NL: Religion and violence

Plaisier Arjan NL: Religion and violence

Dr. Arjan Plaisier, secretary of the general synod of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. Photo: PKN

Dr. Arjan Plaisier, secretary of the general synod of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, comments on religious violence.

Religious violence: we don’t seem to get rid of it, it clings to history. Today it is mainly the violence which originates from Islam we hear about. Bomb explosions, attempted murders, kidnapping, destruction of church buildings. But, especially in the past, Christians as well combined faith and violence.

Paul Cliteur delivered a lecture on this topic for the Association of Dutch Clergymen. According to him we will only get finished with the problem when we will live by a so-called ‘self-governing or secular moral principle’, a moral principle we agree upon and derive from ourselves and which is a sufficient guarantee that we do not bash in each others heads. Religions should also have to respect this moral principle; if they want to the religions can contribute their stories as source of inspiration. Of course these stories would have to be selected on their ethics in advance, because there are also weird stories among them.

I do understand Cliteur. He is a lawyer and wants to settle things. He probably thinks that the government should spread the secular or self-governing moral principle and if necessary should enforce this. I understand this as well. A government will always determine the rules of the game and the supporters of the religions will have to abide by them.

When do I drop out?

In the first place at Cliteur’s optimism on the secular moral principle. Cliteur dreams about a ‘brave new world’ of sublime moral people. This dream tears to pieces at the stubbornness of man.

Secondly religion becomes a very sad thing no one will become enthusiastic about. Religion will be condemned to provide stories for a petty-bourgeois moral. The heart of a religion, anyways the heart of Christian faith, does not beat in there.

Thirdly: violence, within Christianity as well, really comes to a standstill with Jesus Christ. Not even in what he taught (for example the sermon on the mount), but in what he has done. To kick the habit of violence, also of the violence which is within Christians, I would rather not comply with the school for secular moral principle. I would rather celebrate Good Friday and Easter. The Lord’s Supper, in which we commemorate the death of Jesus, is better remedy.

We should however really take the remedy. To say or with the words of Oosterhuis[1] ‘sincerely convert to Jesus’. That is hard enough. Again and again we will come to Him as remorseful sinners. To hear Him say: Go and sin no more. Because Jesus is a stranger to us, but there is only one way: and that is to bear more resemblance to Him. Then we are no longer in school to learn a moral principle, but in a church to live from a story.