open bookNo, this is not a post about our president, and I’m not calling anyone names. The title of this post is an acronym, and I’m preaching this sermon to myself. It’s one I’ve thought about dozens of times over the years.

…And then promptly forgot about, again:

Low. Information. Action. Ratio.

“Huh?” you say. Bear with me. I will explain.

A writer named Marva Dawn (she’s brilliant–follow the link and learn about her) gave a radio interview on our local Christian radio station, years ago now. And she shared a concept which I have never entirely forgotten.

She pointed out how much information inundates us now which has no bearing on our lives and over which we have no control. For instance, scan the headlines and see how many involve horrific:

  • ghastlymurders,
  • kidnappings,
  • assaults,
  • terrorist attacks,
  • plane/train crashes,
  • or natural disasters.

Bad news IS news, and we hear bad news almost immediately these days. Beyond that, there are celebrity birthdays, hook-ups, engagements, marriages, babies, fights and divorces to savor. I mean really: given the choice of reading about Justin Bieber’s latest embarrassment, or a new city zoning ordinance, which will you choose? 

Consequently, we know about a lot of things which we are not expected to do anything about.

Now, back to that acronym:  Low Information-Action Ratio. This is Marva’s unscientific way of saying that there is very little correlation these days between what we hear or read, and what we’re expected to DO about it.

pulpit goodThat may not seem important. But then we go to church. We hear a sermon–perhaps on tithing, or being wiser parents, or better stewards of our resources, or on repenting of sin and surrendering to God’s call. But no matter how profound the message, how emotional our initial response or how much we agree with the sentiments express, if our subconscious habit is to take in the message and immediately file it away in a remote cabinet, never to be retrieved or acted on…what use was the message?

What was the point of even going to church?

I would take it a step further: what’s the purpose in reading anything that you read? The political columnist, the major world headline, the magazine article, the best-selling biography? This blog post? If we are no longer accustomed to seeking motivation to action in the material we read or hear, then why are we wasting our time?

Girl YawningCan you imagine if the citizens of the thirteen colonies had read Tom Paine’s Common Sense and said, “Hmmm, some rather good points there. Yep. Well-written, too.” And then gone back to griping about the price of sugar and the scarcity of pins?

My brother, Justturnright, reads an enormous amount of political commentary every day. I”m grateful to him, because he reads it so that I don’t have to. He writes about things in such a way that I can understand them easily. But am I acting on them?

The very word ‘information’ suggests that it will in-FORM us…form us inwardly, shape our perceptions, change us. But do we allow information to have that power over us? What kind of information should have such sway? Are we being selective about what we watch, listen to, and read?

I subscribe to several devotional blogs, plus PJTV and a couple of conservative sites, plus follow various like-minded others. I’m generally reading two or three non-fiction books at any given time. But even though I’m reading (mostly) good-quality material, how much of it is “life-changing” in any significant, permanent way? Even when I think it should be?

Have I fallen victim to LIAR?

Have you?

Leave me not, O gracious Presence, in such hours as I may to-day devote to the reading of books or of newspapers.  Guide my mind to choose the right books and, having chosen them, to read them in the right way.  When I read for profit, grant that all I read my lead me nearer to Thyself.  When I read for recreation, grant that what I read may not lead me away from Thee.  Let all my reading so refresh my mind that I may the more eagerly seek after whatsoever things are pure and fair and true.”

— John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer (1937)

16 responses to “L I A R

  1. There’s a correlation, as well, with people inspired to action with little or incorrect information. A perfect example is Arizona bill SB 1062, which was called by the media a “bill that allows businesses to refuse to serve homosexuals.” So many people were outspoken in their opposition to this Bill. Even people outside Arizona, on whom this Bill has no impact.

    In reality, this bill amended existing Arizona Statute 41-1493 in the following ways:

    1. It expanded the definition of “individuals” to include businesses, which was academic since precedents already exist that laws that apply to individuals also apply to businesses.

    2. Is clarifies the definition of “Government” to be the State and Local Government, so the bill cannot be perceived to override any Federal laws.

    3. It clarifies that the protection afforded in the Statute exist even when the Government is not a party to the legal actions (i.e. when an individual sues an individual rather than when the State sues an individual or an individual sues the State).

    4. It applies additional restrictions to the religious protections being afforded, namely that the action is motivated by a religious belief, that that belief is sincerely held, and that not performing the action in question would substantially burden the practice of this religion.

    So, in fact, the language of Arizona SB 1062 makes the existing Statute more restrictive, and the vetoing of said Bill leaves the initial Statute on the books. Opponents of the Bill actually inadvertently support the less restrictive religious freedom Statute already in effect.

