Wednesday, August 30, 2006


The Rasmussen Report reported recently on the results of a poll in which Americans were questioned about their belief in the “literal truth” of the Bible.

“Not surprisingly” the Bible belt region lives up to it’s name with a high percentage of people who believe the Bible is literally true, concludes the report.

The website of the Rasmussen report says nothing about which side of cultural or political issues it tends to take. It’s also really hard to tell from the ads on the site. A site which reports on Bill Clinton’s new girlfriend is perched prominently at the top of the page. At the bottom is the “Just Hillary Clinton” news. On another page the “World’s Last Chance” website is advertised - the USA and the Papacy want a new world order, it's been predicted for 2000 years, and don't become a victim of it!

And apparently 2006 is the “Year of the Apology”: Post An Apology looks at the politics, entertainment, and culture in which we live. See who IS apologizing, who SHOULD BE apologizing, and who doesn't have a CLUE!

Usually the quality of the advertising on a website says something to me about the quality of the rest of the site. I find it hard take seriously a site full of advertisements for Viagra en penile implants. And believe me, I have been referred to sites like that as a source of truth by conservative Christians! So make your own conclusions about the Rasmussen site.

Anyway – to get back on track: the report itself is very confusing. When referring to the Bible it uses different terms to ask about (or report on) how people view the Bible.

These terms are used interchangeably, making an interpretation of the report almost useless:

literally true, authenticity and literal truth, Bible's authenticity, Bible is true

What disturbs me is not just the lack of clarity in the questions and the report (it is very reasonable to believe in the authenticity of a historical document without believing it is literally true, for example).

The survey is placed in the framework of Republicans and Democrats. The conclusion really is: Republicans are good Bible-believing Christians, Democrats are not.

Or, as someone wrote me recently: I'd rather be poor, fat, ignorant, conservative fool for Christ, than a rich, suave, intelligent liberal, who is nothing more than a fool. (I kid you not!)

I guess I’m really sad about the “cultural” and “religious” war being fought in the United States between “Right” and “Left”.

If there is any group that should know that a “war” mentality is not Jesus’ approach to the world it should be Christians.

I’m trembling already at what the next set of elections are going to bring (and the set after that).

And don’t forget to check out Bill’s new girlfriend!!

Monday, August 28, 2006

The laugh that struck home

Yesterday I baptized the 3 month old daughter of a young couple in our church, who happen to be good friends of ours, whom I also married.

(Pulleeez..... no discussion on this blog from Reformed or Baptist Reformed or Baptist or Emerging or Pomos or Catholics or anyone else about whether child baptism is Biblical or not. My philosophy is: if I gave a New Testament to my nonbelieving neighbor and he wanted to obey it, he would sooner speak in tongues, prophesy and heal people than he would baptize children. I do it because it is my tradition and I think there are some good reasons to do it, but I hardly want to spend a minute 'defending' it.)

Anyway, just after I baptized her she flashed me one of those big smiles that only a 3 month old baby can give you. It was intentional, it was directed at me, and it broke my heart.

I thought of all I had missed and miss with my kids and my grandson because of distance.

And I thought of God's grace, totally unearned, being now poured out on this child and the world.
It was a moment that shook me to the core.

Neat that that can happen in a church service.

Thank you Famke!

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Dear astronomers,

I’m not against democracy. I didn’t invent it – I actually think a benevolent dictatorship is the best – but it isn’t too bad.

Sometimes democracy - I will resist calling it dumbocracy – produces things to chuckle about. Italy, for example. Ross Perot. Florida 2000.

I still cannot for the life of me figure out how you think you can bring democracy to a country with the barrel of a gun. But that’s your business. I’ve given you permission to figure it out yourselves, and I’m pretty curious about how it’s going to work out. Maybe you finally will decide that a benevolent dictatorship is the best thing after all.

We did have to laugh when you decided (democratically?) that I was dead. “God ist tot!” screamed the madman in Nietzche’s The Gay Science in 1882. “And we have killed him!

He couldn’t convince his community of that, and so he cried “I’ve been born before my time!

But I did realize for the first time that you all thought you could determine whether I existed or not.

In 1966 it was official. “Is God dead?” asked Time Magazine on the cover.

"Ours is the first attempt in recorded history to build a culture upon the premise that God is dead" observed the Princeton theologian Paul Ramsey.

O.K. If you want to be that way. I can take it. Italy. Ross Perot. Florida 2000. My own existence.

