I Am Mario Cuomo

The media attention devoted to Mario Cuomo’s death highlighted the tension in the former governor’s thought between his personal moral convictions and his responsibilities and work as an elected official. Put simply, is it possible to be personally committed to Roman Catholic morality but in public life follow a different moral standard? Here’s how Crux described it:

. . . the Catholic hierarchy was taking a decidedly more conservative turn under Pope John Paul II. Abortion was the salient issue for the US bishops, a nonnegotiable point that no Catholic pol could ignore if he wanted to stay in the good graces of the bishops, or, in the view of some, be eligible to take Communion.

Cuomo’s fellow New Yorker and Italian Catholic, Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, had just made history as Walter Mondale’s running mate, and she also supported abortion rights. It was left to Cuomo to provide a Catholic intellectual defense against her many critics.

“(W)hile we always owe our bishops’ words respectful attention and careful consideration, the question whether to engage the political system in a struggle to have it adopt certain articles of our belief as part of public morality, is not a matter of doctrine: it is a matter of prudential political judgment,” Cuomo said in the landmark Notre Dame speech.

Cuomo even anticipated conservatives’ adoption of his stance when he asked if he would have to follow the bishops’ teaching on economic justice “even if I am an unrepentant supply sider?” And he pointedly quoted Michael Novak, known as the Catholic “theologian of capitalism,” who wrote: “Religious judgment and political judgment are both needed. But they are not identical.”

One could argue that John F. Kennedy articulated a version of this personal vs. public 25 years earlier.

But it is not a problem that only bedevils Roman Catholics. Protestant politicians may be personally opposed to desecrating the Lord’s Day, and if such a public figure is an officer in a Presbyterian church has even vowed to uphold Sabbatarianism, but in their public duties or owing to political calculation fail to work for Blue Laws. In fact, all believers who hold public office in a religiously diverse and tolerant society need to separate the teachings and practices of their religious communities from the norms that guide civil life. At the very least, they need to juggle the public and private unless they are willing to seek the implementation of their own faith for all of civil society

The irony is that religious right championed a view of the relationship between personal and public responsibilities that derided folks like Cuomo as either hypocritical or cynical. The irony becomes even more ironic when the religious right complains that radical Islam is incapable of making the very distinction that Cuomo defended.

How Deep Down Does Religion Go?

Word has it that the polls on Scottish independence are narrowing, with the yes vote gaining momentum. Sorting out all the angles of relations among the Brits and Irish can get really complicated, especially if we remember what Fintan O’Toole reminded us a few decades ago:

In ethnic terms, Ireland is far less complex than many European societies, and infinitely less so than the United States. The biggest inward migration in the last five hundred years came from Scotland in the eighteenth century, and its descendants still form the largest single minority group. But Scotland itself had been settled by the Irish many centuries before. The very name Scotland means “land of the Irish,” “Scotus” being the Latin for an Irishman. The west of Scotland even today is called Argyll, from Ar-Gael, the eastern Irish. In the long view, the Scottish influx in the seventeenth century to the northern Irish province of Ulster is part of a pattern of back-and-forth migration between two places that are, after all, separated at their nearest point by less than forty miles of water.

O’Toole used that feature of Irish and Scottish history to make a two-kingdom point about “the troubles,” namely, that they had far less to do with Protestant-Roman Catholic conflicts than meets the eye:

Only a fool would deny that the Troubles in Northern Ireland or the sporadic episodes of rebellion and repression in the previous five centuries can be understood without taking account of the division between Catholics and Protestants. What can be denied, I think, is that religion itself has ever been the primary source of those conflicts. In Tanner’s eyes, religion is the wound that has caused Irish people to bleed over the centuries. It makes more sense, however, to think of religion as the weapon that has been used to cause the wound. Religion, like its secular counterpart history, has been wielded at different times and in different ways in the pursuit of economic and political advantage.; “Take away the religious factor and you still have enough economic, political, and national divisions to fuel a great deal of nastiness and a few wars.”

