Monday, January 23, 2006

The Dissection

I wrote the last post (Healthy Cynicism) and I’d like to dissect it.

  • What was the subject? Was I commenting or ranting about the U.S., religion, my attitudes or the relationship between religion and politics? Among those who commented all four possibilities were included.

  • What about the statistics? As one person noted, the statistic about firearm homicides was not very useful. The reader was left with the responsibility to research the population of each country and calculate a rate. Many years ago I owned a book titled “How to Lie with Statistics”. The purpose of the book was to point out usages of statistics that are misleading. These figures bordered on deception.

  • Where was the supporting evidence? The sentence pertaining to the U.S. as the prime culprit in nuclear proliferation was taken from a chapter that contained evidence but was presented without explanation.

  • What about trends? In my perspective, static counts are not as important as trends. To say that over seven in one thousand Americans is imprisoned is not very useful. It’s more useful to know also that in the 1970s the rate was one in one thousand.

  • Definitions were missing. I used the term Christian. What is the definition of a Christian? To further complicate the situation, what is the definition of a Christian nation?

  • Where were the opposing view points? I offered none.

  • Why the politically incorrect language and insincere question that conveyed negative emotion? Did it help or harm? (That’s definitely a rhetorical question.)

  • What was my purpose? Was it to inform, to educate, to motivate or to entertain?

  • Did I prove a cause and effect relationship? I alluded to a relationship between the statistics and the influence of religious groups but never said it directly nor attempted to prove it.

  • References to the quotes were omitted. All of the bulleted items were copied from a book but I never gave the title and author of the book.

  • Solutions were not offered to the problems of homicide, nuclear proliferation and other issues. Not only did I not offer possible soltuions that I read but I did not ask for possible solutions.

Yesterday’s post is an example of the kind of communication that concerns me. I am concerned about our world. Since I live in the U.S., I’m especially concerned about the role of the U.S. I’m searching for reliable news. Should I trust the national media? Should I trust It appears we are polarized and no longer communicating. It seems to me that we are quick to speak but slow to question and to attempt to understand.

Paul Tillich, a theologian, said “The first duty of love is to listen.” In my opinion, the second duty of love is to question.

I’d like to write a few posts concerning dialogue and I invite your participation. I don’t have solutions or answers. I wish I did, but I don’t. I'm looking for help

To quote, once again, the closing lines of Natala’s poetic post:

open yourself
and i will do the same
and perhaps together
we will begin to understand

Thanks to each of you who commented on the last post. You responded with grace, restraint and kindness. The attitude with which you responded encourages me to move into a few posts related to politics.


Blogger anonymous julie said...

It's very difficult not to become emotional and heated on topics of controversy.

When a person identifies himself with a group (be it a specific party or specific group, or something more general like liberal, conservative, or Christian) the reader is quick to make many assumptions about just what that term means. These sorts of behaviors bother me deeply, but against some people there is really no defense - a person will choose to interpret a line however he wants, no matter how much one writes in protest or clarification. Others will seek an understanding.

It can also be very stressful, and feel very legalistic, to try and cover every base and every possible interpretation while trying to simply convey thoughts.

Also, when we lack evidence but abound in suspicion - which do we choose to follow, and why? In politics, any semblence of Christian virtues - longsuffering, love, patience, et cetera - is lacking. Taking its place is malice and personal attack. (For example... I was embarrassed to watch the last debate between presidential candidates. We all would have been better served by a discussion of values and their practical application in government.)

The question of what sources to believe is a very difficult one, and I'm glad somebody else has thought about it. Is anyone truthful? Does anyone lack an agenda? How is it possible to discern anything? Is it worth hoping for the best? Very, very apt observations. (Or, at the very least, I have observed the same things.)

I hope that people will grow in understanding together by further discussions here.

Whoa, first comment and a doozie!

1/23/2006 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I think that we all, or should all, understand that this is a blog and not a dissertation. You are permitted to sit down and rattle off some opinions without doing a week of research -- especially when you know you're right anyway. :)

1/24/2006 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew May said...

Paul, I am glad you are looking for answers and not just complaining. I think it is important to know what the statistics are but to also know that stats are not exact and many times they are dead-wrong.

As to some of your questions.

What is the definition of a "Christian Nation" First I don't think one exists. I especially do not think the US is a "Christian Nation" To be a Christian is to follow the path of Christ. America is a melting pot of religion, our first amendment in our constitution says congress shall make no law in the establishment of religion or the free practice of it. It never said Christian.
People may consider this a Christian nation .. but what it really is.. is a Nation Built on Christian Principles. Such as the golden rule and the ten commandments.

I also do not like to consider America a leader of anything..because to do so implies that only rich countries should do anything. We give because we love.. we don't give because we are a leader. In fact it is people who do the work of philanthropy.. historically the governments of the world are terrible at it.

In closing my comment I would just say that it is better not to focus on statistics unless you need to. If you are not in a position to change those statistics then I would direct everyone to the serentiy Prayer.


1/24/2006 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We should all be concerned about our world. With the amount of media that abounds today, it is always a danger if we close our ears to what we don't want to hear and instead look for "validation" in the media of what we believe or want to believe. I find myself struggling at times to keep and open mind as well as an open heart.

1/24/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

I write my blog with the assumption that my opinions and interpretations of "facts" that have been given me by the media are simply a personal take on what I understand and not backed up with hard research or sources I personally know are trustworthy. I believed almost everything Peter Jennings of ABC news told me, but I understood that for the most part he was regurgitating what his news gathering organization presented to him. The CIA is an intelligence gathering organization that rather than investigating and establishing what was fact, instead took a strongly held belief and endeavored to make it fact, without the actual evidence to back it up. There were fail-safes present in this organization which could have prevented this from happening, but those fail safes were human resources that were discouraged from offering dissenting interpretations of the evidence.
I want to suggest that to brand all of Christianity as some evil force set loose upon the world is a narrow minded belief that is not supported by facts, yet when the only experience one has of the practice of Christianity is continually negative, it is easy to assume that one's interpretation of it's actual practice is correct. Thankfully, I have encountered individuals who practice their faith according to it's tenants, which has enabled me to have an open mind when it comes to individuals, but as an institution, it will take a major shift in mainstream behaviors as displayed on the news for me to accept that religean is a positive influence on society. As for my closely held belief that George Bush is a complete idiot, the evidence, both on tape and in policy decisions, is overwealming clear in that respect, at least in my mind. I would like to point out that I once, as a much younger man, thought that Richard Nixon was the better choice between two candidates, and voted for him. History proved me wrong in that respect. What I see lacking these days is the ability of conservatives to think independently, and to admit that their behaviors overall cause great harm to this nation, not just to people that disagree with their philosophy. I also see a major lack of responsibility by liberals to moderate THEIR behaviors that sometimes take them too far outside the mainstream. Yes, assumptions can be dangerous, but you be rest assured that a baseball bat upside the head has a way of overriding any belief that the wielder of said baseball bat would never actually use it on you just because you were to intellectually afraid to trust your instincts.

1/24/2006 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Gaye said...

Question; listen; question; listen; etc... that's how we learn...

1/24/2006 08:26:00 PM  

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