Going Dutch – The New Christianity
When John Lennon flippantly said, in the sixties, that he was more popular than Jesus Christ, he caused a raucous all over the Christian world. The previous Apartheid Calvinistic Christian oppressors banned the Beatles music from being played on all state broadcasters.
Well it seems that John Lennon, who imagined a world without religion, will have the last laugh. Jesus Christ is being cut down to size and relegated to a myth status in most Churches all over the advanced world. The Church bells are tolling for Jesus Christ and we are well on our way to a post theist society even with in Christian circles.
Reading this paraphrased article written by Robert Pigott and originally published here (1) it appears that Christian atheism bodes well for our future.
Dutch rethink Christianity for a doubtful world.
The Rev Klaas Hendrikse can offer his congregation little hope of life after death, and he's not the sort of man to sugar the pill.
The Exodus Church is part of the mainstream Protestant Church in the Netherlands. An imposing figure in black robes and white clerical collar, Mr Hendrikse presides over the Sunday service at the Exodus Church in Gorinchem, central Holland.
It is part of the mainstream Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN), and the service is conventional enough, with hymns, readings from the Bible, and the Lord's Prayer. But the message from Mr Hendrikse's sermon seems bleak –
"Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get".
"Personally I have no talent for believing in life after death," Mr Hendrikse says. "No, for me our life, our task, is before death."
Nor does Klaas Hendrikse believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing.
"When it happens, it happens down to earth, between you and me, between people, that's where it can happen.
God is not a being at all... it's a word for experience, or human experience."
Mr Hendrikse describes the Bible's account of Jesus's life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.
His book Believing in a Non-Existent God led to calls from more traditionalist Christians for him to be removed. However, a special church meeting decided his views were too widely shared among church thinkers for him to be singled out.
A study by the Free University of Amsterdam found that one-in-six clergy in the PKN and six other smaller denominations was either agnostic or atheist.
Klaas Hendrikse: "You don't have to believe that Jesus was physically resurrected"
The Rev Kirsten Slettenaar, Exodus Church's regular priest, also rejects the idea - widely considered central to Christianity - that Jesus was divine as well as human.
"I think 'Son of God' is a kind of title," she says. "I don't think he was a god or a half god. I think he was a man, but he was a special man because he was very good in living from out of love, from out of the spirit of God he found inside himself."
Mrs Slettenaar acknowledges that she's changing what the Church has said, but, she insists, not the "real meaning of Christianity".
She says that there "is not only one answer" and complains that "a lot of traditional beliefs are outside people and have grown into rigid things that you can't touch any more".
Dienie van Wijngaarden, who's been going to Exodus Church for 20 years, is among lay people attracted to such free thinking. Some believe that traditional Christianity has too restrictive a notion of the nature of God. "I think it's very liberating. He is using the Bible in a metaphorical way so I can bring it to my own way of thinking, my own way of doing."
Wim De Jong says, "Here you can believe what you want to think for yourself, what you really feel and believe is true."
"In our society it's called 'somethingism'," he says. "There must be 'something' between heaven and earth, but to call it 'God', and even 'a personal God', for the majority of Dutch is a bridge too far.
"The Church has to be alert to what is going on in society," he says. "It has to change to stay Christian. You can't preach heaven in the same way today as you did 2,000 years ago, and we have to think again what it is. We can use the same words and say something totally different."
The young people at Stroom West write on plates the names of those things that prevent earth from being heaven - cancer, war, hunger - and destroy them symbolically.