One day a numÂber of conÂcerned mothÂers met with the minÂisÂter to express their frusÂtraÂtion and anger over the unseemly conÂduct of a parÂticÂuÂlar boy in SunÂday School. They did not want their chilÂdren exposed to this child and feared what he repÂreÂsented. For it seemed that this boy was modÂelÂing â€œbad behavÂiorâ€ â€“ verÂbal outÂbursts that someÂtimes involved proÂfanÂity, a lack of senÂsiÂtivÂity to other childrenâ€™s perÂsonal space (occaÂsionÂally bitÂing them when irriÂtated or proÂvoked) and an unpreÂdictably vioÂlent imagÂiÂnaÂtion when playÂing with toys. No SunÂday school is equipped to hanÂdle probÂlems of this magÂniÂtude. So upon expressÂing their indigÂnaÂtion, the mothÂers requested that the minÂisÂter call the childâ€™s parÂents and ask that he not return to SunÂday school. ObviÂously, there were famÂily issues that needed seriÂous and immeÂdiÂate attention.
The â€œprobÂlem childâ€ was ours. My wife received the call early one mornÂing. The minÂisÂter was deeply apoloÂgetic and pasÂtoral in his approach. But the damÂage had been done. What were we to do? Where could we go? Over the years, we had been through behavÂioral proÂgrams, famÂily counÂselÂing, and psyÂchiÂatric care. At this point, we were just beginÂning to come to terms with our sonâ€™s recent diagÂnoÂsis: Touretteâ€™s synÂdrome. Later, he would also be diagÂnosed with Aspergerâ€™s synÂdrome, bipoÂlar disÂorÂder, and obsessive-compulsive disÂorÂder. But at this point he was about seven years old, and we knew only of the Touretteâ€™s. We stopped attendÂing this church. In fact, we stopped attendÂing church altoÂgether. â€” Thomas E. Reynolds, VulÂnerÂaÂble ComÂmuÂnity: A TheÂolÂogy of DisÂabilÂity and Hospitality (Brazos Press, 2008)
Engineering does not often apply directly to faith, but one method that has transformed the way I view community is a commitment to statistical honesty. In reading papers and critiques of clinical trials, one thing that comes up repeatedly is the question, “Is the community they engaged in this trial one that is diverse? Does it represent society in general? Can it translate into meaningful implications for the people I treat? Or were these participants selected in a biased way to favor a certain outcome? Is there a skew that limits how we may interpret and understand the world?”
One day it struck me to think about my own community with a similar critique. If I took a random sample of my friends from work, my neighborhood, and my church, would it look like it was truly random? Would there be an overrepresentation of certain types of people or a paucity in others? Would that statistical bias be a reflection of intentionality or a revelation in exclusivity? [Read more…] about Selection Bias: Statistical Integrity in Christian Community