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4-2, Great Awakenings

4-2, Great Awakenings - How Religious Awakenings Presage...

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How Religious Awakenings Presage Radical Reforms For Counterpunch , December 25 2010 [Originally for presentation at Annual Meetings, History of Economics Society, Syracuse, July 2010] Mason Gaffney PREFACE Before there were a U.S.A. and a 1 st Amendment, church and state were intertwined in western Europe, whence came most of our traditions. Kings and Cardinals vied for primacy, but joined in overawing and dominating others. Both royalists and clerics were major landowners, at the tip of “The Geocracy”. They worked together to rationalize and sanctify landownership based on conquest, chicane, fraud, slavery, debt slavery, prison labor, male chauvinism, imprisonment, ethnic bias, genocide, murder by burning, drowning, torture and other barbaric acts, witch-hunting, primogeniture, entail, confiscation, exile, etc. Missionaries supported imperialists abroad, and shared in their power and wealth, even owning slaves. Centuries of struggle against Islam shaped fanaticism especially in Spain, Austria and Russia, and less extremely in all the Crusading states. At home, however, heretics were more dangerous than infidels. Ruling Geocrats feared and persecuted egalitarian heretics like Anabaptists, Diggers, Levelers, Lollards, Hussites and Taborites, Albigensians, Waldensians (Vaudois), Bogomils, Cathari, Donatists and Circumcellians, Humiliati, Poor Men of Lyons, Calvinists 1 , Puritans, et al. Rome coopted successive new grassroots monastic orders into acting as Roman agents: Cluniacs, Cistercians, Benedictines, Carthusians, Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, et al., went through somewhat parallel evolutions from their ascetic, abnegant, pietistic origins in protest against clerical ritualism, hierarchy, luxury and wealth. Troubadors and Minnesingers could distract and bypass censors with tales of romance and scandal and tragedy, arts that flourish today, but fail to prepare the ground for practical reforms 2 . Jews, carriers of the parent religion with its egalitarianism, wrapped in its own language and 1 Calvinists in France evolved from an early alliance with laborers to a later alliance with merchants and probably industrialists (Tawney, p.93). They recognized saving as a virtue worthy of reward. From there it has been too easy to slip into an alliance with landowners. 2 Cf. Tom Lehrer, “We are the folk song army”.
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mysteries, made a special and important case, too complex to sum up fairly in a few words 3 . The Crusades bred Chivalric Orders, some of which went into banking and grew too rich and powerful for their own survival. On the good side, churches tempered the harshness of class exploitation with charity, welfare, and education. Cynically, however, one might see it as a “good cop, bad cop” act. The “education” inherently entailed some self-enhancement.
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4-2, Great Awakenings - How Religious Awakenings Presage...

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