Protestantism is a fundamental break with the past. It is the rejection of what came before. It's not so much "learning from history" as "honoring" history.
Well, I don't see how it can reasonably be denied that a lot of the past ought to be broken with, and remembered only so it can be rejected in perpetuity. Too much of the strife in the world is caused by people attacking each other because their ancestors attacked each other, because their ancestors attacked each other, and so forth. If protestantism means holding the past up to judgement, I'm all for that.
It's hard to define what constitutes "civilization" although I would argue that it means that one accepts the traditional understanding of the relationship between man and society. Man is understood through his relationship with God and the Church. Government is given authority by God.
And man is given dominion over the earth, and yet it is not proper for man to do any old thing he wants to. Neither are governments authorized to abuse their power; indeed, one can see from Samuel on the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judea being successively deprived of their legitimacy by the LORD God who calls them out for their misrule.
In a sense there is no "traditional understanding of the relationship between man and society", because "society" is a modern concept and not necessarily valid even as such. "Society" is typically used in the sense of an organized, self-perpetuating system, but that rather begs the question. I am certainly quite ready to dispute whether social interactions for a society or merely give the illusion of one.
Protestantism divorces government and the Church. It says that man by himself is accountable only to God and that man is capable of discerning God's will all by himself.
Government divorces government and the church; it is this divorce that allowed Protestantism to survive, because princes ceased to serve the Roman church in oppressing/suppressing heretics. And before that, the political structures in the West ceased to serve the East, allowing the Great Schism to persist. And before that the empire lost control of areas now populated by oriental Orthodox.
Every serious Christian has to put accountability to God ahead of accountability to the government. What the church fathers show (and modern protestants would tend to agree) is that what is due Caesar must be weighed against what is due God.
I would argue that my understanding of "civilized" is based on social order. As Teyve says in "Fiddler on the Roof" "where everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do." In civilized societies people don't reinvent themselves. There is no disconnect from society and family. A civilized society can be repressive. However, I would argue that it leads to greater harmony.
But such places do not actually exist. Well, maybe some extremely primitive and isolate place might. But Tevye's own milieu belies this changelessness. Start with his "traditional" clothing, which is in fact modern. Its construction is based upon the sewing machine. Nor were there always Jews in Russia, nor was there always a prohibition against intermarriage, nor were the Mosaic rules always interpreted in the terms in which Russian Jews expressed them.
What happened instead was a constantly shifting pattern of interactions between Jews and their surroundings-- and in this case it was helped out by the plain demarkation between Jews and the goyim
. Some aspects of "tradition" (e.g. observance of Passover) served as markers of that division, but others were simply fallout from the division. Other groups trying to live in similar embedded isolation produced similar structures.
But then the other irony of Tevye is that, in the big picture, he arises out of social situation in which the context of Jewish society has been radically altered, forcing an abrupt alteration in "tradition". Fiddler
. after all, is the product of a hugely secularized American Jewish community in which Jewish identity is most threatened by the lack
of pressure upon it. One can take the path of the Hassids and the Amish and freeze some point in the past (1910 for the Hassids, 1870 for the Amish) and very carefully allowing any advances from that point. There is something artificial about this, and in any case it dooms one to a subculture in which the full culture is still the driving force. One can see especially with the Amish how they are forced to negotiate with the outside world on many points, and how that negotiation is in turn governed by American attitudes of tolerance which make their separation viable.
It's no accident that democracy developed in Protestant countries. I would argue that democracy is somewhat uncivilized.
Democracy in the West has a much longer history that the Church does, when one considers the Athenians. More recently the Icelanders have been doing it for a millenium-- Icelanders voted
to become Christian in 1000 AD. It would be more accurate to say that autocracy and Protestantism aren't particularly compatible.
I forgot who wrote that democracy invariably leads to radicalism. A democracy isn't a "conservative" society. It's always about who is in charge today. Who has the power today. A more "civilized" society would be one that is governed the elders, i.e. people who because of their experience know more.
Please. Now you're falling into the fallacy of ignoring sin. Age need not confer wisdom, much less integrity. Societies which try to deny this become senile, or worse; instead of governance by the likes of George Washington, they get governed by the likes of Lord North. Or they fall to tyrants, or even give themselves up to them willingly.
Social disorder happens for many reasons, but by and large it happens because society and governance grow out of joint. This has nothing to do with Protestantism or democracy, but it has a great deal to do with criminality, lust for power, and greed.
Also, I would say that the social disruption of the USA is largely exaggerated. At one time I went back and looked through a bunch of old Time magazines from the late '50s. What is most striking about the weekly crises that padded it out its pages, at this late date, is how fundamentally irrelevant most of the news was, in the end. In many respects the truly disruptive changes went unnoticed. People in 1957 had a fighting chance of predicting much of 1967; they had no chance at all of predicting 1968. And yet everything that happened in 1968 extrapolated almost linearly from 1957. In the end the message is clear: the American spirit simply is more tolerant of "social disruption" than most people would imagine. And tolerated disruption in the end isn't disruptive.