Category: News and Events

In this week’s new Birth of Freedom short video, expert Robert P. George explains why it is impossible for secularism to function as a neutral ground for debate.

Acton Media’s video shorts from The Birth of Freedom are designed to provide additional insight into key issues and ideas in the film. A new short is released each Monday. Check out the rest of the series, learn about premieres in your area, and discover more background information at www.thebirthoffreedom.com.

Next Tuesday Calvin College will be hosting two lectures by Dr. John Baden, president of the Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment (FREE).

The first lecture from Dr. Baden is titled, “Revelations and Institutions: The Theology and Political Economy of Hutterite and Mormon Experiments with Intentional Communities,” Tuesday, September 30, 3:30 pm, Calvin College North Hall B78.

Later that day Dr. Baden will lecture on, “The Political Economy of Endangered Species,” Tuesday, September 30, 7:30 pm, Calvin College Commons Lecture Hall.

These lectures are sponsored by the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Christian Perspectives on Political, Social and Economic Thought at Calvin College.

The last couple years I’ve received invitations to FREE’s seminars on environmental stewardship for religious leaders. I’ve been unable to attend, but the schedules have always looked quite promising.

Blog author: kschmiesing
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
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Opening this weekend in many markets is an enjoyable movie with a meaningful message, Fireproof.

My wife and I had the opportunity to screen it a few weeks ago, and came away impressed. The story behind the story is itself interesting: A Georgia church decided several years ago to try to influence the culture in a positive way, and determined that making movies was the way to do it. They enlisted a handful of professionals, but in large part the effort was amateur. Their second attempt, Facing the Giants, enjoyed some success—great success, considering the film’s resources and provenance. (They made an earlier picture, too, Flywheel, which I have not seen.)

I watched Facing the Giants only after I saw Fireproof. The latter is a much superior product, both in message and production quality. The Giants storyline reflected a facile “health and wealth” gospel: if you give your life to Jesus, all good things will come to you (even a new truck!).

Echoes of Giants’ screenplay, acting, and theme problems are still present in the third movie, but Fireproof improves enough in every area to make it a compelling drama. Kirk Cameron, as leading man, Caleb Holt, is very good. In an odd way, the acting novices, though obviously not as polished as professionals, bring emotional credibility to the story. The film’s frequent and effective episodes of comic relief provide just enough respite from the strong moral theme: the search for genuine love in the context of the institution of marriage.

In light of the mounting evidence that healthy marriages are vital to the maintenance of a free and virtuous society, it’s a theme that PowerBlog readers ought to find relevant.

If it’s available in your area and you’re looking for a couple hours of edifying entertainment, you might want to check it out.

Three items have crossed my email inbox over recent weeks that may be of interest to PowerBlog readers. The first two are from the Program in Early American Economy & Society (PEAES).

The Seventh Annual Conference of the Program in Early American Economy & Society conference is titled, “Markets & Morality: Intersections of Economy, Ethics, and Religion in Early North America.” The conference will be held on November 7, 2008, at the Library Company in Philadelphia, PA. There are a number of sessions that look promising, including papers like “The Moral Economy of Competition in Early National New England,” from Jason Opal of Colby College and “A Wealth of Notions: Interpreting Economy and Morality in Early America,” by Christopher Clark, University of Connecticut.

PEAES has also announced its fellowships for 2009-2010, including a resident post-doctoral research fellowship with a stipend of $40,000, a research dissertation fellowship with a stipend of $20,000, and four to six short-term fellowships to scholars at any level of scholarly or professional achievement with stipends of $2,000 each.

Finally, Harvard University will also be hosting a graduate student conference from November 6-8, 2008, titled, “The History of Capitalism in the United States.” The conference is “intended as a forum in which to encourage dialogue, debate and more inclusive approaches to the writing of the history of capitalism in the United States.”

Shaped by the conservative movement since childhood, publisher Alfred S. Regnery offers an insider’s take on the influence of conservatives in Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism (2008). Regnery’s father Henry started the company in 1947 and published conservative classics such as God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley Jr., and The Conservative Mind by Russel Kirk.

