Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk

To kick off this special Summer/Fall 2014 double issue of Religion & Liberty, we talk with scholar Bradley J. Birzer whose new biography of Russell Kirk examines the intellectual development of one of the most important men of letters in the twentieth century. We discuss the roots of Kirk’s thought and how it developed over time, in a characteristically singular fashion. Kirk, the author of The Conservative Mind, was not easily pigeonholed into ideological categories – fitting for a man once described as “the most individual anti-individualist of his day.”

I want to thank Bradley Birzer, a Hillsdale College prof who is currently Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado Boulder, for offering Religion & Liberty an advance look at his forthcoming book on Kirk. A special thanks also to Annette Y. Kirk for her gracious help locating photos of her late husband in the archives of The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in Mecosta, Michigan, and sharing these with our readers. Be sure to check out the website of the Kirk Center for news about its academic programs and publications.

Kirk was a long time advisor to the Acton Institute. Here is the audio from his last public lecture, hosted by Acton in 1994, on “Lord Acton and Revolution.”

In this issue of Religion & Liberty, we review two new books. Economist David Hebert tells us that Russ Roberts’ How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life – An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness is a helpful reminder about the “limits of pure economics.” Even though the books and film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythic fantasies are phenomenally popular today, John Zmirak points out that his “bourgeois virtues were widely sneered at” by his contemporaries. He reviews The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom that Tolkien Got and the West Forgot by Jonathan Witt and Jay Richards.

Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg, the author of Becoming Europe, weighs in with an essay on the surprising scope of America’s welfare state in “Our Competitive Entitlement Economy.” He reports that almost 30 percent of America’s annual GDP is devoted to welfare-spending of one form or another. The “competitive entitlement economy” in his title points to the way in which this parallel culture feeds off the wealth creating economy.

In the Liberal Tradition looks at the life of Leonard Liggio, the man affectionately known as the “Johnny Appleseed of Classical Liberalism” for his tireless efforts to sustain and build the free market movement all over the world. Acton Executive Director Kris Mauren, in his FAQ feature, reports on the progress of Acton@25 Capital Campaign. The Institute, founded in 1990, has a number of exciting new projects planned for the near term. The Double- Edged Sword feature looks at John 6:40, one of the most familiar passages in the New Testament. It begins with Jesus Christ feeding the five thousand and includes one of the seven “I am” statements.

In his closing essay, Rev. Robert A. Sirico uses the celebration of the New Year to examine how joy is often confused with happiness. In light of the work of C.S. Lewis, Rev. Sirico talks about the close relationship of joy and faith.

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Rallying the Really Human Things: The Moral Imagination in Politics, Literature, and Everyday Life

Rallying the Really Human Things: The Moral Imagination in Politics, Literature, and Everyday Life

For Vigen Guroian, contemporary culture is distinguished by its relentless assault on the moral imagination. In the stories it tells us, in the way it has degraded courtship and sexualized our institutions of higher education, in the ever-more-radical doctrines of human rights it propounds, and in the way it threatens to remake human nature via biotechnology, contemporary culture conspires to deprive men and women of the kind of imagination that Edmund Burke claimed allowed us to raise our perception of our own human dignity, or to "cover the defects of our own naked shivering nature." In Rallying the Really Human Things, Guroian combines a theologian's keen sensitivity to the things of the spirit with his immersion in the works of Burke, Russell Kirk, G. K. Chesterton, Flannery O'Connor, St. John Chrysostom, and other exemplars of the religious humanist tradition to diagnose our cultural crisis. But he also points the way towards a culture more solicitous of the "really human things," the Chesterton phrase from which he takes his title. Guroian's wide-ranging analysis of these times provides a fresh and inimitable perspective on the practices and mores of contemporary life.