Archives for posts with tag: opinion

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

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Often I am confronted with difficult issues and people are expressing drastically different opinions. Sometimes I agree with one perspective and disagree with others. What should I do? What do you do?

Do you just concede, give in? Does it seem like too much trouble and not worth it to fight/argue? No matter how much the issue is discussed or debated, nothing is going to change. No one will gain new understanding. Don’t fight it.

Another possible response is to determine that you are going to prove your position is the right one. Win this argument. Conquer! After all, in everything there are winners and losers and you are not going to be defeated. Your opinion will prevail.

Do you listen to all perspectives to see if there are some points that make sense, even if others do not. Are you willing to make an effort to understand where the other persons are coming from and learn from them. Compromise is an acceptable option.

Is it wise to simply accept or at least fail to object to anything that people throw at you? It has been said that silence speaks consent so is your reluctance to pose questions or objections a good alternative?

If you refuse to give in and are insist on winning, what is the collateral damage? Is it necessary to have victors and vanquished on every matter?

Is compromise is an alternative to conceding and conquering? Is it possible that no one has all of the right answers? Can anyone see all sides of an issue at one time? Can you moderate your views and opinions and still maintain personal integrity? Is it possible to have a win-win conclusion?

I believe there are absolutes. Issues on which there is no debate. Practices and perspectives that are essential to orderly and ethical living. But I believe most of what we argue about and are divided over are secondary issues for which there is more than one “right” answer. Even when we cannot agree, it seems the right thing to do is at least be civil and respectful of the other person.

If you know anything about the Bible you probably are aware that the leaders of the church in Corinth were not always of one mind. The Apostle Paul counseled them to “be in harmony with each other, and live in peace—and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11 CEB). He did not instruct them to be in agreement on everything but to value one another enough to work to “harmonize” their attitudes and actions. They did not have to all sing the same note but to blend their various voices.

We can make beautiful music together but that means each of us sings our note. God help us!

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

Can we agree to disagree? That is the question posed by Gracie Bond Staples in the Atlanta Journal Constitution last week. Quoting Wes Parham, and organizational analyst, she suggested that the “hater mindset… (is) taking hold of the country, creating virtual echo chambers that confirm our biases rather than challenge them.” This way of thinking prefers “to dismiss any views that are contrary to their own.”

Gracie Bonds Staples, KIRO 7

Staples said, and I agree, that “simply having an opposing view is not the issue. The issue is when we view people with opposite views as the enemy.” Parham goes on to say when we disagree the tendency is to think “you are not like us, and because you’re not like us, I don’t have to treat you with civility and respect.”

Staples writes from the perspective of a practicing Christian. I do not know about Parham’s religious beliefs but both exhibit a kindred spirit with John Wesley, the social and religious reformer of the 18th century. In his sermon on “A Catholic Spirit” (1755), the Anglican priest and father of the Methodist Movement asserted that “love is due to all mankind.” In his Christian understanding that means that we are supposed to love all people because Jesus instructed his followers not only to love those who thought and acted like you but to “love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do good to those hating you, and pray for those accusing you falsely, and persecuting you” (Matthew 5:43).

Wesley goes further to say, “Although every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true (for to believe any opinion is not true, is the same thing as not to hold it), yet can no man be assured that all his own opinions, taken together, are true. To be ignorant of many things, and to mistake in some, is the necessary condition of humanity.”

Wesley continues, “Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking that he desires they should allow him, and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He is patient with those who differ from him, and only asks him:  ‘Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?’ If it be, give me your hand.”

This does not necessarily mean that either person would change their opinion. Wesley explains, “Keep your opinion and I will keep mine, and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavor to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute those points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Leave all opinions alone on one side and the other: only give me your hand.”

Believing that love is more powerful than anything else, let us seek to maintain a spirit of civility and a respect for all human beings regardless of our differing opinions. God help us!

Jamie Jenkins

hallmark: SPRINGFIELD, OR - OCTOBER 28, 2015: Hallmark greeting cards selection at a grocery store supermarket.

Hallmark Father’s Day card: “Dad, thanks to your lectures I never change horses in the middle of a job worth doing, I know the squeaky wheel gets the worm, and I never count my chickens until I’ve walked a mile in their shoes … And you thought I wasn’t listening.”