Regnery covers just about everything including think tanks, publishers, candidates, religious conservatives, financial donors, the courts, the Constitution, and free markets. He does an excellent job at explaining the merger of traditionalists, anti-communists, and libertarians in to one political force due in large part to the writings of William F. Buckley, Jr. and other intellectuals,
grassroots activists, and the emergence of Barry Goldwater. Regnery also traces how conservative leaders were able to separate themselves from some of the more radical conspiracy minded leaders like Robert Welch of the John Birch Society. Russel Kirk responded to Welch’s charge that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was an agent of a world communist conspiracy by quipping “Ike isn’t a communist. He is a golfer.”

While Eisenhower was a disappointment for conservatives, Barry Goldwater’s presidential candidacy unified and excited the conservative movement on a national scale. Regnery notes:

Not only did people donate their time to Goldwater in record numbers, but they donated their money, too. Until the 1964 campaign presidential elections were financed exclusively by large contributions from wealthy contributors, corporations, lobbyists, and other special interest groups. In 1960, twenty-two thousand people had contributed $9.7 million to Kennedy’s campaign and forty-four thousand people had contributed a total of $10.1 million to Nixon’s. LBJ’s money largely came from labor unions and fat cats. But over one million middle-income people contributed to Goldwater’s campaign. When the campaign was over, Goldwater had the names, addresses, and history of over five thousand donors. He showed that candidates could actually raise more money in small amounts from large numbers of people, and thereby gain financial independence from the GOP establishment.

The Goldwater candidacy failed at electing a conservative to the highest office, but it allowed for its leaders and activists to learn valuable lessons for the future. The emergence of Ronald Reagan and “The Speech” was undoubtedly the greatest triumph of Goldwater’s unsuccessful presidential bid.

Regnery also incorporates succinct and effective arguments on why conservatives opposed Great Society programs, wage and price controls, and new government agencies. He also identifies Richard Nixon’s vast expansion of government power through regulation as another key building block for statist policies.

Another intriguing study by the author is an analysis of neoconservatives, the new right (religious conservatives), and Phyllis Schlafly and the rise of the grassroots.

Regnery demolishes the myth that the conservative movement was largely funded by Texas oil tycoons with briefcases of money or big corporations. In fact, he points out that many big businesses and corporations opposed conservatism because of corporate desire for regulation and less competition in the marketplace. “The right has never had the sort of money available to the left. During the early years of the movement, from 1945 into the mid-1970’s, no more than about a dozen foundations were willing to give money to conservative causes, and most of those were small, family charitable organizations,” says Regnery. The author discloses fascinating stories of notable donors who gave out of concern over the rising decay of free market principles. One example being William Volker, who purchased an academic chair for Frederick Hayek at the University of Chicago. (more…)

Blog author: jcouretas
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
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In addition to the GodBlogCon coverage here by Jordan, I’d like to point readers to two speakers who gave thought provoking talks on the careful use of language. That is, the careful use of language in a time where language is often treated as an ephemeral or disposable thing in the service of the latest Web-enabled communications widget. Not really.

On Saturday, Ken Myers offered “Renewed Minds Online: The Internet, Media Ecology, and the Christian Consciousness.” Myers is host and producer of the Mars Hill Audio Journal, a high quality source of audio programming on a wide variety of issues. Here is the gist of Myer’s talk (podcast available here):

The word, spoken and written, lives at the center of Christian faith. The case has been made by many theologians and philosophers that human nature is in its essence linguistic; we are, after all created in the image of a speaking and writing God, one who utters all things into existence, who reveals his law by writing with his finger on tablets of stone, who reveals himself in dreams and visions, but who also provides words to accompany and sometimes explain those images; who comes among us as the living Word. Bread alone is not the source of our life, but rather words.

How we use language should thus be a matter of thoughtfulness and deliberateness. Not only should we pay attention to the way we use words; we also need to attend to how the setting within which our words are presented to the world spins their reception, often in ways we never intended.

Also see Myers’ online essay, “Configuring Church and Culture” here.

The closing talk by John Mark Reynolds, “On The Art of Online Conversation,” looked at how online discourse too often degenerates, particularly in political circles, to a harsh and unhealthy contest of who can shout the loudest. Reynolds, a philospher and director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, also looks at the way online writing has landed in the strange middle ground between books and conversation. Reynolds observes that the “immediacy” of online conversation is its great advantage, and also its great drawback. Those online conversations, authored with great care or with almost no thought at all, tend to stay around a long time after the live interaction is over.

