Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Conventional Wisdom

From Freakonomics:
The first trick of asking questions is to determine if your question is a good one. . . It was John Kenneth Galbraith... who coined the phrase "conventional wisdom." . . .the conventional wisdom in Galbraith's view must be simple, convenient, comfortable, and comforting--though not necessarily true. It would be silly to argue that the conventional wisdom is never true. But noticing where the conventional wisdom may be false--noticing, perhaps, the contrails of sloppy or self-interested thinking--is a nice place to start asking questions (p. 90).

Levitt uses as an example Mitch Snyder the homeless advocate. He reported in 1980 that there were 3 million homeless Americans, and furthermore, 45 homeless people die each second (meaning 1.4 billion dead homeless each year. The total US population then was about 225 million). Later on, Synder admitted he made it up, because he didn't want reporters to go away without a number.

Reference: Becker, G. S, & Becker, G. N. (1997). "How the homeless crisis was hyped," in the Economics of Life. New York: Crown, 2000, pp. 60-69.

This is what is so intriguing to me about today; blogging and the internet can catch a lot of mispeak: honest mistakes and intentional mistakes.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Jesus Meek and Mild

In a discussion about Luke 9 last Sunday, we pondered long and hard Jesus' comments about the cost of being his disciple. He had no kind words for those who wanted to fulfill familial obligations, or bury the dead. Earlier in the chapter, he wants to know how long he has to stay around, because everyone around him just doesn't get it. When the disciples want to call down fire (like Elijah did), on a town that's not receptive to them, Jesus rebukes them.

I don't know about you, but I don't often hear others say that Jesus rebuked them. More often than not, they talk about how "Jesus told me to do this;" more "In the Garden" hymn talk than tongue lashing.

So, imagine my interest when I found this quotation today in a SoJo email:

"I believe it to be a great mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it.... We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in his opinions and so inflammatory in his language that he was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever his peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference."

- Dorothy Sayers

Sunday, May 01, 2005