The broad shape of modern Irish history certainly forces the issue of religion to the forefront. From the sixteenth century to the early twentieth century, the Irish ruling class was Protestant and imperial, deriving its power from its origins in the slow conquest of the island by England. Those over whom it ruled were for the most part Catholics. Indeed, Ireland stands out as one of the few European countries in which the religion of the masses was not simply determined by the choice of their masters. The Catholic population stubbornly resisted the Protestant Reformation. The state church, the Episcopalian Church of Ireland, treated the Gaelic-speaking masses as a subject people rather than a flock to be protected and served. As a consequence, Catholicism became by and large the faith of those whose politics could, after the French Revolution, be called nationalist; and Protestantism was the religion of those who were loyal to Britain.

This is what happened; and give or take some important nuances, it is not in dispute. Still, an interesting set of questions can be promoted by a little counterfactual speculation. What if Henry VIII had remained happy with Catherine of Aragon and true to his papal title of Defender of the Faith? What if the English Reformation had failed, or had been reversed by the Stuart dynasty? With England and Ireland still loyal to the pope, would there have been no oppression and resistance, no haughty land-owning aristocracy and resentful dirt-poor peasantry, no eventual nationalist revolution? The answer to those questions, surely, is no. Take away the religious factor and you still have enough economic, political, and national divisions to fuel a great deal of nastiness and a few wars.

O’Toole could well have used the factual of England’s relationship to Scotland in the seventeenth century to make his point. Even though both kingdoms were Protestant, that “common” faith hardly provided a smooth ride to the Union of 1707. Charles I’s head is proof.

Does W-w Lack Nuance?

While paranoid observers are still trying to sort out whether “bless you” is permitted in certain classes at the College of Coastal Georgia, evangelicals are upset about Vanderbilt’s decision to prohibit campus organizations from establishing their own standards for student leadership. Matthew Lee Anderson has come to the following realization in the light of increasing hostility to evangelical Protestantism at U.S. colleges and universities:

Many of the most hopeful and best parts of evangelicalism the past fifteen years have been encompassed by an incipient desire for respectability. The resurgent apologetics-evangelicals have sought to demonstrate the faith’s intellectual credibility, while the artistic evangelicals have made it quite clear you can still love Jesus and watch House of Cards, thank you very much. The politically-reformist evangelicals have put a hole in the “not like those Republicans” drum, while the social justice evangelicals have made everyone forget about the Four Spiritual Laws. And some of us—ahem—have pounded on about how we can read the old stuff, too, which can be its own form of “not like them folks there” attitude. . . . the vast majority of us will, I suspect, continue to fight and plead for a kind of respectability out of the earnest, good-hearted desire to see our neighbors convinced of our ideas—or if not of our ideas, at the very least of our sanity. Arguments for ‘civility’ and ‘tolerance’ and ‘pluralism’ and ‘respect’ are coming fast and furious these days, after all, even though they are fifteen years (at least) too late.

Anderson is echoing a piece at Christianity Today in which Tish Harrison Warren commented on Vanderbilt’s decision:

I began to realize that inside the church, the territory between Augustine of Hippo and Jerry Falwell seems vast, and miles lie between Ron Sider and Pat Robertson. But in the eyes of the university (and much of the press), subscribers to broad Christian orthodoxy occupy the same square foot of cultural space. The line between good and evil was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad—not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus. It didn’t matter to them if we were politically or racially diverse, if we cared about the environment or built Habitat homes. It didn’t matter if our students were top in their fields and some of the kindest, most thoughtful, most compassionate leaders on campus. There was a line in the sand, and we fell on the wrong side of it.

