As it happened I was in Cedar Rapids last week, or rather driving through with Ruth C. at the wheel as we made our way to Hiawatha for a meeting with a printer. Had I read this article from the Barna Research Group before leaving the buckle on Iowa's Bible belt, I'd have taken an extra-deep breath of the Cedar Valley's superstition-free air just to see if there was a difference --- and a possible explanation.
The Barna Group, a non-partisan, non-profit group that explores U.S. cultural trends, has discovered that the Cedar Valley corridor, encompassing both Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, is among the least "Bible-minded" of the nation's 100 top metropolitan areas, ranking 96th and sandwiched between Buffalo, New York, at 95, and San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose at 97. Fancy that. San Francisco. The survey was conducted in partnership with the American Bible Society.
Bible-mindness ranking among survey participants was based upon a combination of Bible-reading practices and belief in the Bible's accuracy.
Godless Iowa City, where so many Iowans --- including myself --- have gone astray over the years while studying at the University of Iowa, emerging with a preference for Shakespeare rather than scripture, was too small to be included in the survey.
As might be expected, the nation's most Bible-minded cities were located in the South: 1. Chattanooga, Tennessee; 2. Birmingham/Anniston/Tuscaloosa, Alabama; 3. Roanoke/Lynchburg, Virginia; 4. Springfield, Missouri; and 5. Shreveport, Louisiana.
Cities that have fallen over the precipice to perdition generally were located in the Northeast or the West. Boston, Massachusetts/Manchester, New Hampshire ranked 98; Albany/Schenectady/Troy, New York, No. 99; and Providence, Rhode Island/New Bedford, Massachusetts, No. 100.
Two other metropolitan areas in Iowa were surveyed. The Quad Cities ranked 44th; Des Moines/Ames, No. 53. This is about where one would expect Iowans to fall.
This appears to be the second year for the Bible-mindness survey. Cedar Rapids/Waterloo ranked 88th last year; Des Moines, 49th. The Quad Cities didn't make the list for reasons that are not evident, although it may have had something to do with the way population centers are combined.
But obviously, something's up in the Cedar Valley --- and I'm not sure what it is. The water, perhaps? Or perhaps those Unitarian Universalist missionaries have been especially busy there.