Interview with Raymond Bruinsma (2)

[At this point I attempt to resume the previous discussion].


MHH:  You’ve started to answer one of the questions that I was going to ask.  That centers on the antithesis. You yourself used that word a few moments ago. Let me break my question up into two parts.  It’s been said that the doctrine of the antithesis is not being sharply preached today as it used to be preached.  Would you agree or disagree with that statement?

RB:  Well, I don’t know.  I can’t say that that’s not being preached.  It’s approached from a little different angle, because when the minister brings to us the dos and don’ts of the scripture, that’s the antithetical walk that we have to walk. Our ministers have been hitting on these points, but the people aren’t catching it.  Our older pastors used to be very sharp on that.  That you don’t have today with the younger pastors.  But that they don’t preach antithetically, no, I wouldn’t say that that is true.

MHH:  The second part of my question is:  Do you feel then, based on some of the comments you’ve already made, that people in general, and perhaps specifically young people, are not living the antithesis?

RB:  That’s my big concern.  They’re not living the antithesis.

MHH:  And do you see, for lack of a better word, a development in that over your lifetime?  In other words, if you compare today with yesterday, do we have a bigger problem today than we had yesterday?  Would you agree with that?

RB:  Well, it’s not an easy question to answer. I do see that it’s not as evident as it was a few years back, because of the fact there’s some people are hankering after something to do. We’ve always had our young people’s societies and things of that nature. But it just doesn’t seem like the young people today are interested in things. Maybe we’ve got to inform our pastor that they’ve got to come out and use that antithetical word more often. They preach antithetically, but it’s probably not hitting everybody as it would somebody who understands what the antithetical walk should be.

MHH:  The concept should be given a name.

RB:  I think it should be given a name.  And that’s one thing I will say: our younger preachers are not bringing that out.

That’s why a minister has to be observant and know what his congregation needs.  And then they have to start driving that home. I think that our younger preachers should drive that home more—that antithetical walk that’s required of the child of God.  We all should know it, but the devil is there to take it away from us if we have it.

MHH:  He attacks hardest where the antithesis is sharpest, or at least where it ought to be.

RB:  Where it ought to be, right. That’s why I say, let our young ministers get a little sharper on that.  I would think that the seminary drives that home to these young men The antithesis was something we heard all the time. I think these people that don’t hear it, they don’t know what it is. It’s a big word, antithetical. Then you have to walk an antithetical life. But we’re happy in the PR Church, I tell you.  Where would you go if you didn’t have the PR church?

MHH:  Good question.

RB:  People who have gone back to the Christian Reformed Church must be vexing their righteous soul to stay there.  How could they do that?  It’s not that we don’t have faults and weaknesses.  Our churches have faults and weaknesses, too.  Absolutely.  We’re only human.  But where are you going to go to find the truth of the word of God faithfully expounded from Sabbath to Sabbath—that your minister exegetes the scriptures?  You can’t find that any more.  When Richard Poortinga’s [a member of the PR churches]  brother died, he told his pastor, “I want no eulogies.”  That poor preacher didn’t know what to say. Dick said to me,“That preacher didn’t know what to say because he couldn’t give this eulogy of what a good man he was and this and that.” Well, the way the tree falls, that’s the way it lies, right?  There’s no changing that.  I mean, if that was a child of God, he reaps his reward because he laid down his life here to attain unto the heavenly glory God has prepared for us.

I don’t say there’s anything wrong with mentioning a person.  But all you hear is eulogy, eulogy.  They don’t take the word and expound it to give comfort to the living.  And the dead person don’t hear a thing (laughter). [Here follows a conversation regarding the history of a Christian school controversy involving the congregations of South Holland and Oak Lawn, which resulted in the dissolution of the Oak Lawn congregation. While it is tempting to include Ray’s comments here, he mentions a number of people, at least one of whom is still living, in a less than complimentary manner. It is better not to include this material. I pick up the thread of the discussion at the end of Ray’s narrative.]


RB:  South Holland school continued.  Rev. [John] Heys was our pastor at that time, and he was kind enough to administrate for us a short time, until we could get a new administrator. Mrs. Heys helped out at school at that time because we were missing a teacher too.  So, they helped us through that.

MHH:  So you must have had some rocky times.

RB:  Oh, we had rocky times here in South Holland, you bet!  They were rocky times. That was rotten business when your father [Homer C. Hoeksema] was here and fighting that whole court action [regarding the right to possession of the church property]. I remember your father coming to us.  He came in ’54 [it was 1955]. That was right after ’53 took place.He had been out in Doon, wasn’t it?

MHH:  Right.

RB:  Came from Doon.  Came to South Holland.  And he got right into the mess when the schismatics were trying to take away the property of South Holland. They claimed they were the faithful Protestant Reformed church.  How they ever could that, I can never understand, because they were contrary to Protestant Reformed teachings.

