One of the Dutch television programs I usually watch is De verwondering (The Wonderment) early on Sunday morning. In this program Annemiek Schrijver meets well-known and lesser-known guests, with whom she talks about their life experiences. She does that from a religious perspective. She is not only a sympathetic, but also a very skilled interviewer. She makes no secret of the fact that the Christian faith is very important to her.
Last Sunday’s episode was a repeat of an earlier conversation with Herman Finkers. Of all the Dutch comedians I admire him most. He is not just funny, but he really has something (deeply) meaningful to say. When I saw and listened to the program last Sunday, and when I watched it once more in preparation for writing this blog, I was struck by the depth of what was said. Actually, the conversation also made me a little jealous. I envied Finkers for the authentic, deep, but understandable way in which he spoke about religion. I suppose there aren’t many comedians who have read books by Schopenhauer. Finkers mentioned how he was impressed by Schopenhauer’s book Über die Religion, which appeared in English under the title Religion: A Dialogue. Schopenhauer claims that religion cannot do without ‘pious lies’. Although he himself felt he didn’t need religion, he did see the importance of it. But he assumed that religion by its very nature must contain paradoxes and even ‘absurdities’ or ‘pious lies’. Religion has to do with things of an entirely different order, and so the claims of religion con only be allegories, which are of necessity adapted to our human comprehension.
I must confess that I know much less about Schopenhauer than Herman Finkers and that I have never read any of his books. However, what Finkers said has made me curious. Of course, I cannot say it in such a profound way as a famous philosopher like Schopenhauer, but I have also come more and more to the conclusion that we as humans can only speak about God and eternity in ‘human language’, and this must therefore always be adapted to what we as limited, mortal beings can understand. So, what we say and think is always a distortion of the Reality, and strangely enough, the ‘truth’ as we understand it, is at the same time ‘a pious lie’.
However, what appealed to me even more in the interview is what Finkers said about the idea of God’s all-sufficiency–the idea that a perfect God needs no other beings, and nothing else, because he is ‘enough’ in himself. Finkers cannot accept that concept of God. If it is true that God is love, then God needs other beings, and there must be reciprocity. This means that it is not about us, human beings, who must do our best to ensure that he can get along with us. Our journey through life cannot be compared to the Dutch skating tour along the eleven Frisian cities, in which the participants must collect a stamp in each of these cities to eventually get a medal. Perhaps the most beautiful statement of Finkers in this interview was that our sins can never compete with the goodness of God. Saying that is actually uttering blasphemy!
And how right Finkers is! I also agree wholeheartedly with what he said next. It makes sense to him that we show our gratitude to God for all the good things we experience. And if things work out, or if beautiful things happen to us, some might speak of ‘luck’. But Finkers prefers to call that grace.
Many a pastor or priest cannot express the core of the gospel as well as the comedian Herman Finkers. Thank you so much!