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Confirmation Bias on Steroids!

We’re all guilty of “confirmation bias.” No matter how open minded and thoughtful we think we are, we all look for evidence that supports what we already believe, and tend to discount information that might put a “stick in the spokes” of our beliefs.

With the Covid shutdown, and too much time on our hands, I can’t tell you how many videos or articles from Christians I otherwise respect are being sent to me weekly to prove their particular viewpoint. Face masks, hydroxychloroquine, the Deep State, protestors in Oregon, Covid misinformation, stay-at-home orders. Does everyone really expect us to watch a 45 minute video, every other day?

And because I’m a Christian and have voted Republican, 98% of these videos and articles are sent from “like-minded” friends. I don’t use the term “like-minded” because I always agree with them, but apparently they believe I do, or should.

However, I’ve made it a practice that before I watch or read something, I take the time to do a bit more digging about the qualifications of people in the video, or being quoted in an article, or the organization behind the story. When I do, I’m often appalled. In my opinion, many of these people in the news are outright quacks, or at very least, severely under-qualified.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me, that triggered this blog was a video of an interview, actually more of a rant, in Washington D.C. on the steps of the Supreme Court by Dr. Stella Immanuel, and other doctors, declaring the wearing of masks is a waste of time and extolling the use of hydroxycholoroquine claiming it’s a sure fire cure for Covid 19 and that she’s cure hundreds of people using it. “Nobody needs to get sick!” she repeatedly screams.  Trump himself retweeted her video and millions of people watched it, before FaceBook took it down. (More evidence of the Deep State, apparently.)

In all fairness, some of her claims could be actually true. I’m not enough of an expert to know that, or not. After all, even a hypochondriac is sick occasionally! But with our instant access to some of the best medical minds in the world, The New England Journal of Medicine, world-class research institutions, like Johns Hopkins, the CDC and the National Institute of Health headed by Dr. Francis Collins, a committed follower of Jesus, who in the world would go to someone like Dr. Immanuel for “expert advice”, then forward it to their friends, without checking her out, just because they agree with her?

Dr. Immanuel got her medical degree from Nigeria and runs a small practice out of a strip small in Huston and is the pastor of the  Fire Power Ministries. In other videos she claims, “Medical issues like endometriosis, infertility and impotence are caused by having sex with spirit husbands and spirit wives,” which she describes as witches and demons having sex with people in a dream world! And she claims scientists are working on drugs to make people not religious. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

I have nothing against Nigerians, pastors, or strip malls, but would you actually go to a doctor like her for guidance on life and death heath decisions and disregard the advice of doctors and institutions whose whole lives have been dedicated to infectious diseases, or like Dr. Collins who led the team which mapped human DNA?

“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.” Exodus 23:1

Here’s the point of this blog. PLEASE, do not let confirmation bias, allow you believe or lead you to forward any old video that comes your way that “proves” your point of view. I don’t care if you are Republican or Democrat, or whether your think mask wearing is wise, or a hoax. Please just take the time to ask questions, do the research and check out the validity of a story and the claims they are making, before you just send it on. Because when you don’t and if it is false or misleading, you just became part of the “fake news” network. Your reputation, therefore Christ’s reputation becomes tied to the kinds of videos and stories you send to others. Christian should have more discretion than that.

You may very well be thinking, “But Clare, both sides are guilty of misinformation and confirmation bias.” Absolutely true, but we are Christians. We have been given different standards by God and we should want others to have the most reliable information available for their health. The ends never justify the means.

“For gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.” Proverbs 1:2-6

 Christians especially have a duty to the truth, whether it helps or hinders our cause. So, the next time someone sends you a video or article, take some time to do some research.  If this expert is not credible, please let the sender know. I’m now in the habit of sending them what I’ve found, often telling them that I do not disagree with some of this person’s claims, but I do disagree with the tenor of the video, or the exaggeration of some of their claims. We have a responsibility to police our own Christian community. We can do better. Please follow these words from James:

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

How following Jesus works in real life.

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