Chattanooga is the No. 1 Bible city. More correctly, we're the No. 1 Bible-minded city, according to a recent study by the American Bible Society.
It's true, there's a church on nearly every corner. And there certainly is never a shortage of someone wanting to wag a Bible verse at anyone and everyone for any number of reasons.
But it's hard to argue that Chattanoogans and Tennesseans (Knoxville was the No. 1 Bible-minded city last year) take the message of the Bible completely to heart. If we did, perhaps we'd be a bit more virtuous. Perhaps we'd be a bit more Bible-purposed.
• Chattanooga, with its 122 shootings in 2013 certainly is well on the way to helping Tennessee retain it's FBI-dubbed title of "most violent state." We Tennesseans were among the top 10 in the country for murders and robberies, and we were No. 1 for aggravated assaults.
So much for "love thy neighbor."
• Chattanooga also is a city where a bicyclist in a nearby suburb recently was bull-horned and maced by teens (and no this editorial page did not condone it: Sixth paragraph -- "No one condones the road rage or poor humor.")
This also is a city where more than a dozen police officers streamed by and did not stop two fellow officers from brutally beating a black man to the point of breaking both of his legs in eight places.
And we're a city where many vocal residents waving Bibles want to recall an openly gay council member and want to stop city officials from extending employee benefits to its workers' domestic partners, including those in long-term same-sex relationships.
So much for tolerance.
• We've not made much progress here on poverty or on a goal to end chronic homelessness. In fact, the numbers of homeless in Chattanooga have been ticking up while the number of shelter beds has fallen from 200 two years ago to 60 now. Just this month, the city had to amend its budget to provide an emergency $50,000 for cots and security to open the Community Kitchen on dangerously cold nights.
Thank heaven for city officials with warm hearts, but in general, so much for charity.
• Chattanooga has a long legacy of pollution, most of it only stopped when the businesses producing that pollution were forced to close because their buggy-whip-like products became too outdated to make money. Toxic coal tar was ditched into Chattanooga Creek. Foundry sand was spread around the city as fill dirt. The city's own combined stormwater/sewer system still is so outdated that there are regular overflows of sewage to the Tennessee River.
So much for our stewardship of the earth.
Of course, we do have bright spots.
We've also made the top of lists like "most philanthropic," and we're quick to raise money and lend a shovel or shoulder to tornado, flood and fire victims. And many churches have special missions that are community minded: Witness the 51 churches that take turns providing weeklong stays in their basements and classrooms to homeless families while they seek means to get permanent homes again.
We're also very welcoming. Southern hospitality is real here. Most of the time.
Yet, in Chattanooga, as in any city, there are many crosses to bear.
In a city with about 2,000 churches, just think what we could accomplish if we put Bible-purposed over Bible-minded.