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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, January 17, 2013
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Vatican official: Armstrong’s misdeeds reflect ‘rotten’ cycling world
Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

“It’s a world that is rotten, all of cycling, even soccer,” said Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alameda, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture’s “Culture and Sport” section.

Remembering an Eastern Orthodox Prophet: Nicholas Berdyaev
Bradley J. Birzer, The Imaginative Conservative

In volume 3 of The Gulag, Solzhenitsyn wrote simply: Berdyaev was a “philosopher, essayist, brilliant defender of human freedom against ideology.”

Dignity, Equality and Atticus Finch
Wesley Gant, Values & Capitalism

A proper respect for human dignity should recognize and encourage personal industry and responsibility—for it is this freedom that enables people to flourish and realize their human potential.

The Art of Humanity
Jonathan Jackson, Ancient Faith Radio

Jonathan Jackson is an Emmy Award winning actor and is currently one of the stars of the new ABC primetime drama, Nashville.

Alexandre Havard leading a recent “Virtuous Leadership” seminar with CEOs and entrepreneurs in Latvia, one of the most industrialized and wealthy republics of the former Soviet Union

The Acton Institute’s Rome office led its recent Campus Martius Seminar with Alexandre Havard, the Russian-French author of Virtuous Leadership (2007),  Created for Greatness: The Power of Magnanimity (2011) and founder of the Moscow- and Washington, D.C.-based Harvard Virtuous Leadership Institute.

Havard, speaking with Zenit’s Ed Pentin in an article following the seminar, said that during today’s economic crisis aspiring and veteran entrepreneurs alike are suffering from an improper understanding of the intimate union between humility and magnanimity, even the most religious and virtuous of them:

It’s much easier to say to God: ‘Do the work in me and I just do nothing. But God very often tells us: ‘I will not do it because I have already given you talents through nature; you have to discover those things and do it …Humility is to say: ‘I have gifts, I have talents, and they come from God.’ You recognize that you have not produced those talents, that they are a gift from him to you. Then magnanimity is to say: ‘I have them but I have to make them fructify, I must develop them and multiply them, and put them at the service of the community and the common good.  So you see these two things come together. [Talents] are not mine. I have been given them and this is my humility; my magnanimity tells me to multiply them and use them.

Havard agreed to sit down with me recently and talk about the moral and character pitfalls in both the East and the West as well as the inspiration for his virtuous leadership training program. (more…)

Visiting San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district in 1968, Tom Wolfe was struck by the way hippies there “sought nothing less than to sweep aside all codes and restraints of the past and start out from zero.” In his essay “The Great Relearning,” Wolfe connects this to Ken Kesey’s pilgrimage to Stonehenge, inspired by “the idea of returning to civilization’s point zero” and trying to start all over from scratch and do it better. Wolfe predicted that history will record that Haight-Ashbury period as “one of the most extraordinary religious experiments of all time.”

The desire to sweep everything away wasn’t just limited to hippies. Wolfe writes:

In politics the twentieth century’s great start from zero was one-party socialism, also known as Communism or Marxism-Leninism. Given that system’s bad reputation in the West today (even among the French intelligentsia) it is instructive to read John Reed’s Ten Days that Shook the World – before turning to Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. The old strike hall poster of a Promethean worker in a blue shirt breaking his chains across his mighty chest was in truth the vision of ultimate human freedom the movement believed in at the outset.

For intellectuals in the West the painful dawn began with the publication of the Gulag Archipelago in 1973. (more…)

This is a book review by Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse, president of the American Orthodox Institute. He blogs at AOI’s Observer. This review will appear in the forthcoming Spring 2012 Religion & Liberty. Sign up here for a free digital subscription to R&L.

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Roads to the Temple: Truth, Memory, Ideas, and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991. By Leon Aron (Yale University Press, June 2012). 496 pages

Review: The Second Russian Revolution (1987-1991)

Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse

“There are different ways to understand how revolutions work,” writes Leon Aron in his new book Roads to the Temple: Truth, Memory, Ideas, and the Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991 that chronicles the collapse of Soviet Communism during Glasnost from 1987-1991. The most dominant is structuralism, an approach that draws from Marxist thought and sees the state as the central actor in social revolutions. In the structuralist view revolutions are not made, they happen.

Aron explains that structuralism has some merit because of its chronological linearity. It can reveal the events that lead from point A to B to C; an important function because the historian’s first step is to grasp what actually happened. But structuralism also has a grave flaw: the materialist assumptions (“objective factors”) informing it are deaf to the “enormously subversive influence of ideas.” (more…)

In Rome to address a conference sponsored by the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (Institute for Human Dignity) on June 29, Russian pro-life campaigner Alexey Komov expressed amazement for the support that socialism gets in some quarters in the West even though it has “never worked in world history.” In an interview with the Zenit news service, Komov pointed to how this ideology had caused such great pain and suffering “all in the name of social reform, progress and improvement.” His criticism was also leveled at the “softer version of socialism” of administrations in the West led by President Barack Obama and recently José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the former prime minister of Spain.

