Catholic Counter-Reformation Essay
I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I can do no other. By the s John Calvin had turned Geneva into a model Protestant city. Others were holier and shrewder.
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But few were such prolific agitators. Cantankerous and fiercely anti-Semitic, Luther was far from otherworldly. He abandoned his vows of chastity and entered an affectionate marriage, swore freely, drank eagerly and referred frequently to the state of his bowels.
He was by no means a democrat, but his ideas had a huge political impact. In one kingdom James was a king, ruling in earthly pomp. To begin with, Luther and other Protestants were keen that church and state should continue to be bound together—just with much clearer lines between their realms of authority. But Luther was content with that. He insisted that heresy should be fought from pulpits and in pamphlets, not by coercion. The result was a fissile movement.
It is partly from this wing of the faith that the Pentecostal, evangelical and charismatic strands of modern Protestantism have grown. The division in Protestantism had political repercussions. But it was too late.
The Catholic Reformation Essay
The sects would not do as they were told. If God had spoken to them directly through his word, what was there to fear from kings and bishops? Though the magisterial reformation triumphed in the transformation of northern European establishments from Catholic to Protestant, it was the longer-term triumph of the radical reformation that arguably had the deepest effects, in northern Europe and elsewhere. But it did open up some space for the toleration and freedom of conscience that eventually helped create the principle of limited government.
Protestant toleration was good for business, too. This played out in the aftermath of the English civil war when religious groups such as the Diggers and the Levellers demanded universal male suffrage and common ownership of the land. The resistance of dissenters impressed John Locke, an English philosopher with strong Protestant roots. Their stand influenced his writings on freedom of conscience, which were to form the foundation for English liberalism, and the Toleration Act of , which formalised the legal acceptance of nonconformist sects.
The participatory ways in which nonconformist churches often chose their leaders eventually filtered through to society in general. If people were to find Bible-based salvation independent of the clergy, literacy was indispensable.
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Protestant education provided opportunities for social mobility, improved the status of women and fostered economic growth. Before the Toleration Act and other developments made Britain and northern Europe more amenable to radical Protestantism, many seeking religious freedom had crossed the Atlantic to secure it. That America became the fullest example of limited government enshrined in law is in large part a consequence of its Protestant settlement.
The truths the Founding Fathers held to be self-evident had not seemed so to anyone before the Reformation. Like Roman Catholics, Protestants sought to bring their faith to other peoples, too. The motives for this were mixed, the respect for indigenous cultures often scant and frequently nonexistent and some of the results disastrous. He attributes this to mass education, religious liberty and a legacy of voluntarism.
In the colonies and Europe alike, Protestant Christianity brought bloodshed and persecution aplenty. Protestants and Catholics burned each other at the stake. Britain, with its established Protestant church, did more than any other country to build up the trade that shipped some 12m people across the Atlantic in chains; Protestant America whipped the slaves thus delivered to work.
Throughout, Protestants had an almost comical capacity for hypocrisy of all kinds. It could be seen not just in their vices, but also their virtues—particularly a rather selective toleration. The respect for their religious rights that 16th-century Mennonites demanded from the Dutch Republic was not extended to dissenters within their own ranks. By there were at least six Mennonite groups in the country. They hated each other with a passion. Not at all the same thing, it turned out.
Almolonga, small though it is, has at least a dozen Pentecostal churches. But if the individual congregations for each are small, their cumulative effect is not. Until the s Guatemala was a staunchly Catholic country. When Protestant aid agencies rushed in after a massive earthquake in , the faith gained a substantial foothold.
Guatemalans took to the faith for many reasons, says Virginia Garrard of the University of Texas, but upheaval had a lot to do with it. The civil war represented a definitive break with the past: when so much had been destroyed anyway, losing your Catholic heritage meant less. At a time of painful economic dislocation, people who felt that Catholicism and liberation theology had failed them turned to an aspirational faith that promised a new upward mobility.
With a low bar to entry and almost no hierarchy, new Pentecostal churches matched the entrepreneurial spirit of the times. The message has resonated elsewhere. In China, a modernising population is looking for a moral framework to go with its new mobility. Yang Fenggang of Purdue University predicts that there could be at least m Protestants in China by He expects the country will soon be home to more Protestants than America. As in early modern Europe, women in developing countries have often been especially affected by Protestantism.
Temperance helped employment, too. That does not mean the faith is egalitarian. Pentecostalism reforms traditional gender roles rather than abolishing them; it tends to be robustly patriarchal, and profoundly intolerant of homosexuality. But a sober patriarch committed to a moral code that, crucially, treats domestic violence as sinful can provide stability. More stable, economically active households and well-knit communities have undoubtedly made places like Almolonga more agreeable for most who live there.
But what effect do they have on a grander scale? Can they remake not just villages but whole countries and their economies? But in Guatemala and elsewhere some are now mobilising for social change. Teenagers take it in turns to get up on stage and rap against each other, with judges deciding who goes through to the next round.
When he found himself about to be executed by a rival gang, he called out to God for help; he escaped death and was born again. For the past ten years, in a typically Pentecostal bottom-up initiative, he has been saving kids from gangs. As yet, it is hard to see a broader impact from these individual transformations. Guatemala remains poor and desperate. Many people do not vote or pay tax; only a tiny fraction of murder investigations lead to convictions.
The country lags behind the rest of Latin America on many development indicators. It has changed a lot in society. Perhaps the sort of change that can be measured will arrive in due course. More than three-quarters of the cocaine from South America heading for the United States now passes through it; many gang members have been deported from Los Angeles. Any society, never mind one recovering from a year civil war, would struggle.
She ascribes much of the progress to the churches. For one thing, it is largely a faith at the margins of society. In the places where Protestantism made its clearest mark in early modern Europe it took root in the bourgeoisie, among people of influence. A classic example is William Wilberforce, a British politician whose legislation banning the slave trade stemmed from his evangelical beliefs.
By contrast, Protestants in the developing world are often among the poorest members of society, living in places with endemic corruption.
The otherworldly nature of Pentecostalism does not help. Believing in imminent apocalypse militates against strong social engagement. The ship is sinking; rather than try to fix it, Pentecostals want to get as many people as possible into the lifeboats. That is not entirely true.
But Protestant involvement in Guatemalan politics has been messy, and plentiful compromises have dragged the faith into disrepute. Unlike Catholics, Pentecostals have no unified theology of the state, nor any well-formulated programme for sociopolitical reform. To the extent that they are political at all, they merely think that their co-religionists should be elected and that their countries should be Christian. In many places they lean to the right.
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