(Excerpt from the newsletter)
Here is my pastor’s latest sermon opener story:
“Uncle Cletus lived down south, back up in the hills. When he ate is favorite food his foot would swell up. He loved fried pork and his doctor told him he would have to avoid pork because it was the cause of the gout he was suffering from. When Cletus got home from the doctor’s office his wife asked him what the doctor said. Cletus took off his shoes, pointed at his feet and said, “I’m gong to have this problem about 3 times a week”Pastor Bob E.
We are selective in our hearing and accept only the points we want to. I’ve actually read about this. People tend to accept information that backs up their beliefs. This is why some people like Fox News and others like CNN. The spin put on the news by the political perspective of the commentators either resonates with the viewer or it doesn’t and the viewer responds by saying, “Give me a break” and changes the channel.
Persuasive arguments don’t work because of this phenomenon. Compelling reasons aren’t enough to cause a person to change. They must want it first, then they will be willing to accept the information presented to them. Only by accepting that their’s is a failed system of beliefs will a person be open to accepting alternate truths. You can probably fill a phone book with the names of all the people you know who live by the phrase, “I deny your reality and substitute my own.” And some of them are pretty far out there. We live in an era of relative truth, not absolute Truth. We agree to disagree (on a good day) or simply dismiss other positions. President Trump and his alternative facts and “fake news” are a great example of this.
I think this is why some of the various religious groups attract followers in prison. Out in the world some of these religions don’t receive much attention or attract many followers but they have a much higher percentage of the prison population. When some people end up in prison it serves as a wakeup call that the way they were living wasn’t working. When they come to this realization they begin searching for another way of living.
Prison is a bit like Athens, Greece the way that the Apotstle Paul found it in Acts 17. Paul saw the large number of different religions represented in the city and even spoke to a large crowd at the Areopagus and presented the Gospel. In verse 32 it says the “When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of then sneered, but others said, ‘We want to hear you again on this subject.’ And in verse 34 it says that “Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed.” Some of the people were closed minded and rejected Paul’s message while others were more open minded.
Keeping an open mind is actually harder than it sounds because we are all closed-minded. We must make an effort to be objective and truly hear the other person out. Once we really listen to what another person has to say and carefully consider their words, only then can you have a converstion with them. Like Paul you can expect some who will be outwardly hostile and reject your message, others will want to have more information and some will accept what you have to say. Also like Paul we should use the situation to make our points by taking into account the other person’s belief system in order to reach them in a context that is more familiar to them.
Pretty deep stuff, but it is the heart of communication theory. Think about arguments you have had in the past. Very few are ever actually won. Instead every one is a loser because friendships are broken and enemies simply dig in deeper. It is only when we let down our walls, set aside our opinions and beliefs that have reached the point of dogma in our lives that we are able to have real discussions with others and for the dialog to truly work the other person has to do the same thing.
Know that I am praying for you. Your Brother in Christ.