"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wSaturday, October 22, 2005

JESUS CONFUSES: One of the things that I'm very conscious of -- perhaps too much so -- as I write my book about hypocrisy is the tendency of readers to completely misunderstand what I write. A few years back, I wrote a piece for Reason titled "Jesus Sells." It was a look at and defense of the Christian Culture Industry.

Let me repeat that: It was a defense of the Christian Culture Industry. And yet most of the readers who wrote me about the piece, linked to it, or talked about it in the media assumed that I was attacking said industry. Until yesterday, I had failed utterly to see how they could read the piece in that way.

And I still have a hard time with it. But I was looking at the piece again and something clicked. I realized that many, many people misread the piece because they're used to one method of argumentation and I was offering them something different. In modern political argument, it is exceedingly common to condense an opponent's arguments, misstate them, and then dismiss them, without really engaging their substance. We call this attacking a straw man.

I didn't want to attack a straw man. I wanted to spell out the best arguments against the Christian Culture Industry, give them due consideration, and only then argue how and why they are wrong.

But many people either didn't read all the way or were so conditioned by the beginning of the piece that it solidified a judgment, and this judgment determined how they read the rest of the article. Maybe if we had hit them over the head with a title like "In Defense of the Christian Culture Industry," things would have gone differently.

posted by Jeremy at 5:26 PM