I have been thinking about the GSU professor whose religious approach in class — if what I have read and heard is accurate and not just rhetoric — is at odds with our U.S. Constitution. There are plenty of ways to use intelligent discussion of religion to make a point, open some creative critical thinking and take advantage of a good liberal arts education. I have always believed that some of our theologians, like Augustine or Calvin, could really make an impact in sociology or economics without beating students over the head with Catholicism or Protestantism.
Did you know that the genesis of industrial capitalism can be attributed to the Protestant Reformation and one of its great leaders, John Calvin? By the way, I take exception to Augustine and Calvin and their position on supralapsarianism or double predestination. I also think Calvin wasn’t very nice when he allowed a fellow theologian to be burnt at the stake simply because of a disagreement in ideology. Calvin was too sensitive. I digress, again.
Agree or disagree, John Calvin believed that everyone was predestined before birth, and by that he meant God had already decided that some folks were saved, some were not, some were favored and most everyone else just barely scraped by. If that were the case, wouldn’t it make sense that the favored would receive blessings in this present life? In other words, the good chosen folks would have prosperity and the unchosen would be poor, servants, criminals and without hope. If you had good things, it proved you were blessed by God.
The more you had, the more you earned, the more you gained only declared that you were one of God’s favorites. Now you never worked to get wealthy and live large, but you worked hard to show God that you appreciated His Grace. These Calvinists did not share their money and stuff with the poor because those people had been predestined by God to be poor.
Economically and socially, those old Protestant Calvinistic church folks felt that their calling in life was to save money, use money to get more money and develop whatever new inventions or ideas came along to get more wealth. To be fair, the Catholic folks were more traditional and making money was not at the top of the list but that good deeds on earth would ensure heavenly rewards. Here’s the biggie: the Calvinistic work ethic slowly changed into a work ethic.
If anything resembling religion that could be taught in school without calling the First Amendment into question would be: what is wrong with teaching a historical religious ethic in such a way that our nation might not just develop a work ethic? What is wrong with teaching our young and old the moral position of being thankful for a job, going to work as a gift, putting in a good day’s work, earning a decent living and — have to be careful here — thanking Almighty God for the privilege as well as the right to declare, “In God We Trust!”
I must confess that I am a moderate Calvinist at best because I hold fast to Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 25 that we must not and cannot ignore the poor. Tough rockos, old John Calvin. Very few could say they do not understand Jesus when He declared unquestionably, “Truly I say to you, that whatever you do to the least of these brothers and sisters — and He means the poor and needy — you have done to Me.”
We do thank God for the many blessings we have received and we rejoice that we have the wherewithal to share what we can for those who will not survive without our help.