Warning: Reading the Bible Will Turn you Progressive
Reading the Bible and progressive political views go hand-in-hand. This isn’t the wild assertion of a liberal media pundit or a progressive faith leader, but the argument of an article in the October issue of Christianity Today, titled “A Left-Leaning Text,” discussing a survey from Baylor University.
According to Aaron Franzen, the author of the print-only article and a Baylor graduate student, these results hold even when controlling for political beliefs, education, income, gender, and race–which is to say the results are quite strong and will generate significant attention upon their full release.
The findings show a strong correlation between increased Bible reading and support for progressive views including abolishing the death penalty, seeking economic justice, and reducing material consumption. One data point:
“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…”
Perhaps this study will finally discredit the conventional wisdom that devoted Christians are uniformly conservative and support the ideology of unbridled economic individualism dominating the right.
Even more interesting than the findings themselves are the potential explanations Franzen offers. Many people, including Christians, believe they know what the Bible says, only to read it and have their initial perceptions radically upended. Given the authority Christians accord to the Bible, especially among more theologically conservative segments, this new information about what the Bible ACTUALLY says apparently may cause them to shift their other beliefs.
The Baylor research is currently undergoing peer review but I expect it’s formal release will receive enormous attention and re-invigorate the contemporary debate around religion and politics.