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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis

In the presidential campaign of 1992, George H. W. Bush's family values platform collapsed under the weight of a recession, and to many, the political discussion of morality retreated, taking refuge under the so-called Religious Right. But since the second election of George W. Bush, open talk of faith and morals has reentered the political arena with gusto. This is due partly to the reactive emergence of a Religious Left, such as is advocated in Jim Wallis's bestselling book, God's Politics. The book encourages the political left to use the language of faith and morals to regain the hearts and minds (and votes) of religious Americans. The strategy seems to be “less P.C., more J.C.” But the J.C. who answered the call was Jimmy Carter, whose new book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, fronts as an appeal to our corporate conscience. In effect, the book only...

A Powerful Consequence: An Interview with Francisco Flores

What a change El Salvador has gone through. What a challenge. How do individuals deal with that challenge, especially with regard to their faith?

I think that in normal conditions, in peaceful, prosperous conditions, your core identity can be clothed in many layers. But to the degree that you suffer, and that you face yourself with crisis, you face yourself with the possibility of death, that you face yourself with the loss of family members, you are left only with your faith. And in the end, that is what pulls a country forward. In the end, it’s the strength of an individual people that decides to pull forward, stagnate, or stay. So I think that in El Salvador, faith played a fundamental role in the decision people took of facing the challenge.

And I think it’s important to tell you what my faith is. I lost...

Editor's Note

Our first two issues of the new Religion & Liberty were focused on particular themes—an innovation for us. This issue returns to familiar terrain with a broader selection of pieces. Nevertheless, I might suggest that there is something of a connection between the principal articles we have in this issue.

The Acton Institute is about promoting a “free and virtuous society.” Perhaps in this issue there is a little more emphasis on the “virtuous” rather than the “free.”

Michael R. Stevens’s article on Wendell Berry will strike some readers as a surprising inclusion here. Mr. Berry is no cheerleader for the free market, and his concern for agricultural communities leads him to be suspicious even of technological advances. But Mr. Berry’s concern is about the human ecology of the economy: What effect does our economic...

Irrigating Deserts with Moral Imagination

Except for salvation, imagination is the most important matter in the thought and life of C. S. Lewis. He believed the imagination was a crucial contributor to the moral life, as well as an important source of pleasure in life and a vital evangelistic tool (much of Lewis's effectiveness as an apologist lies in his ability to illuminate difficult concepts through apt analogies). Without the imagination, morality remains ethics—abstract reflections on principles that we might never put into practice. The imagination enables us to connect abstract principles to everyday life, and to relate to the injustices faced by others as we imagine what they experience and feel. Though Lewis did not use the term “moral imagination”...

A World of Kindness: Morality and Private Property in the Torah

One would think that a seminal religious document such as the Torah—the five books of Moses, the Old Testament— would limit itself to purely spiritual themes. Yet many economic socialists and redistributionists find Torah scripture unnerving because among its greatest offerings is the motif of private property. Private property and the outgrowth from it that results in the well-ordered, predictable society are necessary conditions for an enduring civilization. And it is civilized society that the Torah wishes, through its precepts, to create.

Being created in the image of God means that a human, like God, must be responsible, accountable, mature, and merciful. None of this comes about except within a construct where the...

Private Property and Public Good

From the beginning of human history, humans have exercised dominion over the material world. All components of nature (other than persons themselves) are resources that can be rightly used, and in some instances used up, for the benefit of persons. Through their use of things, people cause much of the material world to become property: that is, material morally tied in a special way to a particular person or persons.

However, the human dominion over the subhuman world is more basic than property. This does not mean, however, that things should be owned in common. The point of associations and other common enterprises is the flourishing of each of its individual members—that is what constitutes the flourishing of the group....

Doubled-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

1 Thessalonians 4:9—12

On the subject of mutual charity you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another. Indeed, you do this for all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Nevertheless we urge you, brothers, to progress even more, and to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your [own] hands, as we instructed you, that you may conduct yourselves properly toward outsiders and not depend on anyone.

What is God's purpose for his children? In one sense, we can say it is dependence, complete dependence on His grace to sustain and to save us: “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Jesus said “ask and it will be given to you,” (Matthew 7:7) and James said “you do not possess because you do not ask” (James 4:3). A good example of this...

Health within Limits: A Reading of Wendell Berry

A few months ago a friend and I drove to Indianapolis on a pilgrimage to see and hear Wendell Berry. I was struck by the difference between my own heroic construct and the reality before me. Here in Indianapolis stood an elderly man, albeit a sharp, irascible, very tall and vigorous personage. He reflected on the limitless demiurge of consumerism that has come to blight our culture, on the anachronistic vigor with which he seeks to guard over his own money, and on the exercise of that rare and ephemeral notion called “thrift.” Beneath his anecdotes and off-the-cuff remarks, I sensed anew that profound theme that permeates all of Berry's work, one that serves not only as an agricultural trope but also as a guiding image for most human endeavors: we...

