Despite the Netherlands’ reputation as a bastion of secularism, a “Bible Belt” of conservative Protestantism has maintained itself in the small nation, which includes a political wing feeling new pressure from the secular right, writes Phillip Jenkins in the Christian Century (October 4).
The Dutch Bible Belt runs from the northeast to the southwest of Holland, representing a substantial portion of the country. Many of the small conservative Calvinist churches that refused to merge into the liberal mainline bodies are represented in these towns, which still observe and in some cases legally enforce the sabbath. In other areas, these churches have taken to American innovations, with megachurches growing in such belt towns as Zwolle and Barneveld.
The traditional “pillars” of Holland, where adherents of different faiths had their own social institutions (such as newspapers, schools and political parties), have long collapsed, except in these Reformed enclaves. As in the U.S., the Dutch Bible Belt has been a base for conservative political activism, from the traditionalist Reformed Political Party to the more open Christian Union, which has taken its communitarian and pro-family message to wider Dutch society.
Jenkins adds that there is concern that such a secular right-wing group as the Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, with its anti-immigrant and anti-Islam platform, will seek to co-opt or “threaten to seduce tradition-minded religious voters.”
(The Christian Century, 407 S. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60605)