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:
- Does being “Bible-minded” translate into notably Christian culture? All the time? Some of the time? And what does “Christian culture” look like, anyway?
- 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”?
- Does “Bible-minded” have anything to do with reading scripture well—i.e., with contextually based understanding?
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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?
- 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
- Could the rankings be seen as relatively constant over several decades, or have there been big changes?
- Could a given “Bible-minded city” be very different now from the way it seemed to someone like me in the 80s¹?
- 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.