Monday, March 8, 2010

Chapter 2, belated

I found Chapter 2 interesting, but it was hard for me to get a good handle on it. I really can't a find a main theme to it just several observations:

This chapter is really packed with information. I have read it several times and each time something new stands out.

I liked Barzun description of the various layers of ritual and saints that were built up by the Catholic Church. I actually have a book that shows the Saints for each day of the year. I particularly liked St. Sythe, saint of lost keys. Though I am an atheist, I could use Sythe in my house. The Catholic Church seems similar to the modern state in that over time it will try manage every aspect of a person's life.

Two chapter into the book and only three themes have been introduced. Will any of the other themes have their origin in the Reformation?

I found it surprising that Barzun wasn't harsher in describing John Calvin. Calvin may have been Lenin to Luthor's Marx as far as spreading the faith, but as a leader he seems closer to Stalin.

I liked the criticism of Max Weber and R. H.Tawney work linking capitalism to Protestant work ethic. It is pretty clear that realty is a bit more complicated, but it is interesting how an idea can become established fact.

I may be overstating this but I detect in Barzun a sense of futility of the human condition and human institutions. Revolutions may bring EMANCIPATION but that is not true freedom because "Old shackles are thrown off, tossed high in the air, but come down again as moral duty well enforced". The Catholic church trained Jesuits to mission to the New World and to Europe, the bright minds undermined the dogma they learned so well, the church became a "infamous thing" to crush. Calvin spends his life codifying the "proper" Christian beliefs and creates a parallel to the Jesuits mission but he cannot control Reform. This was probably an impossible task considering the Catholic had centuries to it's build it's layers of control, one lifetime is too short a time.

I found the explanation of the Eurcharist and Predestination very helpful. They are not easy concepts to understand and without the parallels to the modern variety I wouldn't be able to see the appeal of Calvinism.

This was a tough chapter to read, but even harder to write about. I need to shift into a higher gear to catch up.

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