Archived Posts April 2009 - Page 5 of 5 | Acton PowerBlog

We as Americans are very proud of our history. We admire our forefathers who took a stand for liberty to found this great nation, but it would be unwise, as her former colonists, for Americans to overlook the British contribution to human freedom following the events of 1776. Doing so will allow us to understand more fully the role of religion and freedom in our own society.

The beginning of the 19th century was a tumultuous time for those who love liberty. Embroiled in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars from 1793-1815, Great Britain fought and bested every sea power in Europe. With her naval supremacy assured by the victory at Trafalgar in 1805, Britain undertook a new moral enterprise in 1807—the end of the slave trade in the Atlantic.

While Great Britain was the only country with a navy capable of pursuing this endeavor, an underlying question remains unanswered. Why would the British attempt this? Britain was the foremost slave trading power in the two decades preceding the Slave Trade Act of 1807, and her government made tremendous profits by transporting human cargo to the New World. Furthermore, the embattled crown committed 13 percent of her navy to a newly formed, “West Africa Squadron” in order to suppress the illicit industry. The squadron would operate until the 1860s and more than 25 percent of its sailors would die, mostly from malaria and yellow fever. Despite these figures, the Royal Navy freed 150,000 Africans from bondage, captured 1,600 slave ships, and burned slave trading depots from the Cape of Good Hope to Morocco, which effectively ended the trans-Atlantic slave trade by 1866.

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Fr. Kevin’s talk raised a number of questions about the status of sports in our society. Here are some of them:

  • Have we lost a healthy sense of leisure and play, to the point where sport and entertainment have become similar to a religious ritual or duty?
  • Is the desire to win at all costs inherent to sports? What’s the point of playing a game if not to win?
  • Why don’t religious leaders criticize athletes who cheat, such as flopping Italian soccer players? Are such standards culturally conditioned?
  • Are there different virtues associated with different sports, depending on the rules and culture of the particular sport?
  • Do big business and corporate sponsorships entice athletes to cheat?

Obviously, there were not many clear answers to these questions, but Fr. Kevin did his best to encourage an healthy appreciation of sports, and reminded us that while St. Paul most probably was not an athlete himself, he definitely knew that living with, in and for Christ is the greatest prize of all.

I think most thinking sports fans are aware of the ambiguities of their passion and try to keep it in check. But at the same time, the desire to train, compete, and win helps us recognize that excellence/virtue actually exist. This recognition is essential to fighting the good fight against egalitarian complacency and mediocrity; it is also essential to the entrepreneurial vocation.