AN OPEN LETTER to Calvin College President Anthony Diekema

Dear Dr. Diekema:

It is indeed heartening to learn from both The Grand Rapids Press and Calvin College Chimes that you have shown the conviction as well as the courage to cancel the showing of a film at Calvin College and to further examine the policy that has been followed at Calvin to determine whether it is in keeping with the Christian principles the college professes as well as with the intent of the decision of the CRC Synod on the film arts in 1966.

Not having seen “A Clockwork Orange,” I am in no position to express judgment about the merits or demerits of that particular film. However, I have good reason to believe that you acted conscientiously and responsibly when you served notice at this point that it was time to call a halt. Moreover, when 600–700 of the students at Calvin sign a petition objecting to the showing of this particular film and others it is obvious that you were by no means alone in your judgment.

According to Mary Kramer in The Grand Rapids Press article: “The cancellation is the first of its kind in the 10 years the college has sponsored a film series.” Beading Chimes, anyone interested could remain somewhat abreast of what was being shown, one film after another. When space in THE OUTLOOK was requested for strong criticism of a certain film shown, a colleague and I visited Calvin to discuss the matter; and, to the best of my recollection, we spent two hours in a give-andtake session about this. To be sure, we were courteously received and also allowed to have our say to the full; but, upon leaving, we had the feeling that we had not made a dent and we might almost just as well have saved our breath as far as any change that could be expected was concerned.

It was with no degree of pleasure that we engaged in negative criticism at that time or at any other occasion. In contrast, it is now a source of real enjoyment to be able in good conscience to voice a hearty word of commendation. From a report found in Chimes of January 14 we are informed that in addressing the faculty about this matter you told them:

“I was increasingly unable to account for the paucity of evidence of actual fulfillment of the mandate of Synod to the college [in the ten year history of the Film Arts Committee]. I questioned whether or not the films presented had been considered from a Christian and Reformed perspective . . . [and] I found myself in a situation that prevented me from being able to defend with integrity our past track-record of film education.”

It is gratifying also to learn from this same issue of Chimes that Dr. Howard Slenk, professor of Music and chairman of the Cultural Affairs Coordinating Council has gone on record as saying: “I believe the faculty made a mistake in 1967 when they gave the assigned Synodical mandate to a student-faculty committee. I think it was an ill-advised decision. . . . I dont feel the college has given the kind of leadership it should to the denomination in this very volatile area of film.”

We would like to believe that, with God’s help, you will show sufficient Christian stature to be able to withstand the pressure of those who resort to name-calling in an effort to have their will prevail in the choice of films at Calvin. You may regard it as a real compliment to be accused of being “pulled along by the pietists at Calvin” notwithstanding the approbrium the term may have been intended to convey. Whatever can be done to nurture healthy and respectable piety at Calvin alongside of an acknowledged reputation for outstanding scholarship will be all to the good.

The effect of your recent action will no doubt evoke a mixed response from alumni and CRC constituents for whom Calvin is of such vital concern. We had better face it: besides enthusiastic supporters, among these there is also a conscientious and sincere element whose love for Calvin as “onze school” has grown cold. Feelings and expressions of dissent about paying the annual quota for Calvin may be ignored or stifled but how much better it would be if this dissatisfaction might be removed, for example, by the kind of action you have just taken and the publicity it received. Our fond hope and fervent prayer is that this recent development at Calvin may be a harbinger of a breakthrough for the united and enthusiastic support on the part of all to whom the school rightfully belongs.

Please be assure, Dr. Diekema, that we are not unmindful of the herculean task that is yours as President of Calvin College. Personally, I became somewhat aware of the demands made upon anyone in your office when in a bygone day I served as a member of the Calvin Board and also for a time as president of the executive committee.

To have to keep house as you do with about 4,000 students, a large faculty, the board, and a far-flung CRC constituency involves a high risk of frequently being ground between the upper and nether millstones.

Still vivid in my memory is the wish expressed for me years ago by one of the elders at our first church when I was a “brand new minister.” A farmer and small of stature, he was unusually astute and extremely well-read, an elder able and also willing to do so much for a fledgling minister. At a reception (or us he really said a mouthful when he expressed for me as “brand new minister” the wish that I might have “the meekness of Moses, the patience of Job, the courage of David, the wisdom of Solomon, and the zeal of the Apostle Paul.” He thought that in the ministry I would need it.

Allow me now to pass this wish on to you. r well recall that many years ago when at Synod all the qualifications required of anyone to be president of Calvin were being spelled out and discussed, the highly esteemed Rev. Idzerd Van Dellen rose to remind Synod that God does not make men like that. That, we trust, is something you would, no doubt be the first to admit. Always being mindful of this we do well to pray fervently that our Lord may graciously supply your every need.

Commending you and all those associated with you at Calvin to Him Whose we are and Whom we serve, I am

Fraternally yours,