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Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of Our World Paperback – July 1, 2011
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About the Author
Bradley R.E. Wright, PhD is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. After receiving tenure, he switched his academic focus from crime to religion in order to research American Christianity. Brad received his PhD in sociology from the University of Wisconsin, the top-ranked sociology graduate program in the United States. He has a popular blog (brewight.com) based on his research. His first book, Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told received the 2011 Christianity Today Book Award. He's appeared on numerous national media outlets including USAToday.com, Foxnews.com, Moody's Chris Fabry Live!, and the Drew Marshall Show. Brad is married with two children and lives in Storrs, Connecticut.
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Upside looks at a limited number of issues that Wright views as "important to most people" with the goal of providing "accurate perceptions of the world in both the ways that it's getting better and worse" (p.31). Chapter after chapter, the data clearly indicates that things are better than most people assume them to be currently in America and that the trends over the last several decades show we are making progress or improvement in most of the areas considered. This general conclusion is significant since chapters cover topics including finances, intelligence, health, stress, marriage and families, and the environment. While there is good news about each larger category, some subcategories that don't fare as well.
In the concluding chapter, Wright displays these findings in a chart that compares life in the United States today to what it was 30 years ago and 60 years ago for each subcategory using the following choices for each: substantially better, somewhat better, about the same, somewhat worse, and substantially worse (p. 201-204). By my count, life today when compared to life 30 years ago is only worse (somewhat or substantially) in 10 of 39 categories. In other words, we as well off or better off today than a generation ago in roughly 3/4 of the items considered (74%). Notably the positive trend covers every health issue considered, except for obesity.
Finally, while the book considers matters that matter to all it is especially of interest to American Christians. Wright focuses on how America does compared to itself and, when applicable, to the rest of the world. Additionally, he suggests why certain issues are of interest to Christians, especially Evangelicals, and offers snapshots of a number of specific ministry groups to supplement statistics with stories.
On the one hand, Dr. Wright has documented that many things in our world are improving. The following, he argues, are improving: lifespan, health, the environment, violent crime, war deaths, or poverty. He backs up his assertions with well-docmuneted facts figures and statistics. He deals with both the American and world-wide arenas.
On the other hand, Wright argues that a few things are getting worse (particularly in America), including the gap between the wealthy and others, matters of sexual morality and sexual behavior. Some things -- like the abortion rate and the divorce rate -- are improving modestly. Again, let me remind readers that his perspective is from an evangelical viewpoint, one which I share.
This book corrected a number of misconceptions in my mind. With so many voices lamenting that the world's condition and the notion that it is getting worse by the day, I myself had fallen prey to the lop-sided reporting that makes for highly rated news. Thank you, Dr. Wright!
The author is neither Pollyanna nor Eeyore; this is a good, balanced, yet surprising account documenting that most things are, in fact, getting better. A good read for all.