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.
Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, recently wrote about ‘Our Sentimental Humanitarian Age’ at the American Spectator. He argues that “soft liberalism is incapable of confronting the evil in man.”
Sometimes, however, an event occurs that highlights the more fundamental crises that bedevil a civilization. The rise of a movement as diabolical as ISIS, for instance, has surely underscored the bankruptcy of what might be called the sentimental humanitarian outlook that dominates so many contemporary shapers of the West’s cultural consensus.
Sentimental humanitarianism has several features. One is the mind-set that reduces evil to structural causes. “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains,” proclaimed Rousseau in his Du contrat social. From this, many concluded that evil would disappear if the right people were put in charge to change the structures.
Sentimental humanitarianism also assumes that all religions are more-or-less the same and, given the right conditions, will vacillate their way towards something as innocuous as today’s Church of England. But as a wise recently retired pope once wrote, a major failure of imagination since the 1960s has been the disinclination to concede that there are “sick and distorted forms of religion.” (more…)
Peter Greer recently wrote a book about the spiritual danger of doing good, encouraging Christians to deal closely with matters of the heart before putting their hands to work. “Our service is downstream from the Gospel message,” he said in an interview here on the blog. “If we forget this, it’s just a matter of time before we self-destruct.”
Just a year later, writing alongside co-author Chris Horst, he’s released another book, Mission Drift — this time focusing on the spiritual risks faced by Christian organizations, churches, and the leaders who drive their missions. Their thesis: “Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission.” Assuming such organizations are founded out of obedience to God, such missions are not, of course, ours for the drifting.
Highlighting a number of cases, from Yale University to ChildFund to the YMCA, as well as the struggles they’ve faced at their own organization (HOPE International), Greer and Horst demonstrate that it is all too common and convenient for Christian organizations to move toward whole-scale secularization. Such a digression is the “natural course,” they argue, and without the proper foundation, safeguards, and determination, “drift is only a matter of time.”
Yet it is not inevitable. Thus, in an effort to help others prevent such a course, the bulk of the book focuses on how organizations can stay “Mission True” — serving, adapting, and growing without changing their God-given identity. “Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs,” they write. “They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul.” (more…)
Coverage of the drought in the Horn of Africa has fixated on the amount of aid going into the region and humanitarians’ estimates of how much more will be needed. According to the U.N. Coordination of Human Affairs office, the $1 billion already committed to assistance is less than half of what will be needed—but who knows whether the final figure will be anywhere near the stated $2.3 billion.
Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are flooding out of their country into neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia because massive refugee camps and daily high-energy rations are better than the situation at home. This migration is no different than that of the Israelites in Exodus or Ruth: surely 3500 years and half-a-dozen moon landings later we ought to have a better way of doing things?
Well we do, but the U.N. and the rest of the humanitarian establishment have lost the patrimony of Moses, and so have been wandering around the desert, dispersing aid to no effect, for a good deal more than 40 years. There is, thank goodness, a growing realization that U.N.’s materialistic solution is not working, as Ian Ernest, the chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, said last week:
We would not only want to work on the immediate needs, but we are thinking, because this is becoming a chronic problem, we have got to see the root causes and fight it.
World leaders cannot help developing Africa, of course, unless they understand developing Africa, and that is hopeless if they do not understand human nature. There can be no to help for the world’s poor that does not come from a correct understanding of the human person. Modern humanitarian efforts undermine the dignity of the human person by treating the people of developing nations as mouths to be fed rather than the entrepreneurs who will pull their countries out of poverty.
We begin to say no to poverty and begin to redeem the dignity of the citizens by virtue of creating business opportunity.
My biggest asset, I will say without a doubt, is the people who have worked with me, have worked alongside me.
As long as the U.N.’s mission in the Horn of Africa is unchanged, progress made by Somalia and other countries will be despite mainstream humanitarian efforts, not because of them.