I empathize with Anderson and Warren, and I can’t deny that a form of anti-Christianism exists in many sectors of the academy that resembles the sorts of prejudices that Protestants used to harbor against Roman Catholics (leaving room, of course, for good sorts of prejudices). But I do wonder why folks like Anderson or Warren are surprised by this outcome. After all, my theory is that gay marriage is simply the push back that evangelicals may be justly receiving for touting family values the way they have for the last three decades. “You want family values? Well, let’s add homosexuality to family values. How do you like them now?”

And now, Vanderbilt’s decision may be simply the consequence of promoting w-w for as long as Tim Lahaye’s wife has been writing about sex. What I mean is that evangelicals, following their neo-Calvinist superiors, have adopted the mantra that faith goes all the way down and separates believers from non-believers. This means that we cannot treat religion as a private matter since it must affect everything a religionist does. It means that the divide between the secular and sacred, between the public square and the church assembly is artificial and arbitrary. It means as well that a Christian scholar will study the arts or sciences differently from the secular scholar, and that the Christian college will be different because faith-soaked institutions will bring religion to bear on every nook and cranny of the curriculum.

In other words, for all the effort to employ “common grace,” the w-w craze has turned Christians into a group set apart on the other side of the antithesis. Even common grace winds up being divisive because it condescendingly grants to non-believers some truth but always reminds them that they really have no good reasons for accessing it. Instead of emphasizing in common spheres like the public square (however naked she may be) or the university what believers share with non-believers, w-w has fed the politics of identity and removed believers into a distinct tribe.

For that reason, can we really blame officials at Vanderbilt for not being able to tell the difference between Joel Osteen and Tim Keller? The way the religious right, with the help of their neo-Calvinist enablers, has carved up intellectual and political life, Vanderbilt is simply following what w-w Christians prescribed. It is further evidence of the old Gypsy curse’s power — “may you get what you want.”

Another Trend?

Is w-w in decline? Has OL been on the cutting edge (while pushing the envelope and kicking the can down the road)? Is this why Peter Leithart left Idaho?

. . . you’ve hit on a pet peeve. I’m ready to delete “worldview” from Christian vocabulary. It’s an especially clunky category for evaluating art. Drama and poetry can’t be reduced to clever ways of communicating ideas, which is what happens in “worldview” analysis.

To get the worldview, you extract ideas about man, society, God, and nature from the plays and organize them into a system; you ignore the poetry and the plot and everything that makes the play a play or the poem a poem. You come to the plays with a preconceived framework that makes it impossible to learn anything from them, much less enjoy them. You produce students who are glib know-it-alls, who don’t need to read the plays carefully because they already know what they think.

C. S. Lewis said that the first moment of any genuine literary criticism is a moment of submission to the work. Worldview analysis never submits; it always tries to dominate the work. As you can see, you’ve struck a nerve. This brings out the curmudgeon in me.

Rather than evaluating Shakespeare (or other poetry, drama, or fiction) with worldview categories, teachers should be teaching students to read. Memorize Lewis’s An Experiment in Criticism before teaching another lit class. In short, Harrumph!

Since w-wism is a kind of shibboleth among the co-allies, I wonder what drew Justin Taylor to this.

Pagan Virtue or Angel Unawares?

I wonder if the w-wists out there have considered how much travelers to foreign countries need to trust people with the wrong w-w (only two exist, right?). Of course, back in the States we depend on pagans to drive on the right (spatially and legally) side of the road, give us correct change (not for buying a lottery ticket, of course), and remove the plaque from between our teeth. But when you don’t really know the currency or the language, your levels of trust go way up. The airline pilot is a biggie. Baggage handlers sure do make life easier if they make the correct transfers and place the bags on the designated carousel. And taxi drivers, who speak maybe 4 words of English, are particularly helpful when they deliver you to an apartment on an out of the way alley that you know even the best of cabbies in New York City would never know. (Plus, the name of the alley is longer than the alley itself, so long that you can’t even put it in the address field when reserving a taxi.)

