God, Calvin, and Social Welfare - Part Eight:
The Child, the Family, the Nation, and the World
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 01:46:31 PM EST
Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates (author info)

John Calvin
This series has traced the role of early Calvinism on a particular aspect of theocratic Christian nationalism that fits neatly into what Michelle Goldberg calls a "totalist political ideology," (p. 8). Christian nationalists do not just want to enforce narrow authoritarian frameworks on their own children and families--they see this hierarchical model as necessary for reforming the community, the nation, and the entire world.

While Christian Right dominionists seem obsessed with gender issues, they have been melded into an ultraconservative political movement that shares with them an interest in two other issue areas: hyper-individualistic libertarian economic policies, and an aggressive unilateral U.S. foreign policy.

The ultraconservative coalition was carefully crafted over many decades. When ultraconservative political strategists saw how many Christian evangelicals voted for "born again" Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976, they set out to pull these voters back into the Republican Party to reshape it and move it to the political right (Berlet & Lyons: pp. 220-224; see note one).

As Matthew N. Lyons and I explain in Right-Wing Populism in America:

"A key step in this movement-building process took place in 1979, when Robert Billings of the National Christian Action Council invited rising televangelist Jerry Falwell to a meeting with right-wing strategists Paul Weyrich, Howard Phillips, Richard Viguerie, and Ed McAteer. The main idea was to push the issue of abortion as a way to split social conservatives away from the Democratic Party. This meeting came up with the idea of the "Moral Majority," which Falwell turned into an organization. The New Right coalition really jelled at this point with the creation of a frame of reference with which to mobilize a mass base, (Berlet & Lyons: p. 222; citing D'Souza, pp. 105-118; Martin, pp. 200-201; Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, pp. 49-63).

Anxiety over changing gender roles were linked in subtle ways to White tensions over race relations.

"Following Wallace's example, the New Right used coded racial appeals while avoiding explicit ethnic bigotry. Racism was reframed as concern about specific issues such as welfare, immigration, taxes, or education policies. Movement activists such as Viguerie denounced liberal reformism as an elitist attack on regular working people. In some cases, this antielitism drew directly on the producerist tradition" (Berlet & Lyons: p. 222)

For example, ultraconservative activist William Rusher declared that a:

"new economic division pits the producers--businessmen, manufacturers, hard-hats, blue-collar workers, and farmers--against the new and powerful class of non-producers comprised of a liberal verbalist elite (the dominant media, the major foundations and research institutions, the educational establishment, the federal and state bureaucracies) and a semipermanent welfare constituency, all coexisting happily in a state of mutually sustaining symbiosis,"(Rusher: p. 14; see note two)

So gender, race, and collectivism were hot buttons to be pushed along with the classic staple of the Christian Right: fear of communism and the Soviet Union. As Kazin expalins, the New Right coalition was a "multi-issue, multi-constituency offensive" that developed a new set of frames through which to see politics in the United States:

"Conservatives talked like grassroots activists but were able to behave like a counter-elite. Within their coalition were Sunbelt corporations opposed to federal regulation and high taxes; churches mobilized to reverse the spread of "secular humanism"; local groups that protested school busing, sex education, and other forms of bureaucratic meddling in "family issues," and foundations that endowed a new generation of intellectuals and journalists, (Kazin: p. 247).

The central scapegoats used to mobilize mass support included abortion, gay rights, and prayer in schools. "Family Values" became a code word for a particular form of Christian conservative social and political practice.

Since the 1980s and the rise of the Christian Right, public policy regarding social welfare (and especially the treatment of criminals) has echoed the patriarchal and punitive child-rearing practices favored by many Protestant fundamentalists. Most readers will recognize the phrase: "Spare the rod and spoil the child." This idea comes from a particular authoritarian version of fundamentalist belief.

According to Greven:

"The authoritarian Christian family is dependent on coercion and pain to obtain obedience to authority within and beyond the family, in the church, the community, and the polity. Modern forms of Christian fundamentalism share the same obsessions with obedience to authority characteristic of earlier modes of evangelical Protestantism, and the same authoritarian streak evident among seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Anglo-American evangelicals is discernible today, for precisely the same reasons: the coercion of children through painful punishments in order to teach obedience to divine and parental authority," (Greven: p. 198).

