Janet`s letter to the Community

Janet’s letter to the Community

The death toll in the UK from Covid-19 has now surpassed 80,000.  Yet there are people who continue to assert that the pandemic is a hoax, that hospitals are empty, and that the freedom of the individual is more important than slowing the spread of the virus, leading to increased risk for all of us.

Joe Biden won the U.S. Presidential election, with the result standing up against repeated recounts and challenges in the courts.  Yet there are people who continue to assert that Donald Trump is the rightful winner, leading to an unprecedented attack on the Capitol building and democracy, and the deaths of five people.

How can it happen that ordinary adults come to believe interpretations that, to the rest of us, are patently untrue?  There are multiple reasons behind the spread of conspiracy theories, but one factor is familiarity.  If an allegation is repeated over and over again, the brain comes to think of it as having an element of truth, and eventually, as true.  This makes us very vulnerable to manipulation by powerful people who are able repeatedly to get their message across. 

Are we confident that we are listening to the right messages?  And how can we tell what those are?  I venture to suggest that, in weighing up what we hear, we ask ourselves questions in two categories: firstly, does the information presented appear to fit with verifiable facts?  Does the general body of expert opinion in the relevant field support or challenge the position offered?  Secondly, is the course of action that follows from those facts likely to promote or harm the common good? Would it respect the lives of all human beings, regardless of race, colour or creed?

We can’t be complacent.  Christianity has done its share of manipulation, sometimes for less than honourable reasons.  How do we evaluate what we are taught about our faith?  We can apply very similar questions: firstly, does what is proposed fit within the broad understanding of Christian doctrine?  That God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  That he has made us, and redeemed us and loves us, and that all human beings, made in the image of God, have immense value.  And secondly, does it lead us to develop lives that are more generous, more loving, more inclusive, more open to God’s direction for our world and for those around us?

Let us strive to be people who are open to the truth, and willing to stand up for the common good.

With every blessing,       Janet

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