And then comes the unexpected graciousness of temporary Italian neighbors. The other night as Mrs. Hart and I went out for dinner (her first night in Rome), I left without my key. Doors in Rome seem to come with latches that automatically lock. So we were locked out of our flat and had no phone. Our computers were inside and so email was out. Plus, the owner of the flat was away in Paris. I had no idea what to do other than break in the door or break down in sobs.

A neighbor, however, came to the rescue. It took about two minutes of hand gestures and pantomime to explain that that we were locked out of an apartment that we were renting for the short term. She called someone who knew our owner, who in turn called our owner, who in turn called a friend who had a spare key, who in turn drove ten minutes to let us use the key. In the meantime, our neighbor had gone out to buy a bottle of water for us while we waited for the key to arrive. Within 15 minutes we were back in business and headed out for dinner. And I was thanking the dear Lord that we did not have to try to use security guards from the institution where I am studying to make arrangements for a lock smith and for alternate housing for the night.

I still can’t believe what a kind providence this woman’s intervention was.

So, given my views of the fall, how do I account for this exceptionally gracious assistance? Common grace seems to be niggardly, as if this person only does something nice because God made her do it. An angel unaware might work and that would allow me to retain a view that pagans really are incapable of doing good.

Or maybe all people have a residue of goodness in them that is the after effect of being created in the image of God. Of course, they cannot do anything sufficiently good to merit God’s favor. But they can recognize right from wrong, the kindness of helping a stranger from the hurtful nature of ignoring someone’s distress.

Then again, I’m sure the obedience boys will tell us how this woman is not sanctified. In which case, I’m glad she can’t read English.

The Husband W-w, the Wife W-w

Do disagreements stem from antithetical w’ws? Toby Jenkins thinks so:

Ultimately, there really are only two worldviews: Does the created order belong to God to do with as He pleases, and therefore we should endeavor at every level to direct our culture and our pleasures and/or approvals in accord with His revealed holy precepts for life? Or, as the masters of our own destinies, should we live as though the assertion of ancient Greek naturalist philosopher Protagoras is true, namely that, “Man is the measure of all things”?

In that worldview, no one should try to impose his or her views on anyone else because everyone is free and responsible enough to do whatever he or she wants, “so long as it doesn’t harm me” (which, by the way, we all know is simply rationally and practically untenable).

Unfortunately, many of our individualistic 21st century peers naïvely assume that merely imagining we can live as such anthropological islands somehow magically trumps divine revelation’s accurate portrait of the solidarity of Old Testament Israel [Deut 28-30; Josh 7], the New Testament church [1 Cor 12-14], communities in general [Matt 12.25-26; Eph 4; Phil 4.2-3], and even all humanity [Rom 5]). What one person advocates will inescapably affect the community, despite the denial of the naïve.

Where one locates himself on the scale of these two worldview poles will determine how he interacts with any issue, whether it be broader matters such as politics, economics, or environment, or more specific and personal concerns like work ethic, family construct, health care, organizational affiliation, etc.

So what are a husband and wife to do when they have an argument?

Simply telling someone who doesn’t follow Jesus Christ that he or she is wrong and you disagree with his or her conclusions will usually only spark an unresolvable debate (not because the issue is unresolvable, but because the darkened anti-God, self-preserving mind will always ultimately reject holiness [Rom 8.7-8; Titus 1.15-16]).

True dat.

So, the discussion might be better served if you simply communicate to your conversation partner that you realize the ground from which you derive your perspective seems to be at odds with what grounds his or hers, and that the worldviews from which you take your opposing stances are obviously fundamentally different. You can even tell your friend that you realize you probably won’t reach a consensus because of that; but at least both of you will have the opportunity—whether or not that opportunity is seized with honesty—to examine your worldviews before the face of the thrice-holy God who would not have us grope around in darkness for how we should live.

Or perhaps we don’t try to press the metaphysical or epistemological issue all the time. Maybe I avoid attributing my wife’s point to her Satan. Maybe instead I simply look for a way to resolve the issue and find a way to live with a green wall in the bathroom. And perhaps if I compromise, or she does with me, it is not an instance of betraying Jesus.

