Hartford has landed near the bottom of American Bible Society’s latest ranking of most Bible-minded cities in the U.S. New England is over-represented, in general. Anybody shocked?
One could easily make a number of trite observations about why we are in the shape we’re in. I will just indulge in this one: American Bible Society has previously found a strong correlation between frequent Bible-reading and giving to charity, even when income was comparable (or less). Philanthropy.com ranks the generosity of over 300 U.S. cities and it’s fair to say New England gets totally smoked; among the 50 largest metro areas, three New England cities help make up the bottom five, with Hartford coming dead last.
If New Englanders were polled about their religious beliefs, I’d be willing to bet they would sound a lot like Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. If you’ve never heard that term, trust me, it’s quickly going to become one of your new favorites. There’s a wonderful illustrated explanation here.
Nothing New Under the Sun
(Yo, Hartford, that’s from Ecclesiastes — one of the books of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, not a pancreatic condition! *wink*)
America has gone through several periods of relative interest and uninterest in religious faith. The former are what historians call “Great Awakenings.” From these we get the quintessential image of the revivalist preacher delivering a rousing sermon to a tent crowded full of average people. New England was swept once, by both homegrown (i.e. Jonathan Edwards) and traveling (i.e. George Whitefield) preachers, in the mid-1700s and again in the early 1800s. During this time millions of new members joined congregations. The social reverberations were significant, as these episodes are thought to have been precursors to the American Revolution and the movement to abolish slavery, respectively.
“Awake, O Sleeper! Rise Up”
(Hartford, you may need a turbo shot at Dunkin Donuts.)
Awakening doesn’t happen unless there has been a slumber. Ironic as it may seem that the region where the Pilgrims first sought refuge should become so secular, a little perspective is the difference between seeing in New England a barren wasteland, versus a fertile (though neglected) field awaiting sowing by the next Edwards or Whitefield. I don’t know who that will be; it could be someone reading this blog right now — don’t rule it out!
Scripture literacy, church attendance, and prayer are among important indicators of a healthy spiritual life. As I put it to a friend: few people become world-class musicians by skipping lessons and practice. However, it’s not enough to tell people this; they need to see the difference it makes in your life and mine in order to be convinced. Once they do, it’s only a matter of time before they start putting two and two together.
Don’t be afraid to let your light shine (and attend to any cobwebs you’ve been putting off dusting; we all have ’em). Imagine a renewed Connecticut, striving in faith to reach its full potential. It could change the course of history.