Abraham Kuiper (center), with two of his sons in the Dolomites at the end of the 19th century. Image via Image Bank University VU Library (UBVU)
Attend today at VU Sports Center my book Special Movement 125 years of student sports at the Free University. For this purpose, online sources have been used extensively, such as the very private speech given by Abraham Kuiper in 1913 to Bond van Gereformeerde Jongelingsvereenigingen.
The idea that there was absolutely no interest in sports within correctional circles for a long time. This also applies to athletes from Vrije Universiteit itself. For example, the Okeanos Rowing Club wrote in its jubilee book from 2007: “Teaching aerobics, physical exercise and sports?” In reformed VU circles, the sport was considered swearing in the church.
This is not true, because very early in the VU, interesting and, above all, ideas about sports and physical education appeared. These texts are all over the Internet and are very interesting sources.
Abraham Kuiper, for example, was a fanatical practitioner of gymnastics, fencing, and swimming since his youth. He himself said about this in 1913 during a ceremonial speech at the Bond van Gereformeerde Jonglingsvereenigingen: “I have understood all my life the duty of vigorous exercise.”
As a fanatical climber, he made annual treks in Switzerland, Tirol, the Pyrenees, Norway and the United States. He looked back proudly among the reformist youth: “In the best years of my male power, I climbed high mountain peaks for weeks on end, sometimes with marches of more than ten hours and twelve hours a day.”
Johann Snell already wrote extensively on the subject in his autobiography on Kuyper in 2020, which shows that these mathematical efforts also had a spiritual character. In the high mountains, I literally faced, physically, the limits of human experience. But only so, by our limitations, have I glimpsed the truth of God.
Kuyper also discussed this theological-mathematical perspective in his ceremonial address, in which he pointed out to his audience that a Christian has a duty to deal responsibly with his body: soon you will fully realize that essential power of being in this other. Triple, in faith strength, in moral strength, and in strength for your life mission.”
So sports and physical activity were not stand alone, but were part of the overall development of man. “The Romans also had a useful proverb here,” Kuiper said. “They bragged about Sanna Human in Corpor Sano; Which means that a big head only comes with a big and healthy body.”
And then there was Reverend Bob Stijinga, who reported that Biographical Dictionary of Dutch Protestant History, joined the Lutheran Church in 1915 “because of a more spiritually liberal atmosphere and a broader scope in collegial work”. Ten years later, he was appointed teacher of philosophy and pedagogy at the Academy of Physical Education in Amsterdam, especially in the field of Protestant catechism. This institution was then located in the physiological laboratory of the Free University of Valeriusplein.
In 1923, the same Stejinga published the book Sports and piety, which has partially joined Kuyper. This particular work is also available entirely online – over here.
As it should have been, Stejinga first warned of the worst forms of sports insanity, “the great masses of those, who find in sport all their interest, and whose conversations are not about anything else, and whose thoughts are not about anything else, and those who They are the first and last question for sports news. At the same time, the religious community called for them to exercise themselves. When piety is truly healthy, a life that joyfully rises to God and expects everything from Him, then it can especially take in sports for the period of youth as a noble and sublime means of shaping and strengthening the outer life.
He even went so far as to agree to take part in sports on Sundays, “as long as they bring relaxation and refreshment to the body.” All in moderation: “As long as you don’t make Sunday a donkey’s day.” Despite that nuance, that last call went too far for a reviewer Herald“What is being said about the sport on Sunday I find very suspicious,” movement magazine Kuyperian said.
This resulted in a very interesting discussion of Christian ideas about sport, a largely unwritten chapter in the history of sport and thus a fascinating new area of research.
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