Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half can name at least two members of the cartoon family, according to a survey according to a story released today by the Associated Press. The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.
The survey found more people could name the three "American Idol" judges than identify three First Amendment rights. They were also more likely to remember popular advertising slogans. It also showed that people misidentified First Amendment rights. About one in five people thought the right to own a pet was protected (it's not?), and 38 percent said they believed the right against self-incrimination contained in the Fifth Amendment was a First Amendment right. I'll bet that is why defendants take the "fifth" when testifying and not the "first." That is the kind of intellectual prowess you get from this humble blog.
The telephone survey of 1,000 adults was conducted Jan. 20-22 by the research firm Synovate and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. So, to be fair, we may be slightly less or slightly more stupid.
So what do we make of this? I think it is really sad that so few know the essence of these amazing documents. This embarrassing and even dangerous lack of civic knowledge also finds its way into our Christian journey. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek ode to our Christian ignorance in When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. I did a little rewrite of the lyrics of Sam Cooke's classic song and came up with this.
Don't know much about theology,
Don't know much Christology.
Don't know much about Leviticus,
Don't know why they had the Exodus.
But I do know that God loves you,
And I know that if I'm real good too
What a wonderful faith this would be.
You have to buy the book to get the rest of my lyrical genius. But buried in the light hearted poke at our lack of knowledge is a very serious problem. That same ignorance discovered in the AP story above infiltrates the church. And I would suggest that a part of the struggle of the church in America is that we don't really have a clear understanding of what we believe. George Barna has done considerable research on this topic and the results are appalling. For example, here are some examples of widely held beliefs among Christians that are clearly in opposition to the Biblical view. Barna found that 74 per cent of respondents (apparently no one with a two year old in the house) thought that when people are born, they are neither good nor evil; they make a choice between the two as they mature. Forty two percent believe that when Jesus lived on earth, He sinned like other people. Fifty nine percent thought that Satan was just a symbol of evil. The list goes on and on but it identifies a major problem. When Christians don't have a fundamental and basic understanding of Biblical theology we go through the buffet line of beliefs and select what looks or smells good.
Barna writes that "because we remain a largely Bible-illiterate society, few are alarmed or even aware of the slide toward syncretism - a belief system that blindly combines beliefs from many different faith perspectives." In other words we are becoming a society of blended faith. How about three-quarters of Americans believing that God helps them that help themselves is a Biblical teaching? (instead of a quote from Ben Franklin)
I first became convicted of my need to solidify my Biblical and theological knowledge when I realized that I could name the starting lineup for the 1961 National League Champion Cincinnati Reds but I could only name slightly more than half of the Apostles. We must know what and why we believe. The resources are out there. Most of us have Bibles laying all around. And the sad and very convicting truth is that we make time for what is important to us. I spent twenty minutes with the sports page today and yet I am prone to say I don't have time for Bible study.
I am not able to take the "fifth" in my journey with Jesus. A lack of theological and biblical knowledge is an incriminating fact that can be changed. If we care to change it.