If Everything is Holy

A piece of reflection on Pope Francis’ recent consecration of Russia (does such scope of office make the evangelical takeover of NYC look like chopped liver or what?) that might give neo-Calvinists and Jason and the Callers pause. It’s a two-fer:

This Sunday our Holy Father Pope Francis will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Of course, there are no plans to mention Russia specifically, and the bishops of the world have not been asked to participate. It looks as if our current pontiff will be continuing in the trajectory set by previous pontiffs of performing generic world consecrations that do not fulfill Our Lady’s request at Fatima. . .

And what is the point of a consecration of “the world”? To consecrate something means to set it apart, dedicated to the service of God. Now, “the world” is really everything. How can you set apart everything? What is it being set apart from? Perhaps I am being a little simplistic here, and I will willingly receive correction on this point, but to consecrate the whole world seems like playing a game where everybody wins. And if everybody wins, then nobody does; if everything is consecrated, is anything consecrated? And if the entire planet is to be consecrated, why the necessity of repeating this consecration again and again over the past sixty years? Each subsequent consecration suggests and imperfection in the previous one; unless we take the position that consecrations periodically need to be renewed.

Comprehensive and cosmic Christianity does give the feeling of t-ball or youth soccer. All exercise but no contest and thus inconsequential.

Can Jason and the Callers Gain Francis' Blessing?

Probably. All they need to do is do what these Roman Catholics did.

Then again, they might be feeling ambivalent, the way these Roman Catholics are, those whom John Allen identifies as having “the older son” problem:

Some Vatican personnel who have tried to do their best over the years in service to the successor of Peter and who may feel a bit demoralized hearing the pope describe their work environment as infested with careerism, “Vatican-centrism,” and the “leprosy” of a royal court.

Some pro-life Catholics who feel like they’ve carried water for the church on controversial and sometimes unpopular issues such as abortion and gay marriage and who now get the sense the pope regards some of their efforts as misplaced or over the top.

Some evangelical Catholics, both clergy and laity, who’ve tried to reassert a strong sense of Catholic identity against forces they believe want to play it down, who now feel the pope may be pulling the rug out from under them. Some leaders in the reborn genre of Catholic apologetics, for instance, weren’t thrilled recently to hear Francis call proselytism “solemn nonsense.”

Then again, Jason and the Callers might be too young in the faith to qualify as older sons.

Postscript: Meanwhile, Jason has become an Arminian since joining the Roman Catholic Church:

So when it comes to salvation and the five points, the paradigm shift from penal substitution to pleasing sacrifice played a big role. Once that shift occurs, limited atonement becomes sort of meaningless. With total depravity, I think a Catholic can affirm the substance of the idea while maintaining man’s free will. Unconditional election isn’t a problem, although Catholics are free to disagree. Irresistible grace can be affirmed, with some qualifications, but perseverance of the saints is untrue from a Catholic POV (since all who are baptized are regenerated, but not all the regenerated are elect to salvation).

But never forget, it’s all about paradigms.

The Bible's Forked Tongue?

Put simply, the Bible speaks narrowly to the church but broadly to believers. This, at least, is the unexamined logic of neo-Calvinism.

Two-kingdom proponents and neo-Calvinists both distinguish between the institutional church and its members. This distinction allows us to recognize that Christians properly do things that the church can’t do. Christians work as artists, parents, plumbers, bankers, and bakers. The church does not produce or rear children, lacks its own currency, uses bread from common sources for the Lord’s Supper. So far so good.

