When people turn to the Bible, they are generally seeking uplift, inspiration and comfort — the most commonly searched terms on the website Bible Gateway are “love,” “faith,” “peace,” “hope” and “joy.”
But on other days, they are looking for something darker — the parts of the Bible about the end of the world.
As the 2016 presidential campaign built to a fever pitch during the summer and fall, then reached a widely unexpected conclusion with Donald Trump’s win, many people speculated — some jokingly and some with real concern — about whether the end times were near.
But it turns out, according to data published by Bible Gateway on Tuesday, that the election did not cause the most alarm about the end times in recent years.
Same-sex marriage did.
When the Supreme Court decided in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, searches on the popular Bible website for “end times” climbed rapidly, peaking June 29 with significantly more searches than any other time in the past three years.
Readers looked at more than 1.7 billion excerpts of the Bible on Bible Gateway in 2016. Jonathan Petersen, the website’s marketing manager, told The Washington Post that the site could not share the exact number of searches for a given term, but more than five times the average number of people searched “end times” after the same-sex-marriage decision. After the presidential election last month, on the other hand, three times as many people as usual looked up the Bible verses about what the end of the world might look like.
Other moments in recent years that Petersen said caused at least twice as many people as usual to search for “end times”: the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014; the transmission of Ebola in the United States in October 2014; the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015; and the killing of five Dallas police officers in July 2016.