Category: Political Culture

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, February 1, 2016
By

dont-panicToday is the official start of the primary season, which which means it’s also the time when many people officially shift into political panic mode.

A lot of us are in a panic, fearing that Western civilization — or at least America’s future — is at stake and that something must be done quickly to avert disaster. But what Americans really need is to to heed the advice of Greg Forster: Don’t panic.
(more…)

Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk

At The Public Discourse, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg reviews Bradley J. Birzer’s new book Russell Kirk: American Conservative. The book, Gregg writes, amply shows how “Kirk’s broad scope of interests was matched by genuine erudition that enabled him to see the connections between, for instance, culture and American foreign policy, or the significance of moral philosophy for one’s commitments in the realm of political economy.” More from Gregg:

The picture of the American conservative moment that emerges from this book is one characterized by surprisingly deep fractures that, in many respects, have never been resolved. Some may be beyond resolution. This makes it all the more ironic that one of the most revealing aspects of Birzer’s book is the degree to which Kirk worked with and even promoted people with whom he had intellectual disagreements.

Traditionalists may be surprised, for example, to learn just how much Kirk admired Leo Strauss’s thinking. “Even as late as 1990,” Birzer writes, “on the eve of an implosion of even a semblance of unity within intellectual conservatism, Kirk continued to praise Strauss.” Kirk was particularly taken with Strauss’s conception of natural rights. Certainly, the two men disagreed in their interpretation of Burke, and Kirk strongly disapproved of some of Strauss’s followers. None of this, however, impaired what Birzer describes as the positive influence exerted by Strauss on Kirk’s thought.

Other friendships developed by Kirk with figures such as the sociologist Robert Nisbet, the novelist Flannery O’Connor, and the political philosopher Eric Voegelin were characterized by a similar pattern: affirmation of many points in common and recognition of a mutual seriousness of purpose, accompanied by clear but civil disagreement about other important issues.

Read “A Conservative’s Odyssey: Russell Kirk and Twentieth-Century American Conservatism” by Samuel Gregg at The Public Discourse.

Also see “Inside the Conservative Mind,” Religion & Liberty’s interview with Bradley Birzer in the Summer/Fall 2014 issue.

Fox TV is prepping for a Jan. 25 release of a new show titled “Lucifer,” where “bored and unhappy as the Lord of Hell, the original fallen angel, Lucifer Morningstar has abandoned his throne and retired to L.A., where he owns Lux, an upscale nightclub.” Fox adds helpfully, “He’s no angel.”

A report by Barbara Hollingsworth on CNSNews.com notes that “a number of faith-based and conservative watchdog groups are panning Lucifer.” Among others, she interviewed Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute:

“The very fact that it could be on a major network without serious questions being raised with regard to advertisers and the like tells you where the culture has gone, to a certain extent,” Fr. Robert Sirico … told CNSNews.com. “I urge believers to be calm, because part of the marketing strategy of these companies is to incorporate the kind of opposition they can get from believers who would find this offensive and thus call more attention to the project.

“The second caution is that this show seems rather superficial with its constant use of one gag about the devil. It doesn’t seem like it’s a serious reflection on evil, on the capacity of human beings to betray their highest values.

“I’m reminded of what C.S. Lewis puts in the words of his devil in the Screwtape Letters, that the real danger in confrontation with evil and the world is when people don’t believe that there is evil. So I don’t think we’ve hit the bottom quite yet, because at least they’re talking about things spiritual,” Sirico said.

Read “Nothing Redeeming’ About New Fox TV SeriesThat Glamorizes Satan” by Barbara Hollingsworth on CNSNews.com.

Kirk_BookThis week on Radio Free Acton, we’re joined by Bradley J. Birzer, the Russell Amos Kirk Chair of American Studies and Professor of History at Hillsdale College, and the author of a new biography of the founding father of the American conservative movement, Russell Kirk. Birzer’s book, Russell Kirk: American Conservative, examines the life and thought of Kirk, the means he used to build a conservative Christian humanist movement, and examines Kirk’s influence on conservative leaders who followed.

We at the Acton Institute are great admirers of Kirk, and were greatly blessed to have him serve as a member of our first advisory board at the time of Acton’s founding. We were also honored to host what would be Kirk’s final lecture before his passing in 1994 as part of our Lord Acton Lecture Series. I’ll post that after the jump, along with another gem from Acton’s archives: Kirk’s introduction of his good friend William F. Buckley, Jr. at Acton’s first anniversary dinner, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1991, which showcased the great man’s sharp wit and fun-loving spirit.

(more…)

Fox News anchor Shepherd Smith in the studio

Yesterday at The Federalist, I examined the claims of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during last week’s GOP primary debate that the “mainstream media” is dominated by “liberal bias.”

While there is some truth to this claim, as I point out in my article, the data paints a more complicated picture: Conservative outlets such as Fox News and (editorially) the Wall Street Journal outperform the closest left-leaning ones, CNN and the New York Times, by wide margins.

I write,

It would be fair to counter that cable news is not the only source on television, and not even the most-watched. Fox has no evening news like ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. The fact that, according to a recent study by the American Press Institute, “Democrats are more trusting of news from the three broadcast networks and the newswires, while Republicans are more trusting of news from cable” suggests the slant there tends to favor the Left.

However, people divide their news consumption today between mediums. That same study notes, “The 24-hour cable channels … are the source most often cited for four of the topics probed: politics, international news, business and the economy, and social issues.” So when it comes to political issues, the most common source, 24-hour cable news, is fairly evenly divided: Fox News generally has a Nielsen rating about equal to CNN’s and MSNBC’s combined.

A bit later on, I return to this point: (more…)

disney_pixar_movies_characters_wallpaper“We live in separate moral universes, and we seem to encounter each other only on the battlefield,” says Greg Forster. “Our imaginative worlds are also separate; everyone watches different movies and shows, reads different blogs, listens to different music.”

But one exception, Forster notes, is what he calls the “New Disney”: Pixar (which Disney bought in 2006) and the Walt Disney Animation Studios (2006-present). While they may seem like entertainment for children, the movies being released by the New Disney are shaping our moral imagination. A few examples Forster gives are Princess and the Frog and Toy Story 3:
(more…)

Last week, I was pleased to attend the ERLC’s 2015 National Conference on Gospel and Politics, of which the Acton Institute was a proud co-sponsor. The speaker line-up was strikingly rich and diverse, ranging from pastors to writers to politicos to professors, but among them all, Russell Moore’s morning address was the clear stand-out.

Moore began by asking, “How do we as Christians engage in issues that sometimes are political without becoming co-opted by politics and losing the gospel and the mission at the same time?”

Starting from the story of Paul and Silas’ imprisonment in Philippi (Acts 16:25-40), and continuing with a rich perspective on Christian exile and a needed critique of American civil religion, Moore reminds us of how the Gospel has the power to cultivate a community that is equipped to “naturally and organically” bear witness to the outside world — through love, conscience, word, and action.

You can watch and listen here:

I encourage you to watch the whole thing, but for those without the time or in need of a teaser, I’ve highlighted some key excerpts below.

(Also, for those paying attention, Moore’s perspective serves as a fine complement to Acton’s latest film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, particularly the episodes on Exile and the Economy of Order. He also has a new book on cultural engagement that is quite good.) (more…)