I only wish that it were true. It is human nature to surround oneself with people who think like ourselves, and that can be the only thing that explains your impression. Unfortunately, “West Michigan” (as you call it) remains pretty steadfastly conservative. Witness the dominance of conservative media-speak. Witness the repetition of conservative memes amongst neighbors, co-workers, and even otherwise-reasonable people who should know better. Witness how nobody in the public square talks about conservative “problems,” only those of so-called liberals. It’s the only place I know of where even “liberals” (the label given them by everyone else) boast about regular church attendance. Perhaps it’s only a matter of perception, and perhaps you and I are truly surrounded by different people. But I don’t detect much free-spiritedness in these parts.
We live in a region where the garbage trucks have jesus fish on them. I think that there are pockets of liberalism, and they may be growing, but they’re embedded in a solidly conservative region. Look at the hubbub around Hudsonville’s official mission statement.
I grew up in the bible belt and I think West Michigan is more Christian/conservative than where i grew up in small town Kansas. I was shocked to move here and learn that dry commynities like Hudsonville existed. Footloose in real life.
Phoenix exhibits the Wild West “every man for himself” sort of conservatism. But West Michigan possesses a “progressive” feature derived from its more tradition-laden society, more community organization. Consider the charity financed Civic Auditorium and the abundance of noncommercial radio, glaringly different from Phoenix.
I moved away from western Michigan and lived in New York for 20 years. IMO, this community is less conservative than it was when I lived here before. While there are still many conservative people here, I think the impression of it as a conservative place is in some measure a carry over from the past. Grand Rapids was called “The Furniture City” long after it was true. Certainly our community is conservative, but I also see signs that it is beginning to change. When I lived here before, I doubt that there would have been as many votes for a Democratic governor or president as Jennifer Granholm and Barak Obama received. Calvin College now funds their LGBT campus group. Some of the pastors of large conservative churches (Ed Dobson and Rob Bell) seem more socially progressive than their predecessors and less ready to condemn. Admittedly this is my subjective reading of the situation.
I think it is really important for progressive people to make their voices heard in this community so that our conservative neighbors hear other points of view.
I don’t know much about western Michigan. My sister lived in GR for a couple years, but I only visited her twice.
It’s really conservative where I am though. Midland is creepy. There are churches, Bible groups, and Jesus fish everywhere. It’s resulted in an odd reactionism. Many of us non-religious, non-conservative people have become extremely vocal about things. And most of my friends have developed a rather sardonic view of the city. (I’m not a native so I’m even worse). Maybe all the fumes from Dow affect our brains.
I believe that west Michigan is full conservative free thinkers. I am discouraged that the term conservative carries with it a negative connotation. It is almost as if one must be liberal to be forward thinking.
I agree with your concern, Savior. Historically both liberals and conservatives had a valuable place in our societry. Liberals wanted to make changes to improve the present situation; conservatives wanted to keep what was good in the present and block questionable ideas that some liberals would present.
Unfortunately, both sides have been taken over by those with questionable social ethics. Most present day “conservatives” are neocons who don’t care about preserving what’s good but rather work to weaken protections for the average person and benefits corporations and the wealthy. Most present day liberals want to strengthen protections and benefits for their specific groups in public and private areas without giving a damn about the rest of the citizens.
Since it’s unlikely that we can improve the ethics of those in power, our best bet is to make strong laws that block or punish actions that damage society.
I am discouraged that the term conservative carries with it a negative connotation.
So am I since the reality is that niether one always means what a lot of people might think, including those who describe themselves by either lable.
Unfortunately, both of these “sides” are a big part of the problem, especially those who grab all the attention by promoting the extremes then insist that one is not a “True liberal/conservative” unless they hold to a given set of beliefs.
I just recently deconverted from Christianity, and I literally do not know anynoe that is not a Christian, and almost all of them with just a few exceptions are conservative fundamentalist types.
I live in the GR area, and I know that it is becoming more progressive, but that still seems a minority view.
I am looking for a new job right now and I keep having interviews where the interviewer mentions thier own faith, and I know the response they are looking for is affirmation that I am a person of faith as well.
There are certainly freethinkers and others around, but not in the circles I have been keeping for 30+ years.
Eric Berne writes that even persons working through psychotherapy mostly acquire new circles of friends. If you must deal with a religious test from an unavoidable authority, perhaps you can inquire after their related intellectual and charitable accomplishments and complement those.