Only two of America’s 100-largest media market cities have populations where half or more of their residents are considered Bible-minded, according to a massive nationwide study.
The American Bible Society and The Barna Group’s annual survey, which included interviews with more than 65,000 Americans over the past decade, has divulged that only Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama, can boast that more than half of their residents report reading the Bible in a typical week, while strongly asserting that biblical principles are accurate.
Here’s how the top 10 cities in America fared, with each city coming from the South below the Mason-Dixon Line:
- Chattanooga, Tennessee─ 52 percent
- Birmingham/Anniston/Tuscaloosa, Alabama─ 51 percent
- Roanoke/Lynchburg, Virginia─ 48 percent
- Shreveport, Louisiana─ 47 percent
- Tri-Cities, Tennessee─ 47 percent
- Charlotte, North Carolina─ 46 percent
- Little Rock/Pine Bluff, Arkansas─ 45 percent
- Knoxville, Tennessee─ 45 percent
- Greenville/Spartanburg/Anderson, South Carolina/Ashville, North Carolina─ 44 percent
- Lexington, Kentucky─ 44 percent
And the least Bible-minded cities? Albany, New York, and Boston, Massachusetts, won this distinction, where only about one in 10 of their residents highly regard the Bible and its teachings in their lives.
The bottom 10 lined up this way:
- Albany/Schenectady/Troy, New York─ 10 percent
- Boston, Massachusetts/Manchester, New Hampshire─ 11 percent
- Providence, Rhode Island/New Bedford, Massachusetts─ 12 percent
- Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, Iowa─ 13 percent
- Buffalo, New York─ 13 percent
- Las Vegas, Nevada─ 14 percent
- San Francisco/Oakland, California─ 15 percent
- Hartford/New Haven, Connecticut─ 16 percent
- Phoenix/Prescott, Arizona─ 16 percent
- Salt Lake City, Utah─ 17 percent
New York City closely followed Salt Lake City as the 11th least Bible-minded city in the U.S at 17 percent. Other notable cities on the list include Chicago (20 percent), Dallas (35 percent), Houston (26 percent), Los Angeles (19 percent), Philadelphia (24 percent), and Seattle (21 percent). The full list of 100 can be found here.
Since 2013, Chattanooga, Tennessee, has claimed the spot as America’s most Bible-minded city every year, except 2015. But other Southern cities have also dominated the top five.
“We’ve seen the same five cities dominate the top five spots consistently,” explained American Bible Society Managing Director of Communications Andrew Hood. “We continually seek opportunities to support local churches across America by equipping leaders to help people encounter the life-changing message of the Bible. We commend local pastors who encourage congregants to read the Bible regularly.”
Oh what a difference
Liberty University English Professor Karen Swallow Prior noted the difference of living in a top Bible-minded after living in a part of the country where the Bible is not highly regarded in people’s day-to-day lives.
“Moving to Lynchburg from the more secularized Northeast, I found the difference in the culture quite remarkable, even disorienting at times,” Prior shared. “Biblical Christianity permeates everything to the point of, sometimes, simply being assumed. Such a far reach of biblical thinking has many positive effects on communities and individuals, but the dangers inherent in assuming a faith rather than really owning it can be subtle and run deep, too.”
Liberty University Vice Provost Emily Heady, who is also an English professor on the Lynchburg, Virginia, campus had a similar experience.
“In some ways, when I moved to Lynchburg, I felt I’d stepped back in time 25 years — to the conservative small town where I grew up, where the question was where, not if, you went to church and where the line between basic human decency and Christianity was hard to draw,” Heady expressed. “It’s a wonderful place to live and raise children because of that.”
The scholar at the world’s largest Christian online university also had a warning for residents of Bible-minded cities across the nation.
“At the same time, as the cultural swerve towards relativism and identity politics picks up speed, and as ideas like ‘basic human decency’ no longer have universal definitions, Bible-minded towns like Lynchburg will have to figure out how to articulate their own values in ways that make sense to those who don’t share them,” Heady cautioned.