Religious Climate: A Response to Conversion Diary

Well, I’m on a roll. Due to an epic snow-day for which my stupid college didn’t want to grant, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands today. And yes, I do mean stupid college. It is in no small way absolutely dangerous to go out, but common sense never stopped a bunch of idiots who bought their degrees from being their own, idiot, little selves.

Harumph.

Anyway, point deductions aside, here is my promised response to Conversion Diary. It is one of my most favorite blogs ever!

So without further ado and all that jazz and…hmm I ran out of cliches:

  1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The West Side of the state.

  2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    Church attendance can be sporadic. Among Protestant churches, I’ve noticed that the big, shiny, mega churches seem to be doing well. Sunshine Community Church comes to mind. They seem mostly active.

    There’s a church and a bar on every corner of the street in GR, although how well attended each one is is fuzzy at best.

    Among Catholic Churches, I’ve noticed that there isn’t a lot of attendance unless you’re either at a more traditional parish, or your parish is Hispanic. The parish I’m thinking about joining is very active, has lots of kids and adults, and has a 24 hour adoration chapel.

    Mind you, Catholics are wayyyyyy in the minority here.

  3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    Ohhh boy this one is funny! There are 2 big groups in GR. Liberal/Progressive/Irreligious and Conservative/Evangelical/Christian Reformed. If you’re with one group, mentioning that you own a Bible, or God forbid actually read a Bible is only okay if you tie it into feminism, or go into a pro-gay rights rant. If you mention prayer, its automatically assumed that you think you’re better than everyone.

    If you’re with the CRC group (or a lot of the Protestant faiths, like Baptist, Methodist, etc) mentioning that you pray or read the Bible is fine. However, it won’t take them long to figure out that you’re a Catholic, which is sure to start up a tedious, overly defensive discussion.

    Me: So, I was reading the Bible and praying the other day, and I just felt this wonderful calm come over me. Awesome, no?
    Acquaintance: Yeah, that is pretty neat. So you have Jesus in your heart?
    Me: Ummm, I guess.
    Acquaintance: Because you can’t get into heaven if you don’t have Jesus in your heart. I have Jesus in my heart. What church do you go to?
    Me: Saint Bob Whatsit’s of the Whore of Babylon.
    Acquaintance: Oh…so you’re Catholic.
    Me: Sure am.
    *awkward silence*
    Acquaintance: Well, I don’t worship Mary, nor do I have to worry about someone getting between me and God.
    Me: Good for you, and neither do I.
    Acquaintance: And I read the Bible!
    Me: Great…I’m sure you do.
    Acquaintance: Wow, you must be an odd Catholic. Catholics don’t read the Bible.
    Me: *begins banging head against the wall*

  4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example,  here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    Religion in general is just avoided. No politician would make the mistake of being openly atheist in the sense that they carry it on their sleeve, although I think there’s a few that aren’t believers in anything in particular. They might get warm fuzzy feelings for Jesus, or at least profess them, so they’re still kind of closet-atheists.

    True political suicide only happens, however, when you’re Catholic. When Kerry was running for office, there were many mutters about how soon the Vatican would control everything, and all sorts of conspiracy theories that basically blame the Catholic Church for everything from political disasters to the price of gas. Not kidding.

  5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    Most of the Protestants tend to have 1 kid, maybe 2. The liberal side tends not to have kids, while the conservative side might have 2 but certainly not 3. Anything over 3 kids and you’re either Catholic or Mexican, or likely both. However, lots of Catholics are using birth control (or just aborting) so their family sizes are small unless in a traditional parish. Lots of negative comments, jeering, and glares will be thrown your way if you have a lot of kids, and it will be assumed that you’re just “irresponsible” especially if you’re young.

    Supposedly I’m too young to marry at 25!

  6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    When its not just non-denominational groups, its Christian Reformed, Calvinist, Baptist, Methodist, and a smidgen of Lutherans and Catholics hurled together. We do have some Jews though!

  7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    People are definitely becoming less religious as a whole. A lot of the kids who grew up CRC are becoming atheist, agnostic, or non-denominational. They still retain a lot of anti-Catholic prejudice. For a lot of people, religion is becoming something to be ashamed of, or something akin to believing in Santa. Most of the college students my age will go through the motions to please their family, or attain a beautiful wedding, but they honestly see church and God as some sort of patriarchal, overbearing, sexist who ruins all the fun.

    There’s a lot of Eastern mysticism going around, and the more liberal sections have fallen in love with Islam (they aren’t converting, however).

    As far as Catholics go, I am seeing a trend towards more educated Catholics. The Catholics my age are either lukewarm and soon to leave, or they are on fire for their faith. It has a lot to do with the parish and the amount of catechesis they have had. Also, we have been having an increase in converts and reverts- I think this might be because people have gotten sick of a Hippie Jesus culture, where nothing is wrong and everything is okay with Jesus if you feel like it. A lot of the people entering the Church now are thirsting for straight answers and Truth, which they weren’t getting from the CRC or other Protestant groups in GR.

    If young people aren’t doing that, its certainly trendy to not believe in God, or to go on a spirituality kick that basically amounts to yoga and white people dreds, as well as randomly going barefoot to show how non-conformist you are.

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