Don’t Burn the Wooden Shoes Just Yet

James Smith Uncategorized 0 Comments

I’m not entirely sure I’ve caught the gist of David Zwart’s article, “Burning the Wooden Shoes–Again!,” a response (of sorts) to my earlier article, “A Peculiar People.”  

Zwart and I can certainly agree that disentangling ethnicity from theology “is never simple.”  Indeed.  As for the rest: I’m not quite sure if Zwart is agreeing with me, or calling me to task.  It could go either way.  Never one to miss the opportunity for a fight, I’ll assume he’s trying to disagree!

When I suggest we “need a different paradigm” that refuses “the tendency to reduce Reformed identity to mere Dutch heritage,” Zwart notes that I am “working against a very long and deep tradition of equating the two.”  Yep, I’m aware.  That was kind of the point.  Moreover, my point is that both those who defend the equation and those who decry it are working with an inadequate model.  It’s those who accept the elision of ethnicity and identity who are out to burn wooden shoes–either out of some weird self-loathing or out of a well-intentioned pursuit of “diversity.”

I’d be the last one to advoate burning the wooden shoes!  While I am arguing that we need to “sift” Dutch identity from Reformed theology, that doesn’t entail any sort of rejection or critique of this Dutch heritage.  To the contrary, I think we need to recognize that, in the providence of God, these faithful people from the lowlands were “carriers” of a theological tradition and heritage that is much bigger than their ethnic enclave.  The point isn’t to rewrite history and pretend the “Dutch” and “Reformed” were not bound together; rather, the point is to continue writing the history in a way that is grateful and forward-looking.  And Zwart’s suggestion for telling new stories is exactly right.  

In fact, that’s what I’m trying to do: as a “Gentile,” I’m grateful for the Dutch heritage of the institutions that buoy my Reformed faith.  Let’s make it a light to the nations.

Leave a Reply