Yet, lacking curiosity and the habit of study and any general grasp of history, we have entered a period of nostalgia and reaction. We want the past back, though we have no idea what it was. Things do not go so well for us as they once did. We feel we have lost our way. Most of us know that religion was once very important to our national life, and believe, whether we ourselves are religious or not, tat we were much better for its influence. Many of us know that Calvinism was a very important tradition among us. Yet all we know about John Calvin was that he was an eighteenth-century Scotsman, a prude and obscuritanist with a buckle on his hat, possibly a burner of witches, certainly the very spirit of capitalism. Our ignorant parody of history affirms our ignorant parody of religious or "traditional" values. This matters, because history is precedent and permission, and in this important instance, as in many others, we have lost plain accuracy, not to speak of complexity, substance, and human inflection. We want to return to the past, and we have made our past a demonology and not a human narrative.
The essay as a whole is beautifully written and just completely devastating, a perfect critique of those who would be conservative and speak of history and tradition without knowing anything about either.
UPDATE: Oh, goodness, and she absolutely sledgehammers Lord Acton for intentionally misquoting Calvin in order to disparage Protestantism. Love it!