Bible-mindedness (?)

Growing up in a church group that considers itself very Bible-minded has its pros as well as its cons.  At times I fear the results of biblical complacency, but I am at least grateful for a fairly strong biblical literacy.

A survey conducted by the Barna Group and sponsored by the American Bible Society has determined which cities have the Bible on the mind most (and least) often.  (See the completely article and survey info here.  As one might expect, the most “Bible-minded” cities in America are clustered in the so-called Bible Belt, whereas the least “Bible-minded” are located mostly in the Northeast.)

In the version of this information I received from a fourth party, the heading had something about “good cities” and “evil cities.”  All of this material and its framing leads to my inserting a large number of quotation marks in this blogpost. . . and it all begs for investigation.

Here are few questions that pop into mind:

  1. Does being “Bible-minded” translate into notably Christian culture?  All the time?  Some of the time?  And what does “Christian culture” look like, anyway?
  2. Does living in a “Bible-minded” city tend to blur the lines between a) simply being a nice citizen and b) intentionally being “in the world but not of the world”?
  3. Does “Bible-minded” have anything to do with reading scripture well—i.e., with contextually based understanding?
  4. A group of people developed the survey questions.  What would that group experience personally if they themselves lived, say, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a year and then in Shreveport, Louisiana for a year?  (See list order below.)
  5. How much does a city’s supposed Bible-mindedness matter to an introvert who operates primarily in spheres of smaller diameter than the city as a whole?  Would I be more, or less, content in any of the supposedly demonstrably Bible-minded cities than I am now in a fairly conservative western town?
  6. Do the Christian groups in each of these cities experience life according to their Bible-minded rank order?  In other words, is living Christianly the easiest in Birmingham, a tad more difficult in Little Rock, and much more difficult in Buffalo or Boston?  Who determines the nature and successes of living Christianly?
  7. What correlation does or doesn’t exist between the so-called Bible-mindedness and the prevalence of
    • cultic groups (Mormons [who are notably good societal influences], JWs, etc.)
    • Christian institutions with more nominal/historical than current/actual connections to scriptural patterns and principles (Disciples, Congregational, Unitarian and Unity organizations)
    • Catholic churches
    • relatively “high-church” mainline denominations (Presbyterian, Methodist, and the like)
    • fundamentalist, nondenominational, and other “low-church” groups like Pentecostals, Baptists, Nazarenes, and CofC/ChrCh/RM churches
    • grassroots Christian groups and para-“church” organizations
  8. Could the rankings be seen as relatively constant over several decades, or have there been big changes?
  9. Could a given “Bible-minded city” be very different now from the way it seemed to someone like me in the 80s¹?
  10. Which cities’ rankings are arguably the result of the presence of a single, nearby institution — say, a well-known, influential Christian college or a megachurch or a TV show?

For what it’s worth, in case you didn’t click the link at the top, here are the lists:

Most Bible-Minded Cities (previous year’s ranking)

10. Little Rock, Arkansas
9. Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina/ Asheville
8. Charlotte, North Carolina
7. Jackson, Mississippi
6. Springfield, Missouri
5. Shreveport, Louisiana
4. Roanoke/Lynchburg, Virginia
3. Tri-Cities, Tennessee
2. Chattanooga, Tennessee
1. Birmingham, Alabama

Least Bible-Minded Cities (previous year’s ranking)
91. New York
92. Phoenix, Arizona
93. Buffalo, New York
94. Hartford/New Haven, Connecticut
95. Las Vegas, Nevada
96. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
97. San Francisco
98. Boston, Massachusetts
99. Albany, New York
100. Providence, Rhode Island/ New Bedford, Massachusetts


¹ I was once young, disillusioned, and more frequently discontent with the status quo, but some aspects of my slice of the southern Christian climate were rather stifling, narrowly judgmental, and cliquish.

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10 thoughts on “Bible-mindedness (?)

  1. paul courville 04/14/2015 / 6:38 am

    I have no regrets of my bible training from Shreveport (Bossier City) in the late 70’s. In fact, I’m thankful.

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    • Brian Casey 04/14/2015 / 1:56 pm

      I imagine I feel much the same about my early training and instruction. I hope you didn’t think I was denigrating Bible teaching or knowledge. My own experience in a few southern cities came at earlier times in life, and the knowledge gained then (not to mention my perception of the Christian status quo) was comparatively shallow, but I’m still glad I’m literate. 🙂 I value having memorized the judges and the plagues at VBS as a grade-schooler, too!

      Mostly, this piece was designed to probe what the survey was really talking about. I figure that a supposedly Bible-minded city is likely to have a greater number of churches and Christians per capita, but I’m not sure a city can really be Bible-minded. A *person,* however, can be! I know you value growing in learning and insights related to the Bible.

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  2. godschildrenorg 04/14/2015 / 10:40 pm

    Surveys are interesting, too non scientific in their application of data much of the time. Your questions brought smiles to my face. You know I credit the life I now lead as an intentional follower of Christ to the teachings I received in the little Churches of Christ in Kenedy, Floresville, Gonzales, Beeville, and Abilene, TX, and to being married to Danny Boyd, an intentional follower of Christ by his choice from mid-teen years.

    One thing that I appreciate learning in Kenedy was to know The Word, check what is being said from the pulpit or in class with what is written in The Bible. I have always been a deep thinker, not swallowing whole something just because a well admired person said it. As a result, I questioned early on some of the “interpretations” presented from the pulpit.

