John Calvin on Taking Care Of Our Garden

“the custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition, that being content with a frugal and moderate use of them, we should take care of what shall remain. Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence; but let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits to be marred or ruined by neglect. Moreover, that this economy, and this diligence, with respect to those good things which God has given us to enjoy, may flourish among us; let every one regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved.” –  John Calvin in his comments on Genesis 2:15 (HT: Stephen Wedgeworth)

Christians and Reading

“the tendency, in some circles, to read only approved authors, as if we should only open the covers of a book with whose contents we already know we agree, would have been bizarre to [John Owen,] a man whose library contained all the classic texts of theology from the early church to his own day–from all major branches of Christendom. Indeed, I suspect Owen would have wondered how anyone could ever learn anything if they only read those authors who they knew they would only confirm their own positions.” – Carl Trueman (“John Owen the Theologian” in John Owen: The man and his theology, Robert W. Oliver, ed., p. 62)

Refugees in the 1940s and 1950s

1948: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared that “everyone has the right to leave any country including his own”. Russia, Poland, and Saudi Arabia objected to the language.

1947-1952: Approx 200,000 displaced persons from Central/Eastern Europe came to Canada escaping Nazism and Communism

1956-1957 – Approx 37,000 Hungarian refugees were admitted in Canada

Bill Bryson on Trump’s Tower

“On Fifth Avenue I went into the Trump Tower, a new skyscraper. A guy named Donald Trump, a developer, is slowly taking over New York, building skyscrapers all over town with his name on them, so I went in and had a look around. The building had the most tasteless lobby I had ever seen — all brass and chrome and blotchy red and white marble that looked like the sort of thing that if you saw it on the sidewalk you would walk around it. Here it was everywhere — on the floors, up the walls , on the ceiling. It was like being inside somebody’s stomach after he’d eaten pizza.” – Bill Bryson in “The Lost Continent”

Books Finished in November

(5 paper books, 1 ebook, 2 audio books)

Xenophobia Repeats Itself

hqdefaultThe more I study history, the more I’m convinced that once you dig beneath the incidental details, very little changes in this world. One such thing that seems to be an unfortunate constant is xenophobia.

In one of my Baptist historical studies, I found this snippet in a publication from a Baptist periodical from 1890 (The Baptist Quarterly Review, Volume 12). What really struck me is that if you changed a few country names, this would closely match some of the current anti-immigrant rhetoric. It seems that every generation has some great, deep-seated fears about being swept away in the tide of the “other.”

The article says that “the immigration of the Chinese should be restricted. It is…fraught with moral peril to our civilization…it has been largely that of opium-smoking, unintelligent pariah-casts…They have vices peculiar to themselves…They learn little of our language. They do not assimilate with our civilization…the present European flood of driftwood is only less to be feared…the undesirable element is increasing. The percentage of…Italians and Hungarians [are] increasing…They live in a way simply appalling…Few of them naturalize…The best judges declare that such immigration is hurtful and degrading…There are are aspects indeed in which the worst of European inflow is worse than that of the Chinese…For the general good of our country, as well as from fear of the surging of the nations upon us.. immigration ought to be restricted.”

One the one hand, especially as the son of parents that have immigrated from Eastern Europe into North America, this paragraph is startling, especially since it takes place in a Christian publication.

On the other hand, it is not very surprising at all. Other than the specific countries being mentioned, it very much reads like something from today. I see very similar things being posted by Christians on Facebook nearly every day.

Lest anyone come to that the Baptists have been particularly bad on this issue, two things should be noted: (a) these xenophobic sentiments were quite standard issue among Protestants in North America, not by any means limited to the Baptists and (b) many nineteenth century Baptists stood very boldly against the xenophobia of their day. In San Francisco in the late 1800s, the public opinion against the Chinese immigrants had grown so harsh that mobs were storming Chinese properties to hurt people and damage property. During that time, many non-Chinese Baptists banded together with guns to make a circle around the Chinese immigrants, to protect them.

To get a good picture of the vast array of responses to immigration in 19th century Protestantism I recommend Immigrants, Baptists, and the Protestant Mind in America by Lawrence B. Davis.

Whatever our political views or policy preferences, I hope we can learn from this history!


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: