Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Illuminating gifts

Faith. Freedom. These words are not used thoughtlessly or carelessly at the Acton Institute. The 25th anniversary of the Acton Institute is a good time to reflect on these ideals, especially as they relate to our Faith & Freedom Award. Faith illuminates the road—our lives—before us. We are free to journey anywhere. Isn’t the freedom of the open road a quintessential American tableau? It’s us in a sharp-looking, sunlit convertible with music blasting and wind in our hair. The world is ours! Freedom!

But we must also ask what freedom is, because without knowing the parameters of freedom, we can drive off a cliff.

I am reminded of the classic novel Les Miserables. One character, Jean Valjean, is basically a...

Sojourner Truth [1797 – 1883]

Truth is powerful and it prevails.

From slave to fearless human rights advocate, Sojourner Truth is one of the most inspirational figures of the 19th century. In 1797, or thereabouts, Truth was born Isabella Baumfree in the state of New York to James and Elizabeth (some accounts say her mother’s name was Betsey), two slaves of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh. Truth married another slave, Thomas, when she was in her late teens and eventually had five children. sojourner truth image in the liberal traditionShe had several different owners, many of whom were extremely cruel, until 1826. Growing support for emancipation and abolition of slavery prompted Truth’s final owner to promise that he...

Was America ever really a Christian nation?

book cover one nation under god kevin m. kruseReview of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse. New York: Basic Books, 2015.

In One Nation Under God, Princeton historian Kevin M. Kruse offers yet another deconstruction of the claim, made quite vehemently in some conservative Christian circles, that America is (or at least was) a “Christian nation.” But unlike those who largely insist on the heterodoxy, rationalism, skepticism or separationism of some leading members of the founding generation, countering one kind of “originalism” with another, Kruse offers a different sort of genealogy, taking its point of departure in the 1930s, when a few...

The higher calling of the dismal science

Economist and theologian Paul Heyne once asked the question, “Are economists basically immoral?” He asked this because economists have a frustrating tendency to interrupt the high moral aspirations of others with complications about how, in the real world, life is not so simple. When other people are concerned with social justice and love, they have a knack for focusing on things like costs and logistics, seemingly putting a price on doing the right thing. Is this just an annoying habit of a small subset of social scientists, or might it be a moral calling? It is common today, especially among economists, to conceive of economic science as “value-free” in a fairly radical sense. Often this conception is credited to Milton Friedman, who wrote in a 1953 article, “Positive economics is in principle independent of any particular ethical position or normative...

The Cold War and the soul of Soviet hockey

Review of the 2014 documentary Red Army.

The Cold War and the soul of Soviet hockey image 1 posterThis year marks the 35th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice,” the stunning 4-3 victory of the United States men’s hockey team over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. The new documentary Red Army provides the broader context of this seemingly singular event as it traces the career of one of the most decorated Russian players of all time: Viacheslav Fetisov. Fetisov was a young member of the 1980 Soviet national team who would go on to international fame. But even then he was a star. The 21-year-old defenseman grew up playing hockey in Moscow, and...

From cuneiform to Kindle: Scripture for a digital age - An Interview with Bob Pritchett

bob pritchett interview faithlifeIn the early nineties, Bob Pritchett made the decision to leave his then employer, Microsoft, and enter the risky world of entrepreneurship. More than two decades later, it’s safe to say that this risk has paid off. The company he founded, Faithlife, now employs nearly 500 people and is on the forefront of digital publishing. Headquartered in Bellingham, Washington, Faithlife creates digital tools and resources for Bible study and publishes ebooks. While this company primarily creates content for the digital world, that’s not all they do. The Acton Institute is working with Faithlife’s imprint, Lexham Press, as part of the Kuyper Translation Society project. Lexham will be publishing the...

How can I help with the final matching challenge of the Acton@25 Campaign?

Currently celebrating our 25th year in operation, this fall we hope to announce the completion of our Acton@25 Campaign to launch our next 25 years!