    Furthermore, the Bill they think they are opposing is a Bill that protects the religious freedom of, say, a Muslim woman to keep her face covered when being photographed for State ID. In fact, if the Arizona Senate was lead by Democrats, and the bill was faced with a veto by their Republican Governor, I’m sure this is how the media would have portrayed the bill to spin public opinion.

    Finally, this whole reaction to this bill is based on a false premise: that thousands of Arizona businesses had already purchased their “No Homosexuals” signs and were just waiting for the Governor to sign the Bill so they could hang them in their windows. The absurdity of that notion should be self-evident.

    The proper Information/Action Ratio may be an abstract concept, but it does really demonstrate the difference between the people who must think too much before they act, and those who react without thinking. I’d been meaning to talk about the Arizona Bill for a while now. You inspired me to finally act on that.

    • Thanks for your summary of the Arizona bill (and existing law), Todd. I had heard rumblings that gays simply wanted to make an issue out of a bill that really did not target gays. And if your summary is correct, they really didn’t get the issue at all. So their response suggests a hyphenated “Low-Information” Action Ratio, which is often quite high (Occupy Wall Street, Raise Minimum Wage to $15 an hour, etc.) as opposed to a hyphenated Low “Information-to-Action” Ratio.

      • godsbooklover

        A very good qualifier, Illero. So many issues today seem to elicit a knee-jerk emotion-driven reaction from the general public. There seems to be little effort to understand nuance or long-term ramifications.

    • godsbooklover

      Todd! Thanks for taking the time and effort to weigh in on an important subject. Your comment deserves to be its own post! I agree–there is not enough thought (or perhaps understanding is a better word) taking place where it is needed. Again I point to our media, which reduce every issue to brief simplistic sound bites and appeal to emotion over intellect. Illero’s qualification of the acronymn as “Low-Information Action Ratio” is a good one. I was going to propose “Low Emotion-to-Fact Threshold” (LEFT)…

  2. It’s too easy to fall victim to LIAR these days — mea maxima culpa! Great point about “information,” “IN-forming” ourselves, and doing. I never established the doing/not doing connection to the information we receive. I guess why they call it, trivia. 50 years from now, what difference will Justin Bieber’s latest embarrassment make? For that matter why does it make any difference now? And yet, it does, because we let most of the information we receive form trivial minds, and we become indifferent toward real world problems. Little wonder that major problems in the world get such little attention. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Now, let’s start thinking what to do about it.

    • godsbooklover

      Bless you, Biltrix! That’s exactly the kind of rousing reaction I needed myself. For me, I need to commit to reading deep rather than wide. It’s all too easy to graze on fluff. I want to read the substantial things I’m already reading, more slowly and prayerfully, mindful of how I may be called to change or commit as a result.

  3. It was great to see this gem on your blog. I have long included a prayer VERY similar to Baillie’s in my daily meditations, but this is my first real evidence that others out there do the same. However, I go beyond his statement about recreational reading:

    “When I read for recreation, grant that what I read may not lead me away from Thee”

    Perhaps I am just trying to justify my own frequent reversion to light mystery (who can read 100% non-fiction?), but my prayer includes something like, “but grant that even in such I shall find insights into human character, frailties, and nobility — and of Thee.”

    I have often found nuggets of wisdom or insight buried in unlikely places in contemporary novels — it’s a delightful surprise. We also get an insight into the character of the author — how creative, where his/her morals lie, what contradictions lie within the story’s main players, whether there is a moral to take away, etc.

    • godsbooklover

      I agree, Illero! Even in choosing recreational reading, one might pray for discernment. There is a lot of garbage out there…but nearly any well-written book may offer some beneficial take-away.

  4. I am reminded of Romans 12:2 and James 1:23 -24. What are we doing with the good information we are reading? Are we using it for God’s glory or just simply saying “tsk tsk” and shaking our heads. I struggle with this as Mrs JTR, his posts are written to inform but I want action. How do I turn what I read into action?
    That being said, I love the balance of your (GBL) posts, I can take to my knees and then to the streets.

    • godsbooklover

      Thanks, Sis! I think I know what you mean: I dislike the helpless rage I sometimes feel after reading JTR’s offerings. But without understanding, how can we hope to choose appropriate action? Even if that action is only an informed vote which may reverse the laws we find to be unjust, or dismiss the leaders who made them…

  5. In a fit of irritation (no great wisdom), I threw our TV set out 30 years ago. I have never regretted it. In fact, that lack of regret is where I did display some wisdom. After I threw out the TV, I had to admit watching TV was such a waste of time I could not justify the expense of purchasing a new one.

    • godsbooklover

      No TV?? No great loss! We didn’t ever get the digital converter box, so essentially we’ve done the same thing. Except we still have a nice older set which plays videos and DVDs whenever we want. Thanks for reading and commenting, Tom! Common Sense forever!

  6. Pingback: Digging Deeper for Lent, Week 1: World Magazine | Two Heads are Better Than One

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