Dutch couples should go forth and multiply
“In addition to tearing my hair out over not living up to the two-point-one baby rule, I can now start worrying about getting zapped by some old testament god” – Perro de Jong ponders over the separation of church and state.
To paraphrase Woody Allen, I would like to tell the Dutch minister for youth and families, André Rouvoet, to go forth and multiply. Only not in those exact words.
The reason is that Mr Rouvoet had some harsh things to say recently about Dutch couples. He reproached them for having an average of one point seven child, while the minister won't settle for anything less than two point one children per couple.
Two point one! After a year in which the prospect of fatherhood has seemed more remote to me at times than my chances of winning an Olympic medal in Beijing, that's what I call rubbing it in! I'd be ecstatically happy at this stage with just one point nought child. Heck, I'd even settle for the remaining nought point seven if there weren't too many vital organs missing...
So here's the minister, adding insult to injury by holding me responsible for the end of Dutch life as we know it. Because if we don't have more children, Mr Rouvoet suggests, the growing number of elderly people will soon bring the Netherlands to its knees.
I wonder, though, is that really the reason for his rather unusual plea? As the leader of an outspokenly Christian party, isn't Mr Rouvoet more likely to be taking his tune from the very bible passage I quoted at the beginning, Genesis 1:28? "Be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth."
Great, I hear you think...more Christian-bashing. But let me surprise you. I think Mr Rouvoet has every right to call on Dutch couples to keep bonking until their toes curl and their noses turn purple and fall of. Never mind where he gets his inspiration from.
At stake here, of course, is the separation of church and state. But I can't think of a single idea that's so badly misunderstood these days as that one.
Bishops with swords
For one thing, it has nothing to do with secularisation or with the church losing power. Quite the contrary. The separation of church and state was advocated by philosophers such as Locke and Hobbes, when every western king and nobleman was still a card-carrying Christian and when the average bishop still brandished a great big sword.
As the bishops feuded with the kings and noblemen over land and influence, and the noblemen and kings pillaged churches and raped passing virgins to get their own back, they must eventually have concluded that it was better all around if they each had their own, undisputed realm.
That means there's nothing against politics inspired by the tenets of Christianity...but everything against using politics to promote or impose the Christian faith. So in Mr Rouvoet's case, I would have been pissed off if he'd used his position to tell people to go to church. But seeing as he just wants us to have sex, I'm only mildly insulted.
At home with the dog
On the other hand, there do seem to be more and more people who believe the separation of church and state means something different entirely.
As Henk Hagoort, the new boss of Dutch public radio and television, put it on his weblog: "the separation of church and state means the state doesn't bother the church. People who believe it means you have to leave your religion at home with the dog when you go to work are in for some heavy weather."
Oh great. In addition to tearing my hair out over not living up to the two-point-one baby rule, I can now start worrying about getting zapped by some old testament god that Mr Hagoort is pulling out of his hat like a big fluffy rabbit. If there's no column next week, you'll know what's happened.
More serious, though, is that despite its complete lack of historical accuracy, Mr Hagoort's one-way-traffic definition seems to be shared by none other than our prime-minister, Jan Peter Balkenende.
Hour or Power
He recently appeared on a television programme called the Hour of Power, which was started in 1970 by some American TV evangelists. Not only did Mr Balkenende appear as a guest on the programme, he spoke from the Catshuis, the official seat of the Dutch prime-minister. And not only did he speak from the Catshuis, he literally said the following: "Without religion", Balkenende said, "people cannot function."
Come again? If I don't believe in God I don't function?
Relegated to the odd-socks drawer by the government of my own country and labelled as a second-rate citizen. I wouldn't call that a violation of the separation between church and state anymore. More an attempt to do to this much maligned principle what Mr Rouvoet would so much like to see Dutch couples to do to each other.
Perro de Jong / Expatica
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Expatica.
[Copyright Radio Netherlands]
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