Just over a month ago (already?!) I attended this year’s edition of Acton University. The evening before flying out of Birmingham, Grandmomma and I attended a Fixed Point Foundation event at the Red Cat on “Making Sense of Old Testament Violence,” which was an excellent study of history and ethics by Larry Taunton.
The next day, I got some screenwriting done a few thousand feet in the air, thanks to an Celtx app for iPhone (on parchment setting for the vintage typewriter feel, of course)…
At the airport in Detroit, I encountered Matthew Raketti, who was also on his way to Acton. While reading some Röpke on board the plane…
A gentleman from Dallas sitting next to me said, “You wouldn’t happen to be going to Acton University, would you? …I figured someone flying to Grand Rapids and reading that kind of book must be going to Acton.” He was on his way there too!
At the Gerald Ford International Airport (I’m telling you, some man standing there eating an apple looked exactly like President Ford…) I met up with Matthew Raketti and Geoman George. We chatted about intellectual things over coffee while waiting on the Acton shuttle to arrive. I got so caught up in talking about Luke, Thucydides, and the like that I almost left behind my luggage. “If I’m this bad at the airport, how am I going to get through Acton University?” I asked aloud. For a moment I couldn’t find my (reluctantly acquired) iPhone, and then realized that I’d simply placed it in my book bag instead of my purse. “It wasn’t lost,” I told Matthew Raketti, “I only misplaced it.” “It’s a good thing you noted the distinction between misplaced and lost. It’s one of the first things they teach us in property law,” he replied. Such is the way of Acton scholars…mundane conversation becomes enlightening!
Upon arriving at the Holiday Inn, I met up with Ian O’Hagan, with whom I had a great conversation on the way to course registration and dinner at the DeVos Place. Then I finally reunited with the bright and lovely Amanda Achtman (who got to be my Acton roommate!).
Ray Nothstine ran into me at around the same time. About half of the wit and pithiness in my Twitter feed consists of sharing things he has written and quoted, if you haven’t noticed (“So you’re the infamous Twitter girl,” remarked David Lohmeyer, who was doing some photographing at ActonU).
Keegan McCorry drove some of us students to class in a golf cart occasionally. When he interviewed me one evening about the event and asked what books I might recommend, I awkwardly forgot the title of a particular book momentarily as I sipped on a beer (hehe). The book was Lyle W. Dorsett’s And God Came In: The Extraordinary Story of Joy Davidman, Her Life and Marriage to C.S. Lewis if you’re curious (see my blog sidebar).
Every time that I’m asked to name my highlight of the event, I can’t narrow it down to one specific thing. It occurred to me that this is because the beauty of Acton University is the way in which all the disciplines and subjects covered are interwoven into a whole rather than segregated like conventional academics. Eighty-five countries were represented, and by the time I moved from room to room I had met so many people from so many different places and discussed so many deep subjects that upon meeting up with good friends, it was easy to forget a lot of what I had planned to talk about before the trip!
I also met the fascinating Reverend Elijah Hill, who had wonderful discussions with me and Amanda A. about the Bible and government (I’m sure you will hear from me about his new book in due time).
Stephen Herreid and I talked filmmaking, which was refreshing. I just know the connections I made at ActonU will be valuable!
Fiyinfoluwa Elegbede of Nigeria was patient with us having difficulty remembering how to pronounce his long name at first, saying that since Fiyinfoluwa means “Praise God,” we could just call him “Praise” for short (love it!).
I could write more, but this post is about to get long enough already. Here is a sampling of deep and entertaining things I was told at Acton University (sometimes I took notes…):
“Natural Law makes it evident that some things are intrinsically evil. The state is bound to the same moral law as individuals.” (Michael Matheson Miller lecture)
“Have you been to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner? Don’t compromise your ethics to go. It’s not worth it.” (Wise words from Gordon Riddle Pennington)
“Our authoritative structures are dominated by people who do not believe in God.” (Economist Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse’s observation)
“Just tell human stories, and it will connect. People will get it.” (Marina Nemat’s advice to me after she signed my books)
“You have the prettiest dresses at Acton University.” (Sarah Beth Vosburg, who has lovely dresses herself!)
“In the West, when God is removed, all we are left with is bureaucracy.” (G. Weigel)
“If Acton University had a style contest, you would win it.”
“Tolkien wrote most of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ before World War II, but he did in his letters compare Stalin to Sauron.” (Dr. Jonathan Witt lecture)
“Fantasy defamiliarizes topics that have become so familiar we no longer see them.” (Dr. Jonathan Witt lecture)
“The family is a pre-political unit, the fundamental unit of society.” (Michael Matheson Miller lecture)
“It is a totalitarian act to redefine the family.” (Michael Matheson Miller lecture)
“Modern sexual freedom defines liberty as being unencumbered by human relationships.” (Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse lecture)
“Love can’t be divorced from truth, and truth can’t be divorced from reality.” (Dr. Charles Self lecture)
“Naturalism, not science, excludes all but what we can see and observe.” (Alvin Plantinga)
“All human activity is moral, so to make things morally neutral is to dehumanize.” (Dr. Greg Forster lecture)
“I just wanted to tell you how much I have admired your style.” (Bruce Walker was so kind as to say that, and Mrs. Kirk compliment my dress too. Do you think it’s that great? Well, the ModCloth ad is on my sidebar. )
“Spiritual gifts are to model the supernatural for those who only know the natural. Good works are not enough.” (Rev. Svetlana Papazov)
“Your eyes are both blue and brown. They’re amazing!”
“Religious liberty says civil order does not have the answer to all truths.” (Dr. Greg Forster lecture)
“If the family doesn’t do what only the family can do, we cannot have a free society.” (Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse lecture)
“Family = system of voluntary cooperation bound by love.” (Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse lecture)
“Hobbes created the state of nature narrative as an alternative to Genesis.” (Michael Matheson Miller lecture)
“The tyrant does not care if you love him or not, as long as you do not love one another.” – Alexis De Tocqueville (Michael Matheson Miller lecture)
“Marx has rigorous logical arguments, but horrible assumptions.” (Dr. Ross Emmett lecture)
“Money is not a neutral thing.” (Austrian Economics, Dr. Ross Emmett lecture)
“False gods = separation of morality and spirituality” (Dr. Charles Self lecture)
“What is prominent in the market reflects the soul.” (Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse lecture)
“We’re in a culture that hates and loves itself so much.” (Dr. Charles Self)
“When there is no such thing as resolution, everything is a zero sum game.” (John Stonestreet lecture)
“Political economy is more than mathematics – remember that Adam Smith was a moral philosopher, and is called a founder of modern economics.” (Dr. Jonathan Witt lecture)
“Our laws are restless, our sexuality is restless, until they find rest in something that holds them together.” (John Stonestreet lecture)
“There is a propensity toward dhimmitude around the globe.” (Dr. Charles Self lecture)
“The Church is called to prophetically speak to the cultures where it lives.” (Rev. Svetlana Papazov)
“You have made us for Yourself, oh God, and our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in You.” – St. Augustine (John Stonestreet lecture)
View more photographs from Acton here.
The adventure didn’t end there for me, thanks to Jim and Mary Nothstine’s hospitality.
Where have I been since then? Working on planning a magazine with these ladies…
…and going through film school, thanks to the patience and generosity of Matthew Perdie. You shall see!