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Caribbean Calvinists for Socialism By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 30, 2009

Calvinists, who embodied the “Protestant work ethic,” helped usher in capitalism and the industrial revolution with their zeal for industry, thrift, delayed gratification, and protection of private property against social covetousness.  But their spiritual descendants in the Caribbean, with North American help, are now bemoaning the “unmitigated greed of the neo-liberal economy” and lifting up communist Cuba as a role model.

Representatives from Reformed (Calvinist) denominations in six Caribbean countries plus the U.S. recently gathered in the “
lush and beautiful life sustaining environment” of Ocho Rios, Jamaica to enjoy the scenery and commiserate against the oppressions of capitalism and “empire.”

It’s all too bizarre to qualify as a joke.  Caribbean Calvinism by itself seems oxymoronic.  Sultry white beaches and lush tropics have not traditionally been conducive to rugged Puritanism.  Hailing Cuba’s atrophied Marxism as a model is absurd by any standard, but Calvinists saluting socialism is almost enjoyably laughable.   

The supportive World Alliance of Reformed Churches, based in Geneva, headlined the Jamaica summit, with no sense of irony, as “
Caribbean Churches Seek Insight from Cuban Model in Economic Hard Times.”  Naturally the World Council of Churches participated, as did the U.S. Christian Reformed Church.

“The economic and financial crisis has spread its tentacles of death across the globe affecting every institution in society and threatening life,” shrieked the upset Caribbean Calvinists in their concluding manifesto. Perhaps it was composed from the in-pool bar of their Jamaica hotel.  The stale, Castroite rhetoric would have required more than a few umbrella-laced, tropical libations to have emerged from purportedly morally serious people living in 2009.

Supposedly the Caribbean Calvinists are distressed that the recent financial downturn has “
increased crime and violence, unemployment, and the systemic and systematic destruction of social safety nets for the poor and vulnerable, particularly women,” potentially fueling “social and political upheavals of unprecedented proportions.”  But in truth, these left-wing prelates were probably as anxious to denounce capitalism 2 or 10 or 20 years ago, the midst of relative financial health, as they are today.  And for all the discomfort of the current recession, it comes after decades of unprecedented economic growth for the world economy, including the Caribbean, which, for all its chronic poverty, is likelier richer now than at any time in its history.   

Of a dozen Caribbean countries, Cuba, which 50 years ago was among the wealthiest countries in the Americas, now has the lowest per capita income except for squalid Haiti, and very tiny St. Vincent and Dominica.  The Bahamas has a per capita income more than 5 times greater than Cuba’s, while Trinidad and Barbados have incomes more than 4 times larger than Cuba’s.  But don’t expect the Caribbean Calvinists to express any curiosity as to why the free market countries are so much more prosperous than a supposedly liberated Cuba.

“We are inspired by the resilience and creativity of the Cuban people against great imperial odds,” the vacationing church officials declared.  “We continue to pray and advocate for the full lifting of the blockade against Cuba. We undergird the principle of Caribbean integration and reaffirm our commitment to playing our part in making it happen. We are open to learning from best practices within the region and committed to living and working together to build community.”  Presumably the Caribbean Calvinists are focused on the “best practices” of Cuba’s impoverished command and control economy, and not the more “imperial” and successful economies of the Bahamas or Barbados.

Oh yes, the Caribbean Calvinists are also distressed by “ecological degradation” and Global Warming, both of which originate with capitalism, of course.  Drastically reducing carbon emissions and economic growth will no doubt greatly add to the prosperity of the Caribbean’s poor, who undoubtedly fully share the ecological concerns of the jet setting international church officials who claim to speak on their behalf.

“The destruction of trees and the burning of fossil fuel have given rise to the greenhouse effect which in turn results in rising sea levels, floods, and hurricanes of greater intensity and frequency, among other natural disasters to which small Caribbean islands are particularly vulnerable,” intoned the Caribbean Calvinists, evidencing that their scientific expertise equals their economic prowess.

Striking a tone of ostensible penitence, the Caribbean Calvinists, with downcast eyes, confessed “we been complicit in empire by providing fodder for its consumption and offering up our best and brightest sons and daughters on the altar self aggrandizement.”  They explained that “empire exists where systems are designed to feed greed and drive competition to the detriment of life in community.”  Evidently communist Cuba doesn’t qualify for the sobriquet of “empire,” because Cubans live equally in their poverty and police state oppression, which protects them from “greed” and “competition.”

The Caribbean Calvinists implored that churches “resist the forces of evil” and continue “confessing our faith in the face of economic injustice and ecological destruction at the local, regional and international levels.”  Very inspirational.  So presumably these self-elected prelates will continue to convene at Caribbean resorts bravely to inveigh against the evils of capitalism and commend the moral superiority of Cuban Marxism, which almost none of them actually have to live under.  

Calvinism’s earlier adherents constructed governments, built industries, struggled across oceans and mountains, sustained by their gritty faith.  These latter day Caribbean Calvinists, with their faux class warfare rhetoric, seem more parasitically focused on robust seaside vacations and echoing the bromides of their surrounding elite culture.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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