No Bibles in Iowa: The Curious Case of Cedar Rapids

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Ed Vasicek's picture

This informative article has tremendous bearing on national trends.  Although the evangelical church is growing a little in Cedar Rapids, Bible reading is down.

IMO, the trend in the evangelical world is "about anything OTHER than reading the Bible."  Whether ashes on Ash Wednesday or mission trips -- anything but Bible.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture that Iowa City is more or less the Boulder of Iowa. Couple that with collapsing mainline churches, a lot of bachelor farmers without kids, young people leaving the state as soon as they can (half my workplace is Iowa State grads), and this is to be expected.  

Wonder if Dan Miller is doing well.   He's in Cedar Rapids, if I remember right, so he might have something interesting to say. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

I grew up in Cedar Rapids in my early years (3-10).  I was saved at Calvary Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids.  I have been away a long time but my brother was a Pastor in Minneapolis for long time and worked with many Pastors from Iowa and Minnesota.  My father worked at Collins as an Engineer. 

Here is probably another reason there is low bible reading in Cedar Rapids Swedish  and Norwegian descendants.  

I believe during the Republican campaign one News Announcer said the Democrats in Iowa are some of the most liberal in the Democratic Party.  Those are all those Swedes and Norwegians.  The same ones that are in Minnesota.  A lot of them are connected to the main line Churches and in some of the weaker evangelical churches. 

That's why in Minnesota they are big on welfare programs.  I remember driving through Minneapolis and my brother saying that apartment building is public housing.  I said you got to be kidding me that looks like a high end condo compared To Philadelphia.  I say that with experience.  I think I visited every public housing project in Philadelphia during my career. 

Anyway some of you may think I'm painting with a broad brush.  Being of 1/2 Swedish and part Danish descent I'm speaking about my own people.  Also being a Native Midwesterner family wise I do have some experience about the area.  My mother was from the Upper PI and my father was from Northwestern I'll.  I'm probably related bloodwise to a lot of people still living in Illinois.  My family came from Pa in the colonials days to Illinois with Abraham Lincoln's family.  In fact they lived in the same neighborhood in Pa literally by Daniel Boone.  

Ed Vasicek's picture

JoeB, quite a family background you have.  Yes, the liberal mainlines are collapsing.  With so many in that region in the mainlines, this makes sense.  I, for one, never could understand going to church without believing the Bible was true.



"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture


I'm actually thinking of attending a service at a mainline church one day, just so I can see what on earth they talk about. Maybe during Christmas. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

dcbii's picture


In the past, before it was normal to be able to learn about a church on the internet, and all you had was the phonebook listing, it was actually quite common when visiting an area to end up at all kinds of wacky churches.  Never hit a Catholic one that way, but independent churches can be everything from similar to mainline to charismatic, etc., and I visited more of them as a kid with my parents than I care to remember.  When my wife and I were a young couple, we tried to get recommendations before going to an area, and that helped, but you could still end up in a church that you'd prefer not to have visited.  This is definitely an area where the internet has helped immensely.

I even found my current church by looking on the internet, and that was in 2003.  Properly selected search terms are extremely helpful.

Dave Barnhart

Joeb's picture

My father grew up on a farm before the day of social safety nets (Polo ILLINOIS). His father was  30 plus years older then my father's mother.  His father was a Tennant Farmer.

 I remember my father telling me his lunch at school was lard and sugar sandwiches.  My father lied to get in the navy during WW 2 to get three hits and a cot but he never heard the gospel even back then.  He was probably connected to the Lutheran Church as a child   It did not help when he was young his father died and his mother moved in with the town drunk either.  

It was while he was in the Army as an enlisted man that I believe God was working with his life in unseen ways. Someone or his Sargent  recognized my father's abilities and he took a test and ended up going to West Point.  The Army was the family he never had and it was at West Point he came to know the Lord through Jack Wrytzen's ministries.  

The point I'm getting to is even years ago the main line Churches in the Midwest were spiritually dead so how much more are they dead now.  Hence people in Cedar Rapids not interested in reading the Bible or anything spiritual.  

Ed Vasicek's picture

Joe B., thanks for sharing his testimony.  The mainlines have been predominantly liberal since before I was born. There were some islands and groups that held out longer than others, and there still are some Bible-believing pastors in liberal denominations (we have a lot of United Methodists in Indiana where the pastors do believe the Bible -- a big change from the Chicago area, from which I hail).

But, interestingly, even "conservative" churches (like the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) -- while clear on salvation by grace alone through faith alone (mixing it up with baptismal regeneration) define faith in such a way as being identical to "knowing about."   Now I believe there are many saved people in this group, but it (and other formal groups) can have a way of making faith mechanical.

I don't know what kind of Lutheran church your grandfather went to -- it may have been liberal, perhaps not.  My guess would be that it was liberal.

At the same time, I fear that Cedar Rapids is a microcosm of our nation's future, esp. with the abandonment of the Kingdom by Millennials.  Young Urban Professionals often have little use for God, other than taking His Name in vain.  Like the Europeans, they view our faith as antiquated and filled with unnecessary restraints and other "fun killers."  They want to shack up, change partners after a while, or consider sexual alternatives.  No one is to be judged,

Fortunately, God has His elect, even from the Millennials.  But the non-elect are not as accommodating to the elect as they once were.

"The Midrash Detective"