But the hiccup for neo-Calvinists comes when they insist that Christians must have biblical warrant or use the lens of Scripture for all that they do. In Kingdoms Apart, Timothy R. Scheurers, puts it this way:

Where . . . proponents of the Two Kingdoms perspective go wrong, however, is in their failure to distinguish adequately between the work of the church (as an institution) and the cultural activity of Christians who are simultaneously citizens of heaven and earth (church as an organism). The Two Kingdoms doctrine neglects the biblical command that in every area of public living, believers should apply the principles and values that shape their distinctiveness as Christians. If fails to provide a biblical and helpful paradigm for cultural living by limiting the unique identity and spirituality of believers in this world. . . .

Scripture nowhere hints that we are to live a compartmentalized life in which we relegate our Christian convictions to Sunday observance only. Romans 12:1 declares that for those who have been renewed by the Spirit of God, it is entirely reasonable and fitting for them to offer up to God their whole person, both body and soul, in an act of worship. . . . If we accept the Two Kingdoms assertion that the Christian’s secular activities are “thoroughly common,” and that it is improper to “apply” the gospel to our work in the common realm, it would seem a type of Sunday Christianity remains for us. However, if we are transformed by the gospel, then it is profoundly relevant for how we conduct ourselves as Christians in the civil realm, for “the very essence of Christian faith includes a grace-produced identity that comes to manifestation in the way we live our lives every day of the week.” (144-45)

And thus we see another example of neo-Calvinism’s bloated rhetoric for admirably pious reasons.

Here is the rub: if the essence of the Christian faith is a grace-produced identity for every area of human existence, then the church (institute or institutional) lacks this Christian essential. After all, the corporate church does not take stands on matters in which Christians engage throughout the week — plumbing, baking, banking, gardening, ditch-digging. No Reformed church has produced a chapter or chapters in its creeds about algebra, Greek, or photosynthesis. That does not seem to bother neo-Calvinists since the work of the church is different from that of the believer.

But if neo-Calvinists are content with churches that lack the essence of Christianity, why do they demand more of believers than of the church? Churches don’t confess articles of faith about hydrogen or dangling prepositions because the Bible does not speak to such matters. The Reformed creeds summarize biblical teaching and if Scripture taught trigonometry or Asian history, churches would be expected to teach what God’s word reveals.

And yet, under the logic of the comprehensive sweep of Christianity and biblical testimony, neo-Calvinists claim powers for believers what the church lacks, namely, the ability to apply biblical norms to all walks of life. We do not let ministers preach sermons on tax rates, rotation of crops, exercise, or television game shows. But now along come neo-Calvinists to tell us that any Tom, Dick or Mary, who has no training in biblical exegesis or may not even be catechized, is going to tell us how the gospel transforms cat litter, Alfred Hitchcock movies, and meteorology?

And people wonder why the institutional church ends up suffering in neo-Calvinist contexts, or why the convoluted notion of kingdom-work has given every member a ministry.

As I say, neo-Calvinists intentions may be admirable. But Calvinists, who put the T in TULIP, were not supposed to be suckers for good intentions.

The Lens of Scripture

I continue to be befuddled by the neo-Calvinist claim that Scripture speaks to all of life (of course, in general terms, never in specifics). A discussion has ensued over at Matt Tuininga’s blog that is better than a previous one at Dr. K’s shop. Still, in both cases, some claim that it is natural and ordinary for Calvinists to claim that we view all of life and everything in the world through the lens of Scripture.

So to test this I turned to the Kuyper Reader that James Bratt edited around the time of the centennial celebration of the Stone Lectures. In an essay against uniformity (political, cultural, and religious), which I like very much and that resonates with a localist strain of American conservatism, Kuyper writes this:

. . . do I need to argue the point that all such striving for a false uniformity, the leveling principle of modern life, the demand for one people and one language, run counter to the ordinances of God? You well know the divine word, full of holy energy, that Scripture opposes to that striving: “Else nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” [Gen. 11:6b]. That all life should multiply “after its kind,” after its own, unique, given character is the royal law of creation which applies to more than seed-bearing herbs. That everyone who has been born from above will someday receive from the Lord a white tablet on which will be written a new name that no one knows except the one who receive it [Rev. 2:17]: what else is this but a most forceful protest against all the conformity into which the world tends to pressure us? (“Uniformity: The Curse of Modern Life,” 34)