The belief in the awful and eternal punishment of a literal Hell justifies the punishment, shame, and discipline of children by parents who want their offspring to escape a far worse fate. This includes physical or "corporal" forms of punishment. "Many advocates of corporal punishment are convinced that such punishment and pain are necessary to prevent the ultimate destruction and damnation of their children's souls," (Greven: p. 62).

This is often accompanied by the idea that a firm male hand rightfully dominates the family and the society, (Greven: p. 199).

The system of authoritarian and patriarchal control used in some families is easily transposed into a framework for conservative public policy, especially in the criminal justice system.

Lakoff explains that on a societal level, according to conservative "Strict Father morality, harsh prison terms for criminals and life imprisonment for repeat offender are the only moral options." The arguments by conservatives are "moral arguments, not practical arguments. Statistics about which policies do or do not actually reduce crime rates do not count in a morally-based discourse." These "traditional moral values" conservatives tend not to use explanations based on the concepts of class and social causes, nor do they recommend policy based on those notions," (Lakoff: p. 201).

According to Lakoff:

For liberals the essence of America is nurturance, part of which is helping those who need help. People who are "trapped" by social and economic forces need help to "escape."  The metaphorical Nurturant Parent--the government--has a duty to help change the social and economic system that traps people. By this logic, the problem is in the society, not in the people innocently "trapped." If social and economic forces are responsible, then other social and economic forces must be brought to bear to break the "trap."

This whole picture is simply inconsistent with Strict Father morality and the conservative worldview it defines. In that worldview, the class hierarchy is simply a ladder, there to be climbed by anybody with the talent and self-discipline to climb it. Whether or not you climb the ladder of wealth and privilege is only a matter of whether you have the moral strength, character, and inherent talent to do so, (Lakoff: p. 203).

To conservatives, the liberal arguments about class and impoverishment, and institutionalized social forces such as racism and sexism, are irrelevant. They appear to be "excuses for lack of talent, laziness, or some other form of moral weakness," (Lakoff: p. 203).

Much of this worldview traces to the lingering backbeat of Calvinist theology that infuses "common sense" for many conservatives. To this brand of conservatism, it doesn't matter if it is the child, the family, the community, the nation, or the entire world: to avoid chaos and immorality, there needs to be a strong authority figure willing to apply punishment, shame, and discipline--verbally if possible--through physical force and violence if need be.

The Bush administration, with the backing of millions of Christian conservatives, seeks to reform the global village by spanking its perceived miscreants--and they have the military arsenal to back up this neo-Calvinist authoritarian worldview.



Sources

Berlet, Chip and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford.

Brooks, Clem, and Jeff Manza. (1996). "The Religious Factor in U.S. Presidential Elections, 1960-1992." Paper, annual meeting, American Sociological Association, New York, NY. Revised and included in Jeff Manza and Clem Brooks, Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignment and U.S. Party Coalitions (pp. 85-127). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Diamond, Sara. (1989). Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Boston: South End Press.

Diamond, Sara. (1995). Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford Press.

Diamond, Sara. (1998). Not by Politics Alone: The Enduring Influence of the Christian Right. New York: Guilford Press.

D'Souza, Dinesh. (1984). Falwell, Before the Millennium: A Critical Biography. Chicago: Regnery Gateway.

Green, John C., James L. Guth, and Kevin Hill. (1993). "Faith and Election: The Christian Right in Congressional Campaigns 1978-1988." The Journal of Politics, vol. 55, no. 1, February, pp. 80-91.

Greven, Philip. 1991. Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. New York: Knopf.

Hardisty, Jean V. (1999). Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers. Boston: Beacon.

Himmelstein, Jerome L. (1990). To the Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kazin, Michael. (1995). The Populist Persuasion: An American History. New York: Basic Books.

Lakoff, George. [1996] 2002. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Martin, William. (1996). With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books.

Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. (1994). Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Phillips, Kevin P. (1975). Mediacracy: American Parties and Politics in the Communications Age. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Rusher, William. (1975). The Making of the New Majority Party. Ottawa, IL: Greenhill Publications.



