Ok, well… maybe not a “flaming” liberal. I just said that to get you to click the link… by now, you should know I like provocative titles that get you to read articles (a tactic you are completely validating, I might add).
BUT, a study I read the other day does show that the more often people read their Bible, the more liberal they become— something I have found from experience, is completely true.
When I first arrived at seminary in the fall of 2008, I was more conservative than George W Bush himself. However, once I embraced the learning process and actually began to take the teachings of Jesus seriously, I found my heart begin to melt, and eventually shift, on a host of issues. When I went through my transformation, many wrongly assumed that I was being indoctrinated by some liberal political group when in reality, I was at a very conservative seminary and the only thing making me more liberal was the fact that I was actually engaging the Bible seriously for the first time in my life.
Which, is exactly what the study shows.
The results of the study were featured by Christianity Today (see full article here) and show that the more frequently one reads their Bible, the more they develop liberal tendencies on several important issues. What’s even cooler, is the study showed that the “liberalizing effect” was consistent across the entire sample studied:
“But unlike some other religious practices, reading the Bible more often has some liberalizing effects—or at least makes the reader more prone to agree with liberals on certain issues. This is true even when accounting for factors such as political beliefs, education level, income level, gender, race, and religious measures (like which religious tradition one affiliates with, and one’s views of biblical literalism).”
Here were some of the specific areas the study revealed frequent Bible reading will lead to a more liberal viewpoint:
Expanding the government’s authority to fight terrorism (the Patriot Act)? Reading your Bible more frequently will make you more liberal on that.
“For each increased level of Bible-reading frequency, support for the Patriot Act decreased by about 13 percent.”
Should we be punishing criminals more harshly? Frequent Bible readers say no way!
“Support for abolishing the death penalty increased by about 45 percent for each increase on the five-point scale measuring Bible-reading frequency.”
Do we need to dump modern science and view the Bible as a scientific text?
“…the more someone reads the Bible, the more likely he or she is to believe science and religion are compatible. (For each increase on the five-point scale, the odds that they see religion and science as incompatible decrease by 22 percent.)”
And for one of my favorite issues, economic justice for the poor… what say you, frequent Bible readers?
“How important is it,” the survey asked, “to actively seek social and economic justice in order to be a good person?” Again, as would be expected, those with more liberal political leanings were more likely to say it’s very or somewhat important. And those who read the Bible more often were more likely to agree. Indeed, they were almost 35 percent more likely to agree… contrary to liberal media stereotypes, those who are most engaged in their faith (by directly and frequently reading its source material) are those who are most supportive of social and economic justice. “
And finally, on the issue of rejecting consumerism and consuming less goods as a quality of a good person?
“Political liberals and frequent Bible readers are more likely to say yes… Ask an evangelical who is politically conservative, has some college education, has an average level of income, is a biblical literalist, and does not read the Bible, and you’ll have only a 22 percent chance he or she will say reducing consumption is part of ethical living. Ask the same person, only now they read the Bible, and you’ll have a 44 percent chance they’ll say so.”
Now, this study might be frightening to some of my conservative friends who may read this– so let me offer you a little encouragement. Remember that movie Armageddon when they’re getting ready to land on the asteroid? Owen Wilson had the memorable line: “this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be; this is way worse!”
Yup… the more you read your Bible you’ll realize this “liberalizing effect” gets way worse (sorry, that wasn’t exactly encouragement– just keeping it real).
If you’re scared about becoming more liberal… reading your Bible frequently is only going to accelerate an unwanted paradigm shift. There are a host of other issues that frequent Bible reading will make you more liberal on, if you keep reading frequently and resist the urge to explain away all the stuff you don’t like. Getting to know Jesus and the Bible will completely alter our attitudes on issues such as immigration, war, violence, paying our taxes, and so many other things.
Afraid of becoming more liberal? My only advice is that you stop reading your Bible so often, because apparently, that’s the trick to avoiding it.
But, I hope you won’t do that. My hope is that we will become people who look like Jesus and pull this plane out of the tailspin that the religious right put us in. My hope is that we will let go of even caring what political labels people assign to us, and just be people who look like Jesus.
If that means becoming more liberal, I hope you’ll be able to plug your nose, get past the label, and just embrace it.
(Tomorrows blog: Part 2- Why I think the Bible tends to make us more liberal)