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Study: Good Bible engagement makes good neighbors

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (BP) – People who are rooted in Scripture tend to make better neighbors, the American Bible Society said in releasing the latest data from its 2021 State of the Bible report.

Volunteering, helping strangers, donating to charity, welcoming immigrants, befriending people of other races, caring for those in prisons and advocating for the oppressed are all more prevalent among those more motivated by Scripture, the study found.

“The findings suggest that people who are rooted in the Bible tend to epitomize neighborliness better than others,” ABS said in its study. “Scripture engagement and connection to a vibrant Christian community have key benefits for society as a whole.

“Biblically motivated people make better neighbors because they tend toward attitudes and behaviors that have a positive influence. … Even when accounting for all other variables, the more deeply people engage with the Bible, the more respectful they are of others.”

John Plake, ABS director of ministry intelligence, said the study indicates that putting Scripture into practice is good for society.

“Our differences can be largely overcome with the truth found in Scripture, and we can afford to display selfless, practical love to others because Christ first loved us,” Plake said in a press release. “Throughout history, followers of Jesus have gone to great lengths to serve others, even when it comes at great personal cost — epidemics, wars, poverty, hardship, disasters and other traumatic world events have all been occasions for Christians to show God’s love in tangible ways.

“In an age known for polarization and division, we must serve each other and answer the biblical call to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Among key findings:

  • Helping a stranger is the most popular neighboring behavior among respondents (51 percent), followed by donating to charity (38 percent), and volunteering in the community (20 percent. The study looked at volunteering outside of church ministries.)
  • Gen Z adults and Millennials are more likely to volunteer in their communities and help strangers, while older adults are more apt to donate money to charities. Among respondents, 56 percent of Gen Z, 59 percent of Millennials and 55 percent of Gen X said they had helped a stranger in the past seven days; while donating money to charity is a priority among 51 percent of elders.
  • Practicing Christians scored higher on the study’s scale designed to rank good neighboring, with practicing Christians ranking from 1.3 to 1.6 (with 1.1 being the national average or mean), and non-practicing Christians ranking from 0.7 to 1.1.
  • Among Bible disengaged Americans, 9 percent volunteer in their community, 24 percent donate to charity and 43 percent help strangers.
  • Prosocial behaviors done without expectation of reciprocation – including welcoming immigrants, befriending people of other races and other religions, caring for the imprisoned, caring for the environment and advocating for society’s oppressed – are linked to an increased sense of meaning and purpose in life.
  • Good neighboring behaviors are viewed as negative among respondents classified as “Bible disengaged,” those who rarely engage with the Bible if at all.

The January online study included 3,354 complete responses from a sample of adult representative of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

ABS has released select chapters of the report monthly since May, with the release of chapters 7-9 slated through December.

The full report can be downloaded here.