Category: News and Events

Blog author: bwalker
Thursday, September 25, 2014
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Leo is dreamyThree-hundred thousand protestors waved signs and shouted slogans about man-made climate change in midtown Manhattan on Sunday. Among them were representatives of the same group of religious shareholder activists who – like the swallows returning to Mission San Juan Capistrano each year – annually submit proxy resolutions to the corporations in which they invest. Some of these resolutions demand companies divest from holdings in the fossil fuel sector, draft policies geared toward limiting carbon emissions, end hydraulic fracturing or deal with carbon-based products as “stranded assets” in hopes that solar and wind energy replace them in the near future. According to the progressive online newspaper, The National Catholic Reporter:

Faith leaders joined politicians, celebrities, musicians, labor unions, and tens of thousands of concerned citizens in the march. Demonstrators waved signs that read ‘Jesus Would Drive A Prius’ and ‘System Change, Not Climate Change’ as they snaked their way through the heart of New York City.

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Common Grace 1.2 Front Cover Proof 1 (1)Christian’s Library Press has released the second in its series of English translations of Abraham Kuyper’s most famous work, Common Grace, a three-volume work of practical public theology. This release, Temptation-Babel, is the second of three parts in Volume 1: The Historical Section, following the previous release, Noah-Adam.

Common Grace (De gemeene gratie) was originally published in 1901-1905 while Kuyper was prime minister. This new translation offers modern Christians a great resource for understanding the vastness of the gospel message, as well as their proper role in public life. The project is a collaboration between the Acton Institute and Kuyper College.

Picking up where he left off in Noah-Adam, Kuyper reminds us that in the Garden of Eden, man’s body was “unimpaired and whole,” and “in terms of his spiritual existence, he was perfectly wise in mind, perfectly holy in moral nature, and perfectly righteous in his standing before God.” Such a state would have progressed if not for the Fall, but alas, Adam would indeed fall, and do so by violating an “apparently arbitrary command” — doing “good” because it seems good, rather than “because God wills it.”

Yet, even when sinking into the depths of death, Adam and Eve did not die. Why? (more…)

2014 Acton University Participants

2014 Acton University Participants

The Acton Institute’s biggest event of the year, Acton University has been named a finalist for the Templeton Freedom Award. Every year since 2004, the Atlas Network gives out this award, named after the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. It “honors his legacy by identifying and recognizing the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise, and the public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition.”

The criteria for Templeton Freedom Award finalists:

  • Achieved strategic impact (in areas of policy impact, social impact, academic impact, media impact, or student impact, etc.),
  • Made innovative contributions to the field of free enterprise education or policy research, and
  • Laid the groundwork for future progress in improving countries’ scores in rankings of economic freedom (e.g., The Index of Economic Freedom or the Economic Freedom of the World report).

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The Acton Institute is thrilled to be hosting Makoto Fujimura’s “Walking on Water – Azurite“, which is Fujimura’s official entry for ArtPrize 2014 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The 8′ x 11′ work, created with mineral pigment on polished gesso, must be seen in person to be appreciated; the depth of the colors and textures of the piece are stunning. Acton also has the privilege of hosting additional works by Fujimura from his series, “The Four Holy Gospels,” in the Prince Broekhuizen Gallery inside the DeVos Family Conference Center.

Hosting such a monumental piece of art is not a simple matter; for instance, we had to deal with the basic problem of where to hang such a large work. In this short film, we document the process of preparing an exhibition space in the Acton Building upon which to display Fujimura’s beautiful work for the duration of ArtPrize.

religion-politics1Americans are tired of religion influencing politics, right? Apparently not.

According to a new Pew Research Center study released yesterday, a growing number of Americans think religion is losing influence in American life — and they want religion to play a greater role in U.S. politics.

Since 2006, Pew had found falling support for religion in politics, notes the Wall Street Journal. But something changed this year. “To see those trends reverse is striking,” said Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of research. One reason could be that a growing majority—72%, according to the study—say religion is losing its influence in U.S. life, Mr. Smith said, “and they see that as a bad thing.”

“It could be that as religion’s influence is seen as waning, the appetite for it moves in the other direction,” he said.

Here are some of the highlights from the study:

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UN Climate Summit

No sooner does one proxy resolution season end, it seems, then another begins. The religious shareholder activist group As You Sow has announced last week it will continue to push proxy resolutions at Exxon Mobil Corporation in 2015. If there’s any doubt what stance they’ll take, those doubts should be allayed by As You Sow’s presence at last weekend’s Climate Summit at the United Nations:

The world will be watching, and this is a time to stand up and be counted. As You Sow will be there to march and stand up for the voice of investors. We invite you to walk with us, raising our voices together against climate risk, for a sustainable future, and a strong economy.

What exactly is meant by AYS’s assertions for climate risk, sustainability and a strong economy? In a Sept. 12 press release, the shareholder activists reference a recent report by Carbon Tracker Initiative, a London-based nongovernmental organization in which ExxonMobil is accused of “understating climate-change risk to investors.” CTI’s agenda is to reduce the use of fossil fuels, of course, but over the past several years they’ve presented a new wrinkle to the argument. It seems that – if successful in their renewable-energy mandates and carbon caps – ExxonMobil investors will be left holding an empty sack as a result. According to AYS and Arjuna Capital, another group of progressive investor activists:

ExxonMobil is underplaying the risks presented to its business and investors by the need for international action to prevent climate change, according to a new report.