Note One: On Christian Evangelical Voting Patterns:

These are the cites Matthew N. Lyons and I used to explain how we arrived at our survey of voting patterns:
Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, pp. 55-56; Roads to Dominion, pp. 172-177, 209-210, 231-233;  Not by Politics Alone, pp. 67-69; Himmelstein, To the Right, pp. 122-123; Green, Guth, and Hill, "Faith and Election"; William Martin, With God on Our Side, pp. 148-159, 197-220; Brooks and Manza, "Religious Factor."

Viguerie estimated that between 5 million and 7.5 million "born-again Christians voted for Nixon or Wallace in 1968 and for Nixon in 1972, but switched to Carter in 1976," and that he and his allies in the New Right set out to win them back to vote for Reagan in 1980 (Viguerie, New Right, pp. 155-174, quote from p. 156). This figure is probably unrealistically high, but the belief in those numbers helped shape the New Right election strategy.

Diamond credits the addition of 2 million new voters in 1980 to "the combined efforts of Moral Majority, Christian Voice, and New Right electoral vehicles" like Howard Phillips's Conservative Caucus and Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation (Roads to Dominion, p. 233).

Note Two: On Rusher

The quote from Rusher in Making of the New Majority Party, is also quoted in Omi and Winant, Racial Formation, p. 127. Rusher, in his text, urges readers to consult Kevin Phillips' book: Mediacracy.



God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series
Part One: Coalitions
Part Two: Calvinist Settlers
Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate
Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare
Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies
Part Six: Godlessness & Secular Humanism
Part Seven: Born Again Political Activism
Part Eight: The Child, The Family, The Nation, & the World

Based on the Public Eye article "Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration"
Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates
Chip's Blog



Display:
I've encountered evidence for the return of the doctrine of Election.

I never liked the idea much personally.

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 01:59:41 PM EST


Oh, great. Just what we need. Is predestination far behind?
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 02:01:21 PM EST
Actually, there are already groups that are going there--mind, these are more in the pente or extreme Christian Reconstructionist branches, but there are groups pushing predestination.

Among other things, Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist has espoused predestination explicitly.

Some pente dominionists into "spiritual warfare" movements (and, more darkly, Christian Identity as well) use a modified version of predestination known as Serpent Seed theology which goes even further than traditional predestination in stating that persons are either "of God" and of the line of Adam or of the "serpent seed" and Satan's direct progeny (in "Serpent Seed" theology it is taught that Cain is the spawn of an illicit mating between Eve and the Serpent, and people who reject dominionism are the literal descendants of that mating--thus (on account that they equate the Serpent to Satan) making the devil the literal many-many-many-many-greats-grandfather of the persons so damned).

In the case of "spiritual warfare" groups preaching "serpent seed" theology, persons who reject dominionism are seen as the "serpent seed" and thus predestined to hell; in the case of Christian Identity, the "serpent seed" is interpeted as non-WASP individuals (thus leading to their vicious racism).

by dogemperor on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 02:33:31 PM EST
Parent

I'm not sure if "holy cow" quite fits on this site - that's a Hindu concept, right ?

But, holy cow !

by nonlinear on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 02:37:11 PM EST
Parent


Interesting... in my dominionist-free world, serpents are considered symbols and purveyors of deep wisdom and insight.

"Serpent Seeds" indeed!

by Lorie Johnson on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 05:21:06 PM EST
Parent

True, true that--in a lot of cultures (as disparate as Celtic mythology, Asian mythology, some Australian Aboriginal groups, Iwa and Voudon, and Cherokee mythology) serpents are connected with wisdom and power (interestingly, also often connected with rain or storms, too).

In that light, I don't particularly see it as that much of an insult.  (I do worry about how "serpent seeds" will be targeted if, Gods forbid, the dominionists do get sufficient control--primarily because I'd definitely qualify in their definition--but I don't see it as particularly insulting.)

by dogemperor on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 09:33:33 PM EST
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But, my theology's a bit rusty.

I'll try and dig up the pdf I found on this for you : you probably parse it better than I can.

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 02:18:34 PM EST


Are  you guys really discussing what I think you're discussing, some new theology that says some people are just flat out savedwhile others are not ? I don't get this. It sounds medieval.

by nonlinear on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 02:35:40 PM EST
The ideas of Predestination and the Elect who alone are destined for heaven go way back, but there is a return to these ideas.

See: God, Calvin, and Social Welfare - Part Two: Calvinist Settlers

_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 05:23:00 PM EST
Parent
On this issue, the concern should be for Calvinist's belief in Unconditional Election.

Through his work with PASSION, John Piper (a BGC Baptist) is leading and growing a HUGE movement of young Calvinists.  Al Mohler, Southern Seminary, and Founders Ministries is breeding and inspiring a movement towards Reformed Theology within the Southern Baptist Convention.

The problem is not predestination per se (God foreordains or foreknows who will be saved - elect are chosen by God).  After all, both Calvinists and Arminians (modified Arminian like myself) agree on this subject.  Baylor's Roger Olsen (noted Arminian, and premiere Baptist theoogian ) recently wrote "They disagree on the role free will plays in whether a person is among the elect and thus predestined by God.  Calvinists deny free will as power of contrary choice and argue that God's grace is irresistible.  Arminians believe in free will as power of contrary choice and say grace is never imposed on anyone; people can and do resist the grace of God."  

Moderate Baptists typically don't have a problem with the T and P of TULIP.  

It seems to be the belief in Unconditional Election which leads to theocratic tendencies..

Olsen's Article at Baptist Standard

by Big Daddy Weave on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 06:41:57 PM EST
Parent

Now, we try to stay away from theological debates, but this is actually a Q&A :

How could those who believe Unconditional Election possibly parse the saved from the damned ? That's rhetorical of course - I don't think they possibly could or - to put it differently - those determinations would be made be fallible humans.

The critical difference seems to me that the Arminian position avoids the hugely problematic issue inherent in human claims to knowledge of the will ( and hence who is among the elect ) of God.

Perhaps I should send you that PDF too ! - I may have been misinterpreting it, and you'd be qualified to make that determination although, as you state, the movement exists : I believe you !

I don't think anyone has so far shone a steady light on this developing area.

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 06:57:48 PM EST
Parent

Here is a link to a 2004 article published in the Baptist History and Heritage journal dealing with the growth of Calvinism among Southern Baptists and in Campus Ministries across the country.  It also deals with Piper, PASSION, and the influence of Calvinism on Christian Contemporary Music. I copied the article in full from my University's Infotrak database onto my personal blog.

Youth for Calvin

by Big Daddy Weave on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 12:25:07 AM EST
Parent






Many in the New Testament, including Jesus, speak of the "elect." Paul defines the elect as "those chosen by God before the worlds were formed." In other words, God determined your fate before the first man existed. Paul justifies this idea with some passages from the Old Testament such as God saying he loves Jacob and hates Esau before they're even born; and God pointing out that the potter, not the clay determines what the clay will become. Paul recognizes the unfairness of the doctrine, but holds to it nonetheless. His only answer to your criticisms is: "who are you, a man to talk back to God." The Bible also talks about choice and free will however. Those who believe in predestination have trouble with these passages, while those who promote free will have equal difficulty with the passages suggesting predestination. Predestination is not accepted by most modern Christians, but it certainly has a solid scriptural foundation, though not without its problems. And it should not be smugly dismissed. Outside religion as well as inside, Determinism is a philosophical concept with many adherents and lots of science to back it up. If you want to know more, I'm sure they have good articles at Wikipedia on determinism, fatalism, compatibilism etc. You could also read "What Is Man" by Mark Twain. It's a lot easier to read than the serious philosophical stuff. And despite its simplicity, it gives a good understanding of, and makes a good case for determinism. I'm a determinist myself. Many of you will call me crazy, but that's only because you were predestined to say that. You couldn't think differently if you tried. Unless of course you were predestined to change your mind at some point. See how much fun it is?

by Dave on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 06:47:25 PM EST
Do you agree with his "Unconditional Election" distinction ?  Determinism is one thing, and I think one could easily be both a theological and an emprical determinist.....

But, what happens when one starts to believe that one holds the ability to discriminate between the saved and the damned ?

