Due to the range of his abilities Leonardo is known as Renaissance Man. We would be equally justified in calling Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper, Reformed Man.
Pastor, church leader, professor, newspaper journalist and editor, founder of Holland’s first mass movement political party, a university and a denomination, he was an MP and Prime Minister, all the while he was a prolific writer on many subjects, the list of his activities goes on. A macro thinker he was concerned not only for the conversion and sanctification of his parishioners, he wanted to reform all of Dutch culture and society.
Kuyper is perhaps best known for the statement which encapsulates his world-view: ‘There is not a thumb’s breadth of all creation of which God does not say, “Mine”’. His astonishing drive was powered by a burning desire to explore and apply the implications of God’s revelation to all of society.
What is often forgotten is his deep concern for ‘de kleine luyden’ or ‘the little people’. The ordinary people of Holland who lived their lives, worked hard, attended their churches, and wanted to see their children get a decent education. The common people whose desires were ignored by the political and social elites who ran the country according to their own values, standards and interests.
Despite his upbringing and education Kuyper was a man of de kleine luyden. He spoke in a way they could understand, his newspaper columns have been described as ‘a night school for the common people’. Throughout his life he sought the spiritual, material and political welfare of the little people. Much of his church and political life was a struggle against the vested interests of the elites.
Today the Western elites have the same contempt for the common people as the Dutch elites of 150 years ago. The contempt shown for popular expressions of political and social concern evidenced in UKIP in Britain and the Tea Party in the USA knows no bounds. Occasionally it comes to glaring light.
Last week Channel 4 in the UK screened UKIP: The First Hundred Days a docudrama purporting to outline the events surrounding the first hundred days after a UKIP election win. Basically it outlined the fears of the elites of what would happen if ordinary people actually got hold of the levers of power. Britain, a once mighty, tolerant nation would become a hell-hole of bigotry and racism run according to the wishes of beer swilling, fat working class nobodies and their Little Englander bourgeois middle-class counterparts.
As Roger Scruton wrote: ‘The socialist ideal of equality has led to the idea that patriotism is racism, and that the attachment to an established way of life is merely discrimination against those who do not share it.‘
In attempting to expose the bigotry of the kleine luyden of the UK our elites and their acolytes exposed their own bigotry, prejudice and innermost fears. In their outlook society is divided into two groups: the educated, multicultural, pro-EU, deep thinking and sensitive people who wish to see society progress; and the knuckle dragging, homophobic, racist, incompetent, unhealthy masses who need enlightenment. The elite’s disdain for the little people is boundless and leads to a potentially dangerous split in society.
We find the same inherent prejudice amongst the elites of the USA and their camp followers in their attitude to the Tea Party. An orderly, thoughtful expression of the concerns of working and middle class people, mainly social conservatives and Christians, who think they have been ignored by the main political parties, was demonised by the mainstream media and subject to vile abuse. Through such attacks the progressive coterie can safely express their prejudices and bigotry in an acceptable, political manner.
Just as ‘fundamentalist’ is the favoured epithet to be thrown whenever someone expresses a theologically orthodox position so the favoured epithet tossed around whenever a policy or movement has an instinctive response amongst the little people is ‘populist’. In the eyes of the bien pensant liberals and aloof self-satisfied cultural elites if something is popular amongst the general population it is automatically suspect. The little people apparently lack the mental apparatus and common decency to do politics in a mature and civilised fashion.
Yet, as Abraham Lincoln said, ‘God must love ordinary people, he made so many of them’. The frightening thing in the UK, and increasingly in the USA, is that it is not only the political elites who are losing touch with the little people, it is also the church. It becomes ever more pronounced that the church too is losing touch with working class communities, whilst its automatic soft-left political stances and pronouncements are catering to the perceptions of a shrinking number of the middle classes.
Unless we recover the trenchant theological analysis and Christian drive of a Kuyper and his associates our society will pay a heavy price.