For the open-minded . . .
Most people see themselves as open-minded. They also see themselves as being correct in their beliefs. So, what happens when those beliefs are confronted by differing facts—not opinion, but facts? Just how open does that mind remain?
You need only observe a Facebook comment thread to see that truly open minds are as rare as common sense these days. The CDC and mainstream media say that vaccines are safe and effective—critical for public health—and no number of scientific studies refuting that will sway your belief. You hear that such-and-such politician is a liar, racist, and morally corrupt, and the lack of factual proof of those claims makes no difference. Or the reverse—a person you revere remains a “saint” despite evidence of his or her corruption. When faced with reality—again, facts, not hearsay—what does such a person do? Give it critical thought? Seek out unbiased information? Search out other opinions? In the multiple-choice answer, it’s “None of the above.”
In the 1950s, a name was given to this psychological tension caused by conflicting ideas and beliefs: “Cognitive dissonance, the mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The unease or tension that the conflict arouses in people is relieved by one of several defensive maneuvers: they reject, explain away, or avoid the new information; persuade themselves that no conflict really exists; reconcile the differences; or resort to any other defensive means of preserving stability or order in their conceptions of the world and of themselves. The concept was developed in the 1950s by American psychologist Leon Festinger and became a major point of discussion and research.”[Britannica.com]
Lawyers deal with this repeatedly in the courtroom. In medicine, we see it daily when someone insists on being prescribed an antibiotic for a viral illness. On social media, the most common reaction seems to be lashing out at the source of such new information with name calling, insults, libel, and other verbal attacks. On many university campuses today, the reaction is disruptive protest or even violence. Forget free speech and civil discourse. Forget being open-minded.
Although the condition now has a “name,” it’s nothing new. Mankind hasn’t changed. In the Bible, we read of this condition in many places in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah speaks of men’s idolatrous folly, saying, “They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.” [Isaiah 44:18] Ezekiel also spoke to this condition, “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who has eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house.” [Ezekiel 12:2] Moses in Deuteronomy 29:4, Jeremiah 5:21, David in the Psalms, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul, and others all speak of having eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear, and hearts that do not understand. Human nature is just that, human.
In each of the situations presented in these scriptures, the people fought to preserve their concept of an orderly world as well as their self images. However, to do so was then described as rebellion because they did not seek God’s answer to the problem. Why? Because God is the answer.
And therein lays perhaps the greatest cause of cognitive dissonance, being confronted by God’s truth, which is absolute, or maybe by the very idea of God’s existence. Evolution? It’s diametrically opposed to God and His creation. You cannot reconcile the two, despite many attempts to do so over the past 160 years. The LGBTQI lifestyle? To live it, you must reject God’s truth. Abortion? Try explaining away the murder of innocent life to God when His judgment comes. Religion? God says there is only one way into His kingdom, not the ecumenical teaching that all paths lead to God. That same way is the solution to the psychological turmoil of cognitive dissonance.
What one way is the answer? Christ. Through God’s grace He not only gives us access to Him through Christ, He offers us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand. In Matthew, Jesus tells us, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people\’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.\’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” [Matthew 13:13-16] Who is it with eyes that see and ears that hear? Followers of Christ.
So, where do you stand?
If you’re one of those followers, you’re probably saying “Amen” after reading this. If you’re not a follower, you’re likely feeling some agitation and trying to reason away what I’ve written. The good news is that God’s eyes are always seeing and His ears always hear. Maybe you should ask Him for help in finding the truth. I speak from experience. He led me away from agnosticism and opened my eyes and unstopped my ears. Isn’t it time for you to join the truly open-minded?