But today you’ve taken on a favourite of mine. Pluto.

According to a democratic vote she is no longer a planet.

Now you’ve gone too far. I won’t stand for it.

You’ll get McCain. Or Hilary. I can't quite decide.

With lots of love,


P.S. Did you remember that you sent an explorer to Pluto in January of this year? It won’t get there until 2015!!

What a knee slapper that is!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Wow, this seems pretty clear.

But it's probably edited by the Left to make it sound this way......


Last evening I had an experience that was a high point in my career as a missionary. On the surface it probably didn’t look like much, but the currents moving – in me at least – underneath the surface were powerful.

I did a wedding in the New Church in Haarlem.

You need to imagine to yourself: an old square in the old city of Haarlem, dating back to before the Middle Ages. A church built in 1649 (the tower dates back to 1613), modelled after the temple in Jerusalem (at least what people thought the temple looked like).

The organ was built in 1523, restored in 1985, and is known as one of the best pipe organs in Holland. Sounded magnificent.

Amazing to stand in that church before a group of people and conduct a wedding in a language and culture that is not your own.

It is a goal of every missionary to be accepted by his or her “target group”. To be “one of them”. I think that has happened to Cyndi and I. I was asked by this couple to do the wedding, even though other minister colleagues of mine could have been asked just as easily. In attendance were people I have just recently met, but also people whom I have known for 15 years. Churched and unchurched people. Young and old. It was a community around a young couple, and we were part of the community.

Another goal of every missionary is to be a change agent - to see and say things just a little bit differently so that a culture acquires a new perspective and begins to change. It is a slow and ungainly process, but it can happen.

And I think it is happening. New ways of understanding who God is and what He has done and is doing, expressed in different images and words, are beginning to dawn. A new kind of community is being formed, one that desires to be a colony of God’s Kingdom here on earth. There is room for the highly educated professor and the mentally impaired. We are showing the world another kind of Christian.

It is not easy for the change agent – in this case, me (and my wife). I still feel the tension at the beginning of those kinds of services, when I realize that it will soon begin to dawn on a lot of people there that the guy standing in front is not a native Dutch speaker. Many of the customs still feel strange to me, and sometimes I think they are simply stupid. I would love sometime to be able to conduct such a service in my native language, with all the freedom of expression and wealth of resources that would give me.

But that’s what this business of missions is all about, and I am so grateful that God has helped my wife and me to hang in there all these years.

It is worth it.

Anne and Eva – congratulations!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


One thing that struck me again when I was in the States this past week was that the Christian community very much wants to obey God’s principles.

That means, though, that you need to work to find out exactly what they are. What exactly is “stealing”? What are the Biblical grounds for divorce? Does the Bible allow certain types of discipline for children? What is gossip anyway? What can we do, and what must we avoid?

Once you have discovered what those principles are, then you have to hold to them. They are unbreakable. When you go against God’s principles you run the risk that the blessing will be taken away from or not poured out upon your life.

(I never hear anyone ask what God really and concretely would do if you broke one of the principles. Does He then throw you into Hell? Does He send misery and destruction your way? What exactly does He do? If you ask this question, you don’t get an answer. People cannot – in light of their theology – say that God throws them into Hell. Because they believe He is a loving Heavenly Father they cannot bring themselves to say that that He gives them a whopper of a disaster or a jolly good thump on the head (which, because God is doing it, bodes no good). But you still get the feeling that people believe that something will go irretrievably wrong if you transgress one of these Biblical principles. I remember once that I asked a colleague of mine, a minister, that question when he told me that he was afraid he was a very bad leader for his congregation. When I asked the question I saw his body literally relax. But he gave me no answer. I had to supply it.)

An elder in a congregation put it this way: If the path that we have chosen is wrong, we pray that God will give us the wisdom to see that. But in the meantime we must do what we see in His word, not what we don't see.

I experienced this as a strait jacket. Because people wanted to hold on to Biblical principles it seemed that every use of common sense was abandoned. There was no creativity anymore. People forgot that God has given us a set of brains to use. God-created gray matter.

A favourite author of mine wrote: Principles are what people have in place of God.

I believe I experienced that last week. And people get hurt by it.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fanny Pack: what women never think of

Last week I was with a (female) friend of mine when she - in a move that surprised me, because I didn't expect it of her - put on a "Fanny Pack".

For different styles of Fanny Packs, click here, or here, or here, or here.