The capital campaign began 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 two dvd video curricula and a documentary, and display our unique and rare collection of close to 15,000 books. Over 2,000 people have attended our in-house lectures to learn more about free enterprise, individual liberty and personal responsibility! Many partner and community organizations have used our beautiful building for their own activities. The focus of the final phase of the campaign is seizing new opportunities.

We are $300,000 away from reaching our $12.5 million campaign goal, which we are determined to...

Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

John 19:33-34

But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

One of the remarkable things about the risen and ascended Christ is that he still bears the marks of his death and suffering for humanity. Christ has truly made the Cross eternal with his physical body. Even when our bodies are fully restored at our own resurrection, Christ will still bear the wounds of his crucifixion. This powerful and physical seal points directly to the centrality of the Cross.

It was routine for those who were crucified to have their legs broken to speed up death. This was done so it was nearly impossible for them to lift themselves up to keep from suffocating.

Jesus, who had already died, was stabbed...

Editor’s Note

The Houston-based Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) treats convicted criminals as if they were “raw metal in the hands of a blacksmith— crude, formless, and totally moldable.” PEP puts prisoners through a rigorous character training and business skills regimen to prepare them for a productive, even flourishing, reentry to life after incarceration. Ray Nothstine took part in PEP’s “pitch day” presentations where prisoners present their start-up dreams before a panel of business people and investors. In the main feature of this Spring 2015 issue of Religion & Liberty, Nothstine describes his day at the Cleveland Correctional Center near Houston and interviews Bert Smith, PEP chief executive.

Also in this issue, Rev. Gregory Jensen reviews Free Market Environmentalism for the Next Generation, a new book by Terry Anderson and...

What to Expect at Our University

For an adequate formation of a culture, the involvement of the whole man is required, whereby he exercises his creativity, intelligence, and knowledge of the world and of people. Furthermore, he displays his capacity for self-control, personal sacrifice, solidarity and readiness to promote the common good. Thus the first and most important task is accomplished within man’s heart. – Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

In about a month, we will be enjoying Acton’s annual assemblage, Acton University. We chose to call it a university rather than simply a conference because of its rigorous intellectual nature. Attendees are asked to attend foundational courses their first year, to be present at every session they have chosen, and to delve into truly substantial topics.

Looking back at our plenary speakers over the years, there is a sense of...

Isabel Paterson [1886 – 1961]

In the Liberal Tradition

Whoever is fortunate enough to be an American citizen came into the greatest inheritance man has ever enjoyed. He has had the benefit of every heroic and intellectual effort men have made for many thousands of years, realized at last.

Journalist, philosopher, and literary critic Isabel Paterson may have faded into obscurity in the last few decades, but she is one of the greatest classical liberal thinkers of her time. She is lauded as one of the three women (along with Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand) who launched the libertarian movement in America.

Paterson is probably most wellknown for her 1943 book The God of the Machine, a treatise on political philosophy, economics, and history. Ayn Rand said this book “does for capitalism what Das Kapital does for the Reds.” This book is especially significant because it was not...

The Burden of the Christian

Charles Malik is not a household name among educated Christians who stand for a free and virtuous society. Some may vaguely recall his name from his involvement in the formative period of the United Nations and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But his name is often overshadowed either by more familiar personages, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, or by the way in which the Universal Declaration was used to justify a 1974 charter “to promote the establishment of the new international economic order, based on equality, sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest and cooperation among all States, irrespective of their economic and social systems,” which is an intentional compromise with Communism that runs counter to Malik’s own thoughts on the matter. “The classical Western values of freedom, personality, excellence, rank,...

Nature, Markets, and Human Creativity

A review of Free Market Environmentalism for the Next Generation by Terry L. Anderson and Donald R. Leal. (Palgrave Macmillan, January 2015).

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his statement for the 2015 World Water Day makes a number of assertions that, while inspired by morally good ideals, are morally and practically problematic. book Nature, Markets, and Human CreativityChief among them is his assertion “that environmental resources are God’s gift to the world” and so “cannot be either considered or exploited as private property.” While certainly not absolute, the Orthodox Christian moral tradition doesn’t reject the notion of private property. In fact, property is valued “as a socially recognized form of...

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...