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Anonymous Bosch

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October 22, 2001

Dear Anonymous Bosch,
Where are you? Where have you been? Why the long silence? Will you ever return?

Sincerely yours,
A Fan

Dear Fan,
I hardly know where to begin with all those questions. Over the last seven years, I have grown accustomed to watching and kvetching, but not to answering. I have taken on the attitude of a sometimes wise and quiet passivity. I have become competitively humble. But a true fan's heartfelt questions cannot be ignored for long. I'm not a celebrity recluse, remote, withdrawn and unwilling to communicate—I've read J.D. Salinger, and I'm no Salinger.

I've been gone so long partly because of my bad behavior. I'm not suggesting that you look back at some of the final columns I wrote in the early 90s, but think of the grief I must have caused by writing about angels doing the boot-scooting boogie when I was asked a simple question about angels dancing on the point of a pin. Think of the consternation in the general readership when I suggested that the underground tunnel system at the college was being built to protect us from terrorist assaults. Try to imagine the fallout when I wrote at length about safe sects at Calvin, not to mention the metaphorical theme park and cliché preserve being planned for the east side of the campus. Mike Van Denend is a kind and gentle man, but even his legendary patience can wear thin, especially if there are pressures from beyond his fiefdom.
Take, for instance, the folks in charge at Calvin College—no-nonsense, take-no-prisoner types. Moreover, the powers and principalities at denominational headquarters were beginning to suspect that my columns-poor things, but mine own-could not help the larger purposes of the 400,000 by 2000 campaign. They were almost certainly right. And the new graduates of Calvin College were profiting from a worldwide boom economy; good jobs came with a Calvin diploma, and prosperity had its own sense of glee not fully consonant with mine.

But the true reason for my long absence and silence is that I was trying to prepare for the end of the millennium and the coming in of the new end times. This may seem somewhat unlikely at this late date, but try to remember what it was like as we counted down the old millennium and moved toward the 21st.

For one thing, no one could agree on when it was going to happen—was the changeover to follow the final hours of December 31 in 1999 or 2000? Was it all right to be obsessed by it both times? Would all of our computers crash when their internal clocks had to make the first move beyond 1999? How much stockpiling would be necessary? How much survival gear? How much real estate in rural Montana and Idaho? And whom could you trust, not only with your life and goods and water supply, but also with the objective case of one particular personal pronoun, already hanging by a thread but almost certainly soon to be a dead letter?

These concerns drove me far from Grand Rapids and the friendly confines of Calvin College, far from the world centers of Reformed thought and practice—far from Geneva, far from Pella, far from Sioux Center, Seoul and Lynden, far from Scotland, Friesland, New Amsterdam and Chicago, far from all of the places touched and imprinted by the Reformers' thought, zeal and practice. So do not ask "Where is it?" since I will not say. But I put distance between me and thee, hoping to find a comfortable pew far from the din of those who knew exactly what would be happening next, far from those of you who knew all the answers and were ready to ride if not rule the rough beast waiting to be born. I said I was going on a tour of Internet bed and breakfast joints, but that wasn't the whole truth.
And I was wrong about the future—all of us were. You didn't have a much better idea than I did of what sort of future would appear in the new millennium. Here we are today, watching and waiting because of the threat and the reality of international terrorism. Here we are today, feeling our way cautiously in a changed economy. The metaphorical theme park and cliché preserve have turned into a convention center and the kingdom of communication sciences. You can find safe sects everywhere, and no one seems to mind. Angels continue to save lives and knick-knack manufacturers, perhaps even entire publishing companies. Calvin College graduates make it their habit to amaze and surprise us, in Zuni, Rehoboth and Crown Point, in Budapest and Bucharest, in Moscow, Tokyo and Zeeland, and in all the places they find themselves and their true vocations.

I'm back, I think, almost seven years older and a few nanoseconds wiser. And I'm glad you asked.

Sincerely yours,
Anonymous Bosch

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