10/30/16 Rick about 70
“Confirmation Bias” is a growing social epidemic. Humanity has always been infected by it, but the severity of its symptoms are becoming exaggerated far beyond what we could have ever imagined. It was described years ago by Paul Simon in his song “The Boxer” when he wrote “Still, a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.” We pay attention to what confirms our beliefs, and ignore what doesn’t.
I remember in the 80’s and 90’s it began to really have its effect with talk radio. Now it is really growing with the availability of digital and social media. It is so easy to get caught up in it. We hear what we choose to listen to, and our choices then determine the content of what we are exposed to in the future. People who are less involved online aren’t affected as much, so I was a little surprised today that a man named Rick, a generation older than me, responded to my questions about his beliefs with numerous references to online anti-Christian sources.
It affects both sides in controversial issues, but I believe that when it comes the contrast between Christian and secular beliefs there should be some differences. It is understandable for the non-Christian to want to avoid biblical truth. The Bible itself says God’s Word is “foolishness” to unbelievers and that those of us who teach it carry the “aroma of death” as we confirm the opposite of the beliefs non-Christians hold dear.
But Christians should be different. It’s not that we aren’t biased in what we believe. We are and we should be. We should have a predisposition to discern truth according to God’s word, to let Scripture be our standard of reference. We should meditate on it and allow God’s truths and Kingdom values to saturate our very being, because the world is constantly trying to do the same. But we should be aware of our own bias, because though we are not to be of the world, we are called to be in the world. In order to relate the message of salvation to the lost, we need to understand their point of view and be able to speak to many of the questions they are asking. And as we learn to do that, in my experience, we become stronger in our own faith. We no longer have to have those nagging doubts about questions Christians are too often afraid to ask.
I often bring fellow believers with me to reach out with the Gospel. Some can’t handle hearing beliefs and opinions different from their own. They end up arguing about side issues, while sharing the central message of the Gospel gets neglected. We can do better than that. The Gospel is about reconciliation with God, and peace with one another. Let’s not disqualify ourselves by getting swept up in confirmation bias.