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Reflection for Vetting the Truth

August 26, 2010

My dad leaned over to me, pointed to the sand hills above our house and said, “Those were made by Sidehill Gougers. They’re everywhere around here”. He explained that these dog-like creatures ran up the side of hills for fun, churning their little legs and causing rivulets of dust. He told me this is what made all the little grooves in the side of the hills. I believed him completely. I even told my third grade class about this, at which point I was soundly laughed at by those 8-year old cretins.

My teacher calmly explained that the “gouges” in the hills were caused by run-off water from the winter’s snow. She informed me there were no such things as Sidehill Gougers and my dad was pulling my leg. When he got home, I confronted him on this issue and he laughed at me. “Michael, stop being so gullible. Don’t believe anything a person says to you. Question everything.”

Even though my dad was an atheist, he is actually lining up with Bible Truth. In 1 Thessalonians 5 it says to “test everything, hold on to what is good.” In 1 John, the writer explains he is sending out that letter for this same reason: “I am writing these things about those who are trying to lead you astray…you don’t need any man to teach you.” Even the writers of the Bible knew there were more dangerous lies out there than stories about Sidehill Gougers.

How does one ferret out the Sidehill Gouger stories from the real ones? Nowhere does Reflective Thinking show its value more than in discerning the truth. When our minds have the unencumbered time and energy to consider and weigh the merits of a matter, we are more likely to see truth from error. There are many things which at first glance sound true, but upon reflection are found to be false.

Of course, this is how spurious rumors find full effect. Recently, people have begun to believe that our President is a practicing Muslim. The number has jumped from 8% (when the rumor started) to its current level of 24%. That means one in four people believe he is a Muslim, even though there is no credible evidence to suggest it. His African roots, Internet innuendo and a general distaste for the state of the Economy fuel this much more than the facts. Even though his church, wife, community and Christian friends all say he is a Christian – and he openly claims it himself – it does not stop the rumor. Why? It is because we react without thinking and with very little analysis as a society.

Today’s culture reacts more than it reflects, interacts more than it intensely gazes and quotes more than it questions. Riots do not happen when people are reflective. Cults do not form among those who choose their opinions slowly and carefully.

Years ago, the media critic Michael Medved, did a study on the effects of various forms of media. He gave people a test in which they had to spot obvious lies. In the first group, he gave them a sheet of paper with a news story on it. Nothing but a  news story. The second group heard the same story as told by an announcer on an audio tape. The third group saw the story on a television news broadcast. Then they were asked to identify which “facts” in the story were false. Those who read the story did much better at spotting the error than the other two groups. But then they adapted the study. They gave every group a written copy of another bogus news story. Then they gave them differing lengths of time to read it. The group who read the story for the longest time spotted the most errors.

Considering that we watch news stories on television and the Internet for a few seconds at a glance, is it any wonder we miss so many of the lies that feed our country? Reflective thinking is crucial if we are going to live in Truth.

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