Monday, June 27, 2005

Godsdienst Les en wat heeft dat te betekenen?

Godsdienst les (Religion lessons).

Jaco, our nephew, spent four months in the Philippines as part of his study. What his study involves was a bit unclear to me. Dutch subjects and courses have vague descriptions that tend to confuse me. Anyway, he is taking a course that has to do with Theology and after he graduates, he intends to look for a job as a Religion teacher in one of the Christian schools that abound in the Netherlands.

Curious me asked Jaco what his intention was. Wat is je bedoeling als je Godsdienst les gaat geven? My Dutch was probably not clear enough and so I ended up asking the question in English anyway, while listening to the answers in Dutch.

Perhaps you could say that the Reformed Church with its various branches constitutes the state church of Holland. Anywhere you go, you'll be sure to find one huge church building which is the meeting place of the Reformed church. There are catholics here too, but their churches are probably not so conspicuous as those of the Reformed church goers. Needless to say, small church communities like the one we go to, have to find a way to house themselves because we can't borrow a church that's intended for use by the Reformed Church.

My first impression of the Reformed Church was that it was cold. Probably it has to do with the huge buildings, the walls that are unrelieved by any decorations, the high, stark ceilings and the fact that in the wintertime, the cold seems to penetrate through the stone walls and creep up your legs. Perhaps, it also has to do with me coming from a warm land, where we went to a church that had no walls, because it was in a constant state of renovation.

Needless to say, the sunshine and the warm breezes that blew into the church seemed to soak into the skin of the members of our church, because after the church service, we spent probably another hour chatting and talking and usually ended up all going somewhere to have lunch together.

Just imagine my shock when on my first visit to the Reformed church, the first welcome we got was a reprimanding look from an elderly lady, who seemed to be warning my husband against his attempts to interpret the service to me. Needless to say, I didn't get anything much from the service and couldn't wait to escape back home, seeing that said lady kept turning around and fixing her reproving eye on us.

In the beginning, we would be greeted by my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law, but even that dwindled away since the congregation moves from church building to church building every Sunday and one can choose which preacher one desires to listen to. I found it rather odd and confusing, for it seemed to me that if we all belonged to the body of Christ, there should be no need for the divisions into communities I, II and III. It is still a puzzle that I have to solve.

Back to Jaco and Godsdienst les. I wanted to know whether he had observed a change in the way the youth or the Dutch experience their faith. Jan's mother talks about the past, wherein I gain the impression that faith was more of a tradition than something that was tangible and real, it also saddened me that these good people still continued to wrestle with the assurance of salvation.

Putting the question to Jaco, I found myself quite impressed by his answers and I believe that indeed the winds of change are blowing over the Christian youth in The Netherlands.

As society grants more freedom of choice, the youth are learning to weigh their choices and the choice for God is becoming less and less a choice of tradition and more and more a choice of the heart.

Willemieke did say something in this conversation that set me to thinking. That while we may not be all positive about strict christian upbringing, ( I for one, believe that it's also good for children to know what choices they face and then to help them make the choices in the light of God's word), it does help the youth in this society that they grow up in an environment where their friends are all christians and their schools are christian and where in a sense, they are immersed in a society that expounds and propagates the same values that their parents have. It does help because the youth in this Dutch society are faced with so much pressure to conform, it makes me wonder what we can to do to make our children resilient enough and strong enough to make a stand when they have no one else to rely on but God.


This sounds a bit garbled I suppose, but I'm still trying to reason something out here and at the moment, my brain is wrestling with concepts that I am trying to come to terms with.


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