The Word of Bob

I noticed this in today’s Otago Daily Times, and some googling turned this up, providing a fuller story.

The first line makes it sound a little more dire than it really is: “A quarter of people in Britain today cannot tell the difference between a text in the Bible and a speech by Sir Bob Geldof, a study has found.” As the story unfolds, what we learn is that in Britain, a quarter of those people surveyed (more than 1,000 adults) as part of a study conducted by the public theology think tank Theos, thought that a particular verse in the Bible was something that Bob Geldof had said. The verse was Proverbs 31:8,”You must defend those who are helpless and have no hope. Be fair and give justice to the poor and homeless.”

I have to confess, the weight of this particular finding is a bit lost on me. It’s something Bob Geldof, and a number of other people concerned about poverty would say, so if the option of “was this statement made by Bob Geldof” was put to these participants, a quarter of them, unless they had memorized the verse ahead of time, could quite easily have thought that the answer was yes.

I’m guessing that the overall point is that Geldof’s concern for poverty is a biblical one, and that’s a point well made. The story concludes:

Paul Woolley, director of Theos said: “There are clearly some important challenges to the Christian community contained within these findings. The fact that people confuse the Bible and a speech by Bob Geldof is intriguing, but the fact that 42 per cent of people disagree that the Bible champions the cause of the poor and marginalised demonstrates a significant degree of biblical illiteracy and the need for the Christian community to model the emphases of its sacred text more clearly.”

Apparently more than half answered correctly, saying that the Bible spoke about justice and poverty more than about hell, adultery or homosexuality, but the 42 per cent who didn’t think that the Bible champions the cause of the poor and marginalised at all suggests that those surveyed hold something of an ill informed caricature of what the Bible is about. This suggestion was only confirmed by a reader’s comments at the page where this story appears – comments that question whether the Bible could really be said to champion the cause of the oppressed and that this would be a “change of emphasis,” away from the obvious emphasis of killing homosexuals and adulteresses.

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