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For two generations now, the historic Calvinistic theology which permeated the early American psyche has been denied. Calvinism, for those unfamiliar with the Reformer, teaches among other things, that the human race is “totally depraved,” or without an inherent inclination to good. John Calvin believed that sin was the controlling factor in mankind and that all we do is for our own selfish reasons rather than out of a desire to please God. If you are looking for a rainbow after the storm of the last six months’ economic catastrophe, these thoughts will not be it. However, if you wonder what really went wrong in 2008, read on.
I will attempt no apology for Calvin here, but merely point out that for the last 60 years his theology has been relegated to the same bin as the buggy whip. Rather, sociologists have operated from the view that mankind is essentially good and needs only to be adequately informed to make right choices. Thus the emphasis upon education and “rehabilitation.”
However, no honest evaluation of American culture today can credit it with such a general beneficence. While previous generations were restrained by a grocery list of “do’s and don’ts,” the present one has rejected all restraints as being themselves evil. The hallmark of the post “60s” generation has been rebellion against rules of any kind. Those who most “expand the boundaries” or think “outside the box” are the icons of this new age.
This moral relativism has been the foundation of much of Liberalism’s political and social agenda; and in reality, the meltdown of the mortgage markets is only a symptom of a systemic failure of the character of the American people produced by that relativism. Nearly every facet of our present culture, from welfare to methods of childrearing, has been powerfully influenced or determined by this theory. But, the present debacle of the banking industry contradicts the theory and has exposed us for what we really are. From top to bottom, bankers, government overseers, politicians, homeowners, contractors and others have operated from greed and self-interest rather than principle and prudence. Wealth and even great wealth honestly earned was not enough! The incessant clarion calls for “oversight” reveal that we now know the truth: we resist doing the right thing unless someone is looking over our shoulder. We are not inherently good neither do we naturally do the right thing. Sin exists after all! We are not only not as good as we thought we were, we are exactly what John Calvin (and the Bible) says we are: sinners in need of a Savior.
I love America and the American people. I am convinced that this country has done more good for the world than any other nation ever has. There is no place where people have been freer to follow their dreams. This is not to deny or ignore our significant failures. (Those failures only substantiate the arguments of Calvin.) But, once we threw away the restraints of Christianity, liberty became license, and corruption in many cases became the rule rather than the exception.
Some author asked a few years ago, “Whatever happened to Sin?” He was obviously not implying that we no longer sin, but that we no longer acknowledged the obvious reality of our sinfulness and that such denial would have dire consequences. He was more on target than he knew. America has been in a state of denial since the 60s and the price of that denial is substantial. The wealth lost over the last six months is a drop in the bucket compared to loss of lives and happiness that has followed the spiraling decline of Christian principles and morality in American life. The pain we witness daily in children destroyed by divorce, promiscuity, pornography, and banal lifestyles far outweighs the losses in our bank accounts.
But, we would probably care more about their losses, if we were not so selfish.