America's Bible Hypocrisy: Study Shows Disconnect Between Beliefs and Behavior

The American Bible Society's annual 'State of the Bible' study shows most Americans believe society needs the Bible, but few are finding time to read it.
The American Bible Society's annual "State of the Bible" study shows most Americans believe society needs the Bible, but few are finding time to read it. | American Bible Society,

A majority of people in the United States believe the Bible contains the best advice for a meaningful life, but they also don't want to take it, and are too busy to read the scriptures.

According to the American Bible Society's "State of the Bible 2013" study, 66 percent of Americans agreed that "the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life," while 58 percent say they don't want wisdom and advice from the Bible, and 57 percent say they read it fewer than five times per year.

"There is a difference between believing something is beneficial and opening up your heart, mind and life to let that beneficial thing in," Geof Morin, chief communications officer for the American Bible Society (ABS), wrote in a Thursday statement to The Christian Post. He explained that some people "view reading the Bible as taking your medicine," rather than a life-changing encounter with God.

But it isn't just a lack of motivation, Morin argued. Sixty-one percent of adults wish they read the Bible more. "It seems that many Americans are letting other priorities get in the way of them opening the pages of the Bible." His organization is trying to fix that.

According to its website, the ABS aims to "bring God's Word to cultural channels where the Bible lacks a strong voice and extend new reach within today's leading churches, inviting millions to reconsider and renew their engagement with God's Word." Along with sending Bibles overseas and using scripture to bring relief, this goal of transforming culture forms the organization's mission statement.

"We are constantly innovating how we deliver God's Word to give people anytime, anywhere access in a way that fits their busy schedules," Morin said. He mentioned digital access to the Bible – on smartphone, Kindle and iPad – which has hit a new high. Forty-one percent of Americans use the internet to read the Bible.

Morin also mentioned ABS' Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter accounts, which the organization uses to keep scripture relevant for the next generation.

The ABS is also gearing up its work because Americans are more polarized about scripture. The study found that about one-fifth (21 percent) of the population believe the Bible is the Word of God and read it at least four times per week; while an increasing number (10 percent in 2011, 17 percent this year), believe the Bible is "just another book of teachings written by men" and rarely or never read it. The middle ground – those who say the Bible has some truth but rarely read it, is shrinking (26 percent in 2012, 23 percent this year).

The American Bible Society's annual 'State of the Bible' survey found more Americans polarized for or against the Bible this year.
The American Bible Society's annual "State of the Bible" survey found more Americans polarized for or against the Bible this year. | American Bible Society,

In an age where homosexual marriage and abortion have become key political issues, only 17 percent of self-identifying Christian adults say they would "be interested in receiving input and wisdom from the Bible on romance and sexuality."

The study did bring some encouraging news as well, however. More than half of Americans (56 percent) believe the Bible has too little influence in U.S. society today, the ABS spokesman noted. Only 13 percent said it had "too much influence."

He continued, "What perhaps many Americans fail to recognize is that the easiest way for the Bible to influence society is for individuals to take it off their shelves, read it and let its words and wisdom influence their own choices and decisions."

"If more individuals were reading the Bible on a consistent basis and using it as a roadmap for their lives, I think the world would look quite a bit brighter," the spokesman said.

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