Komov believes that if you “dig deep enough into the ideological roots of these socialist movements, you end up finding satanic roots in them.” And although only a softer version is prevalent now, “it is still very dangerous,” he says. “I would warn all those people fascinated by socialist ideas that they have never worked in human history — never worked.”

The traditional nuclear family is a particular enemy of socialism, he says, because it is the basic institution that preserves values and passes them on to the next generation. “The state, if it wants to dominate life and the individual from birth to death, needs to destroy the family, because the family is independent of the state,” he argues. “As Marx and Engels said, the family is a repressive, bourgeois institution that needs to be destroyed; they need to get rid of its patriarchal power and that of Christianity because they are the main obstacles of the social revolution.”

Komov’s witness against socialism is all the more timely because of a growing fascination with Marxism in the West. (more…)

I had the opportunity to speak at the Fortnight for Freedom event held by the Church of the Incarnation in Collierville, Tennessee, on June 21. The venue and the crowd were among the best I’ve ever encountered. Below, you can read my excerpted remarks:

On the Question of Religious Liberty

If I understand correctly, this is the beginning of the Fortnight for Freedom here at the Church of the Incarnation and around the nation. The need for this special fortnight arises from recent actions of the government which indicate that religious freedom may be in serious danger. Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate requiring all employers who offer insurance to provide coverage for contraceptive and abortifacient products and services. The mandate contained no exemption for religious institutions such as universities, charities, and hospitals who might find difficulty complying for reasons of faith and conscience.
(more…)

On the drive over to Acton University this morning I heard an argument on the radio about how the economy would have been fixed if only the dollar amount of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 would have been doubled. What a sad statement to pin your hope to in order to fix the American economy. That argument is unlikely to be uttered at Acton University. Fixing economic problems and lifting up the human condition is not measured by dollars here. Present at Acton University is the strong sense that solving complex problems and failures in society are attainable outside of centralization or a materialistic worldview.

It is easy to walk outside the community and walls of AU and give up on society. But this week has been a powerful reminder that there are hundreds of people here who are certainly brilliant, but more importantly, empowered by our Lord. The conference convicts you that you can do more to transform a hungry and needy world.

It has been a blessing to converse and share fellowship with people like Michael Novak. Novak was speaking out aggressively about the free and virtuous society when free markets were even less popular in the intellectual and academic arena. In a lecture on Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, Ed Ericson cited Novak’s brilliant essay in response to Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Address in 1978. Novak, in responding to that address, notes that “the most serious seekers after truth come to unexpected and remarkable convergences.” I can’t think of a better summary for the community and fellowship here at Acton University. While there are certainly theological differences, we are all united and invigorated by the truth. And as Solzhenitsyn himself declared, “One word of truth outweighs the world.”

Were you unable to attend Acton University 2012?  Want to hear a lecture you missed?  You’re in luck, because we have (almost) all of the lectures available so far.  Stay tuned to grab them as they’re posted to our digital lecture store. Here’s what’s available so far:

Day 1 – June 12

  • A Conversation with Michael Novak

Day 2 – June 13

  • Christian Anthropology (’12) – Dr. Samuel Gregg
  • Person and Property in the Pentateuch – Dr. David Baker
  • The Church and Urban Education – Dr. Anthony Bradley
  • de Vitoria and Economic Liberty – Dr. Alejandro Chafuen
  • The Role of Ideas in Economic History – Prof. Ross Emmett
  • Christian Vision of Government – Michael Matheson Miller
  • East Meets West: Consumerism and Asceticism – Rev. Gregory Jensen
  • Religion and the 21st Century – Rev. Raymond de Souza
  • The Unknown Solzhenitsyn – Dr. Edward Ericson
  • The Role of the Mega-Church – Rev. Dan Scott
  • The Economic Way of Thinking (’12) – Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
  • The Church and God’s Economy – Dr. Jordan Ballor
  • Communitarianism: Theory and Critique – Dr. Kenneth Grasso
  • Corruption – Prof. Carroll Rios de Rodriguez
  • The Gospel of Luke – Prof. Chris Armstrong
  • Value Investing – Mr. David Bahnsen
  • 19th Century Reflections on Liberty – Michael Matheson Miller
  • Tensions in American Conservatism – Dr. Jay Richards
  • Biblical Foundations of Freedom – Dr. Charles Self
  • An Evening with Arthur Brooks

Day 3 – June 14

  • Economics and Human Action – Dr. Peter Boettke
  • Orthodoxy, Church and State – Very Rev. Michael Butler
  • Christianity and the Scottish Enlightenment – Dr. Samuel Gregg
  • Poverty in the Developing World – Michael Matheson Miller
  • The Church and Modern Civilization – Dr. Greg Forster
  • Vocational Stewardship and Community Transformation – Dr. Amy Sherman

Visit the digital lecture store here to buy individual lectures and to view additional descriptions. Be sure to bookmark it since we’ll be posting more into next week.

