Spiritual renewal underway in Holland…but outside the public sphere

.- Religion, especially Christianity, appears to be making a comeback in the ultra secular Holland, although those who are returning to the faith are seeking refuge from public life rather than engaging it.

That is the conclusion of an analysis entitled, “The Post-Secular Future of Holland,” by Dutch journalist Joshua Livestro.

After commenting on the increase in the number of people that pray at their places of work and companies that allow for public prayer, Livestro cites the book by Adjiedj Bakas and Minne Buwalda, in which the authors assert that “God is back in Holland,” and they cite as proof the return of crucifixes and religious symbols to the classrooms of Catholic schools.

But not all the news is good.  Livestro explains that the Christian confessions have been losing members.  The outlook is not good for “Protestant churches,” as their membership has declined from 23% of the populace in 1950 to 6% today,” and according to government statistics, the numbers are expected to drop to 2%.  The number of Catholics has gone from “42% in 1958 to 17% today, and it is expected to drop to 10% in 2020.”

Religious practice among young people is on the rise, however, and Livestro notes that despite the process of secularization, young people continue attending church.

Another phenomenon that seems to confirm the tendency towards a “post-secular society” is the trend among many new churches to convert “cultural centers, sporting venues, school auditoriums, parking lots and even night clubs” into places of worship.  “The idea seems to be to make the place look as little as possible like traditional places of worship in order to attract more believers,” Livestro states.

Similar to the first Christian communities, believers are also meeting more frequently in private homes, where they “share in meals and adoration.”

In Livestro’s opinion, “For better or for worse, Dutch Christianity is an underground phenomenon.”  “Dutch Christians have withdrawn from the public sphere, whether voluntarily—as in the case of home-churches or the movement of young churches—or because they lack confidence to speak publicly about their faith to an unbelieving audience,” he added.

While Christians have gradually disappeared from public life, he continued, “Muslims are becoming more and more prominent” and now make up “6% of the Dutch population.”  As an example Livestro cites the new mosque being built in Amsterdam.

Muslims are mostly interested in keeping their fellow believers from leaving Islam, Livestro asserts, adding that it is “very unlikely that Dutch Islam would become a serious competitor of Christianity, which has little to fear from a rival that rejects proselytism and must still come to grips with the purifying fire of religious liberalism.”

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April 16, 2014

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Mt 26:14-25


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First Reading:: Is 50:4-9a
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