Twelve months ago, Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden left his seat behind the Town Council table, stood before the unusually robust audience and issued a bold call for unity. Flower Mound
ians -ites residents, regardless of their creed, should set aside their differences and spend the next year carefully studying the Word of God.
And so Flower Mound's Year of the Bible was born, as was the official Year of the Bible website which, to avoid any suggestion that municipal government was unconstitutionally endorsing a particular religion, was run by a local church. "The idea of this," Hayden said at the time, "is to encourage our community to discuss the Bible -- to discuss it with your kids, to discuss it as a family."
So, with a new year approaching and 2014 drawing to a close, we have to wonder: Was it a success? Were old divisions healed? Did scales fall from eyes? (Side question: Did anyone think that, Dear God, maybe this isn't appropriate to discuss with my kids?
This is hard to measure, given that much of the change YOB2014 would have wrought is within the human heart and is therefore unknowable. That said, here are a few metrics that should give us a rough yardstick for measuring its impact.
Discussion: This one is a partial win. In the immediate aftermath of Hayden's declaration, there was indeed a conversation, and it was remarkably civil and thoughtful. It wasn't really about the Bible, however, so much as the proper line between government and religion and whether Hayden's declaration was a refreshing display of honesty or an obnoxious affront to religious minorities, and it died out within a few weeks, as those types of culture-war controversies typically do,
Actual Bible-Reading: Again, this is basically impossible to track, so we'll use the YOB2014 website and Facebook page as proxies. Both are posted on daily with each day's recommended scripture reading. It's conceivable that the people who promised to read the Bible on January 1 ("Yes I am committing!!!!!!!") plowed through on their own, but they would presumably visit the website occasionally or like the Facebook posts if they stayed at it. Aside from the scripture postings, the Facebook page is basically dead. This month's blockbuster post -- Micah 1-4:13; Revelation 6:1-17; Psalm 134:1-3; Proverbs 30:1-4 -- got four likes.
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The website doesn't have publicly available traffic numbers, but the Alexa traffic rank, a tool that measures the relative popularity of websites, puts it at 3,116,529th. The Church of Satan, by comparison, is 182,292nd. But maybe that's not a fair comparison. The Church of Satan is a well-established national religious organization whereas the Year of the Bible is a trolly declaration by the mayor of a smallish Texas suburb. TheBible2014.com crushes the Metroplex Athiests, who come in at 20,059,751st.
Godliness: If all this Bible reading was reaching the residents of Flower Mound, it would presumably affect their behavior. Good crime stats are hard to come by on Flower Mound's town website, so anecdotes will have to suffice. Here's a less-than-godly murder-suicide, but that was only a week in. Maybe they hadn't gotten to the Ten Commandments yet. By July, though, a Flower Mound resident should have known that recruiting homeless people from shelters to help get drugs for a pill-mill would be frowned upon. Ditto for shooting one's spouse.
Now for a final verdict. If the Year of the Bible touched someone's life in a positive way, then good for them, but that seems doubtful. No volley in the culture war -- which is what this was -- will ever change anyone's mind. It just gives them something stupid to argue about. We therefore declare Flower Mound's Year of the Bible a flop.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.