I have a friend who is a retired pastor. He was our family pastor for about a year when our children were young. Through the years we’ve come to realize what a profound impact he had on our spiritual formation during that year that we were under his care.
He writes a weekly column on matters of faith for a small city/county daily newspaper. This week’s column was on the changing of the seasons in his beloved Alabama home. I, too, am Alabama born and lived there for more years of my life than anywhere else to date. We raised our two children there. I have fond memories of Alabama in my life.
Today I am reading of Barna Research Group’s update on the demographics of faith in America and am not surprised to read that Alabama is the state with the top ranking for percent of residents who are ‘born again’ (not by their own self-definition, but by an objective measure of their beliefs.) 67%of Alabamians profess beliefs that qualify them as ‘born again’. Only 9 states had 50% or more (majority) of the adult population who were born again. Additionally, Alabamians ranked highest in the nation in Christian orientation. The community with the highest percent of people who claim they have a resonsibility to share their religious beliefs with others is Birmingham, Alabama. The state overall ranked as one of the top two (with Louisiana) for personal evangelism.
Barna goes on to define “born again”, “evangelical”, and “notional” Christians as identified by specific beliefs. He also gives reasons why such data is valuable to political and religious leaders, news media, and others.
My interest in this research is purely personal. I was born in the most evangelical, born again state in the nation, it seems. I lived most of my adult life there. I raised my children there. One still lives there (in Birmingham, in fact, and she and her husband are quite evangelical themselves!) God chose a very good spiritual ‘womb’ in which to knit me together. I am now a Floridan and will likely be so until I die. Florida is not mentioned in the synopsis version of the report. I suppose I’ll have to purchase the full report to find where Florida ranks compared to the nation. But I know that where I live, in Panama City, Florida, there are more Christian bookstores and Christian schools and Christian churches per capita than even existed in my previous home, Montgomery, Alabama. Are they serving ‘born agains’, ‘evangelicals’, or ‘notional’ Christians? I’m not sure. But I’m expecting that Florida will fare respectably, from a Christin standpoint, in the national rankings, just as most Southern states do. When my husband and I had the opportunity to move here, we felt God had a purpose for us here, a sense of mission and calling to this place. We have been happy here, grown and thrived amid our faith community. And I think we have been given our own respective places of service to hurting and spiritually needy people. Were we brought here to help raise the per capita “God quotient” in Florida or did Alabama’s heavier “God quotient” fail to move us, giving us too ‘comfortable’ a position, and we had to be moved to a state with a lower quotient in order to be challenged to rise to a higher level of spiritual commitment? I don’t know.
I do know that my burial plot is in Alabama. I guess that makes it my real terrestrial home for eternity. It is nice to see that it is truly “God’s country”, at least when compared to the rest of the U.S. Sweet home, Alabama!