And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (Rev. 3: 14-16)Christianity in the Netherlands is doomed to extinction. In its present form anyway. This saddens me greatly, because I firmly believe that Christianity is a force for good in any nation where it has taken root. The Netherlands as a nation will suffer more then it is prepared to acknowledge if (or when) the Holy Ghost finally leaves these shores for good.
This morning mrs. KV and I attended service at a protestant church two villages away from ours (much to the delight of mrs. KV, the region, like mrs. KV, is predominantly Catholic. So if I want an old-fashioned 'black stocking' Reformed service, we have to travel a bit). I hadn't really paid attention to this before, but we, despite being in our early thirties, were the youngest ones there. Not only that, but the gap between us and the next youngest attendants was a good thirty years. A full 80% of the people occupying the pews were 70 or over. Which means that in about 30 years, when mrs. KV and I will be in our sixties, the congregation gathered today will in all likelihood have joined the choir eternal. We might well be the only two attending service by then (well, here's hoping our children will follow their parents in this seemingly losing proposition).
And, though I find this infinitely saddening, I can understand it. Mrs. KV and I go to church for our own sake. By that I mean we don't attend church for the sermon or the singing. It is hard to put into words exactly why it is we feel the need to visit a church every now and then. We jokingly refer to it as 'going on a visit to God'. Just the act of spending an hour in church, praying and meditating, I guess.
For people looking for a bit more then just 'visiting God', however, the protestant church in the Netherlands has become a barren place. I cannot remember the last time I have heard a sermon that did not leave me squirming in my seat. This Sunday was not exception. The minister, a sweet and in his own way: a wise man of eighty-three going on seventeen, reminded us all how we were morally obligated to take responsibility for all the crap in the world. How we MUST feel solidarity with the downtrodden in far away lands, suffering at the hands of regimes that are in fact propped up by the very money we were invited to put into the collection plate.
As sermons go, this was pretty standard fair. All my life I have been excoriated from the pulpit I didn't feel enough, didn't show enough, didn't do enough about the plight of people in far flung places in Africa and Asia, or (closer to home) the illegal immigrants that were desecrating our churches (back in the 80's), blithely using the altar as their own personal bedroom and/or toilet.
All *my* questions about what God wanted from me, how Jesus' teachings applied to my life were left unanswered. When such subjects were treated in a Sunday service, those questions that were important to me were dismissed in bland clichés about the Light and the Grace of God, shining upon us in Eternal Love(tm). It all sounded very lofty, but it answered nothing. Tired of being made to feel guilty about stuff that wasn't my fault to begin with, and I could do nothing about, while at the same time getting no answers to the questions that were most pressing to me at the time, I came to a point where I very nearly lost faith altogether. And our dear Lord only knows how many, consciously or not, have definitively turned their back on the church for this very reason.
Over the last few years the rhetoric from the pulpit (both in the protestant and in the Catholic church, I am sorry to say) has become even stronger. Last Christmas, on the Eve of the birth of Our Lord, we were treated to a flaming sermon about 'Solidarity'. The text itself seemed to be lifted straight from the minutes of a Komintern meeting. This Sunday the real kicker came when the minister started to refer, in thinly veiled terms, to those sympathizing with Geert Wilders as those who were the bringers of inequity we should oppose.
This has been a common theme for some time now, partly covered on this blog here and here. Both the Catholic and the Dutch protestant church have apparently taken up the position that just because islam also has a single deity, they are natural allies against the forces of secularization.
This particular attitude is exemplified by Erik Borgman, professor of 'Theology of Religion' at Tilburg University. Last year, prof. Borgman was voted one of Hollands 12 'sharpest' thinkers. Maintaining that 'islam is important to the church' this (NL) is what this sharp thinker had to say about Christians sympathizing with Geert Wilders:
I find that shocking.(...) Sin exists and can not be helped out of this world by sufficient education. But it would be worth something to me when churches for example would make it clearer that freedom of religion is one. That those who injure islam also injure the church.I find it hard to believe that I am the only one seeing the contradiction in the statement that 'those who injure islam also injure the church', especially when injuring the (Christian) church is part and parcel to any and every Islamic regime in this world, from Egypt to Nigeria and the Philipines. Moreover, this petty little man declares anyone with the slightest sympathy for Wilders to be a sinner beyond education. How's that for an inclusive, non-judgemental and 'solidary' attitude?. Anyone remember Marcel van Dam disgracefully calling Fortuyn and 'inferior human being'. How is this different?
But this episode inadvertently points out where the church in the Netherlands is heading: To oblivion. Between the embrace of islam as a possible ally (how I pray we will not see the day when we find out what that alliance will actually mean) to the ambiguous stance on the 'Palestinian question' by the General Synode ('we want to boycott Israel, but the faithful might not like it'), it seems that the church has been taken over by those who shape God into the form of Marx. They obey God, but up to a point. When it comes to denouncing real, actual evil, the church has nothing to offer but artificial shades of grey and bland 'solidarity' with those that have expressed the desire to see us all exterminated. They are a tepid bunch, spued out by the majority of the Dutch even before God has spat them from his mouth.
That is the saddest part of it all: The astonishingly thorough secularisation of the Dutch since the 1960's was (and still is) a result of the choices the churches themselves have made.
(h/t Nieuw Religieus Peil)