Sunday, February 12, 2012

Calvinism vs Christianity

There are good reasons why the back row of a chess setup contains a bishop on either side of the king and queen.  It's been historically hard to exercise royal power without bringing religion into the mix.  The founding fathers tried to make USA a nation without kings, so queens and bishops had to go too.  Generally speaking, this plan has worked out pretty well.

But that hasn't stopped the would-be royal bishops from wanting to elbow their way into the back row.  Think about it—what in heaven's name takes four years to learn that makes that the standard time-frame for the education of a clergyman?  It wouldn't require a lot of effort to carefully read the Bible and other foundation books of Christianity about a dozen times in four years, so there are obviously other lessons needed to fill all that time.  The paramount lesson, of course, is how to make moral pronouncements that others actually believe.

Institutionally, what happened is that for much of recorded human history, the clergy made up the main element of the educated class in society and as such, became useful to the folks who would grab power.  And what made the clergy especially useful was the ability to translate the wishes of the powerful into the language of moral authority.

The MAIN reason the founding fathers decided to eliminate the possibility of a state religion was that most of them had come to the hard-won conclusion that democracy was literally impossible with religiously-trained people meddling in the public's business.  Ironically, stripped of it's legal and formal connection to the state, religion has flourished.

As the economic side of USA society becomes increasingly undemocratic and bizarrely unequal, however, the old usefulness of religion to protect the power-grabbers becomes more attractive.  So in the new USA chess set, the king and queen have been replaced by banksters and hedge-fund operators.  And protecting their corrupt ethical flanks are our old friends, the Calvinists.

It's a perfect match because John Calvin invented his upside-down version of Christianity so he could declare that the uber-greedy were actually God's pets.  To this day, I have no idea how this absurdity could ever be confused with Christianity, (see Matthew 19:21-24) but I have NO problem understanding why rich folks have funded Calvinist divines over the years.  Cheap investment, actually, because the Calvinist message that "Jesus wants you to be rich" has spilled over into virtually all faiths in USA to the point where Calvinism has become de facto the state religion.

For God So Loved the 1 Percent 
By KEVIN M. KRUSE    January 17, 2012 
IN recent weeks Mitt Romney has become the poster child for unchecked capitalism, a role he seems to embrace with relish. Concerns about economic equality, he told Matt Lauer of NBC, were really about class warfare
“When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus 1 percent,” he said, “you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”
Mr. Romney was on to something, though perhaps not what he intended.

The concept of “one nation under God” has a noble lineage, originating in Abraham Lincoln’s hope at Gettysburg that “this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.” After Lincoln, however, the phrase disappeared from political discourse for decades. But it re-emerged in the mid-20th century, under a much different guise: corporate leaders and conservative clergymen deployed it to discredit Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. 
During the Great Depression, the prestige of big business sank along with stock prices. Corporate leaders worked frantically to restore their public image and simultaneously roll back the “creeping socialism” of the welfare state. Notably, the American Liberty League, financed by corporations like DuPont and General Motors, made an aggressive case for capitalism. Most, however, dismissed its efforts as self-interested propaganda. (A Democratic Party official joked that the organization should have been called “the American Cellophane League” because “first, it’s a DuPont product and, second, you can see right through it.”) 
Realizing that they needed to rely on others, these businessmen took a new tack: using generous financing to enlist sympathetic clergymen as their champions. After all, according to one tycoon, polls showed that, “of all the groups in America, ministers had more to do with molding public opinion” than any other.
The Rev. James W. Fifield, pastor of the elite First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, led the way in championing a new union of faith and free enterprise. “The blessings of capitalism come from God,” he wrote. “A system that provides so much for the common good and happiness must flourish under the favor of the Almighty.” 
Christianity, in Mr. Fifield’s interpretation, closely resembled capitalism, as both were systems in which individuals rose or fell on their own. The welfare state, meanwhile, violated most of the Ten Commandments. It made a “false idol” of the federal government, encouraged Americans to covet their neighbors’ possessions, stole from the wealthy and, ultimately, bore false witness by promising what it could never deliver. 
Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Mr. Fifield and his allies advanced a new blend of conservative religion, economics and politics that one observer aptly anointed “Christian libertarianism.” Mr. Fifield distilled his ideology into a simple but powerful phrase — “freedom under God.” With ample support from corporate patrons and business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce, his gospel of godly capitalism soon spread across the country through personal lectures, weekly radio broadcasts and a monthly magazine. 
In 1951, the campaign culminated in a huge Fourth of July celebration of the theme. Former President Herbert C. Hoover and Gen. Douglas MacArthur headlined an organizing committee of conservative all-stars, including celebrities like Walt Disney and Ronald Reagan, but largely comprising business titans like Conrad Hilton, J. C. Penney, Harvey Firestone Jr. and J. Howard Pew.  more

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