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Furthermore, we often ignore or decline information we suspect may be negative or challenging. It can even cause us to avoid information which would debunk a fake news story if we have some reason for preferring that the story be true. Yes, even preferring explicitly Christian media (including this very outlet) may represent a form of information avoidance.

God often confronts our biased beliefs. Peter and other Jewish Christians around Jerusalem believed Gentiles who desired to follow Jesus should be obliged to practice all Jewish customs, a belief consistent with their Jewish community. Paul, himself a Jew with strong connections to the Greek and Roman worlds, led a contingent who felt such a requirement was adding to the gospel unnecessarily (Acts 15). Peter would ultimately change his mind in this instance, but of course Paul previously experienced his own shift in perspective when he stopped persecuting Jesus’ followers and became one (Acts 9). Jesus himself challenged many beliefs such as how to best keep the Sabbath (Mark 3), and he associated with people like the Samaritan woman (John 4) who were avoided by other religious leaders.

What encouraged transformation of these beliefs? Renewal of the mind. We need to humbly consider how we benefit from believing what we believe. We need to actively seek out information we might not like hearing in order to counteract our unconscious information avoidance.

God may prompt us directly to consider a new point of view. Peter and Paul both received visions which revealed new information and expanded their understanding of God’s kingdom. God may also bring us a new word through the people around us. We can expect our neighbors will sometimes deliver the message we need rather than the one we want.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Colbert may not have found their way to common belief, at least not during their televised conversation. Nevertheless, they at least made the effort to engage with a different perspective. Looking past our own unconscious biases to cut through a proliferation of dubious stories may likewise be challenging and take time to bear fruit, but if we are interested in pursuing truth then we can do no less.

November
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Christianity Today
How Our Unconscious Biases Shape Our Beliefs