Many Americans value biblical behaviors even when they don’t value the Bible, study shows
American Bible Society’s 13th Annual State of the Bible Report Explores How Scripture Engagement Impacts Pro-Social Behaviors
American Bible Society today released the sixth chapter of their 13th annual State of the Bible report, which highlights cultural trends in the U.S. regarding spirituality and Scripture engagement. Today’s release focuses on how Americans value and exhibit the pro-social behaviors contained in Scripture, including loving your neighbor and caring for your community. The first six chapters of State of the Bible 2023 are now available to download at StateoftheBible.org.
“We know that when people engage with the Bible’s message, it transforms their hearts. And, by looking more closely at pro-social behaviors that are directly inspired by the Bible’s teachings, we can see how Scripture influences the way we live our lives,” said John Farquhar Plake, PhD, American Bible Society’s Chief Ministry Insights Officer. “Our research shows that even those Americans who are most hostile toward the Bible value biblical behaviors like loving your neighbor, caring for creation, and welcoming the stranger. This shared passion for neighborly behavior is a new avenue for ministry leaders to start conversations about the values Americans share and their ultimate source in Jesus and his Word.”
State of the Bible findings come from a nationally representative survey performed for American Bible Society by NORC at the University of Chicago, using their AmeriSpeak panel. The data came from 2,761 online interviews with American adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Key findings analyzed in Chapter 6: The Bible and Behavior
- Even Americans who are hostile toward Scripture value biblical behaviors. The group of Americans who think the United States would be better off without the Bible scores higher in valuing pro-social behaviors that are championed in Scripture than those who think we would be “about the same” or “worse off” without the Bible (page 121). And Christians and non-Christians seem to agree there’s value to biblical behaviors like being a good neighbor and caring for God’s creation—with both of these groups rating these items higher than non-Practicing Christians did. (Find all the percentages on page 118.)
- The “Movable Middle” has room to grow in practicing Scripture’s values. Caught between Americans who engage with Scripture and those who do not, the Movable Middle is comprised of those who are Bible friendly or Bible neutral—people who may appreciate Scripture or even identify as Christian, but who don’t practice that faith. This group is neither staunchly faithful nor anti-faith. This noncommittal trend for the Movable Middle continues with prosocial behaviors; this group is more likely to consider the biblical behaviors surveyed—including welcoming immigrants, befriending people of other races or religions, or advocating for the oppressed—as only “somewhat” important. In contrast, both Scripture engaged Americans and Americans who do not engage with Scripture are more likely to count these behaviors as “important” or “very important” (page 114).
- Americans with higher Spiritual Vitality scores are more likely to exhibit pro-social behaviors. This year, our research included the Spiritual Vitality Gauge (SVG), which is based on nine questions about Christian belief and practice, in our State of the Bible survey. The data show that those Americans with higher levels of Spiritual Vitality are more likely to be living out their faith by caring for others, investing in their community, and being good neighbors (page 128). Read more about Spiritual Vitality in State of the Bible 2023, Chapter 4.
- Different generations lead in different pro-social behaviors. Gen Z adults resonated with “Care for Others”—including befriending people of other races or religions, welcoming immigrants, or advocating for the oppressed—to a much greater degree than any other age group. On the other end of the generational divide, Elders responded most affirmatively to the question, “Is it important to be a good neighbor?” and were also more likely to value awareness of and participation in civic matters and “submitting to government leaders” (page 123).
Between October and December 2023, American Bible Society will release three new chapters in the State of the Bible story, including new insights on the impact of emerging technology on Bible engagement habits, how the Bible affects philanthropic habits, and highlights from this year’s research.
To download the first six chapters of State of the Bible 2023, visit StateoftheBible.org.
*For descriptions on how Scripture engagement was measured and reported, please see page 93 of the ebook available for download at StateoftheBible.org.
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