Acton University 2015 is about to get underway at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and our friend Al Kresta has already taken up residence on the gallery overlook level for his week of Kresta in the Afternoon remote broadcasts. His first guest from Acton University was our own Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, who sat down for a twenty minute discussion of Pope Francis, Laudeto Si, and the compatibility of capitalism with Christianity. The full interview is available via the audio player below.
Don’t let the dirty boots and the beat-up cowboy hat fool you: Joel Salatin is not your average farmer. While he is a farmer (he owns and operates Polyface Farm), he has a lot to say about how we produce, distribute and eat food in our nation, and how practices in the West negatively impact the developing world.
What each of these delegates said, each session I went to, was, “You Americans butt out. We don’t need your foreign aid. We can feed ourselves.” And they would list these wonderful, perennial nut-bearing trees and things that had now been cut down because of cheap, western-dumping, foreign aid into those cultures, which depressed the price of their locally-produced food, and eliminated the value.”
Culture has either an overly optimistic view of youth culture, or an overly dour and depressing one. However, neither view is entirely true, nor are such disparate opinions very helpful. The unavoidable truth is this: younger generations will have to bear increasingly more difficult levels of financial, and societal responsibility in the coming years. To put it mildly their future will not be an easy walk in the park.
However, in my experiences at Acton, I am witnessing a renaissance, a flowering of maturity in which young men and women are not waiting for someone to offer them a free hand-out, but rather are seeking a better version and a more compelling vision for their future. Certainly the root of this renaissance has been occurring over the past ten years with college students at Acton University, but the flowering I am talking about is happening amongst high school students.
In the spring of 2014, a group of students from West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids made an appointment to tour our offices and to learn more about Acton’s work. After the tour, I expected the students to simply say, “thank you” and then depart, but the leader of this intrepid band said, “Mr. Cook, we have a core group that are serious about our Christian faith, and we want to be successful, ethical and virtuous business leaders. We want to learn how we can live our faith as Christian business leaders in our world today.” Then he said something really amazing.
“Do you think it’s possible for us to start an ‘Acton Club’ in our high school?’
It’s always good to welcome old friends to the Acton Building. Last week it was our pleasure to welcome Jeffrey Tucker, author, speaker, and the founder and Chief Liberty Officer of Liberty.me to Grand Rapids in order to deliver the first Acton Lecture Series lecture of 2015, entitled “Capitalism is About Love.” (We’ll be posting audio and video of his address later this week.)
Jeffrey took some time to join me in the Acton Studios to talk about the premise of his lecture, and about his take on the state of the world as we head into 2015. You can listen to the latest edition of Radio Free Acton featuring my interview with Jeffrey Tucker via the audio player below.
In its eighth annual survey, the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania put the Acton Institute among the top organizations in social policy, advocacy, conferences and overall excellence. The 2014 Global Go-To Think Tank Index published by the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program, which has a database of more than 6,500 organizations, ranks the world’s leading think tanks in a variety of categories and across a wide political spectrum. The rankings are compiled with the help of a panel of over 1,900 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world.
Highlights from the 2014 report:
• Acton Institute 9th in the Top Social Policy Think Tanks (11th in 2013)
• Acton Institute 29th in Top Think Tanks in the United States (34th in 2013)
• 11th in Best Advocacy Campaign (10th in 2013) for PoveryCure.org
• 17th in Best Think Tank Conference (17th in 2013) for Acton University
In its new report, the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program noted that although the raw number of think tanks around the world has declined slightly, think tanks “continue to expand their role and influence in countries around the world.” The need for think tanks as key players for a flourishing civil society remains strong:
Across both developed and developing countries, governments and individual policymakers face the common problem of bringing expert knowledge to bear in government decision-making. Policymakers need reliable, accessible, and useful information about the societies they govern. They also need to know how current policies are working, as well as possible alternatives and their likely costs and consequences. Although this need has long been an inherent dynamic of the policymaking process, the forces of globalization have accelerated the growth of independent think tanks given their unique ability to strengthen the research-policy bridge and increase the quality and effectiveness of policymaking. This expanding need has fostered the growth of independent public policy research organizations in 182 countries around the world.
