Saturday, January 29, 2011


Christianity Today has published its annual Book Awards for books that in their judges' opinions best offer insights into the people, events, and ideas that shape evangelical life, thought, and mission.

I'm especially pleased to see Bradley Wright's Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You've Been Told: a Sociologist Shatters Myths from the Secular and Christian Media on the list, and not just because the author sent me a copy for free!

As someone who works with [religion-focused] stats a good deal, it's heartening to see an author get to grips with what the stats have actually said rather than what someone thinks they've said, or wants them to say. He's not alone in this, of course, (Ed Setzer seems to do a bit in this regard), but his book is the first to focus on the issue - at least as far as I know.

Interestingly enough, just this week on Facebook, a very regular participant on that site (the pastor of a large youth-focused church in Australia who I will leave unnamed) posted one of his typical updates, and quoted stats - without any source. As he's now deleted the original post and its many comments, I can't quote directly, but he claimed something along the lines that in the States 3500 churches close their doors every year (?) but 4000 other churches are planted each year. He was saying it was a cause for rejoicing that the net profit was 500 new churches.

When I asked for a source for the stats, he ignored me, but when another writer got rather shirty about the issue, a considerable argument (as opposed to a debate) ensued. Helpfully a third writer actually posted a reasonable source for the original stats, although not one that really confirmed anything. Some insults passed by, both from the original poster, who lost his temper at length (and later came back more apologetically) and from one particular other person. As I say, the whole discussion was deleted - perhaps after the original poster realised that some of his remarks sadly didn't do much for his image.

I tell this story just to prove that the world of statistics isn't all bland and boring....

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