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Millions more Americans turned to Scripture during pandemic, study suggests

American Bible Society
A woman and two young girls study the Bible. |

Over an estimated 10 million more Americans turned to the Bible in the past year than in years past, as one in four adults reported reading the Bible more frequently during the pandemic compared to last year, the American Bible Society’s 2021 State of the Bible report suggests.

ABS released the first two chapters of its 11th annual State of the Bible report on Tuesday, documenting cultural trends in the realm of spirituality and Scripture engagement in the United States.

The data suggests that over 181 million Americans opened a Bible in the past year compared to 169 million adults who used a Bible at least occasionally in the year before.

The findings for the report are based on a survey conducted in January 2021 through 3,354 online interviews from a representative sample of American adults nationwide, as well as 91 additional responses from Gen Z youth. The sampling error is plus or minus 1.692 percentage points. 

The study found that roughly 16% of American adults read the Bible most days during the week, up from 12% in its 2020 report. Thirty-four percent said they read the Bible once a week or more, while 50% said they read the Bible less than twice per year. 

The report also states that 63% of respondents reported their Bible usage was the same as the previous year. Although 9% said their Bible engagement decreased in the last year, 24% reported more frequent Bible reading during that time.

Nine chapters from the report will be released throughout the year. The first two chapters of the ebook are available for download at StateoftheBible.org.

In a Tuesday interview with The Christian Post, John Farquhar Plake, the director of ministry intelligence for the American Bible Society, said he believes Americans turned to God’s Word during the pandemic in a search for meaning and comfort.  

“I think the data tells us that when people are at change points in their life, [and] they’re enduring stresses like we all have during the COVID-19 pandemic, we look for meaning and we look for comfort,” he said. “And I think for many Americans, who in normal times would say ‘I’ve got this, I can handle everything myself,’ realized during the pandemic, maybe they don’t and they have really turned to God’s Word. [They] have found that when they do that, they find comfort there.” 

“They find wisdom there and they find that God is waiting for them to speak with them, and so that’s the wonderful thing about doing this research," Plake continued. "We see kind of what we all believe about the Bible to be true in this entire population of America.” 

Plake cited how Americans have faced a “once-in-a-century pandemic” and “significant political and social unrest” in the past year and believes those factors drove Americans to their Bibles. 

"However, our research shows that in the midst of incredible pressure, Americans are finding hope and resilience in the Bible,” Plake said in a statement. “This marks the fourth straight year in a trend of Americans moving toward the Bible, with COVID-19 encouraging many of us to look to faith for answers. There's an astounding opportunity right now for the Church to answer our nation's pervasive trauma and pain with the hope and healing of God's Word.”

The Holy Bible
Bibles sit inside a church pew holder. |

The first chapter of the 2021 report focuses on “The Bible in America.” The second chapter focuses on “The New Normal” and gauges how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed people’s relationships with God’s Word. 

The report also showed a decrease of people classified in the “Bible Disengaged” category as well as a “significant” increase of 95 million American adults in the “Movable Middle” category of those who are exploring Scripture, sometimes for the first time. 

“That’s a significant shift of people who are reaching for Scripture and maybe trying it,” Plake said about the uptick in the “Movable Middle” category. 

“Maybe they don’t have a deep habit with Scripture, but they’re giving the Bible a try, and we think that’s wonderful.”

ABS will release the following seven chapters of the State of the Bible between June and December 2021.

Plake said the increase in Bible engagement comes from people realizing their need for Scripture after the stress and trauma of the past year. 

“I think what’s actually happening is people turn to Scripture when they have a need for Scripture,” he said. “And the overall upswing that is happening around us is because America is enduring just a tremendous amount of stress. When you look at the number of people who have died during the pandemic and then look at the relatives they have, the grief that our nation is enduring, this national trauma that we’re experiencing, in fact, global trauma that we’re experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is really unfortunate.”

“People are asking the question, ‘How do I cope with that?’ ‘Where do I find strength for today and tomorrow?’ ‘How do I get through all of this?’” Plake added. “And I think largely, that’s the reason why people are turning to Scripture, particularly within the last six months or so.”

Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: emily.wood@christianpost.com

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