Research: The US Military and the Bible

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State of the Bible 2020 research reportMany members of the US military community turn to the Bible, their church, and their pastor or chaplain for spiritual and emotional support, according to the State of the Bible 2020 research report commissioned by American Bible Society (@americanbible) and conducted by Barna Group (@barnagroup).

Over two million Americans serve in the US military and over 17 million Americans are veterans of the US Armed Services. Members and veterans of the US Armed Forces face challenges other American adults can hardly imagine. When service members deploy to combat zones, both their Bible and their chaplains go with them, providing spiritual and emotional support where families and churches cannot go.

According to the report, though nearly seven in ten service members self-identify as Christians, only one in five (20%) say they had a Bible when they entered military service.

Click to enlarge this chart of Bible reading frequency among members of the US military

One-third (33%) of service members read the Bible at least once a week. Compared to the general population of US adults, service members and veterans are significantly less likely to be say they realistically never use the Bible or that they use it less than once a year.

Four out of five (83%) service members and veterans say they were given a Bible while they were in the military. Nine out of ten (89%) service members who received a Bible kept it, and three out of five say they read it (13% read it a little, 19% occasionally, 19% quite often).

[See the Scripture Engagement section on Bible Gateway]

Click to enlarge this chart of Bible engagement among members of the US military

Deployment to a combat zone seems to be related to increased Scripture engagement. Over half (53%) of service members and veteran respondents who have never been deployed to a combat zone score Bible Disengaged, compared to 43% of service members and 46% of veterans overall. On the other end of the spectrum, one out of ten (10%) combat veterans are Bible Centered, compared to only 4% among all service members and 3% among all veterans. The likelihood of being Bible Engaged or Bible Centered increases with the number of deployments.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Latest Bible-Related Research]

As service members and veterans manage the stresses of their experiences, two out of three reach for the Bible with some regularity. The research asked military and veteran Bible users which Bible topics they are interested in and which they have already read about. Half (51%) showed interest in pain & suffering, hopelessness (50%), and loneliness (48%). These are also the subjects with the largest gaps between between what they’re interested in reading and topics they’ve actually explored in the Bible. Hopelessness showed a 16% gap between interest and familiarity. Pain & suffering followed with a 14% gap, and 13% of Bible users were interested in the topic of loneliness but had not read about it from a biblical perspective.

State of the Bible 2020 reveals that the Bible, chaplains, and church communities are powerful forces of comfort and strength for Armed Service members, especially when they’re sent into combat.

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