Be Wary of Power

Some people imagine that there is a third way between the market economy and socialism, and in a sense they are right. But the way to it does not lie with government programs. Before I explain that, let us consider the unseen effects of substituting government means for voluntary human energies.

We often use the word voluntary to identify charitable actions taken in society that do not result in profit. But consider that profit in a market economy also results from voluntary actions. They involve willing buyers and willing sellers, willing workers and willing capital owners. All “capitalist” acts result from volitional choice, a decision by individuals to make exchange based on the forecast that doing so will improve their lots in...

What is the extent of Acton's international activities?

The Acton Institute has long had an international presence, most commonly in the conferences it has hosted around the world. These gatherings include our standard Toward a Free and Virtuous Society conferences as well as two Catholic Bishops' conferences. Acton scholars also speak regularly at other conferences around the world, from Hungary to Guatemala.

But in recent years, Acton has expanded its international efforts, most notably with the founding of an office in Rome. This post has allowed the institute to host a number of additional conferences and lectures that expose a greater number of European leaders to the intersection of freedom, faith, and the public sector. For example, the Acton Institute has recently...

Ronald Reagan

Born in Illinois, Ronald Reagan might have been remembered by history as a famous film actor. While serving as a captain in the U.S. Army in the 1940s, he made training films for troops. After he was discharged from the army in 1945, he signed a million dollar contract with Warner Brothers. By the end of his long Hollywood career, he had over 120 film and television credits.

But Reagan was not destined to be remembered primarily as an artist. In 1964, Reagan announced himself to the political world as an advocate for individual freedom and responsibility. In a televised speech supporting presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, Reagan reminded a national audience of their heritage: “They also knew...

Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture

It can't be denied: many people of faith view the entertainment industry with a measure of suspicion. To answer some of this suspicion, Barbara Nicolosi and Spencer Lewerenz have compiled a collection of essays, Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture. Nicolosi and Lewerenz are two members of a circle of Hollywood producers, writers, and executives who conceived and support Act One, a Christian screenwriting program in Los Angeles. The essays in this collection are written by others in this circle and serve as a primer to those people of faith with some misguided notions about the entertainment industry.

While some of the more anecdotal selections in the collection are worth flipping past, the essays by Ron Austin, Thom Parham, Barbara Nicolosi, and Charles B. Slocum offer profound reflections on the meaning of cinema, society, and faith and in...

The Moral of the Story: An Interview with Ralph Winter

How do you maintain your faith in a high-demand job environment of money, power, and stress?

I've got a support system in place that helps make that all work. Primarily, a wife who understands as well as challenges me. I've been married for thirty-one years. Our lives are centered around our faith in terms of what we're about, where we're going, and why we do things. That remains at the center. And this is a fun job. I like it. I think I'm making a contribution by what I do. But it's a little more difficult when I'm out of town because I don't have the normal support system around: our small group bible study or the two guys that I'd be with on a regular basis when I'm in [Los Angeles]. So I talk to them on the Internet [and on the] phone remotely up here in Vancouver. But generally I think it's about having a support system, and trying to be...

Freaked Out: Liberty, Choice, and Rogue Economics

It is a rare thing for an economist to write a bestselling book, but Steven Levitt is a rather rare economist. Winner of the Clark Medal for the best American economist under forty, Levitt does not practice economics as most of his colleagues at the University of Chicago do. Indeed, he is something of maverick, as is made clear by the subtitle of his bestseller, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything .

Levitt does not seek to explain price theory, monetary policy, or trade relations. He turns his attention to rather more quirky questions: Why do crack dealers live at home? Do real estates agents really seek the best deal for their clients? Do abortions lower the crime...

Editor's Note

The Acton Institute is, at heart, a cultural enterprise. We are not concerned so much with politics or economics or sociology or philosophy as we are with the whole package—the effect they have on our culture. Our concern is with the health of society as a whole—the free and virtuous society.

In this autumn issue of Religion & Liberty, that concern is made very clear as we examine a tremendous influence on our culture—the entertainment industry. In Hollywood, they speak about movie- making as “the Industry,” but movie studios have an enormous influence on our culture, independent of their balance sheets.

Ralph Winter, a successful producer of several blockbuster films, speaks about that influence in our feature interview. His experience, reflected through his religious faith, offers a perspective on Hollywood that we rarely hear.

Cort...