An Acton Institute Forum in Grand Rapids

I wrote last year (Weekly Messenger) on the valuable work of the Acton Insitute. I attended an Acton Conference on the theme: "Toward a Free and Virtuous Society." This event was held in Connecticut last August. I deeply appreciated it and thus I decided to attend another Acton event in Grand Rapids this week (June 14-18). This current event is a symposium made up of different tracks of study and fellowship on subjects like globalization, effective compassion, and business, faith and ethics.

The group I am attending is titled, "Business, Faith and Ethics." It is part of Acton’s Center for Entrepreneurial Stewardship. I have been in a room with twenty-five successful business entrepreneurs and one other mission related person, a leader in the Christian Reformed Church. This is not my normal venue so it has been fun to sit back, say very little, and seek to better understand a world quite apart from my own Christian non-profit mission.

Yesterday we discusssed questions like, "Who am I?" and "What is my work?" Work is a source of satisfaction or frustation for all of us. What makes the difference? Does it matter? We then asked, "Can I do well (i.e., earn money and be successful) and also do good (do the right things ethically and morally)?" The group listened to some teaching, viewed interesting video material, and interacted a great deal. This question is one that every entrepreneur faces at some point in their business experience. We then watched segments of the movie The Christmas Carol, reflecting on lessons seen and heard in the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. (I had never watched this movie in this way at all!) It really is much more than a story about an angry man who did not wish to celebrate Christmas.

The evening plenary session dealt with faith and politics. Should we separate faith and politics? The answer was a nuanced "yes and no" that I agreed with. In short, we should separate the institutions of church and state but not faith and government. It is a modern liberal error to suggest that any sphere of public or private life can be truly "values free."

A solid insight that I heard in the afternoon included the story of a Christian man who was asked to consider employment at Enron a few years before the company fell. He went to the company Christmas party to observe the corporate culture. When he saw the numerous leaders whose marriages had failed (some were on their third and fourth marriage), the men who were there with women not their own wives, and the general immoral climate of the place, he determined (wisely) that he could not trust those who led this company. By this observation and decision he was spared great grief. Such wisdom should govern all our corporate decisions if we seek the Lord’s grace in our business lives. 

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