Friday, October 14, 2011

Does reading the Bible make you more liberal?

In the realm of politics, the Bible has always had a role. It was quoted by our founding fathers and it was used on both sides of the slavery debate. And bible verses find their way into the political speeches made by members of both parties. what is often apparent, however, is that those quoting the Bible have probably not read it and are simply throwing our a verse like a chant at a sporting event. However, if you are among those who do read the Bible, then you are usually viewed as being more conservative in your politics. Or are you?

A recent survey tends to turn that stereotype on its head. A Baylor Religion Survey found that the more often someone read the Bible the more liberal then tended to be. Christianity Today reports that the more you read the Bible the more you are likely to oppose things like the death penalty, the patriot act, and see the importance of social issues. Here are some of the numbers.

13 percent decrease in support for the Patriot Act

45 percent increase in support for abolishing the death penalty

22 percent decrease in seeing religion and science as incompatible

35 percent increase in agreement that people should “actively seek social and economic justice in order to be a good person”

The survey suggests that Bible readers are not as they are usually stereotyped by the media. So why does this happen? Here is what the article suggest.

Why does this happen? One possible explanation is that readers tend to have expectations of a text prior to reading it. Given the Bible's prominence in our society, it's little wonder that many people think they know what's in it before they open it up. But once they start reading it on their own, they are bound to be surprised by something, and this surprising new content is then integrated and grafted on to the familiar. Beliefs do change with the addition of new information.

But it doesn't have to be unfamiliar content to surprise the reader. It just has to be personally relevant. Frequent Bible readers may have different views of biblical authority, but they tend to read it devotionally, looking for ways in which Scripture is speaking directly to them. They will read until struck by something that sticks out in the text. Even if the reader thinks the Bible has some error or needs a lot of interpretation, this thunderbolt moment can take on tremendous personal significance.

But frequent Bible readers don't just see the Bible as personal. They also see it as authoritative, written by an author who had a specific context and intent, and they want to conform to its message. After all, why read the Bible with no desire to embrace what it teaches?

In short, sometimes reading the Bible can change views and attitudes because readers are surprised by what's in it. Other times, it's just a matter of discipleship.

You can read the rest of the article here.

If this is true, then it makes you wonder if those people who start a sentence with "well, the Bible says" have actually read the Bible.


  1. I tend to agree with this. I had read scripture for years, but tended to be a tad conservative on many things. (Including inerrancy.) However, studying the scripture at ATS revealed that I needed to become more liberal. If the text truly reveals God's heart toward the creation, then I needed to be less dogmatic about 'religious' stuph and embrace Yahweh's concerns for righteousness and justice.

  2. The ironic part of all of this is that (depending on what denomination you are in) the more you read your bible and glean from the principles taught concerning things like social justice and compassion... the more somehow people come against you and label you. I thought that when we read our bibles more and study them out and form our stances inductively, this would be a positive thing. Well that's not the case sometimes. This is especially true in charismatic or evangelical circles from what I have experienced. Very frustrating.

    Noah S.

  3. My experience in the past few years says this is true. I will be blunt, I think the conservative crowd is puffed up and does not feel they need to know more therefore they are only looking for confirmation of beliefs.

  4. In my church experience, I have discovered that the majority of people who have told me, "well, the Bible says," are only telling me what they have heard elsewhere.

    I would be interested in knowing the stats concerning the survey: who it was given to; how many people in the testing sample; if it was evenly disrtributed across the country,etc. I read the links but the info wasn't there.

  5. Agreed! When we approach the Bible with openness it confronts all the ways that we tend tame the dangerous message of Jesus. Where positive social change has happened (i.e., the abolition of slavery and the Civil rights movement) Christians who read their Bibles have led the way. To affirm the post, these individuals where labeled liberal in there day. But ironically today their views inform the "conservative" position.

    Great post.... thanks.

  6. its nice to see some evidence come forward that shows you do not have to be a republican to be a Christian! I have often wondered how you could be both a committed republican and a devout christian...