It’s not fun to admit but lately, I’ve been duped a lot- you know, snookered, taken in, bamboozled, hornswoggled. I suppose I’m a sucker but when a pastor friend emailed photos of freshly unearthed remains of giants, I bit. After looking them over, I became excited. So, I forwarded the pictures and the accompanying false story to my usual email partners. (Thanks to me you may have had to face these giants yourself.)

“The whole thing was a hoax- a cleverly crafted and elaborate fraud.”

The next day son Josh sends me the link from snopes.com. I’d been duped! The whole thing was a hoax- a cleverly crafted and elaborate fraud. By the time I alerted my friends, it had been sent to their friends, etc., etc.,.  In 24 hours, the lie was continuing on its way around the cyberworld.

Is it only me? Am I the only one simple enough to fall for photo-shopped images of fifteen foot skeletons? Hardly. The pastor who sent me the email confessed later he was fooled, also.

You suppose I became any wiser from the experience? Maybe a little. Another fraud came my way a few weeks later.  I bit on this one, too, but not as much. It had to do with a reported find of Noah’s Ark by a team of Turkish and Chinese explorers.  Again, I became excited. My email partners were spared another hoax. Experts said the Noah’s Ark discovery was fiction.

My duped experiences stimulated some questions: What’s the psychology behind being misled or flim-flammed. Why did I take the bait? Here is what I came up with for answers. They may apply to you as well: First, my mind has trouble grasping that there are rotten people who cook up lies. (I also cannot fathom that “geniuses” expend time and energy trying to crash computer hard drives of people they don’t know.) Maybe I am more trusting than the average.

Another reason I get duped is that I am a “high-risk” to fall for a premise I’m predisposed to accept. (For example, I believe there were giants in Canaan in Moses’ day. Consequently, that made me an easy target for the fake story in my email.) To add to my vulnerability, when the premise is presented as fact from what I regard as a “credible” source, I become even more susceptible.

Lastly, when I hear the same story repeated from different sources, I am more likely to accept it. Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbel’s, said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” It’s the principle of momentum: If I am already off-balance and leaning toward believing the story, it’s easier to push me over the edge. When sources I trust are doing the shoving, it is easier yet. When the story is coming at me from different directions, I tend to lose objectivity because I naturally want to believe I am being told the truth.

The opposite is also true. If we do not give credibility to the messenger, our mind usually rejects what they say. Sorry Senate Majority Leader, Reid, and Michael Moore: When you talk I automatically turn on the inner mute button. I am sure they know about the mute button, too.

When I reject a message, I tend to tune out any of its proponents. (Try to prove God’s existence to an avowed agnostic or try to convince me God does not exist.) A mind is virtually impossible to open once it is closed. In the news, The National Enquirer, a publication not exactly known for its veracity, broke a couple stories regarding the infidelity of two U.S. political figures. The reputation of the paper had to be overcome by the body of evidence it presented or how would anyone believe them? Because it is The Enquirer, we tend to dismiss it as sensationalism and a fabrication.

“To the ideologue, facts contrary to dearly held beliefs must be attacked. Truth becomes an irritant, pushed to the side by the committed ideologue. In the realm of ideas, the truth teller becomes the enemy to the deceived.”

The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, made statements negatively reflecting on an Arizona immigration law. Echoing the president, Mr. Holder indicated Arizona’s legislation presented constitutional questions, especially with regard to racial profiling. The Justice Department announced it will challenge Arizona’s law in the Federal Courts.

The bill was carefully crafted to reinforce existing Federal law, not contradict it. Asked if he read the less than twenty pages, Attorney General Holder admitted he had not. Then how could he, of all people, make such a critical judgment?
Holder did what we all do: We accept ideas that fortify our biases. To the ideologue,  facts contrary to dearly held beliefs must be attacked. Truth becomes an irritant, pushed to the side by the committed ideologue. In the realm of ideas, the truth teller becomes the enemy to both the deceiver and the deceived. (See 1st Kings 21:20)

The Principle of Momentum maintains we cannot make a U-turn at fifty miles per hour. We have to first slow down and reassess our position before a change in direction is possible. Look at biases as though they were a train going down the tracks: When our thinking rides a particular set of rails awhile, reversing direction is almost impossible. If we are sold on a false set of ideas for years, chances are we will get defensive, or, at the least, not believe the truth teller. The reason has to do with “The Principle of Momentum”.

The Principle of Momentum maintains we cannot make a U-turn at 50 miles per hour. We have to first slow down and reassess our position before a change in direction is possible. The salesman gets us to agree on some very basic things to move our head up and down in agreement. After agreeing a number of times and nodding in the affirmative, we are asked if we would like to sign the sales agreement. Our head then goes up and down.

Being aware of momentum, a teacher’s greatest assets are credibility and teach-ability. Let’s apply “The Principle of Momentum” to our position regarding the timing of Jesus’ return. (As you read the last sentence, you have some sense of your momentum or bias on this controversial subject in our Christian culture.) Those who have accepted that Jesus’ return is literal intuitively believe Christ’s Coming is soon. Those, like me, that identify with this group of literalists, are predisposed to believing certain information. Because we trust what the prophetic Word of God says, our momentum leans us toward the “Bible experts”. If trusted pastors and teachers back up their sincerely held beliefs with Bible verses and current events, then we will probably adopt their well-articulated ideas.

The reasoning for believing what they say becomes circular: We know the teaching that Christ’s coming precedes the seven-year tribulation is the correct interpretation of Bible prophecy because it coincides with most of the preaching we hear and the majority of books on the subject. In the footnotes of our Study Bible, it even says the rapture precedes the tribulation. The popular fiction series on “the tribulation” confirms it. All are in one accord. These credible sources could not be wrong, therefore it must be true– or isn’t it?
(Part 2 is next.)

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