Archives for posts with tag: fear

Nicholas D. Kristof writes for the New York Times. In an article entitled “Media should try to fight, not spread, fear and lies,” he had an interesting observation about fake news and biased reporting.

Often information is passed on by the media and everyday people without verifying its truthfulness. Fact checking can be time consuming and tedious but Kristof adds an interesting angle on the way we process information.

According to this journalist, social psychology experiments have found that when people are presented with factual corrections that contradict their beliefs, they may cling to mistaken beliefs more strongly than ever. This is called the “backfire effect.” I had never heard this term before so I decided to check it out.

In 2006, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler at The University of Michigan and Georgia State University created fake newspaper articles about polarizing political issues. The articles were written in a way which would confirm a widespread misconception about certain ideas in American politics. As soon as a person read a fake article, researchers then handed over a true article which corrected the first.

They repeated the experiment with several “hot button” issues like stem cell research and tax reform. Again they found corrections tended to increase the strength of the participants’ misconceptions. This was consistent even when people on opposing sides of the issue read the same articles and then the same corrections. When new evidence was interpreted as threatening to their beliefs, the corrections backfired. Instead of changing what people believed, their beliefs were strengthened.

This is nothing new. Hundreds of years ago Francis Bacon (1561-1626) said, “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate.”

Psychologist Thomas Gilovich, Professor of Psychology at Cornell University concludes, “When examining evidence relevant to a given belief, people are inclined to see what they expect to see, and conclude what they expect to conclude.”

I do not intend to suggest that a person should be open to just anything. I am not suggesting that we discard our understanding or position on any issue. I believe there are some absolutes in life. All things are not negotiable. Strong convictions and firm beliefs are desirable but we need to be open to the possibility that there is a different perspective that we have not yet seen. We could be mistaken. Our opinions (beliefs) might be subject to correction. There could be more than one way to look at a particular topic.  

God, help us to be open to truth!

Jamie Jenkins

In just a few days it will Christmas Day, the day we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. At Christmas Eve services the night before, people all over the world will sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”

On the evening the Bethlehem Baby was born there were shepherds nearby tending their flocks. Their everyday routine. Suddenly the scene changed and an angel appeared among them and the surroundings lit up. They were understandably terrified. Then the angel told them not to be afraid. Oh sure!

Right in the middle of their workaday world an angel appears and the landscape lights up. What are they expected to feel if not fear?

Then the angel said, ““I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Good news! Great joy! A Savior!

The shepherds responded by rushing to see for themselves what the angel proclaimed. Seeing was believing and they told everyone they met what the angel had said about this child.

It has been more than twenty centuries since that event in Bethlehem. Millions have heard the story and have believed. Millions others have heard but have not believed. One reason for this unbelief might be that we who follow Christ have not been the joyful creatures that we should be.

The shepherds rejoiced at the good news of a Savior. They returned to their work “glorifying and praising God.” The Apostle Paul suggests that we who have been redeemed by that same Jesus should likewise be filled with joy- not only at Christmas but at all times. “Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, TLB)

Teilhard de Chardin, says, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Acknowledging the Presence of God in our lives will not only enrich our living, it will also be contagious. Mother Teresa suggests that “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”

Be joyful for a Savior has come!

Jamie Jenkins

 

This time last week millions of people were remembering the death of one man and yesterday they remembered another. Their deaths were separated by over 2000 years of history.

Jesus, Christ, Christianity, Catholic, Church, Cross

Seven days ago on Holy Thursday Christians around the world recalled the last hours Jesus would have with his closest followers before he was betrayed and put to death. Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968.

Although Jesus and King believed in many of the same principles and practiced them at great risk, I am not trying to make them equals. Jesus was the Son of God and Son of Man. Dr. King was a human being and disciple of Jesus. Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected. King’s body rests in a tomb in Atlanta.

When they arrived they found the large stone rolled away from the tomb. (There had been a violent earthquake and an angel of the Lord had descended and rolled it back. The guards were so frightened and shaken they had run off). – Slide 2

Both men championed the cause of the poor and oppressed. They spoke out against injustice and acted on their beliefs. The Bible record shows many encounters between Jesus and the marginalized people of his day. He was accused of associating with the riff-raff of society. And he was intentionally guilty. The life of Martin Luther King, Jr. clearly illustrates his commitment to justice and equality for all. His beatings and arrests are proof that his words were not just pious platitudes but principles by which he lived.

Love and hate were both equally shown to Jesus and King. The biblical account and the news reports describe the intensity of support and rejection for both of them. Each of them died a violent death. One was executed by the Roman government at the insistence of the crowd in Jerusalem. The other was the victim of an assassin’s bullet on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

There are similarities to their life and death, but the immediate reaction to the death of these two men was very different. Jesus’ death left his followers frightened and confused. Their leader on whom they had placed their trust was gone and they did not know what to do. They hid for fear of their lives. In contrast, King’s death sparked violent protests around the country. Those who had followed him were angry and aggressive.

