Before his premature departure, Carter served as GetReligion's resident expert on Calvinism. Trust me, I am a poor fill-in, although I posted a few months ago on media coverage of the Southern Baptist Convention debating that subject. (At that time, I acknowledged that I flunked Professor Sarah Pulliam Bailey's Calvinism 101 course.)
So, I am stepping into this post with fear and trepidation — and under duress from Editor tmatt, who sent me the relevant link with the note, "Take it away, Bobby."
So, as instructed, I am taking it away. Let's just hope it doesn't crash and burn.
The featured story, titled "The Protestant Work Ethic Is Real," appeared in Pacific Standard magazine. Let's start at the top:
Why do we work the way we do? For years Americans have been arguing over whether or not it has something to do with the country’s religious history. Does a history of Protestant religiosity make us work harder? Now we’ve finally got some answers.
The influence of Protestantism on American capitalism has been a matter of considerable debate since German sociologist Max Weber wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in 1905. The book wasn’t even translated into English until 1930, but it’s particularly interesting to this country because Weber argued that capitalist success stems from Calvinism.
Today just 53 percent of Americans identify with some sort of Protestant church, and only the Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Baptist denominations (which directly influence less than five percent of the American population) can be called churches in the Calvinist tradition. But Calvinists were the religious ancestors of our Puritans, the English Calvinists who helped establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony so that they could have a place to practice their (rather extreme) religion in freedom. Because they were some of the first major settlers of the United States, they had a rather profound influence on our country’s economic development.
OK, since I already declared my ignorance, I'm going to admit that I'm confused.
First question: Is this story suggesting that all Baptists are Calvinists? If so, why did the reporting I read this past summer include background such as this?:
Calvinism, which is traditionally the domain of Reformed churches like Presbyterians, differs from traditional Baptist theology in key aspects, particularly on the question of salvation.
Second question: Presbyterians, United Church of Christ members and Baptists represent less than 5 percent of the American population? I clicked that link, but I still don't understand. Southern Baptists alone (with 16 million adherents out of a total population of 314 million) would represent 5 percent, right? But there are dozens of other Baptist denominations.
I'm even more confused than when I started typing. Something tells me I'm going to flunk this test, too.
If you're still out in cyberspace, please help me out here, Joe.
John Calvin image via Shutterstock