Being Here

Why we should sink our roots in the places we call home

For those who think the Reformation no longer influences American life, I recommend a trip to western Michigan. I was there recently for the dedication of the Rich and Helen DeVos Arts and Worship Center at Grand Rapids Christian High School. Everything about it was impressive, designed with excellence. Rich DeVos, who was born in Grand Rapids and attended that school, has never lost his love for his community, which he expresses through his philanthropy.

DeVos is not alone. Driving through western Michigan neighborhoods, you see on building after building the names of Dutch Reformed families who settled that area: the Van Andel Medical Institute, the DeVos Children's Hospital, the Prince Conference Center at Calvin College, the DeWitt, DePree, and Cook buildings at Hope College. And names like Huizenga, Volkema, and Jansma fill the corporate offices that are widely respected for community endeavors.

Devotion like this reflects a Christian commitment to community, in sharp contrast to what's happening elsewhere in our culture. This era will be remembered for the business scandals in which corporate raiders cooked books, bilked stockholders, left employees in the lurch, and then fled to mansions on faraway beaches.

What makes western Michigan citizens so different is their heritage. A hardy and industrious people, the Dutch arrived in Michigan and Iowa in the mid-19th century explicitly to plant, as historian John Bratt put it, "Christian communities to serve as radiating centers of the gospel." They reflected "cultural Calvinism," which reached its zenith in 19th-century Holland. It emphasized the lordship of Christ and sphere sovereignty—the belief that each institution in society has its ordained role.

This Reformation-influenced ...

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