Calvinism in American History

19th century --- Portrait of John Calvin --- Image by © Archivo Iconografico, S.A./CORBIS

As mentioned in the previous post, the idea behind the concept of intolerance sailed through the Atlantic Ocean and disembarked on America through a ship loaded with puritans. Unfortunately, it seems that there has never been a way for Americans to escape Calvinist precepts. These precepts can generally be summarized as that if mankind were to attempt to go against the predestined life God has planned for his or her creation, this would cause God’s wrath and the rebellious sinner will surely encounter tragedy, either by divine punishment or by action of righteous men carrying out God’s will and imparting justice on Earth with sword and spear (such as the hanging of the Quakers in Boston).

Straying from the predestined path could involve practicing other religions that did not have the approval of the majority or, quite simply, betraying the beliefs, doctrines, teachings, customs or ceremonies of Calvinism, such as engaging in a love affair outside one’s marriage. Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has been, since the time of its publication, subject of constant scrutiny, much debate and meticulous scholarly analysis.

In any case, the author of this post has chosen to interpret Kesey’s book as a hard critique to the methods applied by anti-pluralist societies, where a dominant culture absorbs the others. These methods are aimed at homogenizing society and eradicating dissent by means of suppressing the cultural identity and individuality of those smaller subcultures or minorities the dominant culture is forced to coexist with.

The psychiatric ward in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a clear example of the machinery (the Combine) of the powerful bearing down on those minorities or subcultures subjugated by the dominant white race and of how they struggle to maintain their unique cultural traits, which are essential to prolonging their identity as a community.