The diversity of the Acton University gathering in Grand Rapids is nothing less than amazing. I have met entrepreneurs from all over the planet, as well as ministers, lawyers, educators and retired businessmen. I shared a meal with a young Hungarian woman Wednesday evening who is a news editor related to the Vatican. Her personal story, and that of her Hungarian friend who grew up a Communist, moved me deeply. I have met PCUSA and UCC ministers who clearly stand outside the mainstream thought forms of their respective denominations. At lunch yesterday I met a young Asian graduate student at the University of California in Berkeley who got her last degree at Westminster Seminary in California before moving to Berkeley. Her journey in doctoral work will be an important one I am sure. She understood my own sectarian roots, having lived in that same world as a student, and she relished the opportunity to ask new questions and grow in the world she has now entered. (I want to introduce her to friends in the Berkeley community who will be a great blessing to her life.) I have also met academics and theorists who love virtue and economics and the unique relationship they both bear to freedom. This has been a pretty exciting week. I recommend an Acton event to every young professional I know. The staff is super-friendly, the atmosphere warm and the conversation open to dialogue and disagreement. Civility reigns in every classroom and questions are encouraged and always treated with respect.
This is my third Acton event. I only had my first one-on-one conversation with Father Robert Sirico, the co-founder of Acton, yesterday. We shared time over lunch. He is a man of piety, charity and vision. Though he grew up in Brooklyn and I grew up in small-town Tennessee, we share many common commitments to justice and freedom. We are also about the same age, he being two years my junior, and thus we were both profoundly marked by the 1960s, the Civil Rights struggle and the Vietnam War. His commitment to the kind of ecumenism that I also embrace is evident and his love for God and people is very strong. His linking of a strong moral dimension to econmics makes Acton a real leader in Christian cultural change. Father Sirico understands that we must strengthen society by linking the world of economics to the historic tradition of Christian ethics. I share this viewpoint very deeply and thus look forward to working even more closely with Acton in the coming days.
Ten years ago I would never have imagined me being seated with a devout Roman Catholic priest sharing a lovely meal and fruitful conversation about very important truths that we mutually embrace as Christians. My world has changed. I expect it will keep changing as I work further and further outside my box, or better put my personal prejudices and comfort zones.