Václav Havel

Václav Havel, playwright, anti-Communist dissident and former president of the Czech Republic, died yesterday at the age of 75. There has been an outpouring of tributes to the great man today. In light of that, I’d like to point PowerBlog readers to the September-October 1998 issue of Religion & Liberty and the article “Living Responsibly: Václav Havel’s View” by Edward E. Ericson.

Ericson says that Havel offers a particularly penetrating analysis of our times based on the understanding that, in Havel’s words, “we are going through a great departure from God which has no parallel in history.” It is no coincidence that, Havel adds, that “the first atheistic civilization” has produced the bloodiest century in history.

In 1998, Ericson wrote that Havel could not be described as a believer but admitted to “an affinity for Christian sentiment” and that he tries “to live in the spirit of Christian morality.” Yet Havel’s understanding of Christianity’s formative work in building what is today Europe was deep. He praised the “blending of classical, Christian, and Jewish elements” that has created “the most dynamic civilization of the last millennium.” The news report linked above said that Havel spent his last moments in the company of his wife, Dagmar Havlova, and a Catholic nun.

Ericson:

According to Havel, ordinary people everywhere can live in the truth only by embracing the “notion of human responsibility.” Responsibility is “that fundamental point from which all identity grows and by which it stands or falls; it is the foundation, the root, the center of gravity, the constructional principle or axis of identity.” Thus, Havel declares, “I am responsible for the state of the world,” and he means a “responsibility not only to the world but also ‘for the world,’ as though I myself were to be judged for how the world turns out.” Citing Dostoevsky’s spiritual dictum that all are responsible for all, he points to that “‘higher’ responsibility, which grows out of a conscious or subconscious certainty that our death ends nothing, because everything is forever being recorded and evaluated somewhere else, somewhere ‘above us,’ in … an integral aspect of the secret order of the cosmos, of nature, and of life, which believers call God and to whose judgment everything is liable.”

Read “Living Responsibly: Václav Havel’s View” by Edward E. Ericson.

Attend Acton University 2012 where Ericson will lecture on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

I was fortunate to attend some of “Reagan: A Centenary Retrospective” at Hillsdale College from October 2 – 5. I was present for excellent lectures by Craig Shirley and Peter Robinson.

Shirley is the author of Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All and Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America, a book I reviewed on the PowerBlog.

Robinson, a former speechwriter in the Reagan White House, authored the famous “Tear Down this Wall” address and the book How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life. I have read all three of the above books and I can say they are easily top tier accounts on Reagan.

While there is so much to share from these two lectures, I’ll offer just a few notes. Shirley is the Reagan author who makes the most mention of Reagan’s admiration for Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The great Russian writer’s belief “that man’s purpose is as a divinely inspired agent to live out creation” had a deep resonance with the former president. At Reagan’s death, Solzhenitsyn eulogized him from Russia in 2004 saying,

In July 1975, I concluded my remarks in the Reception Room of the U.S. Senate with these words: ‘Very soon, all too soon, your government will not just need extraordinary men – but men with greatness. Find them in your souls. Find them in your hearts. Find them within the breadth of and depth of your homeland.’ Five years later, I was overjoyed when just such a man came to the White House. May the soft earth be a cushion in his present rest.

Robinson offered a conservative estimate that Reagan wrote over a half a million words on his own for public consumption. “Politicians have a network but Ronald Reagan had words. But words that convinced people that he was right,” added Robinson. He also noted that very few of the letters Reagan wrote in the White House were to people of prominence, but rather most of the letters he penned were to ordinary Americans. Robinson complimented Reagan by saying his “speechwriters just mimicked and parroted the sound and substance Reagan already created.”

Robinson was asked about the deep respect Ronald Reagan showed for President Calvin Coolidge. Reagan of course was at times mocked by the Washington press corps for hanging a Coolidge portrait in the White House. Robinson declared,

Ronald Reagan could remember Coolidge as a boy or young man. Coolidge loved words and was a beautiful writer and Reagan resonated not just with his ideology but his love for words.

Earlier this year I authored a commentary for the Reagan Centennial titled, “Deeper Truths Magnify Reagan Centennial.”