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Springfield has recently been named the fourth most "Bible-minded" city in America. In the first of a two part series, KSMU's Samantha Nichols reports on how the study, sponsored by the American Bible Society, has generated a mixed reaction in the community.
For some, the survey's results represent what makes Springfield an attractive place to live. For others, the city's high level of Bible-mindedness poses problems for diversity and acceptance. George Wood is the general superintendent for the Assemblies of God.
"Well I think it's wonderful. It's a reflection of the strong Christian presence in Springfield from not only our denomination, but many other denominations as well and independent churches," said Wood.
In 2012, the American Bible Society ranked Springfield as number six. Wood noted that evangelism is one of AG's and other denominations' core principles and mentioned upcoming events such as their centennial celebration as opportunities to push Springfield even higher on the list.
"My philosophical response would be let's next year be number one. With the Assemblies of God centennial being here and with the Passages Interactive Bible experience being here, this would be a great year to jump up to number one in the nation," said Wood.
For those who don't identify as religious, Springfield's Bible-mindedness comes as no surprise and reinforces the need for non-religious communities. KSMU spoke to Lauren Lane, co-founder of Skepticon, the nation's largest convention of Skeptics.
"You know, as a leader in the movement, it's not at all surprising that Springfield is so conservative and Bible-minded because that's part of the reason why we started the conference there, because there lacked a community of skepticism and so we saw an opportunity to build that there. The Assemblies of God headquarters is there, there is more than one religious college, so I'm not surprised," said Lane.
While the study measures how often a person reads the Bible and his or her take on its accuracy, whether or not a person can observe the city's Bible-mindedness is a separate question.
Wood commented that the study's definition of Bible-mindedness is sufficient, but that it probably doesn't address a person's conduct, although he does believe that Springfield is a better community because of its large faith presence.
For Micah Weiss, the Community Relations director of Skepticon, Springfield's Bible-mindedness is clear, which can pose a problem for non-believers.
"This relatively high level of religiosity makes things a little bit tricky if you are a non-believer in this town. I'm a Jewish atheist in the area and growing up I faced some discrimination. So, yeah, I've noticed the religiosity," said Weiss.
Bible-mindedness may be most closely-associated with religious institutions, but its effects can be felt in other parts of the community as well.
See part 2 of our series here, which focuses on Springfield's Bible-mindedness and education.