Southern cities owe Bible devotion to hillbillies
The American Bible Society and the Barna: Cities project are out with an updated ranking of the “Bible-mindedness” of the 100 largest American metropolitan areas. Chattanooga, Tenn., leads the way this year, snatching the top spot from its Volunteer State neighbor, Knoxville. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the top 10 cities are also located in traditional Bible Belt states. On the other end of the spectrum, most of the bottom 10 are in the Northeast.
The Barna Group counts someone as “Bible-minded” if they both report weekly Bible reading and regard the Bible to be accurate in the principles it teaches. This question should measure the concentration of committed evangelical Protestants while also capturing some portion of what George Weigel calls evangelical Catholicism, Roman Catholic laymen inspired to take up regular Bible study by Vatican II reforms.
Some observers noticed that most of the markets at the top of this list host sizable Christian colleges and propose that this could be a cause of the cities’ increased Bible-mindedness. But that speculation doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. While it is true that the Chattanooga area hosts Covenant College, Birmingham has Samford, and Springfield has Evangel, important Christian colleges thrive in markets on the bottom of the list as well. Gordon College and Houghton College are located in cities—Boston and Buffalo, respectively—that display very little Bible-mindedness.
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