Flanders

Mar. 28th, 2011 09:14 pm
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      I had I had had enough. Of translation and of Church work. I needed some fresh air. So early on Saturday morning I drove forty miles north west from Brussels. This is pure Flanders, flat as a pancake. I know Flanders well and speak the language – the outcome of an affair that went badly wrong thirty years ago. Like much of Flanders, this is mixed farming and agricultural country. You feel that people have worked and still work hard.  Like in the house to the right: originally the family lived to the right, the animals were kept to the left - the double garage behind is a recent addition.

They are very house-proud here, and spend an awful lot of time building. But what they actually do of interest in the houses, apart from eat, watch television and have sex, I have never really discovered. They are pious, after a way: they keep their churches (often the only historical building in the village) in good repair. And their graveyards, like their front gardens, are immaculate….

                                                           

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8 June 2010

Spent a valuable half-hour with the Fr Pierre, an RC rural dean who knows our Russian Church in Belgium well, talking about the Belgian situation.

He brought to my attention the enormous role that the Belgian Catholic church played in foreign missions during most of the last century, incommensurate with the country’s small size. If I understood him right, there are still more Belgian priests outside the country in the mission field than in the country itself. And they have no wish to return to minister to their native country…..

He made another very apposite remark, which is that increasingly today people in the RC Church in Belgium people are either deeply involved or not at all. There is little or no Fussvolk.

This, linked with my reading of Vincent  Donovan’s ‘Christianity Rediscovered’, is suggesting that mass Christianity is largely a matter of evangelizing an existing ‘tribe’ – in the sense of a group which people fully mutually obliged towards. Interestingly enough there are in fact a number of fairly ‘tribal’ formations around in Belgium. I can think of five:
- the new right in Flanders
- the traditional left in Wallonia
- the upper bourgeoisie/aristocracy
- the business élite
- certain major corporations.

I sometimes wonder whether we should not be trying rather to Christianize the new right – much of which I suspect has a consciousness not dissimilar to that of Russian Christianity -, rather than to demonize it and try and contain it politically. Movements like this point to a dangerous spiritual-social void, which the evil one can get into if we do not beat him to it.

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