Mississippi is home to the “most religious” population, according to an analysis of polling data from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Not only does the Magnolia state have the largest percent of people who say religion is very important in their lives (82 percent), it also has the highest percentage of people who say they attend religious services at least once a week (60 percent), who say they pray at least once a day (77 percent), and who say they believe in God with absolutely certainty (91 percent), the Pew Forum reported Monday in its “State-By-State Religious Commitment Analysis.”
I feel a couple of different ways about this survey. On the one hand, I love it. Mississippi is regularly ranked last or near last in so many categories that it’s nice to finally be listed first in something so positive as this. Finally, we have something brag about when we talk with our friends from Arkansas and Louisiana.
On the other hand, though, I am realistic enough to know that these survey results aren’t quite what they say. Seventy-seven (77) percent of surveyed Mississippians may say they pray at least daily, and 60 percent may claim to go to church at least once a week, but the reality is that the numbers are far lower. That many people don’t go to church regularly. If they did, our churches would be packed every Sunday. As is often the case, people are claiming to do something they are not really doing.
Still, the upside is this. If that many people are trying to look good by claiming to pray daily and go to church weekly even though they don’t, it means they still feel like they should. They feel like they ought to, even if in reality they don’t. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ll still take that as moderately good news!
That ‘ought to’ means that in our ever-increasingly post-Christian world 60 percent of all Mississippians are still open to the idea of going to church weekly. They just need a little encouragement in that direction. As opposed to the however-many who are dead-set against church no matter what. Likewise, 77 percent of all Mississippians are still open to the idea of praying daily. They just need a little guidance and help in learning how to do so.
In essence, the ‘ought to’ of this survey reveals an ‘openness’ in the respondents. They are more positively inclined toward God, faith, and church, if only we will just nudge them a little bit further in that direction. That sounds like an opening to evangelism to me. How about you?