Interviews on Innovation, Distributism, Communitarianism, and Vocational Stewardship
Religion & Liberty Online

Interviews on Innovation, Distributism, Communitarianism, and Vocational Stewardship

Last week we mentioned the interviews of Rev. Sirico and Andreas Widmer conducted by Joseph Gorra. Over the weekend Gorra added four more excellent interviews of Acton University faculty.

The first is an interview with Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, on Distributism as a ‘Third Way’:

Gorra: Why do you think distributist premises are so appealing to some?

Jayabalan: Distributism is appealing because it recognizes that there is more to life than economics and especially the production and consumption of material goods. Liberal commercial societies have produced all kinds of wealth and opportunity, but from a Catholic perspective, we know that these are not the ends of life, but rather the means to ensure a just society and eventually to help us lead holier lives. It’s also true that large corporate interests and big government collude to reduce competition and that there is something wrong with our current economic system. It’s always tempting for humans to think that the past was better, that progress is delusional, that we’ve lost our way. But the question is whether the past was as noble was we think it was, and whether some kind of return to a pre-modern way of life is possible or even desirable.

The second interview is with Kenneth L. Grasso, professor of political science at Texas State University, on communitarianism:

Gorra:Does political communitarianism represent a dead end?

Grasso: Yes. It is incapable of addressing the modern world’s crisis of community because both its theory and practice are destructive of the small-scale, highly personal, solidaristic institutions which are alone capable of addressing our need for community. At the same time, its celebration of state power is endangers liberty in its foundations. Only in social communitarianism can we find the resources to both revitalize community and secure liberty.

The third interview is with Ross B. Emmett, a professor in James Madison College at Michigan State University, on innovation:

Gorra: What’s your basic take-away on what is innovation?

Emmett: My working definition of innovation is “people having ideas about new ways to use things to create value for others.” Rather than talk about land, labor and capital, I talk about people, ideas, and things. This also enables me to emphasize the point that innovation is human action, not the product of some impersonal process or system. And finally, if you don’t create value for others, your idea just isn’t successful (most ideas about new ways to use things fail, of course), or you’re just tinkering for your own benefit (inventing, perhaps, but not innovating).

The fourth interview is with Amy Sherman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Faith in Communities at Sagamore Institute, on vocational stewardship:

Gorra: How does the ‘big Gospel’ focus our attention?

Sherman: The big Gospel reminds us of God’s big story. He created a paradise and invited us to steward it, legitimating all kinds of work. We blew it, but God did not retract the cultural mandate from us even after the Fall. But the Fall meant that our work would be much more difficult and sometimes feel futile. Jesus’ redemption means that the restoration project is underway. Jesus’ great salvation work pushes back every aspect of the curse: redeeming the broken relationship between humans and God, humans and themselves, humans with one another, and humans with the creation itself. All of that is Jesus’ work, not just “saving souls.” And the doctrine of consummation reminds us that King Jesus will indeed renew all things and that the eternal life we’re going to live will be lived in redeemed bodies on a new Earth. So it’s not going to be about being disembodied souls floating about on clouds playing harps forever and ever!

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).