saving medicine. But for those suffering from chronic hunger and malnutrition, the idea is a reality. It is repeated over and over again that the amount of food produced in the world is enough to feed all the hungry people in the world [1] ; hence, the solution to hunger is not to increase production but to improve distribution of what is already being produced. As sensible this statement might seem, it is of no help to the hungry.

Large amounts of food are indeed produced in the West, but this is mainly used to feed animals that eventually become...

The Virtues of Development

Imagine yourself in the fifteenth century, at a university in Spain or Italy, a time of increasing scientific discovery, technical innovation, economic development, rising prosperity, and increasing intellectual awareness of the meaning of economic science. You are involved in the great intellectual project of discovering the laws of economics and applying these laws to the world. You have discovered what goes into the creation of a price, what causes inflation, how trade works, and why innovations come to be available to all. You begin to see a glimmer of a great hope: a future without mass deprivation, disease, persistent infant death, and human suffering.

Now jump forward more than 500 years and observe: The world population has exploded in size but instead of suffering you see that the masses live better than all the kings of old. There is food, medicine, and clothing...

I've seen advertisements for Acton University. Is this conference going to replace the Toward a Free and Virtuous Society conferences?

For fifteen years, the Acton Institute has been reaching out to religious leaders, students, scholars, and business peopl e in highly focused events in the United States and abroad. Now, Acton University will bring all of these groups together in a single “main event” to learn together and share experiences from all over the world.

Acton University reaches a large and diverse audience and will be offered to the general public. With more than forty courses in philosophy, theology, economics, business, and effective compassion, the university allows participants to design their own conference experience, availing themselves of the knowledge of some of the leading experts in these fields.

Acton is excited about this new endeavor. Still, the university does not change our commitments to our other popular events, most notably the Toward a Free and Virtuous Society (FAVS)...

Rafael Termes

It is true that democracy is the best of the political systems, in that it guarantees, through universal suffrage, a peaceful changeover of power. But democracy and its instrument, majority rule, is not a method to investigate the truth. Truth can be acquired with evidence, conclusive demonstration, or another's trustworthy testimony; but it must not be subject to a vote. There may be laws hereof which, although passed democratically, are ... not laws, but corruptions of the law, because they are not inspired by right reason. Instead, they are inspired by the pure will of the majority. (Of Elections and Bishops)

As a scholar, a researcher, a businessman, and a...