Roy Exum: What ‘Most Biblical’ Means

Monday, January 27, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

When I learned that Chattanooga had just been named as the No. 1 most “Bible-minded” city in the United States, I was naturally pleased because I know the people of this region have a long and still-strong Christian heritage, that we rely on Godly principles most of the time and the Bible – universally regarded as the greatest book ever written – still influences daily decisions in both our public and private sectors.

The Bible has been called “Life’s Rule Book” for centuries. Our country was founded on it and our Constitution was based on it. Being cited as No. 1 is a fine distinction for Chattanooga but, in all honesty, it would take a real long time to needlessly try and convince me we are any better than the Christians who read their Bibles in, say, No. 2 Birmingham or in the No. 3 area of Roanoke/Lynchburg, Va.

In 2010 it was determined there are 247 million Christians in the United States and 2.18 billion in the world, making it the largest religious denomination on earth, with almost a third of the global population as adherents of some kind. I’m thrilled to be known as “Most Biblical,” it sure beats some other descriptions.

Faith, however, doesn’t come with a yardstick or a meter and, candidly, I don’t believe there is any human being who can say this Christian is greater than that one, or this city is more prayerful than the next. Here is a case in point…

James Peron, the President of the Moorfield Storey Institute, tried to analyze the difference in an article on the HuffPost Political site Saturday where he compared the ten most-Biblical cities in the survey that was done by the evangelical-oriented Barna Group and the American Bible Society with the ten cities that finished last.

Here are the 2014 Survey results:

THE TOP TEN BIBLE-MINDED CITIES -- 1. Chattanooga, Tenn.; 2. Birmingham, Ala.; 3. Roanoke/Lynchburg, Va.; 4. Springfield, Mo.; 5. Shreveport, La.; 6. Charlotte, N.C.; 7. Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C./Asheville, N.C.; 8. Little Rock, Ark.; 9. Jackson, Miss.; and 10. Knoxville, Tenn.

THE LEAST BIBLE-MINDED CITIES – 1. Providence, R.I./New Bedford, Mass.; 2. Albany, N.Y.; 3. Boston
4. San Francisco; 5. Cedar Rapids, Iowa; 6. Buffalo, N.Y.; 7. Hartford/New Haven, Conn.; 8. Phoenix; 9. Burlington, Vt.; and 10. Portland, Maine

You need to know The Moorfield Storey Institute is a California-based new libertarian organization that, according to its website, is “a non-profit educational and charitable organization dedicated to the expansion of social freedom, tolerance, and equality of rights before the law.”

For the record, Moorfield Storey, who lived from 1845 until 1929, was president of the Anti-Imperialist League, president of the American Bar Association, and the first president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Storey, one of the first Civil Rights activists, successfully fought a segregation law in the U.S. Supreme Court arguing the case on the basis of property rights and freedom of contract.

Peron writes, “I checked (the survey) out by comparing the top 10 cities to the bottom 10, and seeing how they did on practical concerns, such as murder, rape and burglary. If you are more likely to be killed in Bible-oriented cities than in more secular outposts, it is little consolation that your killer is ‘born again’ and headed to heaven.”

Here is what Peron discovered in his comparison:

“For every 100,000 people the Bible-minded cities had 1.2 murders. The least Bible-minded cities had 0.7 per 100,000. In other words, you are almost twice as likely to be murdered in the most Bible-minded cities than in the least Bible-minded ones.

“Rape seems to also be a problem for Bible-minded cities. The rape rate per 100,000 people was 5.4 in the ten most fundamentalist cities and 3.9 in the ten most secular cities.

“If you are worried about someone breaking into your house, it appears you need to head to a secular city to reduce your chances of being victimized. The top 10 Bible cities had 127.7 burglaries per 100,000 while the average was 109 in the top 10 secular cities.”

Peron wrote that the Barna Group has done research into how Bible-believing Christians perceive themselves, how secular people perceive Bible-believing Christians, and how the Bible-believing Christians actually live. Barna Group even has a book about their findings entitled “UnChristian,” which was published by Baker Books.

“What they found,” wrote Peron, “was more and more people have negative views of evangelicals, and "outsiders" to their sects view them as primarily anti-gay, judgmental, and hypocrites. Worse yet, for them at least, even ‘young adults who participate regularly in a Christian church’ often ‘share some of the same negative perceptions as outsiders.’ Eighty percent of these young church attendees say their church is anti-gay and half said it was judgmental and/or hypocritical.”

Peron’s point? “My experiences coming out of this tradition is that these are people who need to feel superior to others and use their "faith" as the excuse. It isn't meant to make them more moral in any sense, just to feel better about themselves. I think a lot of their anti-gay views come from the same inferiority complex.”

And Peron’s reason? The Moorfield-Storey chief then included politics only in his closing paragraph: “The odd thing is Republicans still seem to think this sort of reputation and hypocrisy will help them electorally -- even as Barna is showing this a major reason for the decline of evangelicalism in America.”

* * *

Like I stated earlier, no human being can tell who is a good Bible-believing Christian and who is not. Faith doesn’t come with a yardstick or a meter.

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