Where The Good Book Gets Read

Bible minded

The American Bible Society has deemed Chattanooga the most “bible-minded city” in America:

Along with ranking the most and least Bible-minded cities, the study also found that an inverse relationship exists between population size and Bible friendliness. Of the top 25 Bible-minded markets, only three have a population of greater than 1 million households: Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Dallas.

But Religion Dispatches’ S. Brent Plate takes issue with the concept of ”bible-mindedness”:

The first sentence of the Barna article explains that the poll was about “the role of the Bible in U.S. Society.” The fine print in the survey suggests something slightly different: “Respondents who report reading the Bible within the past seven days and who agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible are classified as ‘Bible-minded.’” No suggestions are given that someone might act anything scriptural out, put the Bible to use, or otherwise engage it in real life. What we are left with is the idea that people read the Bible and call it accurate, and thus we know something about society.

The logical leaps here are vast. In reality, the survey is not telling us about any “role” of the Bible. It’s all just a mind game. The assumptions of the pollsters betray a larger misconception concerning who religious people are and what they do. Questionnaires are still mired in the mostly-Protestant notion that religious people read holy books and have “beliefs” in their heads. It makes for good fodder on the religion news circuits but necessarily leaves out the lived realities of religious existence.