The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, an incredibly valuable place to go for meaningful research, recently completed a massive survey regarding what people know about faith in America. There are some amazing results to be found in this survey at Pew’s web site.
Pew’s site tells the reader that:
The research indicates that on questions about Christianity – including a battery of questions about the Bible – Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews and atheists/agnostics stand out for their knowledge of other world religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism; out of 11 such questions on the survey, Jews answer 7.9 correctly (nearly three better than the national average) and atheists/agnostics answer 7.5 correctly (2.5 better than the national average). Atheists/agnostics and Jews also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including a question about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.
I did not find a great deal of surprises here at all. I have always thought that Mormons are better taught than most evangelicals and that most evangelicals do not understand what the U. S. Constitution actually says about religion.
So on general questions about religions evangelicals score poorly. You might say to me this is exactly as it should be. We should know the Bible and not care about other religions. I beg to differ. We should know the Bible, I agree. But the second part of the equation is not right. If we “love our neighbors” and desire to be missional and contextual then we need to know a lot more about the people who live around us and work with us. Friendly discussions, which show we understand our neighbors better, will go a long way toward opening us up to them and them to us. Are we so clueless about our own mission field that we do not care to even bother?