That territory seems very dangerous to me - at the very least a pride trap but also, as Daddy Weave remarked ( my interpretation ), a quick route to attempts at dictatorial theocratic rule by self-made arbiters who presume to know the will or mind of God. By my somewhat shaky theological knowledge that would amount to something like a presumption to divinity and hence be "blasphemous" but certainly politically problematic

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 07:10:07 PM EST
Parent

They admit that only God can "know" who's saved. But, they add, it's pretty obvious who's saved and who's not. After all, the Bible says "you will know them by their fruits." So they take the sins which are most important to them, and if you're committing one or more regularly, you're clearly not saved. They won't acknowledge the possibility that they may be wrong about what activities are sinful, or that the sins most important to them may not be the sins most important to God. Like all ideas, predestination is used in whatever way it's convenient. Fundamentalists are especially good at picking and choosing verses out of context.

by Dave on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 10:06:52 PM EST
Parent


Here's one thing I can't understand about predestination:  Why would any significant number of people adopt a religious belief which states that they themselves may be damned, no matter what they do?  It seems that the simple instinct of self-preservation (here, the preservation of one's mental health, rather than the more familiar preservation of one's physical safety) would drive the masses away from such a theology.

I can understand how people could adopt a belief that everyone who embraces a particular doctrine and lives according to its dictates will be saved while all others will be condemned.  Many religions preach this point, and all anyone has to do to insure his or her salvation (or, more accurately, to be able to feel confident that his or her salvation in insured) is to follow the dictates of the religion he or she has chosen.  In other words, the possibility of damnation does not threaten the true believer because he or she has an option, and has taken that option, to avoid damnation.

I can also understand how people could adopt a belief that only a predestined Elect will be saved as long as they are confident that THEY THEMSELVES are among that Elect.  After all, that is simply another manifestation of the common human tendency toward elitism, the belief that one is inherently superior to one's fellows.

However, as I understand it, some strains of this doctrine posit a predestined Elect, the composition of which is known only to God.  Therefore, any potential convert to this theology is being asked to accept a doctrine according to which he or she, despite his or her best efforts  to live a righteous life, despite his or her sincere worship of the one true God, will nevertheless be sent to hell!  Where is the popular appeal in that?

by Theovanna on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 12:46:46 AM EST
Parent

(FWIW, I cannot speak for other forms of predestination.  I can only speak in regards to "Serpent Seed" predestination as promoted in some pente groups.)

The way they can justify it as follows:

a) People who are obviously "Saved" by definition aren't of the "serpent seed" and thus damned.

b) People who are of the "serpent seed" will be immediately obvious, in either rejecting salvation (in the pente variants) or via racial characteristics (in the Christian Identity version, which ironically is better known to most folks, though the pente version is older).

c) People who are not obviously God-Fearing Dominionists or persons who flatly reject dominionism could be in either camp, and the only way to tell which one is to try to convert them--if they're not of the Serpent Seed, so their theology goes, they will eventually convert; if of the Serpent Seed, they will eventually reject openly.

(Incidentially, much "spiritual warfare" stuff is based directly on this--claiming all the people possible--and walkaways and persons who are open about dominionism's problems and flaws are seen as the literal descendants of the devil.  This is also why criticism of someone like, say, George W. Bush with these people is literally impossible--in their minds, he's "God-fearing" so by definition he cannot be a bad person, and in fact persons opposing him (including the Democratic Party) must by definition be of the "serpent seed" because they're opposing "God-fearing" folk.)

by dogemperor on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 08:49:36 AM EST
Parent

Are you familiar with William Marrion Branham?

He spoke a great deal of the serpent seed doctrine (as being essential).

The Healer Prophet - William Marrion Branham

by Big Daddy Weave on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 02:05:36 PM EST
Parent

Actually, I'm quite familiar with Branham--seeing as much of his writing is the basis of dominion theology as practiced in pente and neopente churches, including the "spiritual warfare" movements common in those denominations.

In the link I noted above, I actually note specifically how Branham has been quite influential in the development of at least premillenial-dispensationalist style dominionism.

Specifically, most "spiritual warfare" movements within the neopente churches can be traced to, or share a great deal of theological basis with, the "Manifest Sons of God" movement in the 1930's-1950's (and in fact, the Brownsville "revival", "Third Wave" pentecostalism in general, and the "Joel's Army" madness in particular); Branham was one of the, if not the single, most influential promoter of "Manifest Sons of God" teachings.

The Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International, a frontgroup of the Assemblies of God, still hails Branham a great deal in their promotional material (as noted in the article above).