MHH:  But that was the issue, too, wasn’t it?

RB:  Oh, it sure was.  Aw, look at the issue. You’d see that whole business with DeWolf, First Church, and his heretical statements.

MHH:  But knowing that or asserting that is different from being able to prove it. And that’s what they had to do in the court trial.

RB:  That’s right.

MHH:  The question, in my understanding, was, which group is the the true continuation of the Protestant Reformed churches?  That was the issue at hand, correct?

RB:  That’s right.

MHH:  And along with that obviously went the property, because whoever was judged to be the continuation would be awarded the property.

RB:  Yes. I have some papers I could show you after we’re finished with this interview. It was the court’s decision that the property belonged to South Holland PR Church, and not to the schismatics.  But they were out after the whole business. On top of that, I had my father-in-law living here, and he was on the opposite side.  “Oh,” he said, “you’re following a man.”  “I thank God,” I said, “that God gave to us the (late) Rev. Herman Hoeksema to guide and direct us into the truth of his word.”  I said, “I’m not following him, but I’m following Christ.  But I thank God for Rev. Hoeksema,because he led us into the truth.”  I said, “This is exactly what’s going to happen to your group right now.” They’re going lead you right back into the Christian Reformed Church.”  “Oh, no!” he said. “that’ll never happen.”  It did. It’s a sad history.

MHH:  Division within your own family.

RB:  Yes, division in my own family. Rev.[Bernard] Kok would come here while my father-in-law was in the garage. He’d come to the front door and my wife said, “He’s in the back yard.”  She didn’t invite him in.  She said, “He’s in the back yard.”

TB:  That’s terrible.

RB:  That was pathetic. This man could have those crocodile tears on the pulpit; I remember that as a kid.  He was a good preacher.  No qualms about that. He was very emotional.

MHH:  That court battle went on for quite some time, didn’t it?

RB:  It did, because I think your father had to make a couple [more than a couple] trips back here after he left here.

MHH:  He did.

RB:  In ’59.

MHH:  That’s true.

RB: That went on for quite awhile. It was seesawing back and forth, but the judges finally saw through it all, and we were awarded the property. It’s sad when you have to have difficulties like that in the church.  But God uses it all to strengthen the church. Sometimes when things go smooth and everything seems to be going so nice, people become a little indifferent and say, “Hey, we’ve got peace and quiet,” and then they forget about what we stand for.

MHH:  Do you have other memories of the history of the PR church?  We have talked about several of them so far.  Is there any other event or any other situation that perhaps stands out in your mind?

RB:  One thing that stands out in my mind, because I was only a young boy (nine years old), is that my parents left the CRC in Highland, Indiana.  My father went to the consistory and there was a Dr. VanDyke who was the minister there at the First Christian Reformed Church of Highland. He said, “Lou, “what church are you going to?”  He said, “I’m going to the PR church.”  “Oh,” he said, “well, I can send you away with my blessing.” (chuckle)  I thought that was quite a statement.  But this was one of the old-time preachers. He was in the CR church, but I don’t think he went along with that common grace theory. He sent us away with his blessing, and I thought that was a great thing.

MHH:  Speaks well of the church at least from a certain point of view.

RB:  A certain point of view, right. [Here follows a lengthy discussion that involves numerous people, most of whom are still living. Although a part of history, this material is not beneficial to the discussion and I have redacted it]

MHH:  Here follows an addendum to the interview. This subject came up in informal conversation, and I am now going to record it.

MHH:  Mr. Bruinsma, even though I’ve known you most of my life, I am not aware of what you did for a living, where you worked. I would like to know about that, if you’d be willing to tell me.

RB:  OK, I’ll tell you. I worked at Acme Steel for twenty years as a machine operator, machining of rolls of steel they used in the hot mills.

I was always having a problem because I hired into this company before they went union.  So the company protected us and said our non-union members do not have to join when they finally went unionized.

But that wasn’t the end of my problems.  I did not join the union, but I was confronted every time they had the picket line out there. I would confront these picketers and they’d want me to sign on the dotted line [to join the union]. They said, “Oh, just your signature and you won’t have to do any picket-duty or won’t have to come to the meetings.  You won’t have to do anything.”  I said, “No.That doesn’t make any difference to me. I cannot join your organization because it’s an organization of the world. I serve Christ. My conscience wouldn’t be free to be joined with a worldly organization such as yours.”  I said to them, “What do you fellows do when you’re in a picket line like this? Some poor soul comes through there and you bash him over the head with a bat because he’s crossing your picket line, because he wants to get in and work. No way will I join up with your union.”  “Well,” they said, “you blankety-blank worker, you just go on in.  But what are you going to do when this is a union, a closed shop?”  I said, “When this is a closed shop, management tells me I have to join the union or get out, I’ll walk right through this gate and walk out. But I still have the freedom to work here because I’ve received this job from God himself. This just didn’t fall out of the air.  God led me to this job as my means of livelihood,  and I thank him for it.” If there’s if any thanks left, I would give that to management.  That’s where my paycheck is coming from.  As far as you fellas are concerned, I have no obligation to you whatsoever.  They said, “Well, look at that family.” (Because Tena would bring me to work with all five of the children)  They said, “You have the union to thank that you can support that family of five children.”  I said, “No, you got that all wrong, too. There again, I’ve received those children from God himself, and he’s given me this as my means of livelihood to support this family. So all the thanks goes to my heavenly Father. He is whom I serve, and I have nothing to do with the union.”

That went on for all the twenty years that I worked there.  Finally one fellow said to me, “Ray, I want to warn you, because they’re talking about boycotting you somehow or other to get you to join the union or get you out of here.”

That’s when Tena started taking the car and bringing me with the children. When I was on the second shift, she would come at eleven o’clock at night with all five of the children in the car to pick me up.  She’d get them out of bed, put them in the car (the children even remember that to this day) to pick me up. Finally we were working only three and four days a week, so I thought, I can’t make ends meet this way.  So I’m going to go see if I can find a part-time job.

Right here in South Holland, we have Park Press, a newspaper. So I went over there and they said, “Yes, we’re looking for somebody.”  So they hired me as a press helper.  So I had to clean up all those ink rolls. My hands would get black with the ink.  So I worked there for about two weeks, and they said, “Ray, would you be interested in working in the camera room?”  I said, “You know, I’d be interested, but I don’t know the first thing about what goes on in the camera room.” (It’s all photographing the copy and everything)  I said, “I know nothing about this.”  “Well, we’ll break you in.”  Fair enough.

So, I broke in in the camera room, and that’s where I worked the rest of my stay; for twenty-five years, I worked at Park Press, and I retired from there. Park Press was owned by Christian Reformed men,  and most of the help was Christian Reformed.  So I had a lot easier life because of the fact I didn’t have to tolerate all this cursing and swearing that you have out in the work place. If we did happen to hire somebody who cursed and swore, he was admonished and rebuked.  In fact, I had an experience with that.

We had one of our customers coming in and he would always use God’s name in vain.  And I called him down. “You know,” I said, “it hurts me. “God is whom I serve. You come in here and you use his name in vain, and that hurts and,” I said, “that’s a sin on your part and, you’re going be held accountable for that.”  Twenty years later this same man came in.  I was already retired, but I did go back as a part-time helper. He said, “Ray, you remember you talked to me about using God’s name in vain?”  I said, “I sure do.  I called you down several times for that.”  “Yes,” he said. “Well, I’m a Christian today. I know where you’re coming from.”  So, you see what effect a little word spoken may have?  We don’t know how the man lives his life, but he made that confession.

I’ve been retired since 1990. 1989 was my last year of work. So I’ve been busy taking care of Tena and doing all the housework.

TB:  He does a super job.

RB:  I do a super job. She just can’t get over it. “You see more places where the dust accumulates than I ever did,” she says. (Laughter)

That was my whole synopsis of my working days.

Once my youngest son said to me, “Dad, “you spent too much time away from the family,” (which was true), because I was very conscious of supporting the family. I had times I was off, when the company would go out on strike. Then I didn’t have work. I’d go and wash ladies’ windows.  I’d clean the house for them.  I’d paint houses. I’d grab anything I could.  My brother Bill was a block layer, so I’d get a job with him and I’d work at those jobs in the meantime to keep things going.  Scrambling, you know? Then I started to sell Nutralite (food supplements).  I’d have to go and talk to people at night after work.  And then I was in the consistory and I was in the school board at the same time.

MHH:  That’s probably a little much.

RB:  That was too much.  It started out already when the kids were in Calvin [Christian School in South Holland].  I was on the school board. When we built our own school and I got called into the school board and then the church. Between Rev. Heys and Professor Decker coming to South Holland, we were vacant two and a half years, and I was in the consistory and in the school board. We had to teach catechism and take our turn at reading sermons. That was too busy, because I have to agree with my son, although they had a good mother.  He always said, “I had a good mother. You were out of the house too much, but Mom compensated for that.”  I realize I was too, when I look back.  But I did it all with a good purpose.

MHH:  Probably of necessity.

RB:  Of necessity, right.  But I can remember Rev. Schipper saying, “When a man is too busy, I don’t care if it’s with school and church work, he’s got to cut back someplace.” You belong in the home with the family. How many of our husbands don’t make themselves too busy and leave it all up to the wife?  That’s not right either, because we are the head of the house. That’s why it’s so important that we marry one in the Lord and in the same household of faith—so you know your wife is going to be teaching these children according to what you would want them to be taught.

MHH:  Without doubt. Thank you for the addition. I’m once again a lot smarter than when I came.  (Laughter)   To be continued…