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Bible's U.S. popularity steady, but scripture skeptics number rises

Published: Saturday, April 12 2014 4:10 a.m. MDT

Bob Hostetler, an evangelical pastor and author of "The Red Letter Life: 17 Words from Jesus to Inspire Simple, Practical, Purposeful Living," cites what he called a misuse of scripture in recent decades as part of the problem.

"I love the Bible as much as anyone, but when we use it as weapon sometimes, and expect conformity to it from people who don't value it, we're using it for purposes other than what it was intended for, to find (Jesus), and to point to Him," he said.

Hostetler said the Barna results reflect that abuse of holy writ. "I think it's kind of to some extent, the chickens coming home to roost," he said.

Biblically illiterate generation

Mormon blogger and author Jana Riess, whose 2013 "The Twible" summarizes every chapter in the Bible in Twitter-sized messages of 140 characters, isn't surprised by the American Bible Society survey results, given that a different poll revealed "apparently 10 percent of people surveyed believe Joan of Arc was Noah's wife."

Riess said, "This generation in particular is, well, biblically illiterate. The statistics are kind of alarming about Bible reading in America at all: Two-thirds of Americans believe Bible is inspired, but in terms of basic biblical literacy, (they) fail in all sorts of categories."

Tweeting short chapter summaries may be one way to get younger readers to engage with scripture, she said.

When announcing "The Twible," Riess stated "her interpretive question in approaching the text was 'What would The Onion say about this passage,’ ” suggesting that referencing a satirical newspaper would be a bridge to younger readers less likely to be engaged with the Bible. It appears, she said, to have worked.

"I've had a number of experiences where people bought ("The Twible") for a teenager, or someone in their twenties or thirties who did not have a great relationship with organized religion," Riess said in a telephone interview. "They're saying they are enjoying and sharing it with their friends. In some cases, these people are going back to the original, because it's pushing people to read the Bible in its original form."

Email: mkellner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @Mark_Kellner

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