Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, February 22, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter

I attended a small high school, that started with 8th grade. I was also a mid-year kid, one of those whose birthdays back then mandated a school start at the beginning of the second semester. I was also in band and orchestra and chorus, which took class periods, so the principal had a difficult time getting me into classes with the rest of my grade. I was one of two boys who took biology with the girls. And I took the second semester of Commercial Arithmetic without benefit of the first semester. I sort of liked having biology with the girls. I especially liked Commercial Arithmetic, because I was a freshman boy with a bunch of older women, aka junior girls.

Many people are afraid of arithmetic, but the political campaign puts the issue of arithmetic--statistics, polls, and averages--into the public consciousness.

When I was spoke at a cancer conference at M.D. Anderson in Houston, I heard Wendy Harpham, a physician and fellow cancer patient, tell this story: Two duck hunters were in a boat. One shot at a duck and missed, ten feet in front of it. The other shot at it and missed, ten feet behind it. On average, the duck was dead.

The message for patients was clear: we have to ignore statistics and keep on fighting.

Dr. Bernie Siegel says that 15% of cancer patients are automatic fighters. They fight everything, so there is no problem getting them to take the challenge of cancer. 15% are automatic dyers. If a doctor tells them they have six months to live, they’ll die in six months to the day. The other 70%, Siegel says, can go either way. They are the ones who need to be persuaded to ignore averages, statistics, arithmetic.

It is a good thing for cancer patients to ignore statistics. It is a bad thing, however, for cancer doctors and researchers to do so. If an oncologist says, “The statistics show that Drug A is 20% better than Drug B, but my gut feeling tells me that Drug B is better,” I don’t want that idiot as my doctor. I have a much better chance in my fight against cancer, in my ignoring of the statistics, if my doctor pays attention to the statistics and gives me the best chemotherapy.

Jesus is coming soon? The statistics don’t support that, not in the sense that most people talk about it, coming to end the world in the last judgment. Since Jesus ascended to heaven, there have been at least two thousand predictions about when he would return and the world would end. They were all correct, in that the world has ended for the folks who made those predictions and believed in them. But the arithmetic was wrong.

Some politicians decide what they believe through arithmetic. They look at what the polls say that people want and claim that’s what they want, too, what they have always wanted. The only thing they always want is to get elected, and they’ll say they believe whatever will accomplish that, regardless of how morally bankrupt and hostile to civilization it might be. Many voters accept their arithmetic without considering not only if the arithmetic is correct, but if the actions it favors are right.

Doing what is right is not about arithmetic, not about polls or averages.


I tweet as Yooper 1721.

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