Joel Osteen's Mega-Watt Grin Can't Keep Houston Within the Bible Belt, Survey Says
Perhaps expectedly, some of the local mega-churches -- among the largest in the nation, again -- didn't offer a full-throated endorsement.
"You have to be careful about what criteria you're using," Gary Moore, a senior associate pastor with the Second Baptist Church, said, questioning the findings. "We get such an area to cover. You just have to be careful."
But, look: Houston's changed, and will only continue, and will only present new generations and new populations that either have no desire for or no access to whatever people think can be found within the Bible. And some ministries realize this. The mega-churches -- those weekly enclaves larger than the towns Houston continues to gobble -- may be nice, but they also paint a picture of something passed.
"I'd say I'm not surprised at the ranking," Steven Murray, the director of communications at Houston's First Baptist Church, noted. "I could speak for days about the general trends of the country, of a society drifting away from the values of the Bible. This isn't the Houston of the 1950s that some people think of."
The poll, conducted by the Barna Group and with a margin of error of only 0.5 percent, was the first of its sort in ABS's 200-year history. As such, this initial foray is little more than a moment, a capture of stasis without any form of trajectory. (Morin, fortunately, did say this poll would likely turn into an annual affair.) But it's a snapshot of a town carrying a reputation it perhaps doesn't deserve, or of one that's as outdated as, well, most of the stereotypes carried therein. Barbecue can still have its place, but the Bible and its backers need to catch up, or grow accustomed to the middle of the pack.
"We have to come to terms with the fact that we're in the fourth-largest city in the country, and that we're incredibly diverse, which is such a beautiful thing," Murray added. "But I hope this is a wake-up call. We can't just assume everyone in Houston grew up in Houston. This has to be a wake-up call."