Selling fireworks on asphalt in 90 degree weather.
The quadrennial national Nazarene convention is in Indianapolis this week. Since I am currently driving carriages downtown most nights this week, I frequently take a group of people for a ride who are a part of that convention. Last night, I loaded a group of six, and because space was tight in the carriage itself, one of the gentlemen in the group sat up in the box with me for the duration of the ride. We quickly established a common ground of discussion when I mentioned
that I am a pastor’s kid and he is a pastor. For the next 25 minutes, we had a very enjoyable discussion about all manner of things Christian.
Once I dropped them off and began my next ride of the evening, I noticed a curious phenomenon — I actually felt both energized and hopeful for the first time in a very long time. It was the first time I had left the presence of Christians (who are not part of my inner social group) feeling refreshed at the fellowship shared and hopeful about the state of the Body. And then I chuckled when I remembered that the group I had just fellowshipped with was Nazarene. While I do have some theological differings from the Nazarene Church, I was overjoyed to rediscover that it is possible to cross the denominational divide and enjoy good, Christian
fellowship anyhow. Sometimes, I think we in the Body can get so wrapped up in the idea that “so-and-so is part of that denomination, so I can’t fellowship with him” that we miss out on some of the greatest blessings of fellowship. Personally, I would love to see more people putting aside or ignoring the denominational divide and spending more time urging the Body to work together in fellowship and unity. Ultimately, I think it would benefit the Church as a whole
and might undo some of the damage done by the extremes that always seem to make the news and give Christians as a whole such a bad name.
The Community Life Center that includes a funeral home and cemetery.
Interesting factoid: Statistics are better and more accurate predictors of human behavior than estimations of human behavior based on ‘known’ facts. For instance, I can say that so-and-so will do such-and-such a thing because I have seen examples of people doing such things. I’m basing my judgment on anectodal evidence. The problem with anectodal evidence is that it is just that — anecdotal. My own observations are very, very limited and generally do not reflect true trends.
There are all kinds of organizations, companies, and agencies in the world at large that do nothing but collect statistics on human behavior. One such area where research of this kind is extremely useful is in the social sciences, specifically psychology and counseling. Counselors are beginning to rely more and more on statistics in predicting patient/treatment outcome because it has been shown that these numbers are better at prediction than are our own estimations. An example of this is predicting that a patient is going to relapse into former unhealthy behaviors, even though current treatment is going very well, because the numbers indicate that the vast majority of patients similar to this one have themselves relapsed. Such knowledge gives the counselor a heads-up and gives them the opportunity to head the problem off and try a different tack to avoid the relapse itself.
Many Christians I know cringe when they see statistics used in this way. The general notion as I perceive it is that these statistics tend to remove or negate man’s free will, placing him into a box and taking away his ability to control his own actions. The fear here, I think, is that the use of statistics in the helping professions will prove our methods useless and redundant, that they will prove that man has no choice but to act in such ways, that all our work and effort
is, ultimately, in vain. The fundamental misunderstanding here is, however, that while statistics predict accurate future behavior, they in no way influence behavior itself. Statistics are simply
descriptive and serve certain purposes in the helping professions.
This all leads me to wonder how much of a role statistics plays in Christian ministries. I am sure that there are organizations out there that gather such data, analyze it, organize it, and deliver it to churches, ministries, and various similar Christian agencies, but I am personally unaware of such groups. Organizations like Focus on the Family and Crisis Pregnancy Centers undoubtedly collect data to some extent, but I wonder how much of that is used to write and publish reports and journals that would be useful to the Christian community at large. Since my Master’s degree is in psychology and my background and area of interest is in research, data collection, and analysis, I have a vested interest in finding or establishing an organization that conducts surveys, tests, and the like and uses the resultant data in a meaningful way to aid the Christian community in outreach. So, if anyone has heard of such organizations (or has
money to throw toward funding research grants), I would love to hear about it. It would be very cool to put my particular skills and interests to work for the furtherance of the work of God.
Postscript: 2 Peter has a lot of good stuff! I may write a bit about it in the near future…
The homeless guy who doesn’t have enough money to eat or to take care of himself but always seems to have enough for that bottle of liquor.
Truth. Well, sort of. Honestly, I think that all truth is actually very much black and white, and if it seems to be more of a gray issue, it is simply a demonstration of the limitations of human
knowledge and understanding. Some truths are really very basic, very cut-and-dried, things like, “Gravity is what holds me down,” and “If I touch this hot stove, I’ll get burned.” Others often seem to be purely black and white and end up looking more gray the closer the individual looks. The trouble is that so many things in life involve levels of complexity that quickly overwhelm the capacity of the human mind to process. Human behaviors may seem relatively
straightforward, and we may think we understand the motivation for why one does something, only to find out upon breaking the issue down that we really don’t understand it at all (or, at least, as much as we thought we did). Even the person involved in the behavior itself may not fully understand everything that goes into their own motivation, which is often, I believe, why there is so much confusion in so many people’s lives.
It is so very easy to fall into the trap of using stereotypes and generalizations as definitive answers for any topic or issue. The trouble is that they are only ever just guidelines, general statements of human behavior. People do A because of B. This group will react in such-and-such a way because of such-and-such motivations. There’s your black and white. The gray is examining individual motivations in said groups. Ultimately you will (typcially) find that every individual acted in a similar way for similar, yet different, reasons. And that is where you find that the strength of stereotypes and generalizations to describe behavior breaks down. The irony is that the generalization doesn’t actually generalize all that well. Every individual within the group proves to be the exception to the rule. People will judge an entire group based solely on a stereotype (e.g. “Christians are horrible people because they are so judgmental.”) without ever taking the time to learn and understand that so often the stereotype doesn’t
apply to nearly as many individuals as one might think. Stereotypes and generalizations do an adequate, though ultimately very limited, job of describing group behavior (though perhaps not the motivations behind said behavior) but do a less than adequate job of describing individual
behavior within said group (duh, right?). Clearly, the complexities of the human psyche make it seem as though the truth of the issue is an issue of grayness.
Limitations of knowledge and understanding can gray-out truth. Deliberate action to gray-out truth is an additional factor. There are some who feel threatened by truth. These are individuals who wish to live their lives in their own way and are only free to do so because the ‘truth’ of their lives is appropriately gray enough to let them interpret it however they see fit. These are
the sort who, as soon as an individual begins to try to make sense out of the grayness and move it more toward black-and-whiteness, are quick to try to discredit the individual or to introduce a new level of complexity to the issue in an effort to keep the issue within a
comfortable level of gray. In other words, they deliberately sabotage the effort to achieve understanding. In doing so, they are able to remain within their own comfort zone and continue living life as they see fit because, for them, truth is whatever you make of it.
Is it any wonder that our society is in the place in which we find it? Religion and politics are topics in which it seems nearly impossible to know what is true because such things as debates about semantics, character defamations, complex contributors to situations and behaviors get in the way of making sense out of the gray. Science, as well, often ends up in the realm of the gray, with one study proving a finding where another study disproves the same finding. And in all places, personal and political motivations muddy the waters appropriately so that it seems that the truth can never be truly known, only guessed at, only interpreted, only approximated. Postmodernism, political correctness, and ‘tolerance’ are the results, a dwelling in the land of the gray with black-and-white, clear-cut truth little more than a pipe dream to those who wish to know it.
The homeless guy downtown who bums $5 off a passerby then proceeds to open up his $150 flip cell phone to make a call (right in front of the guy from whom he just bummed the money).