John Calvin, 1509-1564

I had two John Calvin media moments yesterday because it was exactly 500 years after his birth. First, one of my favorite bloggers, Scott Horton, posted one of his artistic commentaries based on a quote from Calvin. Horton explains that the quote “reminds us of the importance of service to the community as an aspect of faith.” The post is very educational, which is typical of Horton. I’m also glad other people are saying good things about him (see below) because I can’t. As a Unitarian, the foremost thought of Calvin for me regards Michael Servetus, who was an anti-Trinitarian. Calvin had corresponded with Servetus in 1546 and had determined he was a heretic for his views against both the trinity and child baptism. Fleeing to Italy in 1553 to avoid persecution in both Catholic France and Protestant Switzerland, Servetus inexplicably stopped in Geneva to attend a sermon from Calvin. Calvin had him arrested and composed the list of heretical accusations to the court. When he was sentenced to burn at the stake, Calvin did ask that his punishment be lessened to beheading. But this small consolation was refused. Servetus' death prompted Sebastian Castellio to become a harsh critic of Calvin and caused Servetus’ theology to influence the beginning of the Unitarian movement in Poland and Transylvania. [Basically copied from Wikipedia] I’m not a fan of Calvinism either, but I’ll leave that for another day.

As the exact opposite of Horton’s piece, the other Calvin media moment was pure craziness. David Brooks was on All Things Considered and closed the segment with this (close to a straight quote):
Calvin created:

1. Representative government by disbelieving in unified power

2. Capitalism by inculcating self-discipline

3. American Exceptionalism by giving us a sense that we were following god’s will
Created - not influenced, inspired, was a source for, etc. Madness! This is what passes for Republican intellectualism? I read Brooks for a while several years ago, around the time he gave out year-end awards for good commentary. He was very thoughtful, even if I didn’t agree with much of what he said. But he eventually dropped the thoughts and started going off on standard conservative culture stuff and some brain science research. Sounds interesting, but he was way off the mark with most of his columns.

UPDATE: Extra! Extra! Brooks was the recipient of a "bad touch" by a Republican Senator. I don't think Calvin would think highly of today's representative-capitalist-exceptionalists. Or of Brooks for sitting through it. Again, with feeling: Crazy!

UPDATE II: Lots of pure bunko, but I did find one very good take on Calvin at 500.

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