Have You Ever Changed Your Mind?

July 16, 2018

     Remember the show "Crossfire" ? Where conservative and liberals took, surprise,opposite positions - Nobody listened, nobody changed their minds and no body said you might have a point.

 

     Some time ago in some long-lost sermon, maybe preached here, I mentioned that in 2016 the Oxford dictionary came up with a very interesting international word of the year.  Well, at least I found it interesting. The word was "Post-truth"and it is defined as an adjective relating to circumstance in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals.  Just stop and think for a second and see if that word still applies to our culture today. I think it does and if it does it has some ramification for our faith. I scratch my head how they know it's not true.

 


     I would like to pair that insight along with a famous Stanford University study done in the mid-1970s but has been reaffirmed many times including a relatively recent study. I have a recent study  somewhere in my files, but retirement means I may have thrown it out. For whatever reason I could not find it.

 

     Stanford University Study: People do not often change their mind..."Even after the evidence "for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs,"  the researchers noted. ...The Stanford studies became famous. Coming from a group of academics in the nineteen-seventies, the contention that people can't think straight was shocking. It isn't any longer. Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding"

 

     The more recent study found that the stronger you held your beliefs the less impact facts or truth statements had on those beliefs and in fact made those beliefs stronger. This makes changing your mind more difficult than you think.

 

     "There are a lot of psychological terms for the fact that people don't like to change their minds;motivated reasoning" , "confirmation Bias""cognitive dissonance" . But you don't need academic semantics to know that trying to get somebody to see things your way is tough if they go into the argument with another point of view."  David Ropeik Psychology Today.

 


     Why do we cling to our views so tenaciously after they are formed? Interesting clues come from two areas of study... self-affirmation, and Cultural Cognition.Both areas suggest that we cling to our views because the walls of our opinions are like battlements that keep the good guys inside (us) safe from the enemy without (all those dopes with different opinions than ours). Quite literally, our views and opinions may help protect us , keep us safe, literally help us survive. Small wonder then that we fight so had to keep those walls strong and tall. 

 

     Self-affirmation conditioning studies find that if, before you start to try to change somebody's mind, you first ask them to remember something that gave them a positive view of themselves, they're more likely to be open to facts and to change their opinions. People who feel good about themselves are more likely to be open minded! (That's far more simplistic than any academic would ever put It!)

 

     "Cultural Cognition is the theory that we shape our opinions to conform to the views of the groups with which we most strongly identify. That does two things. It creates solidarity in the group, which increases the chances that our group's views will prevail in society (e.g. our party is in power). And it strengthens the group's acceptance of us as members in good standing"  Do you want to be the only member of your party to vote no?     

 

      I wish I had more time to talk about this, but just let it be said that changing your mind and changing someone else's is more difficult than you think.  I know one often questions I ask myself and sometimes other with whom I am having a discussion is "What evidence will change your (my ) mind?" and you would be surprises to hear that many times the  answer is NOTHING"  I encountered this many times teaching ethics at the college. There have been studies done where Democrats and Republicans have been asked about their positions and you would not be surprised that Positions they supported were those their candidate suggested are right when the other party suggested it was wrong and when the same question is asked some years later when the positions of the party has changed the answers are just the opposite. This happened many times during the health care debate. My wife calls this HYPOCRISY and it is but is is also called Cultural Cognition or staying within the walls of my group.

 

     So, when Paul writes in Romans "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect" it is going to be more work than you may at first think. Because you will be caught in changing your whole world view.

 

     That is why so many of our Bible passages deal with walls being torn down and light coming in the midst of darkness and being saved from the wilderness.

 

     We are called as Christian NOT to REFLECT our CULTURE but to REFLECT/REVEAL GOD"S LOVE!  It is far easier to just keep going along but it is important to consciously everyday ask, if our prayer that God's Kingdom Come and God's Will be done is something we participated in our stood against. According to Paul awe are called to be a Royal Priesthood which means reflecting living God's love in our word and in humility direct our thanksgiving and praise not to party or our country but to God. Anything less is idolatry that we all participate in. That is why Paul says we do not do what we know we  should do.

 

     How do we change our mind to reflect God's will or as Isaiah says to Love mercy, do justice and walk humbly! Some Christians believe all they have to do is accept Jesus into their hearts. While they are Christians, Paul, I believe would say they are baby or starter Christians to be a Christian is to follow a path behind a Carpenter and Rabbi and Crucified and Risen Lord.

 

     Flight 1549, a regular US Airways trip from LaGuardia Airport, took off at 15:26 local time, bound for Charlotte, North Carolina. The captain, Chesley Sullenberger III, known as "Sully", did all the usual checks. Everything was fine in the airbus A320. Fine until, two minutes after takeoff, the aircraft ran straight into a flock of Canada geese.  One goose in a jet engine would be serious; a flock was disastrous. "Airports play all sorts of trick to prevent bird gathering in the flight path, but it still happens occasionally.) Almost at once both the engines were severely damaged and lost their power. The plane was at point heading north over the Bronx, one of the most densely populated parts of the city. Captain Sullenberger and his copilot had to make several major decisions instantly if they were going to save the lives of people not only on board but also on the ground. They could see one or two small local airports in the distance, but quickly realized that they couldn't be sure of making it that far. If they attempted it, they might will crash-land in a built-up area on the way. Likewise, the option of putting the plane down on the New Jersey Turnpike, a busy main road leading in and out of the city, would present huge problems and dangers for the plane and its occupants, let alone for cars and their driver on the road. That left one option: the Hudson River. It's difficult to crash-land on water; one small mistake - catch the nose or one of the wings in the river, say - and the plane will turn over and over like a gymnast before breaking up and sinking. In the two or three minutes they had before landing, Sullenberger and his copilot had to do the following vital things"Along with plenty of other tasks that we amateurs wouldn't understand) . They had to shut down the engines. They had to set the right speed so that the plane cold glide as long as possible without power, (Fortunately, Sullenberger is also a gliding instructor.) They had to get the nose of the plane down to maintain speed, They had to disconnect the autopilot and override the flight management system. They had to activate the "ditch" system, which seals vents and valves, to make the plane as waterproof as possible once it hit the water. Most important of all, they had to fly and then glide the plane in a fast left-hand turn so that it could come down facing south, going with the flow of the river. And - - having already turned off the engines - they had to do this using only the battery-operated systems and the emergency generator. Then they had to straighten the plane up from the tilt of the sharp-left turn so that on landing, the plane would be exactly level from side to side. Finally, they had to get the nose back up again, but not too far up, and land straight and flat on the water.  That takes practice - 100 thousand hours of practice - plus how many hours of actual flying. How many decisions did they have to make along with technical? No time to turn to the manual. Thy had to know and know instinctively  Some might call it muscle memory including brain muscle. No one was concerned whether people were Democrat/Republican, black, white, Xhen, Jew , Muslim Mexican legal or illegal.,all were simply humans 

 

      Story of the saving of the children and coach in Thailand. The divers practiced for years and had years of experience like with Captain Sullenberger. It is a thousand acts day in and day out in every day living.  Same as Sullenbergers. One of the boys were thought marginalized, was a stateless immigrant boy a refugee. No one cared about that.

 

Life is Short

And we do not have much time

To gladden the hearts of those who travel with us.

So be quick to live

And make haste to be kind.

And the blessing of God who loves be with this day and always

Henri Fredric Amiel 18-21-1881

 

     I pray in the morning that my life be live in peace and love seeking God's will nad justice and at night when I go to bed, if I don't fall asleep reading, go over the day in my head and ask for God's mercy and forgiveness for where I have fallen short and given thanks for the wonder and gift of life. Kiss Judy tell her I love her and rest in the peace of God. We have to examine our lives every day and  we have to seek renewal of our minds everyday and not just when it is convenient.  What is your primary group - how are ranked: Family/political party/ nation/ world/ church. Catholic church (Universal) God,  God's House.

 

Lets look at Romans 12:

 

 1.I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 

2. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment , each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5.so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are member one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7. ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8.the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. 9. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10. love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11. do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14. Bless those who persecute you bless and do not curse them. 15. Rejoice with  those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16, Live in harmony with one another;do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not clam to be wiser than you are. 17. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  18.If it is possible, so far as it depends on you,live peaceable with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written; "Vengeance is mine,, I will repay, says the Lord." 2 No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." 21 Do no be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

            

       Most people when they think of Ethics, if they think of it at all, think of one or two types of Ethics; Rule ethics (deontological) what are the rules I should obey, but that doesn't work when rules collide or there seems to be a very reasonable reason to disobey  them.I shouldn't break a promise to my daughter, but I came along an accident and stopped to help someone. One rule trumps another.  (Overly simplified) or Consequential Ethics (Utilitarianism) what is the best outcome of my choice. It is impossible to tell. What if I had gone to Elmhurst College instead of Western, besides possible bankrupting my family at home. No I prefer something called Virtue ethics that goes back to Aristotle who asked the question why are we here or what is the purpose of our lives that will allow us to flourish. It is an end driven ethics. (Theological)  Two bank tellers don't stray because afraid to being called out. afraid of consequences would not even think of it

 

     Virtue, in this strict sense, is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices, requiring effort and concentration, to do something which is good and right but which doesn't "come naturally"- and then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what's required "Automatically". Bishop N. T. Wright

 

     In the story of the Rich young ruler who asks Jesus what he needs to do Jesus tells him to change his whole life to turn it inside out or become a different person. If he is to find true joy and peace. Jesus suggests that he needs turning inside-out. His life is to become part of a larger,outward-looking purpose: he is to put God's kingdom first, and put his neighbor (especially his poor neighbor) before his own fulfillment and prospects.  Here is the real challenge; not just to add one or two more commandments, to set the moral bar a little higher, but to become a different sort of person altogether. Jesus is challenging the young man to a transformation of character.

 

     Aristotle saw that to get to the goal of genuinely human life one should develop the moral strengths he called virtues. Jesus and his first followers, not least Paul said something similar. But their vision of the moral strengths, corresponding to their different vision of the goal, highlighted qualities Aristotle didn't rate highly (love, kindness, forgiveness and so on ) and included at least one -humility- for which the ancient pagan world (and for that matter the modern pagan world) had no use at at. Aristotle saw that the ultimate aim was to become the kind of character who would able to act in the right way automatically, by the force of long training of habit. Jesus and Paul agreed; but they proposed a very different way to which the relevant habits were to be learned and practiced.

                                                                                                                Amen

 

Wright, N.T. After Your belive: Why Christian Character Matters (pg. 20) HarperColling, Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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