“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” Mark Twain
The latest “facts” from the Barna organization were released January 23 under the title, “America’s Most and Least Bible-Minded Cities.” Coming in at #1 is Knoxville, Tennessee, the home of the Lady Vols, with 52% of the population being “Bible-minded.” Coming in last is Providence, Rhode Island with 9% being “Bible-minded.” How ironic that a town named “Providence” is last in this category. Roger Williams can’t be happy with this. The town where I live, Springfield, Missouri, is in the top ten at #6 with 49% being “Bible-minded.”
As always, I have questions:
How do they reach these rankings? What are the criteria? What does “Bible-minded” really mean? Why didn’t they ask me? For the past seven years the Barna people surveyed through phone and online interviews 42,855 adults. The organization defines “Bible-minded” as having read the Bible within the last seven days and strongly believe that the Bible is accurate in all it teaches. Apparently they just asked people how often they read their Bibles. That’s like asking people how often they exercise. Do our answers reflect what we actually do or what we should do? How honest are the answers?
And what about the “accurate in all it teaches” line? What if a survey taker loves the Bible, values it as God-breathed, not only reads it but works hard at understanding it and applying it to life, yet sees Genesis 1 not as “accurate” history but as “accurate” poetry Tim Keller or who sees Jonah as “accurate” story but not “accurate” history C.S. Lewis? Would they be considered “Bible-minded” or not?
Here are some take-aways for me:
* Thinking biblically is more than reading or even memorizing a lot of Scripture. It is learning to think critically and practically about the Bible. It’s about trying to understand the Bible in its original intent, its contexts, and its relevance to us today. It’s about combining all of these things in both personal application and community encouragement.
* The Barna people say that the rankings “reflect an overall openness or resistance to the Bible.” That means that in my home town of Springfield, 51% of the residents are closed or resistant to the Bible. Hmmm. Being that Springfield is in the “Bible belt” maybe Christ-followers here need a little fashion advice on how to wear the “belt.” I know I’m “fashion challenged.”
* While I want to be “bible-minded” I want to be “Christ-like” even more. 1 John 2:6 Maybe the better question is, “Do I look like Jesus?”
* “I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me – they’re cramming for their final exam.” George Carlin
That hits home. It’s good for all of us to read the Bible a lot more. The Bible tells the truth about the Truth and leads us to Him.