What would John Calvin say?

February 16, 2009

With the financial crisis erupting around the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Protestant theologian John Calvin, many people in the Netherlands — where his thinking played an important role in forming the local culture — are looking back at his influence and what he might say of the current crisis and the people involved.

(Photo: Dutch Old Masters used skulls and stubby candles to portray the Calvinist idea of the vanity of greed/Robin van Lonkhuijsen/United Photos)

Several of the issues are described in my feature “Moral rebound finds Dutch exploring Calvin.” One of the most interesting elements was an online survey by the Protestant newspaper Trouw called “C-Factor.”

“Test how Calvinist you are, in your convictions, at work and in your love life,” it said in its challenge to readers. It asks 25 questions (sorry, only in Dutch) such as:

“I should really work harder.”

“Making exceptions to rules weakens the rules.”

” I like to dine in luxury.”

“Other people are more important than me.”

“I borrow money for nice things even when I don’t really need them.”

Tests like this are amusing, but you have to wonder about the results. A Dutch reporter in our Amsterdam bureau, who grew up in the Dutch “Bible Belt” and went to a high school in Kampen named after Calvin, got an unexpected 47 percent. A Catholic colleague with a solid Jesuit education got 58 percent. I’m a Brit with no links to Calvinism in my background, and I ended up scoring 75 percent.

Have you ever taken these “test your religion” tests? Were you surprised?

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