So there we have the Bible as the lens through which Kuyper regards the problem of cultural uniformity. Though it needs to be said that Kuyper’s writing is not rife with biblical citations, nor are his invocations of Scripture, like this one, the most compelling exegetically. So I am not sure that Kuyper exemplifies what Kuyperians claim — that Christians need to look at the world through the lens of Scripture. Self-consciousness, epistemologicial or psychological, might call for a Christian to be careful about attributing his opinions to the revealed words of God.

But then Kuyper goes on in a different part of this essay/speech to state some notions that surely most modern day neo-Calvinists (especially those without Dutch surnames) living in North American would not support (even though I again laud Kuyper’s Dutch chauvinism as a way of resisting globalism and universalism):

Hold the Dutch national character in honor. Drive out our national sins but still love our national ways. Be true to your nature as Hollanders, ladies and gentlemen! Remove from your midst the spineless tendency to bestow extravagant accolades on everything that comes from abroad, and in your appraisals give preference to the things that are made at home. Uphold Holland’s fame in learning foreign languages but let there be no language you would rather speak, and especially write, than that splendid, rich mother tongue in which alone Dutch people can express what a Dutch heart feels. Do no just feed your mind with what has been thought and sung abroad but drink of the vital stream of Holland’s life also from your own poets. Daughters of the Netherlands, do not make yourselves ridiculous by being old-fashioned but also have the good taste and modesty never to present yourselves in a foreign outfit conceived in the capital of France by Dutchmen who no longer understand the honor and dignity of being a Dutchman . . . .

May the illustrious history of your ancestors be more to you than a monument to the past; let it be for you the current of national life that you feel pulsating in your own veins. Yes, just let us be who we are: Hollanders! — in every circle and sector of life. Though our flag no longer dominates the seven seas, still we shall regain the rightful influence by which the legacy entrusted to our people may be made a blessing for all humanity. Let the Dutch people, standing on the blood-soaked soil of our fathers, rise again from its grave. . . .

Would that God gave us such a national will — but then a will anchored in his will. While every nation is subject to the deep truth that it strikes itself from the roster of nations by devaluing its piety, this applies all the more to the national existence of the Netherlands which owes its origin to a religious movement. . . . Without religion there can be no patriotism; where religion is most intense, there the love of country and people is most robust: so history teaches us on every page. (42-43)

Kuyper’s appeal to Dutch hearts, Dutch minds, and even Dutch fashions seems curious from a fellow known for putting the anti in antithesis. If Hollanders have a Dutch heart or mind simply by virtue of growing up on the “blood-soaked soil” of the Netherlands (sorry Dutch-North Americans of the 1.5 generation and beyond), then what happens to the idea that Christian Hollanders by virtue of regeneration share more in common with Protestant Canadians who hail from France? Where are Brazilian Calvinists supposed to go for dress fashions?

But aside from this hiccup in Kuyper’s mental digestion, where exactly is the method of viewing the world through the lens of Scripture? Sure, Kuyper was fallible and made mistakes (as we all do). But would not a biblical perspective on patriotism call for important qualifications to such nationalism? To be clear, what is wrong with this excerpt in (all about me) my estimate is not Kuyper’s reveling in Dutch culture and history — even exceptionalism. A person’s attachment to his people, country, and land is basic to being human — that is, part of the created order. It is not essential, however, to being redeemed. What is wrong, then, is thinking that such an argument is the product of a Christian w-w, in other words, the result of some form of epistemological self-consciousness. I could imagine any number of Dutch patriots, not members of a Reformed church, seconding Kuyper’s call for loyalty to Dutch traditions. I cannot imagine that Kuyper’s logic would appeal to someone who regarded the speaker not as a fellow-Dutchman but as a fellow believer.