ACTON – SVS Poverty Conference Sure to Spark Some Fireworks

acton-povertySt. Vladimir’s Conference on Poverty, May 31-June 1, 2013
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As iron sharpens iron, says the book of Proverbs, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Remember that advice as the conference on poverty begins on May 31, 2013 at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. The conference is led by the Acton Institute, arguably one of the most influential think tanks on religion and economics in the English speaking world. The conference is sponsored by the Zarras Foundation in honor of the late Dn. John Zarras, a devoted churchman, successful businessman, and member of the St. Vladimir’s Board of Trustees.

Speakers at the conference include Jay Richards, author of Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute; Michael Matheson Miller, Acton Institute Research Fellow; and a Trustee of the Seminary, The Rev. Dr. Philip LeMasters, professor of Religion and Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Religion, McMurry University.

Rounding out a concluding panel discussion with the above speakers will be Dr. Antionios Kiriopoulos, SVOTS alumnus and officer in the National Council of Churches, along with SVOTS Trustee Dr. Nicholas Pandelidis and Subdeacon Paul Abernathy, local director of FOCUS North America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, representing FOCUS North America.

The Acton scholars research the causes and cures of poverty in America and other parts of the world (see Poverty Cure). Acton roundly critiques big-government solutions (Great Society programs, foreign aid cash grants, etc.). Big government solutions can address short-term symptoms but they usually destroy the underlying economic infrastructure as well. Government largesse does not eliminate poverty. It merely institutionalizes poverty by eliminating the possibility for economic growth and mobility — a form of 21st century colonization in the Third World.

These ideas are compelling but the religious left resists them like Dracula avoids the cross. Progressive thinkers justify their economic ideas by drawing from the moral vocabulary of the Christian tradition but facts on the ground show that their ideas don’t work. Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. Create a market where a man can sell his extra fish and he can build a home and send his children to school.

St. Vladimir’s deserves credit for hosting the conference given that a preponderance of Orthodox thinking on political and economic issues tends to drift leftward. This is one reason why the Orthodox contribution to contemporary culture has been relatively meager. Orthodox voices seldom rise above the amen chorus for the cultural left as we see with Orthodox involvement in the (dying) National Council of Churches for example. (Also see John Lomperis’ article: Why Do Eastern Orthodox Churches Continue Enabling Opposition to Orthodox Values on Abortion, Sexual Morality?.)

Very often representatives from the religious left attempt to shut down rather than engage debate. Fortunately that has not happened here since an NCC representative has been invited to respond. As iron sharpens iron. . .

Russell Kirk said years ago that religion is the ground of culture. We are grateful to St. Vladimir’s for its commitment to rigorous and open inquiry on these pressing cultural questions.

Acton Poverty Cure Video


  1. Geo Michalopulos says

    Bravo! to Acton. Axioi!

  2. Ronda Wintheiser says

    I just read what seems to me to be a reasonable critique of this. Not that I think this conference shouldn’t happen… Now that I think about it, I don’t see why we can’t do both.

    To Fish or Not to Fish — Posted on April 4, 2013 by Cranford Joseph Coulter

    Jesus never said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for life!” Confucius said something like that. A lot of people who don’t like to give alms quote that. Ironically, a lot of right wingers say it to oppose food assistance programs and other aid programs. I say, ironically, because they are the same people who oppose support for public education. We all know the grain of truth in the saying. The problem is, that it has been turned into a slogan to advocate against direct aid to poor and starving people, including children.

    Jesus did say to give to whoever asks of you and to not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing when you give to the poor.

    There is a grain of truth in Confucius’ saying. That is that a man will be better off if he has some skills. I don’t think he meant to say withhold the fish until he learns to catch one himself, even if there is no river or lake or pole or line or hook to be had. This reminds me of something a wise African (again, not Jesus) said, “Empty bellies have no ears.” But there is only a small grain of truth in Confucius’ saying. I don’t use it at all. It is not part of my vocabulary, because I find it generally demeaning and paternalistic.

    Just because a man is poor does not mean he knows less than me. I know a homeless man who went to Yale and is articulate and sharp. Odds are, he could teach me more than I could teach him. He is of African descent. I am of European descent. I have friends with means who can rescue me when I get into trouble. He does not. He does not have a chip on his shoulder, though. He is cheerful and proud in the best sense of the word. It is a small thing to share some food with him for what I receive in return. I know veterans who have never been able to reenter society fully after combat. They have life skills for coping on the street without harming anyone and actually making it safer for many who are less aware. Do we make them jump through our hoops or do we just respect them for who they are and share God’s bounty for what it is? It is God’s bounty, is it not? “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” We need to stop arrogantly and greedily thinking that it is our own to hoard and not to share. I am crying now. I will stop.

