Can you correctly identify the source of the following quote? “You must defend those who are helpless and have no hope. Be fair and give justice to the poor and homeless.” 16% of Americans surveyed believed the statement came from President Obama–the number one response in the study. 9% said the Dalai Lama. Martin Luther King Jr. came in at 8%, and Oprah Winfrey garnered 4%. And 3% said Bono. Taken together, 54% of American misidentified the correct source. Only 13% got it right–the Bible (Proverbs 31:8-9).
“The survey illustrates the reason we created ‘The Poverty and Justice Bible,’” commented R. Lamar Vest, president of American Bible Society, “to highlight God’s concern for the poor, marginalized and oppressed.” “The Poverty and Justice Bible seeks to challenge the notion that the Bible is outdated and proves that God – not politicians, celebrities or even our greatest activists – was the first to speak out on today’s most pressing issues,” added Richard Stearns, president and CEO of World Vision, an international relief organization and collaborator on the Bible project. (Read the full report)
Perhaps the most disturbing finding of the study was that 80% of Americans claim to be familiar with the Bible. In other words, the vast majority of Americans believe they know what the message of the Bible is at least in general terms. And yet survey after survey reveals just the opposite. It seems we have a population that is largely inoculated to the Christian message. They believe they know it and have written it off as invalid, unhelpful, bigoted, or antiquated. But in truth they don’t know what they don’t know. This is a phenomenon I’ve experienced many, many times in groups of non-Christians. When I finally begin talking about the Christian life, the message of Christ, and the mission of God they seem surprised. At one recent event I had people telling me after wards that “I’d never heard those things about Christianity before.” (The presentation I had
given was primarily about loving one’s neighbors and God’s love for the “poor in spirit.”) What’s even more bothersome, however, are the conversations I have with life-long Christians who have never heard about or really experienced life with Christ. For many Christ has been presented as an instrument, a means to an end–eternal life, a happier marriage, a solution to sin, a way through difficult circumstances. But they don’t have any concept of Christ being the end, the goal, focus, and treasure of life. In a way they too have been inoculated to the Gospel right inside the church. For those of us in church leadership and Christian ministry, we’ve got to stop assuming that most people “get it.” Whether inside our outside the confines of the institutional church, people don’t know what they don’t know.