Calvin’s cafes

John Calvin and his council © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

John Calvin and his council © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

During our celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, #Reformation500, it is good to remember the events from a number of perspectives.

It is easy to look at the Reformation as one singular event and neglect the series of happenings throughout Europe.

The ancient city of Geneva was a place uniquely driven by the reforms and ideas of John Calvin and his major contributions to the Reformation took place in Geneva between the years 1541-1549.

By 1541 Geneva was undergoing a political and religious war, and some sought peace by wanting to return to Roman Catholicism. But Calvin was strong enough to hold onto his conviction that all things, be they religious or civil, should be done according to the Bible.

Some of the controversial reforms the Genevan council of 60 implemented was the closing of taverns. A 16th century tavern, being a place where locals and travellers drank alcohol and eat food. Calvin had them replaced with Cafe’s where people would pray before every meal, and the Bible was always present. People were not permitted to sing in them either.

But the plan failed and it drove people away, so the taverns were reopened.

A lesson to be learned is that no Christian should ever try to force believers or none believers to do anything. People have to decide for themselves. Implementing Christian or none Christian ideals and morals on the public fails to do anything but drive people away.

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