So, yeah, you could say I'm slightly familiar with Branham.  (Unfortunately he was particularly active in Kentucky, as were quite a number of other pente dominionists and proto-dominionists; reportedly he's buried in a big honking pyramid just across the river from Louisville.)

by dogemperor on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 09:18:41 PM EST
Parent






I don't see any utility in Lakoff, but maybe that is just where I am coming from.

Even if he has some grasp of the verbiage, he is provably ignorant about US politics.

At best, I see left-wingers attempting to out-buzzword the Republicans, without having first established a foundation of why Position A is superior to Flatulence B

by JoshNarins on Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 09:20:51 PM EST

Have you read Lakoff?  I have found his thinking to be very valuable.

His work is about a lot more than buzzwords -- even if some people misuse his work to justify the same old same old of manufacturing slogans.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 09:50:04 PM EST
Parent



I've enjoyed this series, but I think it's not quite right on Weber's diagnosis of Calvinism.  Several folks have asked, why would anyone sign up for a belief system in which even some of the believers are damned from the beginning?  But of course that's not how the doctrine of election is presented.  It's presented as a series of questions: have you ever wondered why some people, no matter what they do, always seem to (fail/succeed)?  Why some people who know better can't cease drinking/smoking/beating their wives?  

Predestination presents an answer, and more importantly it gives each of us a rather urgent sense of purpose, namely the need to search for signs indicating whether we are saved or damned.  And, of course, it's our duty to proceed as if we are among the elect, as if we're showing the way to those who have not yet faced the question of their own election.  Moreover, we have to seek those signs every day, because (and this is where Calvin was psychologically shrewd) we can never really be sure of our election before Judgement Day.  If you're alive, you're in doubt but you're enjoined to act as if you're not in doubt.

Although the particulars of this socially and psychologically reinforced drive to seek signs of one's own election change from one historical locale to the next, a constant remains in place.  We need to compare ourselves to others, and we need to feel repelled by some of those others, so that we know we are different, that we are elect and they are reprobate.  

If in the 20th and 21st centuries some people have forgotten the theological implications of looking for signs of our own election, we remember and unconsciously reproduce the behavior every time we pause over Jerry Springer shows, cluck disapprovingly at our neighbors, wonder how working-class people can vote Republican, and so on.  

When I first heard Chip Berlet on NPR in the mid-1990s, he was arguing that the left must engage the right directly on moral issues & that the left cannot afford to allow the right to monopolize moral discourse.  I think we are a long way from following that advice still.  The legacy of Calvinism is a drive to demonstrate to ourselves, our friends, and our communities the fact of our own success & enlightenment -- repeatedly.  And that compulsion tends to short-circuit engagement with people of differing moral beliefs -- it does so because we need those others so that we can reassure ourselves of our own status.
 

by quintilian on Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 08:33:08 AM EST

The curse of blogging (and all articles with limited space) is that in trying to economize with words the ideas are sometimes short-changed.

Quintilian offers a much better explanation of Weber's critique of Calvinist Protestantism and Calvinism, and why it works the way it works.

The trick, of course, is that since you want to the one of the elect, and even though it is supposed to be predestined, you work your butt off for more material success compared to the "Others" around you. Thus, as you move up the social ladder, it is evidence that you are one of the elect, while others less successful are not, making you superior.

Now that most Protestants have rejected the ides of the Elect and Predestination, the "Protestant Work Ethic" lives on, as does the manic "drive to demonstrate to ourselves, our friends, and our communities the fact of our own success & enlightenment -- repeatedly, as Quintilian puts it so nicely.

_ _ _

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by Chip Berlet on Sun Jun 18, 2006 at 01:56:50 PM EST
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"The $1-Billion-a-Year [Religious] Right-Wing Conspiracy You Haven't Heard Of"
In honor of the 2014 incarnation of the event known as The Gathering, I've given an interview with Jay Michaelson, writing for the Daily......
By Bruce Wilson (5 comments)
(Un)Fantastic Five: A Remembrance Of Values Voter Summits Past
The Religious Right's annual "Values Voter Summit" (VVS) takes place this weekend. Americans United staffers Simon Brown, Sarah Jones and I will be there.......
By Rob Boston (7 comments)
The Christian Right's Voter Mobilization Strategy for 2014
My latest post at Political Research Associates is about how this weekend's Values Voter Summit fits into the Christian Right's wider electoral strategy for......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)

Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (3 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (4 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)

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