So, I'm back. Three hours later and nothing written (at least nothing on the thesis). I thought maybe I should just write something here. Maybe my desire for attention will fuel my whatever - juju - or something.
Here's the topic:
I'm interested in how the doctrine of predestination informs the social conscience of americans. I think that the idea of election (meaning, God has chosen from the beginning, some to be saved - elected into God's kingdom - and others to be damned) feeds into several characteristics of American society, specifically capitalism (a la Max Weber), individualism (Barth - I think), the spiritualization of christianity, and nationalism.
[I always forget one of these four things - perhaps that's a sign]
Basically, the whole thing is about dualism. In capitalism there is necessarily a loser - see Adam Smith - and this seems to parallel the notion of election quite nicely. The rub is that our thinking about the necessity (whether explicit [not usually] or not) of a losing "class..." easily morphs into an idea that there is something about the losing class that makes them inevitably losers. We, then, aren't required to do anything about helping them, because if God wanted them to be rich, or even not poor, God would have made them that way.
Individualism too is fed by this idea. We (the elect) are "set apart" from the rest of humanity. The ascetic character of Calvinists has been outlined at length by Weber and others. (But I think I'll explicate their arguments for the sake of making the paper longer - terrible huh?)
Ok - next
Spiritualization of religion/Christianity. I like this one the best I think.
What this is is the separation of the this life from the next in such a way that we don't pay attention to what we do here/now. Since our salvation is a done deal that has nothing to do with anything that we do or don't do, we don't do. This plays out in two (rather diverse) ways: one, in the "lower class" churches, it's the pie in the sky in the sweet by -n-bye notion. Escapism. Two: in the "upper class" churches it's a focus on the cultivation of spiritual mindedness - without the real-life groundedness of "how, then, shall we live?"
Finally, nationalism. This is the one I always forget, perhaps because it is a bit overworked at the moment due to the war and our dueling national guilt vs national patriotism mindsets as seen on Fox and MSNBC. My interest, though, is in this "American ideal" the "city set on a hill" thing that pervades the culture - even those who don't agree with "W" or the war or even Christianity. For better or worse, we see ourselves as a beacon of [fill in the blank] in the world. We're different - us vs. them.
And there ya go. This helps. Any thoughts you nameless, faceless people who probably won't come to this site anyhow?