    Today, in Eastern Europe, when people ask me, “What Church do you belong to?” and I answer, “I am an intentional follower of Christ,” they joyfully say, “OH, a FREE Christian!” As you said, Brian, only a person can be Bible-minded…not a city nor a country. ~~ Anne B. Missionary, St. George, Covasna County, Transylvania, Romania

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    • Brian Casey 04/16/2015 / 2:59 pm

      It is rarely if ever bad to give credit to where credit is due. That “Berean” mindset is obviously a good one!

      Although I never had opportunity to learn from your dear Danny, everything I know about him says I would have benefited deeply and over an extended time period. I learned from others as a youth, and I’m as glad for those opportunities as I am for the ones that have propelled me onward — deeper, higher, to the sides, etc. Beeville? I don’t believe I’ve heard you mention a couple of those towns before? We were only an hour from Beeville last year….

      Vive la “Free Christians”!

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    • godschildrenorg 05/05/2015 / 2:13 pm

      Almost overcome by the complexities of life, I have not commented on many of your blogs, nor replied to your responses to me…sorry! My dad was the first geophysicist to take a seismograph crew east of the Mississippi in the 30’s. His company sent him from Bakersfield, CA, (where I was born), to many little towns in Cajun Country. Then on to Mississippi, and Alabama…and then back to some areas in Louisiana then up to Denton, down to Rosenburg before I was 6. It seems there were no Churches of Christ in those areas…family did not attend any other group. (Interestingly enough, we had no devotionals or Bible reading in our home.)

      After being in Larado, we moved to those little towns I mentioned. I was in 6 first grades. I think the 1st First Grade was at Texas Women’s University’s Demonstration School on their campus…in their great wisdom they put me, only 5 yrs old, in first grade. In all of the whirlwind moves that year, schools accepted me as being a first grader. When we moved to Kenedy, Mother started sending my brother and me to Sunday School and “church” by ourselves. We could walk the few blocks to the little white frame church building. In Kenedy, TX schools tested everyone and put them where they were intellectually suited! I was promoted to Grade 3…even tho I was only 6! We stayed in Kenedy, Floresville, Gonzales and Beeville each for around a year. In Beeville, because my dad’s work was considered necessary/assisting the nation by discovering where oil probably was hiding under the earth, we lived in Naval Officer’s apartments. After WWII was over, Dad moved us to 15 acres he’d bought outside of Gonzales. So there you have the reasons we lived in all of those places…and maybe you gain a little insight to why I’m so mixed up that I can live just about anywhere! God bless! ~~ Anne, currently in Salado, TX, visiting friends following the 61st ACC Class of 1954 Reunion, May 1-3.

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    • Brian Casey 05/06/2015 / 11:47 am

      Wow — you had more whirlwind moves than we have! I don’t know anything about most of those TX towns, but I know Laredo is considered a pretty dangerous place these days. A kind student-friend last year moved back there to attend a different university and was trying to help me make connections there, but I couldn’t see considering a move to Laredo for adjunct work. Anyway, children are resilient (and intelligent, in both your case and our Jedd’s!). I don’t know about “mixed up” as a result of any of that, but the ability to be content anywhere is something in which I need to grow. Actually, I think I’m OK for a while just about anywhere, but discontent grows quickly.

      I had heard from my relatively new friend John Eoff (who’s apparently also in your ACU class) about the reunion. Did you see John? Hope the whole thing was great!!

      On Tue, May 5, 2015 at 2:13 PM, NT Christianity wrote:

      >

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    • godschildrenorg 05/07/2015 / 6:57 pm

      I saw John and his wife, but they were clear on the opposite side of the big meeting room from me. There were something like 87 at the Reunion. We never did make it across the room. She probably did not remember that I was in her Physics class for Education majors. She understood it evidently. I did not. I dropped the class while I was still Passing! 😉

      The spirit of the reunion that I experienced was one of loving kindness. It was a blessing to be together with all those kids now grown old. I was reluctant to go, but decided it could be special…and it was! 215 of the class have already gone Home. Many of our group’s health is not strong, but their hearts are in the right place. I saw two of Dan’s groomsmen, and many of friends who are dearer now than even in our early days. I am still thankful that God worked it out for me to attend ACC when it was small. God is good! ~~ Anne, currently in Salado, TX, visiting a couple who come annually to help us in SG.

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    • Brian Casey 05/08/2015 / 6:54 am

      What grand occasion that seems to have been. At this juncture, you would find much in common with John, and he, with you — as “intentional followers,” and I suspect that there could be many faith-filled conversations with those who’ve lost spouses, those with cancer, etc. Just over a year ago, Diana was in a rehab room with not so great a prognosis, and she is travelling now. So glad you’ve had that opportunity. My parents come for a visit tomorrow, and we look forward to that.

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    • godschildrenorg 05/09/2015 / 12:22 am

      What good news that Diane is doing well now. Yes, there were some special conversations with those who had lost the love of their life. The congregation here in Salado has been warm and welcoming too. But, man, I have been busy…either doing something interesting and heart warming, or taking care of God’s Children with people in Romania on Skype…or just worn out and had to rest. Today I got the quote for repairing the cracks in my Romanian house – made by chimney getting so hot that it broke not only the chimney but also cracked most of the inside walls. A new chimney has to be built. Total cost: labor – $5,080. We have to buy the materials to build the chimney (price yet unknown), and the paint for the rooms ($1.200). MAYBE the cracks in the walls are because of the December 5.7 earthquake 90 miles from St. George? This is something I never expected…but I never had a radiator system before heated by a wood furnace. I’m glad your folks are visiting you…today, I think. it’s now Sat. I owe them a letter. I think I’ll write now. God bless! ~~ Anne in Salado, TX, til Sunday afternoon.

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