The student blog for Drake University first year seminar entitled Visual Politics

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Netherlands Reformed Church

           By: Katie Getting

The picture above is that of the Netherlands Reformed Church in Rock Valley, Iowa.  The culture to which I hope to identify is that of the northwest Iowa region, specifically that of Sioux Center and Rock Valley.  Anyone who lives in either of these two towns can identify with this picture of the Netherlands Reformed Church of Rock Valley or can at least identify with the people who belong to a Netherlands Reformed Church.  The populations of both towns are made up of a variety of religions, one of those including “Grifs” (nickname given to those who attend a Netherlands Reformed Church).  Having been given the opportunity to work and be friends with many teens who go to this church, I have had the chance to learn a lot about their way of life.  This church has a great influence in their lives and will continue to be the greatest influence in their lives until the day they die.  If anyone chooses to leave the church, they face fierce reproach from their families for that choice, so it is strongly encouraged against.
            Just to give you a little more information about these “Grifs”, we will take a look at the restrictions their religion has set on them.  If you are a woman belonging to this church, you are not able to wear makeup, dye your hair, wear pants, paint your fingernails or toenails, pierce any part of your body, or wear any kind of revealing clothing (skirts should at least be knee-length); you must also still wear a hat whenever you attend church.  Your lifestyle is drastically changed in that you cannot listen to music, dance, watch or have a TV, watch movies, take part in competitive sports, and you cannot do ANYTHING besides go to church on Sunday (no homework allowed!).  Finally, you will most likely have a large family if you belong to this church meaning at least three kids if not ten.  Although I’m not completely sure of the religious preference of the TLC family of the Duggars, I would characterize their beliefs and values as VERY similar to those of the Netherlands Reformed Congregation.
            Now that that’s out of the way, we can look at the different meanings behind the picture.  Emotional Scenarios was one of the five categories, and it states that the viewer experiences some kind of emotion when seeing a given picture.  I think this picture can have some emotional meaning for the viewer depending on if the viewer is a “Grif” or a member of a different church.  For a member of that church, they most likely feel love and acceptance when viewing the picture because it’s a place where they grew up and have spent a great majority of their life.  They go to a school that is operated by the church and attend church twice every Sunday, so I would also feel at home in those surroundings given those circumstances.  Every part of your life revolves around the church and what they deem is acceptable.  A member’s family has probably been a part of the church for generations, so it is a common meeting ground for families.  It is also easy to make friends and get along with the other members because they all hold similar beliefs and values close to their hearts as you do.
When a nonmember of the church sees that picture, such as me, emotions felt include confusion as to why they haven’t developed more with the times and are more accepting of society’s advances of entertainment and various pastimes.  Sports are deemed one of America’s favorite pastimes, yet, the school attended by NRC children does not have any organized sports and the games played in a P.E. class are encouraged to not be competitive.  Although television is not accepted in the church, many “Grifs” still own one for various reasons including the ability to watch the weather and hear the news.  Congregation members are regularly visited by the pastor of their NRC, at which time, the TVs in the home are hidden away in order to not get in trouble with the church.  This shows that maybe the church needs to advance more in their acceptance of technology and the helpfulness it can give to its members.
One might also feel frustration when viewing the church because if you employ a “Grif”, you cannot schedule them to ever work a Sunday because it is against their religious beliefs to work on the Sabbath. Most Americans are associated with some kind of religion and a large number belong to a Christian church.  All those people believe in the Sabbath, yet many of them still work on Sundays.  If they are still able to work on Sundays, “Grifs” can work as well.  In Sioux Center, it has come to the point that many businesses refuse to be open on Sundays partly because it is hard to find people in the area willing to work on Sundays, and partly because most of the people there do not believe in going shopping or out on the Sabbath. (Sioux county where both of these towns are located is known for being very religious no matter what church you belong to so few businesses are able to be open and make a profit on Sundays)  This is not solely the outcome of the impact of the NRC members, but they do make up a large portion of the population in the area, so they are one of the factors.
Finally, if you are a friend of a Netherlands Reformed Church member, you can never do anything together on Sundays because it is the Holy day and should be used to reflect upon the two-hour sermons they hear when they attend church both in the morning and at night on Sundays.  You can’t even get together to work on a group project for a class assignment because first of all, you are not allowed to do work of any kind including homework, and secondly, you are to spend the day with your family not hanging out with friends.  These are only a few of the emotions that are felt by people when viewing the NRC, but they are most likely the more common emotions felt. 


  1. You wrote: "This church has a great influence in their lives and will continue to be the greatest influence in their lives until the day they die." Unfortunately, you are right on the money. I am a recovering grif. I was born into shame and self-hate, and continue to struggle with shedding those beliefs as an adult who has been freed by grace.
    Thank you for your post.

  2. Over half of this post is a lie

  3. Where did the term Grifs come from?

  4. the dutch reformed congregations