In the previous article in this series on biblical illiteracy, I quoted Woodrow Kroll who cited research indicating that “by 1969 church attendance was down eleven points from 1955 among Catholics and five points among Protestants.”
What is the significance of that attendance drop?
To understand that, look closely at what happened during the 1950s.
Going to church
During the decade of the 1950s, Americans set record highs in church attendance.
Church attendance was tracked by Gallup starting in 1939, and according to Religion in America: 50 Years: 1935–1985, those attendance numbers “reached high points in 1955 and 1958.”
Going to church became very popular in the mid-to-late 1950s.
As the Gallup Organization pointed out, some historians described that period of time as “the seventh in a series of ‘reawakenings’ which have swept this continent starting with the Great Awakening of 1730.”
So it’s important to notice that church attendance was not always holding steady at high levels only to plummet during 1960s.
After rising to peak levels in 1955 and 1958, church attendance began to drop back down in the 1960s.
Generally speaking, any decline in church attendance could be considered a problem, but that drop is much less dramatic when you consider the spikes in attendance.
Bible knowledge in the 1950s
This is where things get interesting.
Gallup reported that despite increased interest in religious things, “knowledge of basic facts about Christianity remained low.”
The Gallup Organization cited surveys of biblical knowledge conducted during the 1950s (their own research and surveys conducted by others).
They concluded “the state of religious knowledge during this period (as in later decades) was anything but impressive.”
In the 1950s, many people took great interest in the church but lacked knowledge about the Bible.
What does this mean?
Many people are concerned with biblical illiteracy.
We have been examining the time frame—how long has it been declining. And if it’s declining, when did it start to drop?
Gallup’s research is strong evidence that biblical illiteracy did not begin in the Sixties.
In the 1950s, during the highest points of church attendance, biblical illiteracy was a problem.
Which means whatever caused it happened before the 1950s.
And that means we have to travel farther back in time to discover the source of this problem.
So let’s check out the 1940s next.
A Serious Look at Biblical Literacy