Liberty is the prevention of control by others. This requires self-control and, therefore, religious and spiritual influences; education, knowledge, well-being. -Lord Acton
It was during my first full year of seminary (circa 2008) at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School that I finally heeded the counsel of multiple professors and attended my first Acton University conference. Held each summer in Grand Rapids, Mich., "Acton U" is an extraordinary collection of students, professors, writers, journalists, and thinkers of the first order who gather together for the express purpose of exploring the "free and virtuous society" in a civil, intellectually stimulating environment. What started with a few dozen participants a decade ago has organically grown into an event that boasts nearly 1,000 attendees. Those enrolled in the conference are treated to four days of fascinating conversations, engaging lectures, world-renowned guest speakers, delicious meals, and good company.
As The Acton Institute succinctly puts it:
Guided by a distinguished, international faculty, Acton University is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate rigorous philosophy, Christian theology and sound economics.
I've been to three of these things now, and I can honestly say that they are life-changing. For many religious Americans, discussion of socio-economic and political topics is considered either unimportant (due to almost zero interaction with these topics from their local pastors and church leaders) or something we're not allowed to talk about (because, you know, Jesus wasn't a Republican).
Young people today—even at Christian universities—are bombarded with seemingly benign ideas of "social justice" that ultimately corrode the free citizen's ability to decipher truth from fiction, emotional appeals from substantive claims. The truth is that there is a rich tradition of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish thought when it comes to such matters. These matters are important, and we should educate ourselves (and our children) about them.
We should be ready to give an answer for the things we believe. Everyone has an economic worldview, whether they realize it or not. The development of it will happen by osmosis from the increasingly secular-progressive culture around us, or by careful grooming at the hands of knowledgeable people who share our values.
So along comes a group like Acton Institute, with a wonderful, jam-packed event geared at thoughtfully engaging the hearts and minds of young, religious Americans. And they offer scholarship opportunities for students to travel to Grand Rapids in June and see for themselves what can be done when good people and great ideas are communicated in a way that leaves the audience asking questions and debating the guy/gal next to them (instead of sleeping/texting through an Economic Theory class back at school).
As a kid, I always hated even just the thought of summer school. But during my grad school years, Acton U became a refreshing oasis I looked forward to every year. If you are a parent or professor, PLEASE do yourself and this country a favor by encouraging the students in your life to attend Acton University.