Have You Ever Changed Your Mind?

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 g