    • Ronda Wintheiser says

      I like the vision of FOCUS of North America.

      They seem to combine giving a fish — meeting immediate needs with food, clothing, shelter — with teaching the poor how to fish, as well — helping people get jobs and improve their circumstances if they are able.

    • I know a homeless man who went to Yale and is articulate and sharp. Odds are, he could teach me more than I could teach him.

      If he went to Yale and is articulate and sharp, he is poor by choice. He’s actually the servant who buries his talent. St. Paul instructed the Church at Thessalonica to deny charity to such men.

      • Ronda Wintheiser says

        Unless, of course, he is ill physically or mentally and consequently unable to work?

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Good point, but the whole concept of “disability” has become elastic. My dad used to work part-time at the local Goodwill (as did my grandfather in his retirement). I often accompanied both to work and saw many people who were mangled or amputees. Some were mentally challenged. Yet there they were giving meaning to their lives and trying to pull their own weight, often helping others.

          On the other hand I saw dozens of able-bodied people who are “disabled” and receive SSI benefits. Are they 100% whole? No, but nobody else I know is (myself included).

          Except for a few hard-core cases, if public assistance is removed, people will go out of their way to at least try to make a living.

          • Ronda Wintheiser says

            Yes, I agree they will, George. I think it’s human nature.

            I guess I was speaking literally when I used the word “unable”. I had in mind a couple of scenarios — not hypothetical. I was thinking of someone like my sister who spent 15 years or so on the streets as a crack addict and an alcoholic. She was disabled — completely nonfunctional — by her alcoholic disease. It wasn’t until she engaged a treatment program and her own spiritual healing that she regained the desire to make her own way.

            And then there are those like my daughter who is 21 and has autism. She is and always will be unable to make a living or take care of herself independently. She functions on the same level as a 5-year-old. She doesn’t even comprehend the concept of “making a living.”

            • Geo Michalopulos says

              Obviously your sister was disabled in a very real way. Psychically if not physically. What I object to is people who malinger and have talents and skill sets and demand to be coddled by others.

          • macedoniandeacon says

            I used to supervise a day center for developmentally disabled individuals. I would say about 50% of them had jobs, some doing the work that a lot of able bodied would not do at a local grocery store, the others spend all day putting the toys in plastic bubbles for the bubble gum machines. Local companies would contract these jobs to the center and would actually bring the materials for these folks to assemble while at the center. The pay was meager, but the work, at least to them, was priceless. These people, who we would label “wards of the state” were busting tail every day. What was more interesting was that they never complained, they smiled, and lived for that work. A much better attitude that I have most of the time.

            I will never be able to reconcile the image that I saw there to that of those who are “able” and chose not to work in order to live off the state, or to most of us (me especially) who grumble at our jobs. It sort of breaks the stereotype of who is handicapped and who isn’t. Perhaps it redefines things.

            I would also suggest that those whom I “supervised” knew and understood the value of their work, they understood (even if not completely cognitively) on some level, spiritually perhaps, that they were making a living or even serving. It was almost a sort of liturgy, a joy that I don’t know that I had ever felt.

            Work, fulfilling work, taking care of oneself and others, providing a service, is MOST DEFINITELY a spiritual sense or attribute and I would suggest that this is what is lacking in American society. Especially among those who live off the state. This is the real evil of the state. It takes away our ‘spiritual sense’ on all levels of society. It slowly kills on a spiritual level by getting in between God and His creation.

  3. Can someone explain why FOCUS is not an “approved” ministry of the assembly of bishops?

    Not that I believe you need your bishop’s permission to do something Christ commands……. but I am curious.

    • Ronda Wintheiser says

      Which assembly of bishops?

      And how do you know it is or it isn’t “approved”?

      Sorry; obviously I don’t know.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Good question, Andrew. One could also ask why Metropolitan Savvas Zembillas’ committee has yet to meet. Going on 3 years now?

  4. Michael Bauman says

    Ronda the Episcopal Assembly is the assembly Andrew mentions. A good question. A better question is why they endorse some of the ones they do such as the “Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration” and “St. Catherine’s Vision”.

    See there website here:

  5. Alexis, Patron Saint of the Nice Guy says

    As was already mentioned in my past blog post regarding the aforementioned conference, I had purchased Jay Richards’ book, and I must say that I am really enjoying it. It makes much sense and has enlightened me. I would strongly urge others to read it.

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