Because we have a relationship based on perfect honesty, I shared with her two thoughts of mine about Fanny Packs. She had never thought of these things, and I share them with you because it may revolutionize the woman's relationship to Fanny Packs.

Here they are:

1. A Fanny Pack screams at the world "I am an American!!!" You are welcome to scream that if you like, and perhaps you deliberately want to scream that as you toddle around this dangerous world (an American is afraid of lots of things). But just so you know.

2. A Fanny Pack placed like this:

screams: "Look at my crotch!".

I really don't think most women want to send that message (again, I realize that there are women who do - feel free, go ahead, don't let me stop you), but you should know that it is pretty hard for any redblooded man not to go there.

For those of you who always wanted to know what is under those fanny packs, you can click here. But click here only if you really want to! You have been warned! (Why did you click?)

Anyway, I promised her I would do a service to all those unknowing women who walk around with Fanny Packs.

I keep my promises.

Now it's up to you. She will never wear one again.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I'm on my way tomorrow to Philadelphia for a week to be involved with some family issues that need attention.

I hadn't expected to go at this time, but I think it is good that I go.

I won't be blogging as much for the next week, but that's OK. Not many people read the blog anyway.

I may have a chance to let you know what's happening while I am there, otherwise I'll write something when I get back.

Friday, August 04, 2006

United 93

Yesterday my wife and I saw United 93 in Amsterdam.

I usually look at the site Rotten Tomatoes before I go to a film, and usually it is a very accurate judge of films for me. If it gives a rating below 60% I don't even bother to go.

United 93 is rated 90% - right on.

Great film. You feel the knot in your stomach already at the first scenes of a normal day on the East Coast. Normal people, getting on a normal flight. I can go a whole flight without saying anything to anybody - I usually prefer it that way, in fact (I never even used to feel guilty when I listened to evangelists who told about how they used the plane ride to evangelize seatmates).

The film just shows what happened on board that flight - at least what can be pieced together from telephone calls and other information. You learn nothing more about the passengers than what you would normally learn from passengers - until it is crisis time.

Of course you ask yourself the question whether you would have been part of the mutiny on board that plane. Of course I don't know - but would it be arrogant to say "I think so"?

I have felt these emotions before, but you want to just kill those hijackers.

It was a terrible and brutal day. It was totally wrong, with no justification. I hope no one takes my comments on this log about the War on Terror to mitigate the horror of that day at all.

At least the Japanese were honorable enough to attack military men.

I am worried about Muslim extremism, and I think we already have the 3rd World War on our hands. That's why I 'm so concerned that we fight it properly.

This film helps us understand.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I'm encouraged

Last night in Los Angeles, at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, England’s Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a speech on the Middle East and the War on Terrorism that finally made some sense.

I don’t know what his motives were for this speech – I hope more than political gain – but the man said some things that I have missed in speeches from Washington or Downing Street ever since September 11, 2001.

A few quotes: (You can read the whole speech here)

There is an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East and touching, with increasing definition, countries far outside that region. To defeat it will need an alliance of moderation, that paints a different future in which Muslim, Jew and Christian; Arab and Western; wealthy and developing nations can make progress in peace and harmony with each other. My argument to you today is this: we will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of those values to the world.
The point is this. This is war, but of a completely unconventional kind.

Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalize the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win. And this is a battle we must win.
What is happening today out in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and beyond is an elemental struggle about the values that will shape our future.
It is in part a struggle between what I will call reactionary Islam and moderate, mainstream Islam. But its implications go far wider. We are fighting a war, but not just against terrorism but about how the world should govern itself in the early 21st century, about global values.

At other points in the speech he paints a one-sided and not entirely accurate picture of the arguments of people who are not in support of the intervention of the West in, specifically, Iraq. He defends the actions of America and Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan by saying we wanted “values change” not “regime change”. I’m not so sure that was the case. That was certainly not the grounds for going to war in those countries that was presented to us.

But anyway – he said two true things:

We will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of those values to the world.

I have been saying that it seems that our only weapon is force, and we need other weapons too. Fairness and justice should be what people around the world think of when they think of us, not the barrel of a gun.

Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalize the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win.

These are biblical issues - and they apply equally to everyone. Lately we have not been bending every senew of our will to make peace between Israel and Palestine, in fact, we have lately been encouraging the war.

Thanks Tony. I hope George Bush is listening.

As the British would say, “spot on”.