Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Arab Spring and Calvinism In Agadir: Fear God, Honor The King

Famous Dutch Admiral De Ruyter  (17th century) sometimes stayed in Agadir for half a year, apparently enjoying himself as guest of the powerfull sheikh Ahmed we Moussa of Sidi.  Agadir was one of the many important factory cities of the Dutch United East Indian Company (VOC). Above the entrance gate of the castle of Agadir, which was destroyed by the earthquake in 1960, you can still see the logo of the VOC with on the left the text
"fear God and honor the king 1746" (in Dutch and also in arabic)
It's the most succinct summary of the Dutch Calvinist struggle for independence, allthough most people would not recognize it as such. A dutch maroccon forum discusses the meaning of the text and comes up with the explanation that it was meant to keep Dutch sailors from misbehaving while in Agadir, which was ruled by a King. An interpretation that ignores the specific calvinist and revolutionary roots of this phrase.

The Dutch did not have a king at the time (1746) , but  still they honored the king of spain in their national anthem. The slogan "fear God, honor the king" has a specific calvinist ring to it in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. It was an outcry against the persecution of protestants across France during the seventeenth century after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Calvinism was everything but a blank check for regimes with totalitarian aspirations, like the French under Richelieu.
The text in Agadir is a direct reference to Peter 2:17b which is quoted in the Barmen thesis to make the following claims:
8.23 We reject the false doctrine, as though the State, over and beyond its special commision, should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church's vocation as well.
8.24 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, over and beyond its special commission, should and could appropriate the characteristics, the tasks, and the dignity of the State, thus itself becoming an organ of the State.
In 2003 the question was raised among Dutch scolars wether Hitler could have accepted these Barmen thesis. Calvin says in the third part of his Institutions of the Christian religion:
"When we see that this man was made ​​king by God, we must also remember in our memory the order of heaven, who commands us to fear God and honor the king, and we won't have difficulty to accept a tyrant king with the honor and glory with which our Lord Himself has deigned to crown him"
A fanatic for Calvinism was a fanatic for freedom, writes Abraham Kuyper in his stone lectures. It's the revolutionary concept of Calvinism that made possible the Dutch and American revolutions.

No comments: