When I was a boy, Sunday itself was something of a ritual--two worship services, no bicycles or baseballs. The Sabbath began with a radio, up on a ledge above the refrigerator, an ancient white boxy thing tuned to a local station at 8:30, just in time to hear the deeply pitched bass of a preacher by the name was Rev. Peter Eldersveld. In the mid-50s, when the radio ministry of the Christian Reformed Church, the Back to God Hour, had just recently begun, the Reverend Peter Eldersveld was, hands down, the most well-known minister among my people, the CRC. At Calvin College, the denominational school, a dorm was named after him years ago already; and while the vast majority of his adoring listeners are gone now, in CRC rest homes from Patterson to Bellflower, still today ancient hearts would swell at the mere mention of man's name. Many--my parents included--would call him a saint.
Up above my desk here, right beside me, stand at least a dozen novels written by a man named Peter DeVries (1910-1993), a widely known American comic novelist, a man who once wrote "my father hated radio and could not wait for television to be invented so he could hate that too." Mostly, his work consisted of satiric novels that prompted someone call him "the funniest novelist on religion ever." He worked at the New Yorker for almost forty years, wrote 23 novels and innumerable essays, stories, poems, and reviews. The consummate urbanite, he did little but offend his alma mater--Calvin College--during a rare visit there late in his life, rendering little but disdain to those he likely considered provincial locals. I don't think my parents ever heard of Peter DeVries, but if they did, they likely would not have been proud of their son's collection of his satiric, cutting novels. No CRC nursing home residents, I'm sure, would consider him a saint.
In the history of my tribe--the Christian Reformed people--no two prominent men could stand at more diametrically opposite poles.
And now, get this--they were first cousins, named for the same Dutch grandfather.
A preacher could make a sermon out of that, but I'll just let that story hang there, very much like the mystery it is.