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What did Americans do last week?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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American family watching television in 1958 from theNational Archives and Records Administration (Credit: Evert F Baumgardner)

What did Americans do last week?  Rasmussen Reports conducted a national telephone survey, which revealed:

  • 84% of American adults watched the news on television.
  • 71% went out to eat.
  • 67% played a sport or did some kind of physical activity.
  • 51% attended a religious service.
  • 46% had friends to their home.
  • 40% drank an alcoholic beverage.
  • Just 15% went to a movie; 7% went to a concert.

I’m not surprised by the number who went out to eat or had friends over.  But I would have expected a much lower percentage to watch the news on television, given the explosion of online news services and mobile devices to use them.  And I am especially skeptical that 67% of us did something physical last week, or that only 40% of us consumed alcohol, or that 51% of us attended a religious service.

Such surveys have long been plagued by responders who reported what they should have done rather than what they did.  This survey is no exception.  67% say we exercised last week; doctors put the actual number closer to 50%.  Recent surveys indicate that 67% of Americans drink alcohol regularly, though only 40% admitted they did so last week.  And on average, 43% of Americans will say they go to church on a given Sunday.  If you call the churches and add up their attendance, it comes closer to 23%.

The good news is that we at least think we should exercise regularly, drink less, and go to worship weekly.  Why is this?  We were created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), but the Fall broke our intimacy with our Maker.  However, we retain a “God-shaped emptiness” (Pascal) and our hearts are restless until they rest in him (Augustine).

The next person you meet is looking for God and godliness more than he or she may know.