donderdag, januari 31, 2019

Kaft van het boek Wereldgeschiedenis van NederlandMore than a hundred scholars contributed to a recently published book with the rather intriguing title Wereldgeschiedenis van Nederland - A world history of the Netherlands. In over 750 pages they describe Dutch history, starting with the Neanderthal man 70.000 years ago.

One of the chapters in the book is about the Oxford Group. The author, Peter van Dam, a lecturer of Dutch history at the University of Amsterdam, says that “the history of the Oxford Group is not a footnote. It is essential for understanding The Netherlands in the twentieth century”. He writes about the success of an “undogmatic renewal movement”. It broke through existing barriers and connected people who would not normally meet.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Catholics, Protestants, and others in the Netherlands founded institutions along social, political and religious divides. Society became fragmented: people living in their own bubble. It became the characteristic of Dutch society. The First World War had a disastrous effect on people. They were looking for new moral foundations. The longing for spiritual renewal did not lead people away from Christian ideas. Rather, it gave rise to new interpretations. Some ‘renewers’ propagated orthodox ideas and others, like the Oxford Group, promoted liberal interpretations, according to the author. “Such loosely organised groups did not fit into the usual picture of orthodox religious institutions and therefore did not get the attention in Dutch history that they deserved”.

He describes how the charismatic Buchman started his work of personal conversion. The open and honest conversations that took place in the house parties, helped the Oxford Group get off the ground. It culminated in a 10-day mass rally in Utrecht in 1937 with 100.000 participants. Besides enthusiasm, it also raised negative reactions. The Catholics felt threatened because the mass rally took place at the same time as the national ‘Dutch Day for Catholics’, also in Utrecht. A Catholic newspaper wrote that it hoped its readers would not take the movement seriously.

At the same time there was resistance from orthodox protestants to what they called 'fake conversions', and 'conceited and liberal ideas'. Some took offence to Buchman propagating a Christian message while deliberately avoiding established churches and Christian organisations.

Van Dam concludes by saying that the outbreak of World War II meant an end to the hope for a moral re-armament. However, the popular ideas of unity and pragmatic Christianity lived on. 'While this movement (Moral Re-Armament) reduced in size, its ideals of a Christian civilisation, pragmatic cooperation and inclusive organisation, became the norm.'

Johannes de Pous