well said, christian smith. smith, the author of soul searching, and a professor at unc, has written a must-read piece in books and culture about evangelicals misusing statistics. but the center piece of the ariticle is his straight-on dismantling of the 4% that’s been polarizing the youth ministry world for the past several months, thanks to a national campaign that’s horribly using it. this is a good ariticle for all ministry leaders to read. but, given the timeliness of smith’s case study, youth workers just gotta read this.
here’s the opening ‘graph:
American evangelicals, who profess to be committed to Truth, are among the worst abusers of simple descriptive statistics, which claim to represent the truth about reality, of any group I have ever seen. At stake in this misuse are evangelicals’ own integrity, credibility with outsiders, and effectiveness in the world. It is an issue worth making a fuss over. And so I write.
and a key ‘graph from late in the article:
It’s not that hard. People simply need to ask themselves things like: Is it really plausible that Christianity will be dead one decade from now because today’s young people appear to be less religious? Of course not. Anyone who could think that is clearly so gullible, so ill-informed about what reality is and how it works that they have no business offering, for example, “high level briefings” involving “top voices” about “what must be done to reverse the 4% trend” that doesn’t exist. It’s an embarrassment, a disgrace. It reflects the lowest of standards of operation and the feeblest of thinking. Non-evangelicals paying any attention to this have every right to ridicule and dismiss such ill-informed nonsense. And evangelical programs that miscalculate reality in such ways—however well meaning and enthusiastic they are—surely undermine their own long-term credibility and effectiveness.
(ht to tony jones)