Acton University 2015 got underway last night with an opening plenary address by Dr. Samuel Gregg on the topic of Truth, Reason and Equality. Gregg emphasized that the pursuit of authentic equality must be rooted in a deep respect for truth, not in “sentimental humanitarianism.” We’re pleased to share his address with you via the video player below.
1. Plato’s Dialogues
Plato’s dialogues are good for virtually everything that ails our society. He takes on relativism, skepticism, materialism, and incivility. Gorgias clarifies the difference between truth-seeking and posturing.
Don’t let the dirty boots and the beat-up cowboy hat fool you: Joel Salatin is not your average farmer. While he is a farmer (he owns and operates Polyface Farm), he has a lot to say about how we produce, distribute and eat food in our nation, and how practices in the West negatively impact the developing world.
What each of these delegates said, each session I went to, was, “You Americans butt out. We don’t need your foreign aid. We can feed ourselves.” And they would list these wonderful, perennial nut-bearing trees and things that had now been cut down because of cheap, western-dumping, foreign aid into those cultures, which depressed the price of their locally-produced food, and eliminated the value.”
Today at Ethika Politika, I examine some ancient economic wisdom from one of the desert fathers: Abba Pistamon. Far from the newest of Nintendo’s Pokemon monsters (despite the sound of his name), Abba Pistamon was one of the first Christian monks. The dialogue between him and an unnamed brother that I examine from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers has a lot to say about production, labor, profit, and exchange.
Far from a gnostic allergy to any involvement with the material world, Abba Pistamon acknowledges the good of production and exchange, appealing to past precedent of other revered monks before him (“Abba Sisois and others”). Commerce, he says, was common. In fact, according to the size and expansive enterprise of ancient monastic communities, we can say that his assessment is more than anecdotal. In ancient Christian sources, contempt for the merchant and trader is common, but the reality is more complicated. Sometimes traders and merchants went by a more respectable name: monks. We should not be surprised, then, that Abba Pistamon displays a certain natural business sense. But he does not stop at the merely economic aspects of production and exchange.
Recently, Acton President and Co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico spoke with Joe Wooddell, professor of philosophy and vice president for academic affairs at Criswell College. They discuss the concept of classic liberalism, Lord Acton, the Institute, and what led to the creation of Acton’s largest event of the year, Acton University.
If you’re new to Acton or want to learn more about Acton University, this is certainly a helpful resource. Registration for Acton University 2015 opens on Monday, November 17.
What is a “community?” What are the boundaries of a community or organization? And – most important – why is community important?
Andy Crouch, writer, musician and Acton University plenary speaker, says we need to ask and answer these questions. He begins his discussion with the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods. While the decision was sound, Crouch says it speaks to something beyond the law:
It reminds us that fewer and fewer of our neighbors understand how religious organizations—and all communities smaller than the state—contribute to human flourishing and the common good.
One essential question in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby was the extent to which a for-profit corporation can hold to a religious (in this case, Christian) identity. In her dissent, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited approvingly the idea that for-profit groups “use labor to make a profit, rather than to perpetuate a religious-values-based mission.”
The words rather than are key. In Justice Ginsburg’s view, it seems, corporations cannot serve—or at least the law cannot recognize that they serve—any god other than Mammon. She articulated an equally small view of nonprofits when she wrote that “religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith.”
This summer during Acton University, I had the opportunity to be part of a recording for Moody Radio’s Up for Debate program, which has just recently been posted online. The subject for discussion was “Can Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical Christians Learn from Each Other?”
The participants were Jay Richards (Roman Catholic), Distinguished Fellow of the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics and a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, John Stonestreet (Evangelical), Fellow of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and me (Orthodox), an Acton research associate and assistant editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality.
In answer to the question of the show, the short answer that we all seemed to come to was, yes, we do have a lot to learn from one another. Our talk ranged from issues of Scripture and the Tradition of the Church to the current discussion in the public square over same-sex marriage.
Head over to Moody Radio to listen to the program here.
We’ve just posted the final bundle of 107 audio files from Acton University 2014 available for $14.95 at our digital download store. Our lunch and evening lectures are also free, including talks from:
Rev. Robert Sirico, co-founder of the Acton Institute and author of Defending the Free Market
Makoto Fujimura, Artist and Public Intellectual
Andy Crouch, Executive Editor, Christianity Today
Ross Douthat, Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times
Here’s the full list of lectures:
- Opening Lecture – Rev. Robert A. Sirico
- Culture Care: From Common Grace to Loving Your Enemies – Makoto Fujimura
- Getting Social Justice Right – Ryan Anderson
- Christian Anthropology – Dr. Samuel Gregg
- Biblical Theology of Covenant – Dr. Scott Hahn
There is a company in the U.S. that those who want businesses to be more socially-conscious should love. The company starts employees out at $15/hour, far higher than the minimum wage. Raises have been given throughout even the harshest of economic downturn. Employees always get Sundays off.
There’s another group that could easily be called socially-conscious. These folks take care of the neediest elderly people, any race or religion, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.
Despite the business practices and mission of both these groups, they are on the list of the “Dirty 100” – a list created by the National Organization of Women (NOW) to delineate organizations suing the Obama administration regarding the HHS mandate. Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor and others on the list are considered “dirty” because they do not want their religious freedom impinged upon. Here’s how NOW sees it:
The two plaintiff corporations in Hobby Lobby [and Conestoga Woods] want the “freedom” to deny important health care services to thousands of women who work for them – whether or not they share their bosses’ religious faith or agree with their views on contraception. The plaintiffs, in other words, seek to extend their power as employers to include power over their employees’ medical decision- making. But the case also reflects a power struggle between government and corporate power, twisting the First Amendment’s religious freedom guarantee into a club that enables a private business to act in ways that elected governments cannot limit or deny.
What does it mean for Christians to use our gifts to fulfill God’s purposes in cultural flourishing? Makoto Fujimura, internationally renowned artist, intellectual, and founder of the International Arts Movement, is well placed to address this question. In this edition of Radio Free Acton, Fujimura joins host Paul Edwards to discuss his art, his story of faith, and how a “culture care” mindset can change the way we look at a wide range of issues. It’s a wide ranging conversation, and you can listen via the audio player below.
You can download your own free copy of Mako’s plenary address from last week’s Acton University conference – “Culture Care: From Common Grace to Loving Your Enemies” – at the Acton Institute Digital Dowload Store; it’s available in the “2014 Evening Talks” category. While you’re there, be sure to check out our still-growing collection of lecture audio from the conference; nearly 90 lectures are currently available for purchase including talks from the likes of Peter Kreeft, Peter Heslam, Judge Andrew Napolitano, and Ross Douthat, among many others. And don’t forget to check out For The Life Of The World: Letters To The Exiles as well in order to see Mako’s contribution to Acton’s latest curriculum series.
Additionally, you can follow Mako on Twitter: @iamfujimura; Be sure to check out the Radio Free Acton archive; And last, and certainly not least, be sure to follow the amazing @ActonUnicorn twitter feed as well. If Makoto Fujimura enjoys it, why shouldn’t you as well?