In his recent post on our greatest modern president, Ray Nothstine notes that Calvin Coolidge has deep relevancy for today given the mammoth federal debt and the centralization of federal power. “Coolidge took limiting federal power and its reach seriously,” says Nothstine.

Nothstine’s post (and his recent Acton Commentary) reminded me of the 1926 essay, “Calvin Coolidge: Puritan De Luxe.” The liberal journalist Walter Lippman  wrote an unintentionally beautiful tribute to the patron saint of small-government conservatism that provides an outline for what is needed today:
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The Holy Ascension Choros
Source: http://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/the-holy-ascension-choros/

Over at the Holy Protection Hummus and Pizza Parlor (perhaps my favorite name for a website/anything ever), S. Patrick O’Rourke recently announced the Orthodox Arts Journal which “publishes articles and news for the promotion of traditional Orthodox liturgical arts.”

From the journal’s homepage:

The Journal covers visual arts, music, liturgical ceremony and texts, and relevant art history and theory. The Journal presents these topics together to highlight the unified witness of the arts to the beauty of the Kingdom of God and to promulgate an understanding of how the arts work together in the worship of the Church. In the spirit of the revival of traditional Orthodox liturgical arts sparked by Kontoglou and Ouspensky, the Journal will publicize excellence in contemporary liturgical arts, emphasizing fidelity to the Church’s tradition of beauty and craft.

It is always a good thing to see artists and churchmen who are not guilty of ignoring Étienne Gilson‘s pronouncement: “Piety is no substitute for technique.” Indeed, it is refreshing to also see those for whom technique is no substitute for piety and who actively seek to wed their faith in God with the talents He has given them.

For more, be sure to check out the website of the Orthodox Arts Journal here.

A new trailer for Rev. Robert Sirico’s Defending the Free Market has been released. An excerpt of the book focused on 9/11, socialism, and capitalism is read by the author, shown below. Visit the official site for Defending the Free Market to read a free chapter, or order the book from Amazon here.

“The right to ‘the pursuit of happiness’ affirmed in the Declaration of Independence is taken these days to affirm a right to chase after whatever makes one subjectively happy,” says James R. Rogers, associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University. “Further, the Declaration doesn’t guarantee the right to happiness, the thought usually goes, but only the right to pursue what makes you happy. This reading of the Declaration’s ‘pursuit of happiness’ is wrong on both scores.”

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Blog author: Mindy Hirst
Monday, June 18, 2012
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This week we feature an interview with Joseph Tenney, an arts pastor at Park Community Church in downtown Chicago. He is passionate about the integration of art and theology and has helped to encourage art in the church by having “Immersion Nights” which is described on the church site as “an evening filled with images of art and discussion around what they mean and how we can learn to look at art through the ‘Lens of Christ.’” You can follow him at his blog and on twitter.
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I just read the introduction to Amity Shlaes’s forthcoming biography, Coolidge: Debt, Perseverance and the American Ideal. She has been very gracious in taking an interest in the work I have been doing on Coolidge and my recent Acton commentary on the 30th president.

Shlaes was interviewed in the Fall 2007 issue of Religion & Liberty about her book The Forgotten Man. I quickly realized in my own research there is no biography that captures Coolidge’s deep relevancy for today given the mammoth federal debt and the centralization of federal power. Coolidge took limiting federal power and its reach seriously.

Without naming names or titles, many of the Coolidge biographies in print are simply sub par. That will change with the release of her biography and this is a book that needs to be out now. There is no release date set in stone to my knowledge or I would offer it up to readers of the PowerBlog.

In the introduction, it is clear just how well Shlaes understands Coolidge’s leadership on economic issues and his emphasis on thrift. I love that she played off her title The Forgotten Man by calling Coolidge “The Forgotten President.” I’ve certainly noticed in my own talks when I go out and discuss Coolidge that so little is known about him.

In her introduction, Shlaes brilliantly draws out comparisons of Coolidge with George Washington, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, John F. kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan. Some of her insightful comparisons I would never have highlighted on my own. Shlaes is a gifted writer and I foresee this book being very influential with the ability to transform contemporary thinking about our national government.

One of the things that draws me to Coolidge is his appreciation for the past. He was a very modern president who oversaw great technological advances and an America that was modernizing at a rapid pace but he always reminded the people of who they were and the great heritage that gave birth to the American ideal. “If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it,” declared Coolidge.

