Last Wednesday, I was home and working upstairs. I came downstairs for lunch, was glancing at news reports on my iPad, and saw that the US Congress was in session. The Vice President opened the Electoral College ballets, and our elected representatives were due to vote on acceptance. Given the divisive 2020 Presidential election, I decided to turn on the TV and see this historic event for the first time. What I witnessed was indeed an historic event unlike any in my country’s history. Protestors (mob is a more appropriate word) rushed into the US Capital, destroyed property, and forced legislators to evacuate to safer places. It was a sad and deadly incident that should have never happened within the world’s first democracy.
Our lives are shaped by our experiences. A child living in a secluded African nation experiences life differently than a child growing up in New York City. This fact was articulated during the Age of Enlightenment. René Descartes (1596-1650) stated in 1637: Cognito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I Am). Influenced by Descartes was an Oxford professor, John Locke (1632-1704). In 1690, Locke published his Essay on Human Understanding in which he expanded on Descartes’ philosophy. Locke developed empiricism, derived from the Greek word for experience (empeiria). Empiricism is the belief that all knowledge is derived from human experiences, both externally and internally.
The next day after the US Capital was stormed, I watched the evening news, and a segment was devoted to asking children their opinions on the protestors at the US Capital. These children were trying to make sense of this violent incident, something that will alter their knowledge through experiences. All witnesses to this tragic event will be forever altered. It is especially tragic that children will bear this knowledge during their lives. .
Dr. Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, authored A Kind of Life Imposed on Man: Vocation and Social Order from Tyndale to Locke (University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada, 1996, pages 87-91) in which he outlines Locke’s writings on calling. Locke divides calling into general and particular. General calling is “the duties of all, regardless of position, consisting largely of prayer, study, and other pious activities.” Locke stated that general calling was connected with religious activities. “Indeed, he occasionally used the terms ‘religion’ and ‘general calling’ synonymously.” It is concerned with a future life and the “salvation of souls.” The general calling centered around “Religious Society, or the Church.”
Particular calling is “the tasks that God had given one because of one’s particular social situation.” Particular calling is “a much more natural activity.” It is concerned with “the support of this life. … generally functioned as another word for employment or trade.” It centered around “Civil Society, or the State.” Locke stated:
“The end of civil society is civil peace and prosperity, or the preservation of the society and every member thereof … but beyond the concernments of this life, this society hath nothing to do at all.”
What I and people around the world witnessed on January 6th was unpeaceful civil society. It was not “the preservation of society and every member of it,” but rather an attempt to disrupt society by an extremely small percentage of American citizens. I differ with Locke’s division of calling into two types: general and particular. I believe that God calls me to faith and that my faith is not contained within the Church but lived in all my activities. I am called towards the new creation during my lifetime, not just after I die.
As I watched the violent event of a few days ago, I wondered if those individuals who invaded the US Capital separated their faith into John Locke’s general and particular division? Was the violence committed within the US Capital acceptable since it was not done within a church building? One thing I do know: on January 6th, millions of people have new knowledge through their empiricism, and it was not pleasing to God who reigns over all aspects of our lives.