Reynolds also offers rules for good conversations starting with, “A good discussion begins, most critically, with the right question.”

Listen to his entire talk on the Scriptorium Daily blog. The full list of posted GodBlogCon podcasts is available here.

And check out “The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting for Christ,” edited by Reynolds and Roger Overton, on its way to bookstores later this month from Crossway.

“If medieval Europe was so great, why were most medievals poor?” This is something you might wonder after viewing Acton Media’s new documentary, The Birth of Freedom. However, in this new video short, expert Sam Gregg reminds viewers that in order to make meaningful comparisons regarding the living standards of peasants in Medieval Europe, we must be mindful of historical context and technological progress to that point.

Acton Media’s video shorts from The Birth of Freedom are designed to provide additional insight into key issues and ideas in the film. A new short is released each Monday. Check out the rest of the series, learn about premieres in your area, and discover more background information at www.thebirthoffreedom.com.

Blog author: jballor
Sunday, September 21, 2008
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This morning we opened the final day of GodblogCon 2008 with an exclusive premiere of the Acton Institute’s new documentary, The Birth of Freedom.

I had occasion to think about one of the more compelling parts of the film when I came across this blog post from Justin Taylor. JT shares a section from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s address at Western Michigan University, December 18, 1963.

A key point:

But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also.

In a word, the state does have an indispensable role to play in promoting justice, and when it fails to do its job Christian citizens have their own responsibility to call it to its task.

Prof. Robert P. George of Princeton University observes in The Birth of Freedom that it is patently false to think that faith plays no positive role in public life, a position promoted by the New Atheists and popularized by the likes of Bill Maher. George urges us:

Think of what a scandal it would be if we were to say the abolitionists should have kept their Christian faith out of the struggle against slavery. Rev. Martin Luther King should have kept his Christian faith out of the struggle for civil rights. People who fought against the terrible crimes committed in the name of eugenics should have kept their faith out of politics.

The film was well received by the Godbloggers, and there was a great deal of interest in how it fits into Acton’s work and how the film could be passed along to friends, family, and colleagues. We’re grateful to GodblogCon for the opportunity to present this feature to an important audience.


Bloggers should also be aware that we offer a special opportunity to attend Acton University, which will next be held from June 16-19, 2009. Program details will be announced in November, but you can get more information and contact details for Kara Eagle at the Acton University page. Inquire about blogger scholarships and ask to be included on the list of those invited to apply.

Blog author: jballor
Saturday, September 20, 2008
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The first full day of programming at GodblogCon 2008 has begun, and the first session was from Andrew Jones, “The Missional Church in the Internet Age.” There was a marked contrast in attitudes towards new media between Jones’ (missional) talk and the following session, led by Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio. I think John may have more to say on this later.

But before Jones’ presentation, conference director Dustin Steeve announced that GodblogCon qua GodblogCon will be no more after this year. The first page of the attendee packet proclaims that “GodblogCon is coming to an end.” Indeed, “beginning October 2009, something new is coming….”

What do the GodblogCon administrators have in mind? Expansion of the focus of the conference beyond blogging (and by extension podcasting, vlogging, microblogging, and social networking). The plan seems to include turning GodblogCon into “the premier web media conference of the year to help Christians advance the kingdom through web technologies.”

The idea, which I think is a sound one, is that blogging and other particular forms of new media are simply a part of the interaction between faith and web technology in the 21st century. In my view, GodblogCon should remain a particular track in a larger conference that focuses on Christianity and the Internet.

I’m curious to see what all this will mean for GodblogCon’s relationship other events, particularly this year’s host BlogWorld & New Media Expo, but also other events like BibleTech. Hopefully we’ll hear more about the transition from GodblogCon to a new Christian web media conference as the weekend progresses.

Blog author: jballor
Friday, September 19, 2008
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I have safely arrived at my hotel for the weekend, my home base for this year’s GodblogCon. Tonight is the first event, an opening night dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in the MGM Grand, generously sponsored by the Family Research Council.

The Family Research Council is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Congratulations to FRC on the fine work they continue to do. Be sure to visit their site and add the FRC Blog to your feed reader.

John Couretas is also representing Acton at this conference, and he’ll be arriving later today. We’ll be keeping you updated with developments and highlights throughout the conference.