Been There, Done That

Pope Francis’ debt to Calvinism:

Laudato Si’ will restate what previous popes have said on environmental destruction and its impact on the poor, but as an encyclical, the church’s highest teaching document, it will have magnified impact.

The encyclical should remind us of American environmentalism’s own intensely religious and moral roots, which have mostly been forgotten since the 1960s.

The very issues that Francis will emphasize — sin, the common good, and the harm that greedy exploitation causes society — inspired conservation and environmentalism from their earliest beginnings. Their roots, however, were in the social and religious teachings, not of the Catholic Church, but of Calvinist churches, such as Congregationalism and Presbyterianism.

In early colonial days, Puritans following Calvinist principles established communities across New England. Calvinism put special emphasis on God’s presence in the works of nature, and Puritans often went alone into the fields, woods, and hills to pray and meditate.

So that none would be poor, New England towns granted each family a share of land, which religious duty commanded they pass on to future generations in as good or better condition. Towns regulated land and timber use to ensure resources for the future.

By 1830, colonies became states, Puritans became Congregationalists, and New England towns, with their white steepled Congregational churches on the greens, became the very emblem of democracy, prosperity, and moral order.


10 thoughts on “Been There, Done That

  1. DG –

    “Their roots, however, were in the social and religious teachings, not of the Catholic Church, but of Calvinist churches, such as Congregationalism and Presbyterianism.”

    If the 17th century New Englanders had had automobiles, I don’t think they would have permitted suburban sprawl.

    What particular teachings are particular to Presbyterianism (& Congregationalism) which can be credited with generating this admirable combination of urban and rural landscapes (and subsequently effective political structures)?

    I’d be interested to read your recommended writer on the subject (maybe you wrote the book yourself).

    Towns which promote civic virtue, are a pleasure to walk through, which allocate and preserve resources for the good of the community, and which function relatively efficiently. Connecticut doesn’t even have county government any more, I understand – just towns and state.

    What are the philosophical influences which have had the greatest impact on how we build housing and arrange transit today? Some aspect of the Enlightenment, the so-called Great Awakenings? Why the huge change from the 18th century to the 20th?

    Even Italy is starting to get suburban sprawl, by the way, especially outside of Milan.


  2. DG –

    Oh. I’ve enjoyed your lectures on Youtube, still coming to understand your thoughts.

    Can you explain what you mean by “that goes with a fall” -? I don’t understand.

    “Triumphalism” which denies really existing and serious problems (“inconvenient truths”) seems to me foolishness at best, asinine and offensive at worst. Harmful to one’s own cause, wherever it is found. “Smiling as one dies.”

    Although “triumphalism” isn’t a very clear word to me. I have no problem with celebrating successes as long as failures have been acknowledged (concurrently or at a prior time) and are being addressed.

    John Courtney Murray, there’s a problem – a part of the movement to turn the Catholic Church in America into the Catholic Branch of the American(ist) Church.


  3. a., so if Mary is Queen of Creation and we worship creation then it’s sorta like we’re worshiping the Mother of God which is sorta good so we’re sorta OK. The TGC piece was a bit uncritical for my liking.


  4. DG – Then I couldn’t agree more.

    I’d add: ‘When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom’ – Prov 11:2;

    (Unlike you, I’m guessing, I had to look it up).


  5. CW,

    Maybe this is what you do if our great high priest and the throne of grace isn’t enough (Heb 4:16)….ask Mary and Joseph for power (‘enable’ ‘inspire’). One good thing about no TGC commentary is giving the chance to clearly hear His Spirit inside say “no no no no no no NO NO NO. ‘course a spirit may say yes; if so, that one hasn’t been tested.


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