“A tree is known by its’ fruits” Jesus says. A good tree does not make bad fruit, or vice versa. This metric, while not true in a biological sense, is meant rather to impel a deeper meaning. After all, apples are not good or evil. This refers, rather, to the parentage of righteousness and depravity. We hear of the ‘bad apple’ in the bunch, but whence did it come? In the West, it almost certainly came from Jean Calvin.
Examine the recorded history etched into history. He was in most ways an ordinary human. He was blessed, however, to have lived in the most explosive times since the Fall of the old order. After a thousand years of mayhem, the Papacy was being challenged, by a monk-and some shrewd politicians. In the vortex that followed, Calvin had the opportunity to transform from mundane into the cosmic; like so many other cult leaders-Joseph Smith, Mohammad-he took the reigns of destiny, to become more than a man.
In the Swiss cantons, the ideas unleashed by Luther were being discussed openly. and act of bravery in light of France’s brutal murder of those possessing a Protestant bible. Zwingli was being debated with Luther, and Calvin wanted the spotlight those men had acquired. Armed with some legal training, a keen mind, and relentless will to prevail, he worked his way to the top, achieving patriarchy over Geneva, where he wrote his famous Institutes. How great the irony-the hater of Popes, now was one.
I wonder if he saw, for a moment, his face in the mirror, adorned in the miter-or how much like his enemy he was. His governorship of Geneva is well documented: he established the Law of Moses as the civil code (even though he was not in the priesthood of Aaron)-which ended in him being forcibly removed from office, after demanding someone’s daughter be stoned for impertinence. Many will contest this: Calvin has ardent followers still, centuries later. I do not have reason to believe he would attempt this, considering the Michael Servetus affair.
Servetus was an atheist, a critic of religion and the Papacy, and a recklessly brave man. A physician, he held religion to be tales of the powerful to control the uneducated. He had read, certainly, the works recovered during the Rebirth, amongst which would be the works of Seneca, whose tenets on religion are still adhered to today (it is regarded by the common as true, by the wise as false, and by the ruler as useful). He was, unsurprisingly, condemned to death-psychotic, intimidating death, at the stake-for his crimes of speaking against power. He had evaded capture, making for safe haven in Itaky, until he was caught in Geneva, where he would die the death.
Servetus had made the wrong man very angry. He had received Calvin’s institutes, and returned it, with pointed criticisms in the margins. Calvin opened correspondence with Servetus, which grew explosive, and Calvin grew to despise the man as much as the Papacy did. When Servetus came into his power, Calvin put him to the stake, atop of pile of Servetus’ books, and burned him alive. To saturate his thirst for revenge, he added a wreath of gunpowder, to extend the torment. The last words Servetus uttered were these:
“Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me”
The record shows that Servetus was killed for heresy-the act of executing heretics being repugnant to Reformers-but Calvin’s letter to Farel shows the real reason. Calvin’s ego had been bruised, and he would see vengeance for the slight, no matter the cost. Here, Calvin showed from which tree he fell.
If you want to experience true madness, watch a Calvinist defend Calvin. Cognitive dissonance doesn’t begin to cover it. The evidence is replete; but they will use arguments like ‘it was common then’ or ‘everyone has bad days’. Even more insane are the true cultists-the ones who never admit that Great Leader has a fault. Great Leader is perfect. Great Leader was blessed by God. These Calvinists remind me of the North Koreans who cannot admit that Un defecates, as feces would make him defiled, a mere man.
I have to be careful-reason and wit got Servetus killed. The savage irony of Calvin is that he had an opportunity to read most of the Bible-and yet, still found a way to justify what can not-can not- be found as permissible in the Scripture. There is no power granted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to commit mayhem or murder. The ills associated with Bible-Crusades, slavery, etc-are not sustainable in cohesion with commandments of the Messiah. Period. Yet, people find a way.
Even today, Calvin is defended, upheld, cherished. If you are in a church in America. you have likely felt his spectre brush past you. His works still haunt us, and, indeed, the world itself. From his tiny city in the Alps, Calvin warped a planet with darkness. It was he who mastered what he Popes, greedy for wealth and power, could only dream of attaining. It was the son of the Papacy, the Protestant Pope, who forged, as Sauron, the Ring of Avarice. It was he who would unleashed the Gospel of Mammon.
Calvin instituted several edicts that would bring this about. The greatest of these was the dispelling of the prohibition against usury, he lending at interest, which Yahweh forbade. If El forbids something, He probably has a reason why. There is a reason that the one demon Jesus abjures by name is Mammon, which is, Avarice. The demonic host of the power of wealth, Mammon bends all to his will. Some murder; some rape; some steal: but all want. All desire; and that desire is directed towards the great lie of the Garden: you can be your own God. This is the promise that Mammon holds out, rapt in the splendid light of gold, and all of humanity has been its’ victims-either as the commodified, or the commodifiers. Mammon makes it all happen; Mammon has the key to the door of your dreams. All Mammon needs is interest.
It would take books of sobering, boring data to bear this out. I will give you a bullet point summary, and let you decide if you believe me. Interest pays the investor on the principle. I put in a thousand, and I get a few bucks on top of it back. Cool, right? Well, no. The interest you received came from somewhere-and that is from someone else going into debt peonage. Debt peonage is the assumption of a human as property. It is never stated this way: that would frighten people. But that is the end goal of debt. You loan, you require an interest payment, which upon default of the loan, remands the money or property back to the lender. And if there is a shortfall in the restitution-well, somehow, the balance must be paid.
Not long ago, America had Debtors prisons for those unable to pay debts. There, you would work off the shortage-in the custody of the state. These are starting to make reappearances today. Along with this is the prison slave labor system, that MIC companies employ to cheaply manufacture circuit boards that are featured in the missiles that blow up children in Warzistan. And, if you want some flush quarters, you can hide toxic assets in a CDO, while still merrily handing out the toxic loans-which, of course, were never going to be repaid.
What is the root of all evil, that makes the bad tree? It is not money, but the love of it. Money is fine. Basic capitalism-working hard for your wages, in the rote of John Locke-is not evil. The Bible commends honest work and honest gain. But there is no wealth in Law of El. You cannot squeeze your brother for the vig. No, to make wealth, your money must make money. That is the difference between rich and wealthy. Rich people make tons of money-but still have to work to pile it up. The goal of the rich is to get wealthy enough to retire-so their money finally becomes self-sustaining.
The goal, ultimately, is to defeat the curse of Adam: “By the seat of your brow, shall you make your bread”. To defeat this, mankind made civilizations, and later, empires. Civilization were made, generally, by commodifying people. Slavery began as a way to feed the needs of the citizens, to liberate to urbanites from the drudgery of work-by enforcing it on some one else. These liberated folk accumulated wealth, and became the priest and philosopher classes. One such man of that class was Cliesthenes, who looked out over his family’s helots-slaves- and wondered if every person had inherent worth, which was the foundation for what we now call Democracy.
Interesting, how it took a civilization to make the wealth to allow Cliesthenes to ponder the wretchedness of the Helots. Here, he punctures the mundane, to understand an idea-that people should not be commodified, that they were something more, affirming the very Law of El that he had never seen. What is striking is that this thought-this simple idea-became a major force in shaping Western civilization. Why, why is it so amazing, that a person should grasp this concept? Does it not speak volumes that we remember this man. mostly, because he stopped for one moment to consider the truth?
That is the power of Mammon. How many countless millions died agonized in horror, as they were converted into profit for the sake of the acquisition of wealth? How many are buried in the Great Wall of China. or the Pyramids? How many baskets of severed hands did Leopold require of the Congo? How many plains tribes watched their families die of smallpox, from blankets donated by the people the Indians once saved from famine?
I am reminded of a moment from the movie 30 minutes or less where two insanely inept criminals hatch a titanic failure of a heist. They order a pizza, then strap a bomb to the delivery guy, and order him to rob a bank to get them some cash. Finally, the delivery guy asks Danny McBride’s character, why are you doing this? McBride answers, deadpan, almost dolefully :”for the sh*tiest of all reasons: for the money”. What makes this memorable to me is the performance by McBride. The character, who is a lowlife-not Hitler or Stalin, just a low end kind of human-attains a Platonic degree of perspicacity. In that moment, McBride portrays a man who knows-knows-that what he is doing is wrong, and hates himself for it. But he is doing it anyway.
You can almost see a demonic shadow, lurking above his soul. It is almost as if he is not in control of himself. He almost looks like a man crying for help, who is in the grip of something from which he cannot escape. McBride conveys a deep human empathy for the delivery man. His eyes all but say ‘forgive me’. But the money is calling. The money is calling, and he must go. The lending at interest, which seems innocuous at first, is the gateway to wealth, which is the basis of all real power. This is one of the gifts of Calvin-the normalization of the worship of money.
In the next installment, I will go further into detail on this. I will discuss Calvin’s effect on the young nation America, drawing heavily on Max Weber’s Spirit of Capitalism. Note, here and now, that the problem is not Capitalism, which is the best idea fallen man has produced. The problem, as penned by the late, sovereign wit of Douglas Adams, is people. I will also look as some other odious doctrines of Calvin’s, that have led people today to see the weak and failed as subhuman-and divorced from the grace of God, which led to spiritual malice and moreover, the disrepute of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.