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On Tuesday, September 30, 2014, the West Michigan World Trade Association will sponsor a panel discussion: ‘US and EU Sanctions on Russia: How They Affect You.’ Andy Wahl, WMWTA president notes that “This topic is very much on the minds of our members and of critical importance to many in the wider business community.” The panel will discuss:

The recent annexation of Crimea, subsequent downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and ongoing unrest in East Ukraine have significantly altered US and European Union (EU) relations with Russia. Both these geopolitical developments and the resulting sanctions present significant challenges to US companies doing business with the Russian Federation, directly or through European affiliates. Strategic questions that arise include:

  • Which market segments are or could be lost as a consequence of Western export bans?
  • How might sourcing channels be affected by Russian responses?
  • What are the legal and ethical implications of US products reaching consumers in Crimea, bypassing Ukraine?
  • How are shipping rates and the prices of commodities likely to change in the face of global uncertainty?
  • What impact will political tensions have on commercial risk profiles in the Baltics, Moldova, the Caucasus, and other adjacent areas?

Members of the discussion include: Todd Huizinga, Acton’s Director of International Outreach, Dr. Gerry Simons, Professor of Economics at GVSU, editor of the Seidman Business Review, and a native of England; Brian Gill, a Russian-speaking lawyer who worked at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; and Dr. Joel Westra, Professor of Political Science at Calvin College and a specialist in multilateral and regional security.

The event will take place at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Grand Rapids Campus. A reception will begin at 6PM and the panel discussion will start at 6:30PM. To reserve a seat or to learn more about this event, you can contact Rebecca Climie at manager@wmwta.org or 616.301.0032. The cost is $20 or $15 for WMWTA members.

Blog author: sstanley
Friday, September 19, 2014
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DegenerationSamuel Gregg, Director of Research at Acton, recently reviewed Niall Ferguson’s latest, The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die. In the book, Ferguson discusses the symptoms of a decaying society and explains what causes rich economies to decline.

Though the book is a short one and written for a nonspecialist audience, Ferguson develops a very strong case to illustrate how the hollowing out of the rule of law, the deterioration of representative government into soft despotism, the increasingly crony-capitalist features of today’s market economies, and the ongoing implosion of civil society are now costing us dearly. Part of the problem, Ferguson makes clear, is that there is no easy fix to these particular problems. One cannot vote something like rule of law back into existence. A flourishing civil society does not simply spring forth ex nihilio. Unfettering the market from literally tens of thousands of regulations is no easy exercise and cannot be accomplished by the stroke of a pen.

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A painting from the "Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child" exhibit

A painting from the “Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child” exhibit

This November marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This momentous occasion symbolizing the decline of Soviet Communism is sure to be met with joyous celebration, not only in Germany, but around the world.

While November signifies Soviet Communism’s decline it also commemorates one of its darkest, most horrendous hours. Annually on the fourth Saturday of November, Ukrainians remember the brutal, man-made famine imposed on their country by Joseph Stalin and his Communist regime in the 1930s. The tragedy, which became known as the “Holodomor” (“death by hunger”) resulted from Stalin’s efforts to eliminate Ukraine’s independent farmers in order to collectivize the agricultural process.

Estimated to have claimed, through murder and forced starvation, the lives of almost 7 million Ukrainians, the Holodomor is recognized as a genocide by more than a dozen countries, including the United States.

In an effort to expose this largely unknown chapter of Ukrainian history and the corrupt ideology which caused it, the Acton Institute will host an evening combined lecture and art event on November 6th titled, “The Famine Remembered: Lessons from Ukraine’s Holodomor and Soviet Communism.” The presentation will feature Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art’s education committee chair, Luba Markewycz. Markewycz will share her exhibit, “Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child,” composed of artwork created by contemporary children throughout Ukraine. Gregg will discuss the historical context and the ways in which the Holodomor amounted to an assault on human dignity, individual liberty, private property, and religious freedom.

We invite you to come learn about this important part of history and see it depicted through art. For more information and to register, please visit the event webpage.

United_States_ConstitutionThis afternoon I delivered the Constitution Day lecture at Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids. The school did an excellent job promoting the event and I was thankful for an opportunity to speak about our founding documents and introduce Acton ideas and thought to law students. Much of my discussion centered upon Calvin Coolidge’s notion that there is a “finality” and rest within our founding principles. When we endeavor to move beyond the principles of our founding; we begin to move backwards not forward. It was Coolidge who said, “To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”

Today, we desperately need to recapture the truth that the whole purpose of our Bill of Rights and Constitution is to limit the federal government. As James Madison declared in Federalist #45, “Those powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. In my talk, I stressed the importance of staying faithful to the Constitutional text. My background is theology not constitutional law, but in seminary I was always reminded by my professor Ben Witherington, that “a proof-text without a context, is just a pretext for whatever you want it to mean.” That is true of our founding documents, just as it is true of Scripture.

Our government exists to protect our natural rights. Coolidge, who was sandwiched between the progressive era and the New Dealers, told Americans something that is just as relevant now as it was then: “The pressing need of the present day is not to change our constitutional rights, but to observe our constitutional rights.” Coolidge and Ronald Reagan probably talked more about the U.S. Constitution than any other 20th century presidents. I concluded my remarks by quoting Ronald Reagan’s 1987 State of the Union Address where he talked about the exceptional nature of our Constitution: (more…)