Bible Belt (Netherlands)

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Image:SGP-stemmers per gemeente Tweede Kamer 2003.png
A map showing where the Political Reformed Party received a significant amount of votes in 2003, and therefore shows the extent of the Dutch Bible Belt.

The Bible Belt ("De Bijbelgordel" in Dutch) is the name given (after the Bible Belt in the USA) to a strip of land in the Netherlands, which is specifically inhabited by conservative Protestants. The Bijbelgordel stretches from Zeeland, through the Betuwe and Veluwe, to the northern parts of the province Overijssel. However, some communities with strong conservative Protestant leanings are situated outside the belt. For example, Urk, considered by many as the most traditional settlement in the country, and some municipalities of Friesland have characteristics typical of the Bijbelgordel.

When Flanders and North Brabant were reconquered by the Spanish army during the Eighty Years' War, the Protestant inhabitants were given the options of either conversion to Catholicism or leaving. People of strong Calvinist denomination chose to leave in order to emigrate to the north of the border, in the period of 1609 - 1621. These people later became staunch supporters of the pietist movement known as the nadere reformatie (further reformation). Following the 1832 schism, known as the Afscheiding ("Secession") and the 1886 schism, Doleantie ("Sorrow") led by Abraham Kuyper, they left the mainstream Dutch Reformed Church and founded their own, more conservative congregations, the most notable of which are the Christian Reformed Churches and the Reformed Congregations ("Gereformeerde Gemeenten"), known colloquially as zwarte-kousenkerken ("black stockings churches").

The Bijbelgordel differs in many aspects from the traditionally Catholic provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg to the south (where regular church attendance is at about 3 - 9%) and the other parts of the Netherlands, which are traditionally mainstream Protestant and increasingly secular.

The Church plays a central role in the life of Bijbelgordel communities and they typically oppose the liberal and "tolerant" ways of Dutch life, such as euthanasia, same-sex marriages, etc. In Bijbelgordel communities, strong religious tone in public life is accompanied by conservative outlook, preference for large families (with relatively higher fertility rates), and emphasis on traditional values. Another typical aspect of Bijbelgordel that drew the attention of Dutch public in recent years (when concerns of a measles epidemic emerged) is the suspicion of parents towards state-run vaccination programmes. [1] [2]

The Bijbelgordel is a powerbase of Christian Democratic parties, especially the two klein Christelijk ("small Christian") parties; SGP and ChristenUnie.

[edit] See also

Bible Belt (Netherlands)

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