sat 10 sep 2011 04:30:56 witte de withstraat
am i crazy or are they?
sometimes i like to watch people debating and asking questions in the tweede kamer (dutch parliament) videos. then occasionally i decide to make yet another effort to understand the dutch political system. but it never works.
i think my biggest puzzle -- and i was discussing this the other day with kees -- is how a state that claims to be secular can have openly religious parties active in its parliament.
right now we have three christian parties in parliament, the CDA (christendemocratische appel), christenunie and SGP (staatkundig gereformeerde partij). CDA seems to be a compromise party formed in the latter 20th cen by elements of catholic and protestant parties who were no longer strong enough separately to make any difference. christenunie is from 2000, the merger of two previous 'reformed' parties. sometimes they cooperate with the SGP, who in my eyes are the weirdest most confounding manifestation of all. and yet they are the oldest surviving christian party of the three i mentioned -- having started in 1918 with a stance against women's voting rights.
SGP translates in english to 'reformed political party' -- which tells an english-speaker nothing, unless you know that 'reformed' means 'calvinist', and that calvinist is a kind of protestant christianity. fine, so there's a calvinist political party. they have only ever been a 'testimonial' party, ie they've never been part of any cabinet. the first principle of the party is that it strives toward a government totally based on the bible. and yet they say they are strict defenders of the separation between church and state. huh? they believe in theocracy *and* secularism at the same time? what's the word for that, dubbelzinnig? i don't grok. i would have to do years of research to figure out by what twist of mentation someone can believe in separation of church and state while advocating a government based entirely on the bible.
but the point is, nobody has time for that. we have more important things to do than worry about what fundamentalist calvinists think of the rest of us.
they're not actually *doing* anything in government, just making ministers spend 15 minutes answering their questions. in other words they are wasting everybody's time, and slowing the process down of getting anything done in the tweede kamer. then again sometimes i really wonder if the tweede kamer are really that intent on getting anything done. you almost never hear anybody give a yes or no answer to a question. it's all about speech making. what if we gave the parliament 59 minutes to save the world, or else they're all fired? could they then maybe get to the point, instead of playing like they're being paid by the word?
ok sorry for the rant.
but back to my main question: how is it that the netherlands can claim to be a secular state, while spending all this time on christian political parties?
one might wonder why there are no reps from muslim or jewish political parties in the 2e kamer, but that's beside the point. my point is, why are there *any* religious parties in the parliament of a secular country?
my only guess is that the religious parties are vestiges of the bygone days of verzuiling, the 'pillaring' of society in which catholics, calvinists, socialists and 'liberals' (= 'conservatives' in NL) would all have their own parallel machinery for civilization. just as you had a catholic churches and schools, you also had a catholic labor union, catholic political party, a catholic radio station, etc. verzuiling fades, but doesn't summarily get cancelled. so even though NL becomes nominally non-confessional as a state, it still includes confessional politics.
i think what i'm looking for is someone to explain to me how that is philosophically self-consistent. but nobody does that, because nobody seems to be bothered by the inconsistency. it's consistent with the flow of history, but not necessarily with any coherent theory of government.
kees pointed out that in america they do it differently -- the religious take over the party without actually renaming it. so for example the republican party becomes the de facto christian extreme right wing party. and everybody who isn't a right wing christian has to go vote for the fucking democrats.