According to the yearly State of the Bible survey by the American Bible Society, Americans who are “Bible users” – defined as reading it only three to four times a year outside of a church service – has hovered at around 50% for an entire decade.
And then came the newest polling, conducted at the beginning of 2022, which showed only 39% of 2,598 U.S. adults, surveyed in all 50 states, lined up with the “Bible user” definition.
According to the ministry, that means approximately 26 million Americans failed to open their Bible.
Asked about the dramatic shift, Christian apologist-author Alex McFarland says it coincides with another momentous shift, which was COVID-19.
In January 2020, back when the CDC confirmed the first COVID case in the U.S., and when it was predicted two million could die from the virus, millions of churches shut their doors and turned off the lights. Many today have yet to bounce back.
“Covid came along and that's when we had the great recess and exodus from church involvement,” McFarland recalls. “So might the biblical neglect correspond to the cultural involvement neglect?”
According to the newest State of the Bible survey, “scripture engagement” is at an all-time low of 19% of American adults. What the ABS calls the “Bible Disengaged” category grew by 45 million in one year, which is the biggest change in the 12 years the survey has been conducted.
Searching for a reason behind the dramatic change, McFarland also blames people choosing popularity over Jesus Christ in a darkening culture.
“We have an idolatry problem, and the idol is likability,” he insists. “But Christians aren’t called to play nice, and be nice, and placate sinners.”
Who wants to be told they are a sinner, after all, and their unsaved soul will not be in the presence of a holy God when they die?
The good news for that sinful soul is found in the Bible, of course, where “Gospel” is literally the translation of the Greek term, but the ABS survey shows fewer and fewer are reading enough to learn it.