Puritan Success

citybeyoPuritan Success

Lynn Parramore: Jamie Dimon’s Ultra-American Rise and Fall: The Great Gatsby Meets Moby Dick

Australians have an old joke about their country’s founding elements: Sure, we got the criminals, but America got the Puritans, which is much worse.

The folks who arrived on our shores from Europe four centuries ago brought with them some peculiar notions. The Puritans believed in the Calvinist “Doctrine of the Elect,” a depressing divine plan whereby God pre-selected those destined for heaven and damned everybody else to hell. You could never know who was on the A-list and who was in for a fiery eternity. At least that’s what old John Calvin had taught.

But mere mortals could never be content with so mysterious a system, so they became obsessed with finding out who was elect. Material possessions, they concluded, must be a sign. Didn’t people who worked hard and kept up their prayers often amass more stuff than others? Hard work was godly, and since it often resulted in riches, they must be godly, too. Wealthiness was next to godliness.

In an essay on The Great Gatsby, America’s great literary ode to our distinguishing love of wealth, John A. Pidgeon notes that the striving for money became a means of salvation. Take the Puritan reverence of riches, add in equal parts transcendentalism and rugged individualism, and you’ve got the American Dream in all its shining glory: If you work hard, if you believe fervently enough, you can make yourself a fortune. You, too, can join the ranks of the elect.

Lynn Parramore: Jamie Dimon’s Ultra-American Rise and Fall: The Great Gatsby Meets Moby Dick


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Actress in “Innocence of Muslims” Says Director Lied to Her

Innocence of Muslims Actress Speaks “says film is nightmare” – YouTube

This film is very much like screaming fire in jam-packed movie house with one small door. This was designed to provoke violence. Whether or not it is protected speech under the first amendment is highly questionable. Remember, fighting words are an exception to free speech protections.

It would be a mistake to consider Moslems to be particularly violent compared to other racial and religious groups. We can offend dozens of religious groups around the world by destroying their symbols and literature, by alleging that their leaders and holy men are frauds and that their religion is based on nothing more than lies and deceit. Many of them can be expected to take to the streets under that kind of provocation.

What would happen Americans burned national flags or symbols, attacked their customs, and insulted their past? I suspect we could see some serious mob action, diplomatic problems and possibly military action.

And consider what would happen if such a film were made about head of the Christian religion and his followers in America. Would many people find charges of sexual misconduct offensive? What would worshippers do if confronted with a film alleging that Christianity is a bundle of lies and its followers deluded fools?

Patriotism and religion have always been sources of violence and conflict in spite of many great and reasonable men who have tried to seek peace and reconciliation.

What “Innocence of Muslims” does and is designed to do is to incite hatred for the United States and violence against its citizens, to disrupt the Moslem world and damage the reputation of their religion.


J. Christopher Stevens, a victim of the Libyan riot

There are a billion and half followers of Islam on the earth. Very few are interested in damaging American institutions or killing Americans. If so many as 1/10 of 1 percent were devoted to the destruction of America, that would be one million and five hundred thousand Anti Americans. There are 5.62 million Americans overseas. Don’t you think we would we suffer some injuries and death on a daily basis if that number of enemies chose to take any kind of action?

Let’s keep our views of violence in perspective and realize that words have consequences. You may have the right to speak your mind in this country (and that is questionable in this case) but should you do it?

If any amount of rational judgment had been a factor in this matter, it would never have happened.

James Pilant


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Why Young Adults Are Walking Away From Church by Christian Piatt

In a column in Huffington Post, Christian Piatt discusses the why behind the exodus of the young from church.

Here’s my favorite paragraph –

Alisa Harris’ memoir, “Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics,” reflects on the apparent cultural, spiritual and economic desert time in which we find ourselves. We have witnessed the carnage of a financial system that was intended to perpetually buoy a nation, but whose “invisible hand” has instead crushed the dreams of millions. We’ve watched as the two-headed political serpent attacks itself until it is impotent. We’ve seen religious figures scandalize their institutions empty, as a generation walks away in search of something more relevant to their daily struggle.

Church attendance has fallen dramatically over the last twenty years. In 2005, Protestants represented half those practicing a religion in the United States for the first time.

What’s going on?

