The core economic challenge facing the American experiment is not income inequality per se, but rather stratification and stagnation — weak mobility from the bottom of the income ladder and wage stagnation for the middle class. These challenges are bound up in a growing social crisis — a retreat from marriage, a weakening of religious and communal ties, a decline in workforce participation — that cannot be solved in Washington D.C. But economic and social policy can make a difference nonetheless, making family life more affordable, upward mobility more likely, and employment easier to find.

Ross Douthat, op-ed columnist at The New York Times and author of Bad Religion, will be joining the faculty of Acton University 2014 and featured as a plenary speaker. His writing has been called “prophetic;” Douthat has a keen eye for culture, religion, economy, politics – the milieu of American life. In Bad Religion, Douthat examines how America is becoming a nation of heretics, and the harm that is causing. David Wilezol of The Washington Times had this to say about Douthat’s book:

“Bad Religion” is a superb documentation of America’s crisis of faith, and a persuasive apology for the restoration of Christian orthodoxy in America. Mr. Douthat theorizes that the cause of America’s economic, political and moral slump has been a societal departure from our Christian roots, but the cause hasn’t been the fashionable atheism of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.

The real corrosive forces are unbiblical and self-serving influences within Christianity itself: “prosperity Gospel” preachers (a la Joel Osteen); Christological revisionists in the professoriate and the media; anodyne “spiritualists” like Oprah and Deepak Chopra; and ideologues who have wrongly appropriated Christianity for political ends (on both the left and the right).

Douthat’s voice is one crying out in the wilderness, with flair, intelligent critique and a bit of fun. He will teach a class entitle “Bad Religion” at Acton University 2014, and be the featured plenary speaker on Friday evening, engaging in an informal dialogue with the Rev. Robert Sirico.

Enjoy this video clip with Douthat discussing religion with Bill Maher. [Warning: some explicit language involved.]