In spite of the flu shot, I was, like many hundreds of thousands of my fellow Dutchmen, attacked by by the virus of the current flu-strain. It took some determination to keep going. Last Saturday morning it was a bit dubious whether or not my audience would still be able to understand my guttural sounds towards the end of the sermon. Fortunately, intense coughing fits or periods of awkward frequent sneezing were delayed until after the service.
I am sure that, especially last Sunday, I did not radiate a lot of energy. It was the kind of day that was spend mostly hanging on the couch with quite a bit of television watching. I must admit that I regularly watch some religious television programs on Sunday morning. It is something I got used to during the periods that we lived in the US. On Sunday morning one religious show follows the other on most American channels. A few are worth watching because of their content, but most of them are only worth watching because they give some insight in this strange world of shouting television pastors and all kinds of, often bizarre, religious fringe phenomena, that form a unique aspect of American ‘culture.’
My ongoing fascination for these programs on Sunday morning on Dutch tv is probably at least partly due to professional deformation. But some of these do have something to say. That is true for many of the interviews by Jacobine Geel and also for some of the conversations during de Wandeling. After this I often stay with this channel for some time for the program of religious singing: Nederland Zingt op Zondag. I agree with my wife that, as far as quality is concerned, it cannot begin to compare with the BBC program Songs of Praise. Yet, even the traditional psalm singing has something special. Whatever one might say about it, it is a specimen of Dutch Calvinistic culture that, I believe, should be recognized by the folks of the World Cultural Heritage. However, my special appreciation goes to the program De Verwondering (the Wonderment) that is presented by Annemiek Schrijvers. With a restrained kind of devotion she talks with a well-know Dutch person in her small cottage in the woods, some 25 kilometers from Amsterdam. She knows how to touch her guest in such a way that he/she will bare his/her soul and will share his/her faith (or the absence thereof) with the viewer.
This past Sunday Annemiek talked with Jan Brokken. I only vaguely remembered him. Brokken is a journalist, but also a gifted author of travel stories and novels. Last week I happened to see the program in which Bert Keizer, an author and well-known doctor in a care centrum for the elderly, was the guest. And a few weeks ago I switched on the tv just when Annemiek started her interview with Jan Terlouw—the author of books for children and writer of thrillers for adults, as well as a respected liberal-democrat ex-politician. Remarkable enough. all three of these men grew up in a pastor’s home, but all three, apparently, were not able to find in the church what their parents had discovered. Many of my fellow-pastors will readily admit that they share in what must have been the experience of the parents of Brokken, Keizer, and Terlouw: It is certainly not a matter of course that children who grow up in a parsonage will retain their bond with the church.
However, what may be more special about these three interviews by Annemiek Schrijvers is that they were about people like me. Admittedly, these men are much better known and undoubtedly more talented. But all three of them are, like myself, past seventy, but are nonetheless very active in society. They are erudite people, but, in particular, people who have been important to other people and have become mature in their thinking through their experiences. And, they certainly are very spiritual people. In short, this is a trio with whom I happily (rightly or wrongly) identify myself, and who might in this phase of my life serve as role models for me. I secretly hope that, here and there, there are men and women who see something in me that inspires then and that, maybe, I can serve for some as a role model—even though I do not expect to be invited for a conversation on Sunday morning in the cottage of Annemiek.
[PS: While I wrote this short piece I experienced no major coughing fit. Maybe the flu has passed its worst and life will be a little more pleasant again in a few days time.]