I see two trends. The mainline Protestant churches continue to bleed membership. The evangelical movement has hit a wall in recruitment and can neither maintain its growth and or maintain its current numbers. The second trend is new. I suspect that it has a great deal to do with the impact of the political action on a church organization. It is probably a delight to go out and organize precincts handing out conservative literature instead of sitting through a boring sermon, after all, politics is a lot easier than Christianity. But for many the Christian call remains a powerful inducement and a church that acts as a political action committee has little time for gospel issues.

I do not see these trends reversing although I suspect the mainline bleed has to end at some point.

James Pilant

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Jewish group fights for chaplain monument at Arlington (via CNN Belief Blog)

If four guys die tough and three get memorials, then the fourth should get on too.

(That may be my best summary of an article yet.)

I am for the monument. If you are as well, please let your congressman know.

James Pilant

Jewish group fights for chaplain monument at Arlington By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor Arlington, Virginia (CNN) – Three German torpedoes ripped through the icy waters of the Atlantic off the coast of Greenland. On February 2, 1943, the USS Dorchester was transporting 902 U.S. servicemen to war. Only one torpedo hit, but it struck a deathblow — killing scores instantly and resetting the ship’s course to the bottom of the ocean. Amid the chaos, survivors later recalled, four U.S. Army ch … Read More

via CNN Belief Blog

Ethics and Education: the beginning (via Just a Word)

This is a good article and I always enjoy essays where the author struggles with difficult moral conundrums.

I teach college classes and I lean heavily on opinion writing because it’s difficult for students to speak in anything but their own voice. I have observed a great deal of teaching and while it varies in quality, I doubt if the principal blame lies there.

I believe the problem is the bleed of toxic philosophy from Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand. Isn’t buying a term paper an economic choice (Friedman) that maximizes shareholder worth while following the “rules of the game?” If productivity is the only measure of morality(Rand), shouldn’t our modern John Gaults enhance their productivity? Aren’t the unproductive sheep, the dead weight of society, the helpless proles, the creators of these rules designed to limit the productivity of the great minds, the only real producers of value in our society?

If rules are designed to create a level field and you don’t believe in a level playing field, you are not going to play by the rules. I am sure that many of these students are unaware of the origins of their philosophy about rules and choices but that does not make the connection any less real. Obviously there have always been rule-breakers. But have we ever lived in a time where the public ethos is so accepting of this kind of behavior?

I tell you it is always a weird experience to meet the prototypical John Gault, an individual who has discovered their own specialness and that humanity, kindness, compassion and brotherhood are limits placed on their success by the common herd. Or the weirdness of the Friedman follower who believes if only we gave people free choice about seat belts, air bags, food, drugs and inoculations, our lives would be enhanced.

You see, in their world, it is perfectly obvious that brotherhood is the enemy, common rules a bacteria weakening the human specie, and compassion, a tragedy, binding people to their own lack of success.

What is the rule on buying term papers but an annoyance to the superman, the new man?

Well, I await patiently for the John Gaults to ascend the mountain and leave the rest of begging, pleading our our knees, crawling on our insignificant bellies, that if only these paragons of production, the new successful breed of humanity, would only return to make society work and, in return, we would swear to no longer limit them by taxes and rules from their proper and obvious role in society. (Read Atlas Shrugged.)

I’m sure it fills the longing in my students to be special, kings and queens under the flesh. Humanity is hard. Being productive and resilient is difficult. Sharing and caring is a burden. But those are the things that make us significant, not a Nietzschean philosophy of destiny and specialness.

There are other philosophies in our nation: virtue ethics, several hundred variations of Christianity, citizenship, and the doctrines of honor, responsibility and chivalry.

When these are in place, we will solve many of our problems with obeying the rules.

James Pilant

Ethics and Education: the beginning I call this “the beginning” because I have a feeling that this will prompt several posts on the subject, but I am not promising that yet. This actually coincides well with my post on Friday regarding a University’s attempt to eliminate cheating by allowing collaboration and internet use on exams. This post however, follows a slightly different vein. I was reading an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning called The Shadow Sch … Read More

via Just a Word

Charlie (via Imprints of Light)

A sincere God Bless to Charlie and to Georgie, my wife’s cat who shared the same fate.