Even as the scope and impact of think tanks’ work have expanded, their potential to support and sustain democratic governments and civil societies is far from exhausted. The challenge for the new millennium is to harness the vast reservoir of knowledge, information, and associational energy that exist in public policy research organizations to support self-sustaining economic, social, and political progress.
Today at Ethika Politika, I examine some ancient economic wisdom from one of the desert fathers: Abba Pistamon. Far from the newest of Nintendo’s Pokemon monsters (despite the sound of his name), Abba Pistamon was one of the first Christian monks. The dialogue between him and an unnamed brother that I examine from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers has a lot to say about production, labor, profit, and exchange.
Far from a gnostic allergy to any involvement with the material world, Abba Pistamon acknowledges the good of production and exchange, appealing to past precedent of other revered monks before him (“Abba Sisois and others”). Commerce, he says, was common. In fact, according to the size and expansive enterprise of ancient monastic communities, we can say that his assessment is more than anecdotal. In ancient Christian sources, contempt for the merchant and trader is common, but the reality is more complicated. Sometimes traders and merchants went by a more respectable name: monks. We should not be surprised, then, that Abba Pistamon displays a certain natural business sense. But he does not stop at the merely economic aspects of production and exchange.
Recently, Acton President and Co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico spoke with Joe Wooddell, professor of philosophy and vice president for academic affairs at Criswell College. They discuss the concept of classic liberalism, Lord Acton, the Institute, and what led to the creation of Acton’s largest event of the year, Acton University.
If you’re new to Acton or want to learn more about Acton University, this is certainly a helpful resource. Registration for Acton University 2015 opens on Monday, November 17.
This summer during Acton University, I had the opportunity to be part of a recording for Moody Radio’s Up for Debate program, which has just recently been posted online. The subject for discussion was “Can Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical Christians Learn from Each Other?”
The participants were Jay Richards (Roman Catholic), Distinguished Fellow of the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics and a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, John Stonestreet (Evangelical), Fellow of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and me (Orthodox), an Acton research associate and assistant editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality.
In answer to the question of the show, the short answer that we all seemed to come to was, yes, we do have a lot to learn from one another. Our talk ranged from issues of Scripture and the Tradition of the Church to the current discussion in the public square over same-sex marriage.
Head over to Moody Radio to listen to the program here.
We’ve just posted the final bundle of 107 audio files from Acton University 2014 available for $14.95 at our digital download store. Our lunch and evening lectures are also free, including talks from:
Rev. Robert Sirico, co-founder of the Acton Institute and author of Defending the Free Market
Makoto Fujimura, Artist and Public Intellectual
Andy Crouch, Executive Editor, Christianity Today
Ross Douthat, Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times
Here’s the full list of lectures:
- Opening Lecture – Rev. Robert A. Sirico
- Culture Care: From Common Grace to Loving Your Enemies – Makoto Fujimura
- Getting Social Justice Right – Ryan Anderson
- Christian Anthropology – Dr. Samuel Gregg
- Biblical Theology of Covenant – Dr. Scott Hahn
What does it mean for Christians to use our gifts to fulfill God’s purposes in cultural flourishing? Makoto Fujimura, internationally renowned artist, intellectual, and founder of the International Arts Movement, is well placed to address this question. In this edition of Radio Free Acton, Fujimura joins host Paul Edwards to discuss his art, his story of faith, and how a “culture care” mindset can change the way we look at a wide range of issues. It’s a wide ranging conversation, and you can listen via the audio player below.
You can download your own free copy of Mako’s plenary address from last week’s Acton University conference – “Culture Care: From Common Grace to Loving Your Enemies” – at the Acton Institute Digital Dowload Store; it’s available in the “2014 Evening Talks” category. While you’re there, be sure to check out our still-growing collection of lecture audio from the conference; nearly 90 lectures are currently available for purchase including talks from the likes of Peter Kreeft, Peter Heslam, Judge Andrew Napolitano, and Ross Douthat, among many others. And don’t forget to check out For The Life Of The World: Letters To The Exiles as well in order to see Mako’s contribution to Acton’s latest curriculum series.
Additionally, you can follow Mako on Twitter: @iamfujimura; Be sure to check out the Radio Free Acton archive; And last, and certainly not least, be sure to follow the amazing @ActonUnicorn twitter feed as well. If Makoto Fujimura enjoys it, why shouldn’t you as well?