One of my favorite books is The Word of Life by Thomas C. Oden. In the introduction to that book Oden quotes Henry Vaughan’s “Retreat:”

O How I long to travel back,
and tread against that ancient track! . . .
Some men a forward motion love,
But I by backward steps would move.

If Coolidge had heard those words, which is quite possible, I feel he would have loved them.

We have just wrapped up Acton University, our annual conference that focuses on integrating Christian theology and sound economic thinking. In light of that, it was interesting to read this post at Patheos.com, “America’s Premier Heresy,” where Scot McKnight takes a look at the Prosperity Gospel, especially as presented by Pastor Joel Osteen.

If you’re not familiar with the Prosperity Gospel, it preaches that God wants all of us to be wealthy and healthy in this life, and that riches and health are ours, simply for the asking, in faith and obedience to Him. The problems of poverty, ill-health, unemployment, underemployment and general malaise are that we don’t implore God to shower us with blessings. Once we recognize that God has only positive things in store for us, and we ask for them, it’s all ours.

It was interesting – to say the least  – to have been reading this blog post while surrounded by some of the most intelligent people on the planet who had gathered at Acton University to discuss things like alleviating poverty in the developing world, business as mission and vocation, and the role of envy and fairness in economic thought. McKnight poses these interesting questions:

If you could offer a better theology to proponents of prosperity theology, what would it look like? How does an economic theory work into your critique or your offer?

Last week’s activities at Acton University offered a plethora of answers to these two questions, but I’m going to focus on just a few. First, the Rev. Robert Sirico’s new book Defending the Free Market recognizes the need for economic answers to questions of poverty. The recognition isn’t one of glamorous outpourings of wealth from a sugar daddy in the sky. It is, as Fr. Sirico puts it, “humdrum business”. That’s right: It’s just hard, creative work of human beings that lifts people out of poverty and helps them forge opportunities for themselves, their employees, families and communities. It’s not the same as asking God to simply make these things appear in one’s life; it’s being willing to partner with God, if you will, to bring about change.

Second, those who attended Acton University had the privilege of hearing Arthur C. Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute speak. (You can download a recording of his speech here.) Much of Mr. Brooks’ speech is typified in this quote from his book The Road to Freedom:

Under free enterprise, people can pursue their own ends, and they can reap the rewards and consequences, positive and negative, of their own actions.

Again, notice that the emphasis is placed on the work we must do, as free human beings, in order to create good things in our lives.

Finally, Amy Sherman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Faith in Communities at Sagamore Institute talked to us about our stewardship responsibilities in our work lives.

The big Gospel reminds us of God’s big story. He created a paradise and invited us to steward it, legitimating all kinds of work. We blew it, but God did not retract the cultural mandate from us even after the Fall. But the Fall meant that our work would be much more difficult and sometimes feel futile. Jesus’ redemption means that the restoration project is underway. Jesus’ great salvation work pushes back every aspect of the curse: redeeming the broken relationship between humans and God, humans and themselves, humans with one another, and humans with the creation itself. All of that is Jesus’ work, not just “saving souls.”

The 800+ attendees at Acton University can answer the questions posited by Mr. McKnight in his critique of the Prosperity Gospel. What economic theory and theological insights can we offer as an answer to the theology of Joel Osteen? It’s just plain, hum-drum business, free enterprise and the freedom for people to create – in cooperation with God – a better life and abundant economic opportunities.

(For more on the Prosperity Gospel, listen to Glenn Sunshine’s Acton Lecture Series presentation “Wealth, Work and the Church“.)

If you have a videocamera and can make the moral case for free enterprise, then our friends at the American Enterprise Institute have the contest for you:
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In an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS’s This Morning, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said,

If government’s purpose isn’t to improve the health and longevity of its citizens, I don’t know what its purpose is.

Since Bloomberg seems to be unclear about the purpose of government, perhaps we should make him a list. How about: establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.

While that list doesn’t exhaust the purposes for government, those items should probably take precedence over protecting New Yorkers from trans-fats and sugary beverages.

(Via: The Corner)

Friday was the last day of Acton University 2012.  Here are a few photos from the day’s events.  Did you miss AU this year?  Be sure to check out our downloadable lectures here.