Out and About






It’s been quite a week. France is full of small, private interstices that the French, quite properly, keep to themselves. It’s captivating to sit on the sidelines en famille  when the chatter involves family, black sheep, flimflam and gossip. It’s sometimes convenient to catch only one word in three, most especially when accents are treacle-thick and tongues loosened with good wine. The Gipsy spent a week in the company of various friends and relatives dismembering a pig or two – an activity going back generations, I gather, and some of the fruits of her labours was evident at this and other dinner-tables.  Boar meat stiffens the sinews and puts fire in the blood, thus buying slivers of weed-thin, tasteless beef bacon from the Sultan Centre won’t ever quite seem the same, I’m afraid. This photograph shows what a couple of million euros will buy you by way of a morning view.
Geneva is different. Swiss and proper, home from 1536 to Jean Calvin, who, having embraced Protestantism, had to leave France. He came to Geneva, where he expected to stay for only a short time since Geneva had just experienced the Reformation. The old church had been abolished and the rule of the bishop repudiated, but the new church had not been properly organised. Oh, dear me – what a  drearily familiar tale. The inhabitants of the city were quite a fun-loving crowd, given to what might be described as the passions of the flesh and much remained to be done, at least according to the fledgling Protestant burghers of the town, to repair public morals, in other words to make having fun illegal. The most active of the reformers of religion in Geneva was the fiery French preacher Guillaume Farel. Hearing of the arrival of Calvin, whom he knew by reputation, Farel came to him and urged him to remain and help in the reorganisation and ‘reform of religion’. Calvin had no taste for this sort of work, and allegedly attempted to decline, but Farel called down the wrath of God upon him if he refused.  Calvin was so intimidated that he felt compelled to stay, although reluctantly. He began his work in Geneva as one of the ministers, and his genius for organisation soon manifested itself. He drew up a catechism and a confession of faith, which were accepted with some initial reluctance by the city government. On the matter of church discipline, Calvin ran into more serious trouble. It was his aim to make the church autonomous in disciplinary matters which  involved, first of all, the right of the Church to decide who was worthy to be admitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper and who should be excluded, in other words, the right to excommunicate. H’m This rings a faint, clangorous bell – for the life of me I cannot quite bring it to mind. Calvin’s legacy would not have been to his liking – he is remembered chiefly in Geneva by Calvinus a rather fine glass of beer, apparently. His theology, much misunderstood, might be reduced to the view that God reigns everywhere and over all things and this led him to develop the notion that man can serve God in every area of life—church, civil government, education, art, music, business, law, journalism, etc. Calvin’s teaching led directly to what has become known as the “Protestant work ethic” and created unprecedented economic prosperity around the world. Good stuff, but, hey, I only went for the skiing – perhaps more of that anon…

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2 thoughts on “Out and About

  1. I am assuming that you have returned from the far country of riotous living to the staid existence of real life. Beef bacon notwithstanding, there is little danger of an encounter with the proponents of excommunication, and a good chance of running into grace. Please pass on my regards. ;D

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