Godless state’s good way

Netherlands' post-Christendom is rather pleasant

Feb 12, 2018 by

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The Netherlands is one of the most secular countries in Europe, yet it upholds principles of equality and compassion better than the predominantly Christian United States. Post-Christendom, as practiced by the Dutch, is remarkably Christian.

It is undeniable that there are fewer and fewer Dutch Christians, and the demographic trajectory also applies to Mennonites.

A state study found 50.1 percent of the Dutch population declared itself non-religious in 2015, with Christians making up 43.8 percent. That same year, 82 percent said they had never or almost never visited a church, with 24 percent identifying as atheist, up 11 percent since 2006. Perhaps the people feel they don’t need to attend church because their lives are pretty nice already.

Dutch culture regards religion as a personal matter, and public propagation of one’s faith is frowned upon. The society is egalitarian, valuing modesty and independence. Many a simple-living Mennonite would resonate with Dutch aversion to the nonessential. Honesty is misconstrued by North Americans as rudeness. Sustainability (caring for God’s creation) is paramount for a people who worked so hard to reclaim their land from the sea and love their bicycles dearly.

Dutch military spending is $759 per capita, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a bargain compared to Americans outlaying $1,859.

No society is perfect; the Netherlands is known for tolerance of tightly controlled prostitution, euthanasia and some soft drugs. It is not so much a stamp of approval as an understanding that decriminalization and strict limitations can lessen their detrimental impact.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime reports the Dutch homicide rate of .61 per 100,000 inhabitants is far below the 4.88 U.S. rate. The U.S. incarceration rate is 10 times larger.

American evangelicals overwhelming support a thrice-married president who is unapologetic for vulgar behavior and has boasted of sexual assault. While he and other public officials hide behind a “God bless America” mantra, the Dutch have a better track record of caring for citizens’ well-being.

In The UnDutchables, authors Colin White and Laurie Boucke note the Dutch avoid ostentatious behavior and lavish homes. Accumulation of wealth is considered acceptable only if it is put to use for the common good.

Yes, that means higher taxes. But the Dutch generally trust their state to manage funds well. The Dutch health-care system is considered tops in Europe and superior to the American model. Affordability is guaranteed for short-term medical treatment and long-term care, reflecting the Christian concept that life is sacred and each of us is created in the image of God.

Judging whether a society is “Christian” should be based on more than talk.

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