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Old 02-22-2012, 07:53 PM
 
4 posts, read 11,711 times
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My family is moving to the suburbs of GR, probably the northern suburb areas (Rockford, Sparta, Cedar Springs, etc.) Although we have conservative values, we are not religious, and don't attend church. I understand that this area is fairly religious and have 2 questions: Do you think our children will have a hard time being non church-goers?
Are some surrounding GR cities more accepting of non-religious people than others, and which ones?
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Old 02-23-2012, 05:34 AM
 
Location: USA
118 posts, read 251,400 times
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I was talking to my wife about a similar subject the other day. While I don't believe this area is more religious than some other areas there is a social/cultural norm here in GR where people seem to talk about faith, god, and religion very openly and there seems to be a cultural assumption that everyone else shares their sense of faith, convictions, and Christianity...

These conversations and declarations seem to pop up left and right in situations that seem odd to me.... like a work break room and I've even experienced it in the course of casual conversations during job interviews...

It seems to go way beyond the odd/rare story about something that happened at church and I've noticed it creeps into daily conversation quite often... It seems to me that these conversations/comments about faith and god are similar to a popular television show in that it is just a normal thing to talk about... a touchstone or icebreaker to an extent.. something that people talk about in order to relate to each other.

It's a very odd and unique West Michigan cultural norm. one that very much does exist and you will have to accept if you choose to live here. To what extent it will effect your children I'm unsure as I am an adult and do not deal with children, but as an adult this is something you will need to understand and while I've managed to get by without having to engage in these conversations to a large degree (I am an agnostic) I have found it beneficial to remain ambiguous and vague about my faith (or lack there of..)
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Old 02-23-2012, 09:25 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iluvmi View Post
Do you think our children will have a hard time being non church-goers?
Even if we assume that your children will have a a hard time being non church-goers in the norther suburbs (they won't), how would other children even know that your children are non church-goers?
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:01 AM
 
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Thanks redgoast that was very helpful. While I would be able to, I am not sure my husband would be able to remain ambiguous...do you mind sharing what city/twp you live in? Or would you say your observations are for the whole GR area?

Boomrshine...I am assuming if religion is integral to the culture of the area that it would certainly come up among children at school. I have friends in Ohio in a bible belt area who were somewhat shunned because they were non-church goers. The parents of many of the other children didn't want their child to be close friends with their non-religious daughter. They have since moved to a community only a few miles away where things are a bit better. Hence, the reason for my question.
I know that there will be a diversity of opinions within any given area, I was just wondering how accepting the general culture would be and if some surrounding cities areas are more accepting (not just tolerant) of non-church goers.
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Old 02-23-2012, 02:06 PM
 
Location: Wyoming, MI
47 posts, read 87,412 times
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My kids rarely attend church and it's never been a problem. From a day-to-day, casual interaction standpoint, it's never been an issue for me, an agnostic. This includes the rare occasions when I have attended a church service, and when I was dating my wife who at the time was a student at Hope College, which is associated with the Reformed church.

There were only two times when my not being a Christian has been an issue in the 20+ years I have lived here. The first was when I first entered into a relationship with my wife. Her parents did not like the idea of her dating a non-Christian and did pressure her into breaking things off with me at one point. (Ultimately our love for each other won out, and it wasn't long before I was completely accepted by them.) Certainly this is nothing unique to west Michigan, but the higher percentage of "devout" Christians in this region may make this type of thing more likely to happen.

The second incident was when my father-in-law invited me to a Promise Keepers event in Grand Rapids. Not knowing what I was in for, and because I love the guy, I went. Anyway, it was a rather unpleasant experience to put it mildly and I'm sure he realized I was rather upset by the whole experience because he never asked again.
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Old 02-23-2012, 03:49 PM
 
Location: between three Great Lakes.
1,955 posts, read 2,126,379 times
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iluvmi, I think you'll be completely fine and comfortable. West Michigan is changing, thanks largely to folks like you who move here from elsewhere, and dilute the old ways. I salute you for that!
My husband and I are vehement non-church goers, and we've found PLENTY of like-minded people here. You will, too.
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Old 02-23-2012, 05:33 PM
 
Location: USA
118 posts, read 251,400 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iluvmi View Post
Thanks redgoast that was very helpful. While I would be able to, I am not sure my husband would be able to remain ambiguous...do you mind sharing what city/twp you live in? Or would you say your observations are for the whole GR area?

Boomrshine...I am assuming if religion is integral to the culture of the area that it would certainly come up among children at school. I have friends in Ohio in a bible belt area who were somewhat shunned because they were non-church goers. The parents of many of the other children didn't want their child to be close friends with their non-religious daughter. They have since moved to a community only a few miles away where things are a bit better. Hence, the reason for my question.
I know that there will be a diversity of opinions within any given area, I was just wondering how accepting the general culture would be and if some surrounding cities areas are more accepting (not just tolerant) of non-church goers.
I live and work in the city proper, though many of my co-workers and friends commute in from the suburbs. It's just my observation as a whole.
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Old 02-23-2012, 05:34 PM
 
Location: East Grand Rapids, MI
845 posts, read 3,018,325 times
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I wouldn't worry about it. It comes up more on national TV news than it ever does in conversation.

Maybe it's a generational thing, but I'm in my 30s and I can count on one hand the times it's come up in conversation in weird context. Sure, it happens that on a Sunday you might hear two people who are all dressed up (from church) chatting each other up.... but that doesn't make the people out jogging any less normal or accepted.
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Old 02-23-2012, 07:13 PM
 
102 posts, read 212,397 times
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I think the coin flips both ways. Based off your comments - you don't seem tolerant of people who are churchgoers. Imagine how a churchgoer would feel if his children had to hang out with yours - would they be shunned or look down upon because they went to church? How accepting are you of churchgoers?

I'm not really sure there's a valid point to this thread. If anything - the "commonalities" will not be there because you don't share mutual interests. A town with lots of church attending folk will probably have kids that go to youth group together, church camp etc. It has nothing to do with "exlcuding" others - it has to do with the fact the two don't share common interests.
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Old 02-23-2012, 08:10 PM
 
Location: USA
118 posts, read 251,400 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urbanliving99 View Post
I think the coin flips both ways. Based off your comments - you don't seem tolerant of people who are churchgoers. Imagine how a churchgoer would feel if his children had to hang out with yours - would they be shunned or look down upon because they went to church? How accepting are you of churchgoers?

I'm not really sure there's a valid point to this thread. If anything - the "commonalities" will not be there because you don't share mutual interests. A town with lots of church attending folk will probably have kids that go to youth group together, church camp etc. It has nothing to do with "exlcuding" others - it has to do with the fact the two don't share common interests.
There is a valid point to this thread, it is this: The original poster is asking a question in regard to how much of a role religious belief is instilled in the local culture of the area she is looking to move to. She would like to know if it would be possible for her family to integrate into the community without feeling like they'll face any number of hardships or persecution due to their personal values and beliefs.

This is a very important question and one that I feel demands a serious and thoughtful response. Least we forget our country was founded by people who sailed across a vast ocean so they could settle and practice their way of life free of religious influence from the established order. Please remember that religious freedom includes being free from having to conform to any religious doctrine.

This woman would like to know what to expect and I must say your response as well as the response of others does give her a good idea of how being openly non-christian/religious may play out for her and her family in GR and West Michigan in general.
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