Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Eliot, Kirk and the Moral Imagination

The following is adapted from a speech on the occasion of the republication of Russell Kirk's Eliot and His Age, given to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute student group at Central Michigan University in September 2008.

What makes T. S. Eliot and Russell Kirk so important that we should be here tonight to discuss them? Well, for one, both fathered "ages"--the twentieth century was, according to Kirk, "The Age of Eliot" and Kirk himself inaugurated the contem- porary Conservative Age with the publication of The Conservative Mind in the early 1950s. Both men recognized that there is no culture without cult, cult in this instance, for Kirk, "a joining together for worship--that is, the attempt of people to commune with a transcendent power. It is from association in the cult, the body of worshippers, that human community grows." Additionally...

Why Did The Acton Institute Develop The Effective Stewardship Curriculum?

One of the best ways to reach people of faith is in their places of worship and church communities. Church and lay leaders of many different Christian traditions are often looking for quality and affordable curriculum materials that can equip their own members to act and think biblically about important social issues such as care of creation, poverty relief, financial stewardship, and giving.

Acton’s purpose in developing the Effective Stewardship Curriculum and NIV Stewardship Bible was to take the best of our ideas, as expressed in the work of our scholars and staff members, and to offer them to a broad audience. With a DVD and companion study guide, Acton can multiply its reach and influence tremendously.

What’s more, many church leaders and educational materials propose teachings and policy solutions that are at odds with the “free and virtuous...

Power and Corruption in Catholic Boston

Lord Acton’s quotation concerning the corrupting effect of power is widely known. Less so is the fact that the target of his criticism on that particular occasion was the power possessed not by government but by church officials. Acton’s understanding of ecclesiastical authority (as distinct from power) is debatable, but his insight into human nature is not. A case study—not that we need another to file away in the vast archives of the history of human frailty—is the collapse of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

Philip Lawler documents the details in this skillfully written account of the triumphs and travails of Boston’s Catholics. The history is episodic rather than thorough, but Lawler chooses his episodes well. The bulk of his attention goes to the last forty years, and much of that is focused on the sexual abuse scandals of the last ten. For anyone who...

Spiritual Enterprise: Doing Virtuous Business

With the onset of the financial crisis and economic downturn, there has been a lot of discussion about the future of the free economy in this country. Scandal and corruption among executives and financial institutions has of course played a significant part in fueling the discussion. While paying tribute to the free economy and the wealth it has created, Theodore Roosevelt Malloch also looks to reinforce and renew the foundations of virtuous business in Spiritual Enterprise. Malloch agrees that businesses and entrepreneurs that embody those spiritual traits played a substantial role in leading the United States in its rise as an economic power second to none. A key driver of this as cendancy was that so many business leaders and the people who made up those institutions had a deep well of spiritual might and heritage to draw from. “I do not deny that...

Busting a Pop Culture Illusion

For the past several decades, American popular culture has frequently promulgated an idea central to modern liberalism: the idea of a life without limits, that we can have everything we want with out having to make hard choices. That assumption is especially evident in Walt Disney movies, and not only in recent ones. Fortunately, the makers of some pop culture products see the absurdity and danger of that notion.

The life-without-limits mindset, derived most directly from the ideas of the eighteenth century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (one of the main progenitors of modern, statist liberalism), is an essential foundation of modern liberalism and has an important corollary that pervades leftist politics: that the only thing that stops each of us from achieving our life without limits is the stubborn restrictions placed on us by various villains,...

The Envy Trap

It is one of the great puzzles, true throughout all human history, that during an economic downturn, people turn on the rich. They call for them to be taxed, harassed, beaten, and jailed. Because they have money when others are losing money, envy is unleashed and encouraged by the political establishment. It amounts to a kind of lashing out at the most conspicuous target, even though doing so won’t actually accomplish anything.

On the face of it, this should be obvious. In hard economic times, the goal should not be to harm the rich but create conditions that enable more people to become rich. Punishing those who have created and accumulated wealth doesn’t do this. In fact, it does the opposite. It sends the signal that the creation and accumulation of wealth will not be tolerated—and this is exactly the opposite signal that an economy in recession needs.


Taking a Stand: An Interview with Governor Mark Sanford

You’ve taken a very principled approach in working for smaller government, lower taxes, individual liberty, and, for fostering a culture of personal responsibility. Those principles are taking a battering in Washington today. Can anything turn the tide?

Gov. Sanford
Gov. Sanford: money doesn’t come out of the sky.

George Washington and his fairly battered band of patriots were facing far greater odds. The situation looked much more bleak. And yet they were resolved to creating the perfect union that they believed in. And they ultimately prevailed against incredibly long odds. So I think the answer rests in that silent and sleeping majority—really making their voice heard. Not just for an election or election cycle...

