Acton Institute Powerblog

Religion & Liberty: A Rare and Tenuous Freedom

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shearlThe new issue of Religion & Liberty, featuring an interview with Nina Shea, is now available online. A February preview of Shea’s interview, which was an exclusive for PowerBlog readers, can be found here.

Shea pays tribute to the ten year collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, which began in the fall of 1989. The entire issue is dedicated to those who toiled for freedom. Shea is able to make the connection between important events and times in the Cold War with what is happening today in regards to religious persecution. Her passion on these issues is unmatched. Her experience and expertise on issues of religious persecution definitely shine through in this interview. I encourage readers to pay attention to her work.

Mark Tooley offers the feature piece for this issue, “Not Celebrating Communism’s Collapse.” It is an excellent look back at the religious left and their grave misjudgments about the true danger of Marxist dictatorships. Tooley declares, “Communism’s collapse did further discredit the Religious Left, and the political witness of mainline Protestantism and ecumenical groups like the WCC and NCC has arguably, and thankfully, never quite recovered from the events of 1989-1990.” Tooley is president of The Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. and author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

In this issue I offer a review of Steven P. Miller’s Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South, which appeared first on the PowerBlog.

“Repressions” is a series of voices that speak to the danger of an ideology that reduces man to merely a material creature, while violently squelching the spiritual. Because of the danger of an all controlling state, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution considered religious liberty the “first freedom,” the foundational freedom upon which others are built. They understood that religious freedom is the hallmark to a truly free and virtuous society, and is also meant to act as an important wall from encroachment by the state into our lives.

The issue also pays tribute to a well known figure, especially among evangelical Christians, Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984). Scaheffer, who spoke out against the godless totalitarian state also powerfully reminds us: “I believe that pluralistic secularism, in the long run, is a more deadly poison than straightforward persecution.”

Ray Nothstine is opinion editor of the the North State Journal in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previously, he was managing editor of Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford.


  • Roger McKinney

    Nice tribute to Schaeffer! Thanks! He had an enormous influence on me. I never understood the criticisms of Schaeffer for being unscholarly. Of course he wasn’t a scholar! Did he teach at a university? No! Did he write for journals! No! Schaeffer was an evangelist first. He summarized philosophy for the purpose of evangelism and to explain why people think the way they do. Anyone who has tried to summarize philosophy knows that it’s impossible to do without offending someone; summaries always do violence to subtleties. Specialists and scholars can’t agree on what some philosophers taught. They’re certainly not going to agree with any summary.

    What Schaeffer did was expose the rest of us to philosophy and why it mattered. He made us thirst for more knowledge about philosophy so that we could understand the subtleties better. And he raised a whole new generation of people who could defend the faith from secular philosophy.

    I credit Schaeffer for preparing me for Austrian economics, too. His method in analyzing philosophy was very similar to the Austrian method of economics. I have often thought that Schaeffer did the praxeolgy of philosophy and religion. Schaeffer’s basic approach was to take human nature as it is and examine which philosophies were compatible with human nature. Orthodox Christianity is the only “philosophy” that humans can live consistently with. All others require us to believe one thing but act as if it weren’t true. For example, existentialism asserted that no morality exists, but most existentialists couldn’t live that way and acted as if there was real true morality.

  • Roger McKinney

    I am currently reading “Secret Believers: What Happens When Muslims Believe in Christ” by Brother Andrew and Al Jansen. The suffering of Christians in Muslims countries is great and there is little we can do about it, but thank God for those who do what they can.