Monday, July 27, 2009

John Calvin and the Excesses of American Patriotism

Did John Calvin have an influence on the excesses of American patriotism? Damon Linker says, "yes," in a blog posting at the New Republic. Considering the Puritan background of many of the first settlers, I'm not terribly surprised that Calvinism has had an impact. Nonetheless, the line that Linker draws between Calvin and the American situation seems tenuous at best.

There were indeed Puritans who claimed that America had a special place in God's providence. Some even described America as the "new Israel" led from slavery into the promised land. There is a natural temptation for such attitudes to devolve into the suggestion of divine approval for a country's actions right or wrong. Linker suggests that we should blame Calvin for this “theological self-confidence” among Americans that borders on “over-confidence.” Sadly, I don't find anything in Calvin's teaching that suggests that he would approve of associating an earthly realm with the Kingdom of God.

Calvin, who described the heart as an idol factory, would understand someone who turns a nation or an ideology into a god. Moreover, he would call it a sin.

No comments: