Children of All Nations

(Last Updated On August 2, 2016)
Hetty Brody - Children of all Nations (1972)

Hetty Brody – Children of all Nations (1972)

When I was cleaning my parent’s basement a few weeks ago, I came across a book of rug designs in which I found this charming Children of All Nations rug. Little information was given about it other than it was a punch hook by Hetty Brody of Hollywood California. The book of rug designs was published in 1972, the rug certainly reflects the spirit of the time. The image of children of different races holding hands appears to be inspired by Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. It seems appropriate to consider this rug due to the current racial tension after the fatal shooting of an African-American man by a Louisiana police officer. Many sociologists believe that racial tension is approaching a point of the street riots that swept urban American in the late 1960s.

When I discovered the rug, I admired the optimism of the image of nude girls but realize such a spirit can hardly be found today. Why is it so? There’s an atmosphere of skepticism today. The Australian philosopher David Stove called the epistemological gloom “cognitive Calvinism”; Stove observed, “Calvinists believe in the total depravity of human nature: if an impulse is one of ours, it is bad, because it is one of ours.” A cognitive Calvinist in contrast to a religious Calvinist, is one who has no faith in God but still presumes all motives are of self-interest even if actions may appear outwardly good. Contemporary thought operates along these lines of skepticism of intent. Traditional literature and works of art are deconstructed to expose the supposed hypocrisy behind the humanist ideals expressed in the works. Many postmodernists dismiss the notion of universal human qualities and values as an oppressive construction, and if so, why not deconstruct this text?

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.

Our society is falling apart due to “cognitive Calvinism”, the presumption of the total depravity of human nature, the idealism found in the 1960’s is greatly needed. No society can function based on distrust. This is why I have come to love images of this kind, it is the very antithesis of our “Orwellian” culture. The irony is, I find that people who have a traditional religious background tend to be open-minded to images of nude children because they still respect the idea of innocence. I have good reason to believe the current state of self-consciousness is due to the “hermeneutics of suspicion”, where things are not accepted at face value. Most feminists presume images of beautiful females are some form of sexploitation. This ideology has atomized society, which I have reason to believe is intentional. The authors of anti-utopias predicted that authoritarianism would intentionally break the ties of the family. The only solution I see is a return to romantic idealism which recognizes how industrialization has alienated the perception of life.

Children of All Nations pattern (1972)

Children of All Nations pattern (1972)

5 thoughts on “Children of All Nations

  1. In the post I’m using “cognitive Calvinism” to describe contemporary skepticism, so I was not referring to actual Calvinism. My point was, the “hermeneutics of suspicion” we find today is a kind of Frankenstein monster devouring the possibility of any good and beauty. Many people today assume an artist creating images of nude children would do so for only sexual interest, so people grounded in a technocratic way of thinking would consider the art to be TOTALLY depraved. Even people who admire nude art tend to make the mistake today to consider it a contrivance without recognizing the complexity of human nature. In no way was the post critical of Christainity. The irony is, I tend to find people who have a traditional religious background tend to be open-minded to images of nude children.
    An excellent book that covers the development of art and culture is H. R. Rookmaaker’s Modern Art and the Death of Culture. Rookmaaker makes a point that many Chirstians withdrew from the arts due to Calvinism.

    • “………. so people grounded in a technocratic way of thinking would consider the art to be TOTALLY depraved.”

      It is not depraved AT ALL.
      Religious “fanatics” have a right to preach, not to impose or censor.

      • Technocrats may have the appearance of religious “fanatics” but they are secular to the core. I wish I never used the metaphor “cognitive Calvinism”, Ron asked me not to use technical language, I thought “cognitive Calvinism” would be more comprehensible then the “hermeneutics of suspicion” but it seems people have difficulty with metaphor and misunderstood the point of the post. It really had nothing to do with Calvinism or religious “fanatics”.
        I was referring to the current way of thinking, rationalism grounded in a scientific world-view which regards the pleasures of the senses to be inappropriate. A technocratic schiziod society which has an anxiety of intimate relations and a suspicion of human endeavor. Actually, I support religous groups, they seem to be the only ones making a stand against technocracy.

  2. As a Calvinist theologian, I must address your representation of Calvinism in general and particularly the Doctrine of Total Depravity, which is quite common and sadly misconstrued. While the doctrine does indicate that all the works of men (read: people) are tainted with sin, it does not say that they are TOTALLY depraved. The “total” refers to the breadth, not the depth, of the reach of sin. In other words, everything from drinking water to drinking in the beauty of innocently nude children are touched with sin, but that does not mean that we do neither. Rather, while our enjoyment of a glass of water or a photo of innocent beauty does include an element of peccability, the real focus is on the grandeur of the grace of God that covers whatever transgression is present. Romans 5:20: “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” In other words, the realization of the breadth of sin (that it is everything we do) is meant to point us to the grace of God, which is even broader as well as higher and deeper. Therefore, the doctrine is cause for joy, and gives us cause to delight in such as this piece of art.

  3. The doctrine of total depravity of human nature originates from St Augustine. Luther started as an Augustinian monk, and probably Augustinian doctrine influenced Protestantism through him.
    I think that there is a human activity that Calvinists, both religious and epistemological, approve: making money. For the religious ones, getting rich is a favor from God. In the USA, dominant media and politics never express any negative opinion about money and profit, even in their most hideous forms; so words like “exploitation” and “predator”, which normally should apply to economic relations, are never applied to them, they are rather used for disapproved forms of Eros, for instance adults dating teenagers or artists representing attractive minors in the nude.

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