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 life have on the life of community and the cultural norms that encourage the discipline of virtue? Those who promote the efficiency and prosperity of economic liberty cannot neglect such questions, even if they come to different conclusions than Mr. Berry. An economic system is not an end in itself—the good of the human person remains always the end of all systems.
Peter Schakel’s article on the imagination of C. S. Lewis is timely given the attention paid to Lewis with the recent Narnia film. Schakel draws attention to Lewis’s interest in the education of virtue—the inculcation of good habits. The work of the “free and virtuous” society is more difficult on the virtue end —freedom is easier to grant than virtue is to teach. Schakel reminds us that Lewis has some timeless wisdom on that subject.
And we lead this issue with a fascinating interview with Francisco Flores, former president of El Salvador. In the wake of last year’s hurricanes, his comments on disaster relief alone are worth reading. As a Catholic priest, it was difficult to read about his own distance from the Catholic Church, but his experience highlights the danger of the Church substituting political or economic policies for the Gospel. Churches have an indispensable role in promoting the virtue upon which a free society depends; that task ought not to be subordinated to political questions.
Finally, I would draw your attention to our own Samuel Gregg’s article. Though a publication like R&L cannot contain the vast amount of work published by Acton staff, it’s a pleasure to give you a glimpse of that fine work.