The Acton Institute is, at heart, a cultural enterprise. We are not concerned so much with politics or economics or sociology or philosophy as we are with the whole package – the effect they have on our culture. Our concern is with the health of society as a whole: the free and virtuous society.
In this autumn issue of Religion & Liberty, that concern is made very clear as we examine a tremendous influence on our culture: the entertainment industry. In Hollywood, they speak about movie-making as “the Industry,” but movie studios have an enormous influence on our culture, independent of their balance sheets.
Ralph Winter, a successful producer of several blockbuster films, speaks about that influence in our feature interview. His experience, reflected through his religious faith, offers a perspective on Hollywood that we rarely hear.
Cort Langeland explains that the cultural influence of films lies in their storytelling power. Whoever tells the stories shapes the culture. But storytelling is not a matter of only a fireplace and a cup of cocoa; it is demanding business that requires as much entrepreneurial excellence as any other business venture.
Other articles in this issue look at our entertainment culture from different perspectives. Father Sirico comments on protecting our children, and the liberal tradition focuses on the most famous Hollywood actor of all: Ronald Reagan.
I would draw your attention to a new feature in Religion & Liberty. Called “the Double-Edged Sword,” it looks at a particular Scripture passage and how it might apply to a particular question of interest to our readers. The challenge is to allow the Word of God – described in Hebrews as sharper than a two-edged sword – to cut to the heart of the matter rather than being blunted by our purposes. It's a worthy challenge, and I think this issue gets it just right.
And I might say an immodest word about our lead article. I thought perhaps you might appreciate something from R&L's new editor – something of an introduction to what interests me. My essay addresses the past summer's bestselling economics book, Freakonomics. It doesn't address much of what we do specifically at Acton, but I found it animated by a sympathetic spirit, fascinated by human liberty and the consequences of the choices we make.