It is easy to “hear” something different from what is really said. Sometimes it is because we are distracted and we simply misunderstand. On other occasions we “hear” what we want to hear; our mind is already made up. Language, culture, experience, age and a variety of other things facilitate or prevent good communication.

The Burning Bush

I believe the same things that make it difficult for us receive messages accurately from human sources also come into play when God speaks to us. God conversed with Adam in the first garden. God told Noah to build an ark. God spoke to Moses in a burning bush. Paul heard His voice on the way to Damascus.

And I believe God speaks to us in these modern times.

Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When He Speaks by [Shirer, Priscilla]

“Hearing God speak” may mean different things to different people. God treats each of us as unique individuals. None of us are cookie-cutter people. Because of that, God doesn’t “speak” the same way to all of us. Throughout history God has spoken to people in many ways.

My wife is often the voice of God to me. Oh, she is not some mystical creature with a special connection to God but I am convinced that her opinion and wisdom has provided divine guidance, comfort, and assurance. There are others throughout my life that have also served that role.

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Hearing the “voice of God” through another human being can be most effective and most difficult. It seems illogical that mere humans would be the medium for the Divine Other to communicate with creatures like us. The psalmist asks ““Why do you care about us humans? Why are you concerned for us weaklings?”(Psalms 8:4, CEV).

An interesting story in the Bible is found in the 18th chapter of Genesis. “One hot summer afternoon Abraham was sitting by the entrance to his tent near the sacred trees of Mamre, when the Lord appeared to him. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. He quickly ran to meet them” and offered hospitality. As they relaxed and enjoyed the refreshments one of them told Abraham that he and his wife Sarah were going to have a son. Sarah overheard the conversation and laughed to herself because both of them were very old.God had promised Abraham and his wife Sarah that they would have a son and their descendants would become a great nation as numerous as the stars. The problem was that both were now too old to have children. (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:14, 17:15-22, 18:9-15). – Slide 1

Remember that at the beginning of the story we are told that “the Lord appeared” to Abraham but the narrative said that Abraham “saw three men” standing nearby. I don’t know what either of them looked like but apparently they looked like ordinary human beings to Abraham. The guest who predicted that Sarah would have a baby is identified as God. Responding to Sarah’s laughter the guest says, “I am the Lord! There is nothing too difficult for me.”

The author of Hebrews in the New Testament admonishes us “to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” And who knows, God might even show up.

Jamie Jenkins

trust

With a hint of irritation in his voice my doctor said, “I wish you would trust my medical advice.” A month earlier he had prescribed medicine for a problem I was experiencing which had worsened. When I told him I had decided not to take the medication, his response was a polite way of saying, “Why do you pay to see me if you are not going to do what I recommend?”

I have been reasonably healthy all my life and have taken very little medication but I have seen others who have had serious reactions to some medication. After getting the prescription filled I read all the possible side effects and was frightened at the possibilities. So I decided not to take the medicine. I should not have been surprised when my condition did not improve.

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Why would anyone consult with a physician whom they did not trust? Why would one incur the expense of a doctor’s visit if you were not going to follow the advice you were given? Why pay for prescription medicine if you are not going to take it? Why return to the doctor when your condition did not improve if you had not followed instructions previously given?

I understood.

As a parent I have often wondered why a child would seek your counsel and then ignore it. Why ask for my advice if you don’t intend to take it seriously? At the same time I understand that asking for advice does not necessarily mean one is going to agree and follow the directions. Still I think the knowledge and wisdom gained from my experience should have some value. When it is not heeded, I feel a little like my doctor.

After a lifetime of serving people I am not surprised that everything I say and suggest is not accepted and acted upon. I also understand that my opinion and perspective is not always the best for every circumstance. In fact, sometimes my advice is not helpful at all.

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I suspect that God often feels like my doctor. I ask God to guide me. To help me discern the right path. To help me behave appropriately. To do what is right. Then I ignore God’s advice received either through prayer, scripture, or the counsel of others and do what I want anyway. Surely God says, “I wish you would trust me.”

However, God, like my doctor, doesn’t give up on me. Thank God (and my doctor) that I am given another chance to get it right.

Jamie Jenkins