Sociologist Bradley Wright's recent work is earning him a reputation as an optimistic contrarian. In Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You've Been Told, he shattered "myths from the secular and Christian media." In his recent book, Upside, he offers "surprising good news about the state of our world." Churches and Christian ministries, it turns out, are just as guilty as the media of propagating a grim, bleak—and often inaccurate-view of the world. Leadership Journal's Brandon O'Brien spoke with Wright about what this means for ministry leaders.
What motivated you to write Upside?
I was getting discouraged watching and reading the news and hearing pastors describe the world from the pulpit. The common assumption seems to be that everything is getting worse in America. I'm old enough now to have heard these same fear messages 10, 20, 30 years ago—and they didn't come to pass. At some point I realized there are a lot more fear messages than bad things actually happening. So I started looking at the evidence and realized the common assumptions were wrong.
What motivates the media, and ministry leaders, to report so many negative statistics?
Cable TV gives us hundreds of channels and that motivates news outlets to sensationalize their messages for fear of being lost in the crowd. Fear is a powerful motivator. For example, recently a researcher came up with a better way of counting infant deaths worldwide. It turns out that when you count the deaths more accurately, the number drops about 15 percent. So the researcher presented this finding to a conference of people who research these things. In one fell swoop he adjusted their perceptions of the number of infant deaths worldwide, a number ...