Editor's Note

Currently there are serious concerns about economic prosperity in a nation that has for so long benefited from tre mendous economic growth and stability. Likewise, some are deeply troubled about government proposed solutions and cures for our economic ailments. South Carolina's governor Mark Sanford brings substantial thought and credibility to free-market ideas while articulating the danger of greater centralized power.

Those paying attention to current events will be well aware that Governor San ford has risen to be perhaps the chief voice in opposing bailout and stimulus legislation out of Washington, no matter which political party is pushing more spending. We also add another important dynamic in our interview that you prob ably won't see in other interviews with the governor, and that focuses on his views of faith in the public square and what that...

Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

Acts 3:1-8

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer--at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

The book of...

The Mistaken Faiths of Our Age

In the midst of financial crisis, Pope Benedict made a statement that immediately hit the headlines. He said "with the collapse of big banks we see that money disappears, is nothing and all these things that appear real are in fact of secondary importance." He further warned against attempting to build one's life "only on things that are visible, such as success, career, money... The only solid reality is the word of God."

His comments were extension of the Gospel message applied in perilous times. In times of plenty, there is a grave temptation to see in material goods the salvation of our lives. We cling to them, and we discover our disordered attachments in economic bad times. We can go further to observe that this is not only a problem in wealthy societies. Greed and godless materialism are also features of poor societies as well, though they are expressed in a different...

Wilhelm Roepke

"We need a combination of supreme moral sensitivity and economic knowledge. Economically ignorant moralism is as objectionable as morally callous economism. Ethics and economics are two equally difficult subjects, and while the former needs discerning and expert reason, the latter cannot do without humane values."

A decorated soldier in the Kaiser's army, Wilhelm Roepke returned home from the trenches of World War I in 1918, determined to work to ensure that Western civilization never again experienced a crisis of the type that led to the horrors of mass warfare. His life was henceforth to be spent fighting against all forms of collectivism--be it of the National Socialist, Communist, or welfarist variety--and...

Metropolitan Kirill on Economic Globalization and the Social Consensus

Metropolitan Kirill

Excerpt from the prologue to The Ethics of the Common Good in Catholic Social Doctrine (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2008) by His Holiness Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. His Eminence Reverend Kirill is metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and president of the Department of Foreign Religious Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate. Translated from Italian by Paola Fantini, an intern in the Rome office of the Acton Institute.

Metropolitan Kirill:

The official documents of the Russian Orthodox Church, together with many other works of Christian scholars, bear the idea that the harmonious development of society can be possible only on the basis of essential values...

Why does Acton advertise in newspapers and magazines?

For the last three years, Acton has been reaching out to readers of religious and secular publications with engaging, issue-driven advertising. These professionally produced advertisements have touched on a wide variety of timely topics including poverty, malaria, trade, environmental stewardship, and the rise of the Religious Left. The ads use arresting images and thoughtprovoking headlines and copy to pose important questions in fresh ways. This approach is very effective for reaching well-intentioned people of faith concerned about important issues, but who may not have yet formed clear social or economic positions.

One memorable issue ad carried a large image of a mosquito over the headline: Let Us Spray. The ad attacked the erroneous notion, advanced for decades by environmentalists, that the pesticide DDT was an unmitigated evil. This thinking has kept DDT out of the...

The Theology of John Wesley


Kenneth J. Collins offers an insightful study that blends the historical and contemporary in The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace, published in 2007 by Abingdon Press. The book is Contemporary in that Collins makes a strong case for the relevancy of Wesley's theology and legacy for today. The author is quick to point out that John Wesley was not a systematic theologian, thus some theologians and scholars find him easy to dismiss, while others view him through their preferred theological traditions.

Collins argues that Wesley crafted a theology that was extremely practical and organized around the Ordo Salutis. The order of salvation is a theological term outlining God working in the process of salvation that liberates man from sin. It makes...

Can Libertarians and Social Conservatives find Common Ground?

Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan

As the standard bearer for American conservatism for two decades, Ronald Reagan effortlessly embodied fusionism by uniting Mont Pelerin style libertarians, populist Christians, Burkean conservatives, and national security voters into a devastatingly successful electoral bloc. Today, it is nearly impossible to imagine a candidate winning both New York and Texas, but Reagan and that group of fellow travelers did.

In the meantime, the coalition has begun to show strain as the forces pushing outward exceed those holding it together. The Soviet Union, once so great a threat that Whittaker Chambers felt certain he was switching to the losing side when he began to inform on fellow Communist agents working within the...