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Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk addresses the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan – 1.10.94

On Saturday, November 9, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute is hosting a conference on the 60th Anniversary of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind. The conference, which will examine the impact of Kirk’s monumental book—which both named and shaped the nascent conservative movement in the United States—is to be held at the Eberhard Center on the downtown Grand Rapids campus of Grand Valley State University, which Acton supporters will recognize as the home of Acton University from 2006-2010, and that conference’s precursor, the Acton Symposium in 2005. The ISI conference promises to be a stimulating experience, featuring Gleaves Whitney of Grand Valley’s Hauenstein Center, Professor Bruce Frohnen of Ohio Northern University, and Gerald Russello, editor of the University Bookman, the scholarly quarterly founded in 1960 by Kirk.

That being said, Acton has a connection to Russell Kirk that goes beyond the coincidental sharing of conference space. For one thing, the Acton Institute was blessed to have Kirk serve in an advisory capacity from the founding of the institute up until the time of his death. And it was our honor to host the great man for what would turn out to be his final public lecture.

The lecture took place on Jaunary 10, 1994 at the University Club in Grand Rapids, not far from his home in Mecosta, Michigan. Kirk spoke on the topic of Lord Acton on Revolution, laying out his case that Acton, over the course of his life, developed a tendency to too easily approve of revolution, even sometimes showing an “enthusiastic approbation” of it. Ultimately, Kirk believed that Acton was too enthusiastic about revolution, and he faults Acton for too earnestly supporting the abstract common good that revolution would supposedly advance, while failing to foresee the dangers that revolution could pose to the liberty that Acton so cherished.

For a man who had recently been “under house arrest for the past six weeks under my doctor’s orders, having overexerted myself on the lecture platform,” he speaks with great enthusiasm and energy, and with great clarity of mind. Just over three months later, he passed away at his home in Mecosta, Piety Hill.

It was our privilege to draw from Kirk’s wisdom in our early days as an institution, and it is now our privilege to share this, his final lecture, with you.

More: Acton’s remembrance of Russell Kirk, from Religion and Liberty, Volume 4, Number 3.

Even More: Russell Kirk on “Enlivening the Conservative Mind.”

traffickingMedium2The 2013 Global Slavery Index estimates that 29.8 million people are enslaved worldwide. To help address this problem, Pope Francis called for action to combat the growing problem of human trafficking and modern forms of slavery. At the pope’s request, Vatican officials and other experts met last weekend to discuss ways to better tackle the growing scourge of trafficking in humans and other forms of exploitation:

Human trafficking is a crime against humanity that should be recognized as such and punished by international or regional courts, a Vatican study group said on Monday.

Nearly 30 million people live in slavery across the globe, many of them men, women and children trafficked by gangs for sex work and unskilled labor, according to a global slavery index issued last month by the Walk Free Foundation charity.

“International or regional courts … should be created because human trafficking in an international phenomenon that cannot be properly prosecuted and punished at the national level,” said a statement listing 50 recommendations made at a two-day seminar held at the initiative of Pope Francis on how to combat human trafficking and slavery.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 5, 2013

worshipToday many Christians in America will engage in the political activity of voting. But as Peter Leithart reminds us, worship is the leading political activity of Christians:

Christians are engaged in political action just by being part of the church. Worship is the leading political activity of Christians. In worship, we sing Psalms that call on God to judge the wicked and defend the oppressed, and God hears our Psalms; we pray for rulers to rule in righteousness; we hear the word of God that lays out our alternative way of life, and we sit at the table where we who are many are formed into one body, an alternative Christian polis, by sharing in the one loaf. The problem is that in many churches those things don’t happen. Churches don’t sing Psalms, and especially don’t sing the hard Psalms that call on God to judge the wicked. More churches are having weekly Eucharist, but in evangelicalism that is still more the exception than the rule. The first political agenda for American Christians is to get worship more into line with Scriptural requirements.

Read more . . .

Faithful in All God's House

I recently shared a lengthy excerpt from Faithful in All God’s House, highlighting the investment-return motif that appears throughout the Bible. “All of God’s gifts to mankind are as a divine investment on which the investor expects full return,” write Berghoef and DeKoster.

Several readers pushed back on the analogy, interpreting it to mean that God rolls out his divine plan according to earthbound assumptions, as if “prudent investment” means being beholden to the outputs of a narrow, materialistic cost-benefit analysis.

It’s troubling on many levels that “prudent investment” has come to reckon imaginations of something so imprudent for so many. We humans, the “agents of return,” are called to live within a framework much more varied, complex, and mysterious than the confines of a Wall Street banker, despite those times when such considerations have their place. We serve a God of love, and just as that love is deep and distinct from distorted human variations, we are called to live and think and act according to an economy not of our own constructing. (more…)

If you missed Acton’s Anniversary Dinner on October 24th, well, you sort of blew it. A packed house welcomed noted satirist, student of stupidity, political reporter (but I repeat myself), and all-around fun guy P.J. O’Rourke to Grand Rapids, and he came prepared to let the audience know just how unprepared he was to address an Acton Institute function:

For more from this year’s dinner, check out this earlier post: ‘Acton has Given Me a Backbone’

old tvIt’s a bit hard to imagine. Maybe during your favorite medical drama, as the fictional doctors and nurses rush to save a life, one of the doctors will slip in a line like, “Thank goodness this patient is covered under the Affordable Care Act!”

In an effort to pitch Obamacare to the masses, The California Endowment, a private fund, has given a $500,000 grant to ensure that Hollywood writers work the Affordable Care Act into television story lines. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Supreme Court to review dispute over public prayers
Bill Mears, CNN

The justices on Wednesday will hear arguments over whether Greece, New York, may continue sponsoring what it calls “inclusive” prayers at its open sessions, on government property.

Vatican seeks input from the pews on marriage and family issues
David Gibson, Religion News Service

In an unusual move, the Vatican has asked the world’s bishops to quickly canvas the faithful for their views on topics like gay marriage, divorce and birth control ahead of a major meeting of church leaders set for next fall.

Does God Want You to Be Rich…or Poor?
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

One of the most perplexing issues facing Christians in the marketplace today is whether God wants us to be rich or poor. It is easy enough to find plenty of people using verses from Scripture, often out of context, to support either extreme.

Iran gives Christians 80 lashes for communion wine as UN blasts human rights record
Benjamin Weinthal, Fox News

Four Iranian Christians were reportedly sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking wine for communion, a shocking punishment meted out even as a new United Nations report blasted the Islamic republic for its systematic persecution of non-Muslims.