Bill Clinton: “I’m too much of a Calvinist.”

Bill ClintonI saw this video this morning and just have to pass it along.

[Edit: The video is no longer available.]

Here’s a transcript of the short exchange:

John Roberts: US News & World Report this week commissioned a poll that surveyed a bunch of women in American asking what role you should take on with your wife as Secretary of State. Thirty-seven percent, the greatest number of women, said, “House husband.” We’re wondering what you think about that.

Bill Clinton: I—well, you know, it’s funny. I told her when she left that I—that I wish now that I was an ordinary citizen, because I wish I could go with her and be there when she comes home at night and do for her what she did for me when I was President. But it’s not in the cards. I’m—we’re doing the best we can to work through this and do the right thing.

John Roberts: Would you ever be comfortable being a house husband?

Bill Clinton: No. I have to go to work. I’m—I’m too much of a Calvinist. If I don’t work every day, I get nervous.

A few brief thoughts:

  1. First, I wonder if “it’s not in the cards” and “I’m too much of a Calvinist” have ever been used so closely together before—or even by the same person!
  2. Second, the question being discussed around the blogosphere is what Clinton meant by Calvinist in this statement. My theory is that he’s seen the attention that Driscoll has received lately (e.g., Nightline and CNN) and thought perhaps claiming the label Calvinist could help him become more popular, too! (BTW, I’m not being serious.)
  3. Finally, I don’t think I’ve ever before been so tempted to consider becoming an Arminian. :)

HT: Aaron Sauer

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14 Responses to Bill Clinton: “I’m too much of a Calvinist.”

  1. Mike Aubrey February 18, 2009 at 9:05 pm #

    Really, really weird.

  2. Mark Ward Jr February 19, 2009 at 2:50 am #

    I’m guessing the answer may be here: Apparently some people view Calvin as a guy who advocated hard work over play.


  3. Brandon February 19, 2009 at 3:30 am #

    Maybe he meant “chauvinist”?

    I really liked your third point!!!

  4. Chris Barney February 19, 2009 at 5:52 am #

    Ok, this is quite a stretch, but I was desperately searching for the elements within Bill Clinton’s relationial database that would be the source of such a statement. I am going back to the bedrock of my interpretive method: context. Ok, context mixed with a large dose of creativity, but plausible nonetheless. Here goes:
    Clinton’s context is politics, not theology. Therefore, he is not referring to John Calvin, but to Calvin Coolidge. Calvin Coolidge’s primary trait was that of a hard worker. Other people said this of him, and he is well-known for many quotes concerning the necessity of hard work. In short, he fancies himself to be after the mold of Calvin Coolidge in his work ethic.
    P.S. Coolidge was also known for being a man of very few words. Apparently this is not one of the points of Calvin (Coolidge) to which Clinton adheres.

  5. Michael R. Jones February 19, 2009 at 8:29 am #

    I didn’t take it as a reference to Driscoll or Calvinism in the theological sense at all.

    Coming immediately after his reference to going to work every day I would instead see it as an allusion to Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

    • Phil Gons February 19, 2009 at 9:29 am #

      Michael, I believe you (and Mark) are correct. BTW, I was kidding about the Driscoll thing. :)

  6. Gordon J Keddie February 19, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    Clinton is surely just referring to the “Calvinist” work ethic as touted around in economics – “Protestant work-ethic /Weber-Tawney thesis? There is no theological weight to it, no claim to being a five-pointer, etc etc.. He’s simply saying he believes in working.

  7. Wayne February 19, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

    Apparently the Dutch use and abuse the term Calvinist.

  8. Dan Phillips February 19, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    It all depends on what the meaning of “Calvinist” is.

    (I can’t believe no one said that!)

  9. Richard February 21, 2009 at 6:13 am #

    Yeah, Clinton is using the term “Calvinist” in the Weberian sense. That’s all.

    I see little sense in adherents of Reformed theology attempting to monopolize the term.

    Hey, man, we could really use some Wittgenstein around here!!!

  10. Rodney Holloman February 21, 2009 at 11:29 am #

    Hey Phil,

    Being an Arminian isn’t that bad . . . remember you have a choice to be one. :)

  11. Jenna March 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    I think what he meant was the “Puritan work ethic.” Probably been a while since US History.


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