James Pilant

Charlie We were heading out as a family on Friday evening and had just driven a few hundred metres onto the main road when we saw the body of our cat ‘Charlie’ lying there.  He had only recently been knocked down as his body was still warm and limp, though quite lifeless.  I carried him home and we buried him in the garden the next morning. I remember reading a church magazine years ago where there was a section called ‘The Wise Owl”.  People wrote lette … Read More

via Imprints of Light

Education as a Means to an End (via LongWind)

Persuading my students that education is a lifetime process is a lot like nailing snow to the wall. It is generally unavailing and at best temporary.

The belief that a diploma indicates an education is pernicious. It is self defeating. A diploma is like a license to drive. Its possession is evidence that one knows how to learn. But if it is considered an end in itself, it is of little use. It is like getting a driver’s license, proudly carrying it with you and proudly showing it to everyone and then never driving a car.

We are confused between education as a finished product delivered at the end of the assembly line and education as a matter of capability. One is static becoming obsolete. The other is dynamic continually changing form and creating new dynamics and possibilities in endless chains.

As a society, treating education as a finite process limits and cheapens political discourse. It makes learning into a jobs game like going around the monopoly board.

To build a society, a civilized place for people to develop, education never ends. It continually creates and inspires.

A diploma without further learning is a static choice. It is easy. The other, lifetime learning, is dynamic and difficult.

We can do what is difficult. We have a responsibility to our posterity to do the difficult, to leave our descendants a lasting example and to call from us, our best efforts.

James Pilant

Education as a Means to an End I don’t think I’ll be asked to defend myself if I say that most ‘learners’ at secondary or tertiary level treat their education as a means to an end. I’d imagine the student who is studying for the sheer love of learning is a far rarer animal than the student who is studying because it is the only way to attain whatever goal he or she has set. Kids spend their lives at school waiting to be out of school, and students tend to be at university wait … Read More

via LongWind

Religion and Prosletyzing At Work – My comment exchange in the Associated Baptist Press

A gentleman named Marv Knox, wrote an opinion column in the Associated Baptist Press entitled:Opinion: Baptists and the role of faith in public policy.

I think this paragraph of his sums up what he is trying to say:

Extremists stake out opposite ends of the spectrum, with some saying religious perspectives have no place in public policy and others claiming religious views should trump all others. But most citizens come down in the middle. We realize faith is integral to people’s lives and cannot be banished. We also recognize no religious tenet or organization has the right to dominate others. The tension between the extremes holds up a tightrope we must walk as we balance competing perspectives.

I liked what he had to say and encourage my readers to read his opinion piece. I wrote this as a comment on his writing.

There are many competing forces in the United States that figure in the debate over right and wrong. The Christian religion because of its long historical experience and great learning has much to contribute. I perceive that Christianity prospers in the free arena of ideas. The dangers of exclusionary polices against other religions and of active proselytizing have to be defended against. If the truth sets us free, what kind of Christians are those who demand that their message be the only one? Let us struggle forward seeking what is right but always remembering the dignity and trust we place in our fellow citizens.

My comment was answered by another comment who was critical of my point of view. This is what was said:

We can only hope Huckabee’s presidential hopes are dashed. It was Huckabee who took votes away from Romney which got us (Republicans) stuck with McCain! McCain couldn’t beat Obama but Romney could have won.

My thoughts concerning proselytizing are this. If someone has found Almighty God, the very essence of good in the universe, and does not feel burdened to share then full of bull is the only phrase that is properly descriptive. To know God, maker of heaven and earth, is to share Him.

And I responded with this:

There are appropriate and inappropriate places for proselytizing your religion. There are an enormous number of places where one can advocate for their religion. Using teaching jobs, supervisory positions and government offices for such purposes is wrong. People have a right to work without being told they should be a Christian, a Moslem, a Buddhist, an atheist or a deist.
One of the primary obstacles to the use of Christian principles in teaching morals and ethics is the belief, in my experience justified, that some teachers will use it as an opportunity to push for converts. I teach with Christian principles as one of the alternative ways of thinking about business ethics. I think that it is important to use these teachings. Society needs ethical principles. Business needs ethical principles. But if an advocate of Christianity is compelled to witness at all times and in particular through his job, the absence of Christian principles in all teaching might be a better alternative to putting children and adults in multi week conversion class.

Currently this is where the discussion stands. I realize that this is my forum and I have an advantage in my wordiness. If you would like to comment, I will add them directly to this posting.

James Pilant

(This is a repost of a essay written on this blog, December 11, 2009. I thought it was time to revisit the issue.)

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