Although the short term result of the death of these two charismatic leaders is different, the long term effect is similar. Over twenty centuries of history has validated the positive effect of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Those who followed his teaching and example carried his message to every part of the world and countless others have believed and their lives have been transformed.

Kevin Cokley, writing in the Dallas News, said, “The assassination of King was arguably the most consequential for the course of American history and permanently changed the psychology of black people and challenged America’s ideals.” The death of this “drum major for justice” gave impetus to a movement that changed the face of America and the world.

Justice, Right, Legal, Lawyer, Word

The world is very different 50 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and 2000 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. Their willingness to die for a cause led to much positive change but one does not have to look far to see that there is still much more to be done. We must continue the struggle to insure civil and human rights for all people.

In the beginning God created a perfect world. No reasonable person would suggest that it has remained in that state of perfection but it is the task of all people to work together to make the world a better place for everyone. God help us!

Jamie Jenkins

People who know me know that I like to travel. I often say that if you will pay my way I will go anywhere. I think that travel provides a person with a real education and a realistic view of the world.

Many people have traveled much more than I but the opportunities that have been afforded me have been plentiful. Over the past 35 years I have covered much of the United States and have made more than two dozen trips to Israel. I have been privileged to travel to 27 other countries. I have seen a lot of the world, but there is still a lot that I hope to see.

When I am about to leave on another journey instead of hearing “Bon voyage,” people most often wish me “safe travels.” I am often asked whether I am concerned for my safety. I always reply that I am more likely to encounter violence in my hometown than anywhere I will be going, including the Middle East.

Rick Steves is a travel expert who has written 30 travel books, hosts TV and radio shows, and has a thriving tour business. I agree with what he wrote in an article for the LA Times in November 2014. He said, “It seems that the most fearful people in our country are those who don’t travel and are metaphorically barricaded in America.”

Steves expressed his belief that “fear is for people who don’t get out much. These people don’t see the world firsthand, so their opinions end up being shaped by sensationalistic media coverage geared toward selling ads.”

He also suggested that the news media also contribute to the fear factor. Instead of an event being news, it’s a “crisis.” Because the 24/7 news channels have so much time to fill they “have to amp up the shrillness to make recycled news exciting enough to watch.”

This travel expert worries “If we all stayed home and built more walls and fewer bridges between us and the rest of the world, eventually we would have something to actually be fearful of.”

Travel helps you realize that we Americans are just 300 million out of 7 billion people in the world and it is good for us to engage with the other 96% of humanity. When we do we begin to realize that all people everywhere are more alike than different. Most of us have the same hopes, dreams, and concerns. As we engage people from other cultures we are more likely to have empathy for our fellow human beings and value them as brothers and sisters in this human family.

God created the cosmos and everything in it (Psalm 89:11). Thank God for sharing the wonderful creation and all its creatures with us.

Jamie Jenkins

Newborn baby

We lived in a  tiny town in Tennessee when our first child was born. I remember that long night in the labor room of that little hospital with my wife. Waiting. Worrying. Wondering Then they took my wife into the delivery room and sent me outside to wait.

After a while a nurse come by with what I thought was dirty linen. I didn’t know that she had our new baby wrapped in those cloths. A few minutes later she came and asked if I wanted to see my son.

I couldn’t believe it was over- or had just begun. The months of anticipation and preparation had ended and now the exciting and frightening journey of parenthood was underway.

In a couple of days we brought our firstborn home to the tiny apartment where we lived while I was in college. Several hundred miles from home. No family nearby. Scared. Excited. What were we supposed to do with this newborn baby? We had no clue.

infant-jesus-born-01

Twenty centuries earlier another young couple had a baby in a small out of the way place. Away from home and family. Little resources. Less than desirable circumstances. I wonder if Mary and Joseph had some of the same fears and concerns as we had at the arrival of their firstborn.

It has been forty three years since the birth of our oldest child and I realize that we were not really alone when he was born. God was with us. And through the years as he grew and we tried to guide and guard him, we were not alone. Our efforts at parenting, as inadequate as they were, were complemented by the One who created all of us.

Things have not always gone as we planned. There have been moments of exhilaration and despair. Mountain tops and deep valleys. Things we hoped for have not always been realized and other things we never dreamed of have occurred. Over the course of more than four decades of parenthood I have often asked why. Much that has occurred, both pleasing and puzzling, has left me wondering how it happened this way. Yet through it all I believe God has been with us and with our children.

Parenthood

There have been times that I wished things had taken a different turn and other times I have marveled at the wonderful outcome. But through it all I have trusted that our Heavenly Father watches over us.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph experienced the same kind of emotions as their son grew. How did they feel when the path that they had planned for him was not followed? When he was praised and when he was persecuted? Did they have questions and doubts?

The birth of our first child, and the later births of two other children, changed the course of our lives forever. The birth of Mary and Joseph’s boy not only brought changes to the two of them but ultimately every human being since then.

Thank God for our children. And especially the Child of Bethlehem named Jesus! Merry Christmas!

Jamie Jenkins