Yesterday I spent a couple of grueling hours at the Jeep dealership getting Bella ready for winter and having the third brake light replaced since I broke it several months ago when I drove into the garage with the cargo door open. I had to order the part and I’ve had it for several months, too. The part cost almost $100 (today I find I could have gotten it cheaper, grrrrrrrr….), the repair cost $120, and the winterizing cost about $100. That was all bad enough but the worst part was the music played in the dealership. It was a culture thing.
There is music that is ubiquitous background music, easily tuned out. Then there was the country station I was stuck with for two hours. OK, music is a personal taste thing, 100%. BUT there is country music and there was THIS, and it was playing loudly. I’m whining and I’m totally aware that this is a first world problem and I probably could have gotten up and changed it. It was Sirius XM emanating from a machine. I think the situation was worsened by the book I brought along with me. You guessed it, Escape from Freedom. I don’t think Dante wrote about a circle of hell like I just described, but, yeah. Trapped in a car dealership with bad country music and Escape from Freedom? If the dealership keeps your car over night, they give you a ride home. If not? The days of 24 hr loaner cars vanished long long ago, I guess.
So what’s new with Erich Fromm? Expiring minds want to know. I liked what I read yesterday. Fromm drew connections between Protestantism and the capitalist revolution that took place as the medieval world collapsed. He’s still ignoring the plague, but I guess it’s his book.
Fromm’s purpose in the analysis of two Protestant philosophical/theological/psychological theories is to illustrate his idea that modern freedom has isolated the individual. I began to understand the “freedom from” idea a little (not really, honestly), but this helped, “This book is devoted mainly to freedom as a burden and danger, the following analysis, being intentionally one-sided, stresses that side in Luther’s and Calvin’s doctrines in which this negative aspect of freedom is rooted in their emphasis on the fundamental evilness and powerlessness of man.”
I was raised a Protestant with semi-severe indoctrination against the Catholic Church. My very first mass was in the rose garden in Portland, Oregon. My grandmother wanted to go to mass there so we supported her. She was a Unitarian, undoubtedly raised a Lutheran (Swedish immigrants), who’d married an Irish catholic. That’s America in a nut shell (no pun intended). I felt very strange at mass but how could I really tell the difference back then from Catholic mass in a rose garden and weekly chapel at the Episcopal school I attended for two years as a tween? My first REAL mass experience was in San Diego at Our Lady of the Rosary. It was great. I loved it. I got really good at going to mass and my friend, Denis Joseph Francis Callahan was ready to sign me up for classes in how to be a Catholic (and then marry me?). The best mass of all was Latin mass at the Basilica San Ambrogio in Milan.
Clearly I was a failed Protestant, but I failed long long long long before I partook in the ritual of the Whore of Babylon. By the time I was a teenager I thought church was OK, but the philosophical/religious underpinnings were gruesome. That’s what happens when you study American literature, I guess. Fromm does a great job describing the main problem of Calvinism, something I saw myself a long time ago. It presents an image of God that’s a lot less than “divine.”
The key point to Calvinism is the doctrine of predestination which asserts that God chose at the beginning of time of time which people would be saved and which would be damned to the eternal fires of hell. I was 17 when I first met this idea and I thought, “What kind of God is that?” and probably took a hike. Then, in university, I got to read this fun little thing, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Shudder. Fromm asserts that this theory of predestination is the crux of Calvin’s whole system, “…assuming that God not only predestines some for grace, but decides that others are destined for eternal damnation…Calvin’s God, in spite of all attempts to preserve the idea of God’s justice and love, has all the features of a tyrant without any quality of love or even justice…Calvin denies the supreme role of love and says, ‘For what the Schoolmen (conventional, medieval, Catholic thinkers — maybe Erasmus?) advance concerning the priority of charity to faith and hope, is a mere reverie of a distempered imagination’.”
I wasn’t sure which denominations today subscribe to Calvinism, so I looked at that repository of all knowledge and found this: “The Reformed tradition is largely represented by the Continental Reformed, Presbyterian, Evangelical Anglican, Congregationalist, and Reformed Baptist denominations.” Puritanism is Calvinist. I don’t think this list is complete. I think Prosperity Christianity falls under this umbrella.
Fromm’s purpose in discussing these two Reformation doctrines (Lutheranism and Calvinism) is to explain what took the place of the uniform (comparatively) uniform culture of medieval Europe and gave the middle class a haven FROM freedom as well as psychologically conditioning people for capitalism, for surrendering their identity to the “machine” of capital. “Once the individual has lost his sense of pride and dignity, he was psychologically prepared to lose the feeling which had been characteristic of medieval thinking, namely, that man, his spiritual salvation, and his spiritual aims were the purpose of life. He was prepared to accept a role in which his life became a means to purposes outside of himself…”
I thought about that for a while as I listened to some faux cowboy twang about dancing with some woman on a bare hardwood floor and how that experience led them to marriage and children. After about a hundred such songs, I realized most of the songs I was hearing were about mate, spawn and die. Then my mind wandered to popular music in general and how most songs are about mate, spawn and die. Images of Beavis and Butthead went through my mind, yelling at the TV “Change it! Change it!”
I got up and took a walk around the building and then asked about the progress of my car. “I just saw him put the hood down. It won’t be long now. Changing out that brake light is a lot of work.” What is this “changing out” and where did it come from? And changing “up”? What’s that. Clearly I needed to get out of there. And, clearly, I did. 🙂
Bella is ready for winter and I’m ready to paint a sign over the garage, “Close the cargo door before you drive in here, Sweet Cheeks.”
Caveat: I’m not judging anyone’s faith here. I am just reporting on what I read. I’m a very firm believer that today’s smorgasbord of religious doctrines is a great thing as long as it doesn’t cause one recipe to attempt to stop the other dishes on the table from existing.