May the wise take note:
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” -1 Peter 5:8
This powerful passage of the Bible is often used to cast doubt on anyone who has different beliefs. Contemplating this scripture, it occurred to me that everyone seems to believe that everyone else is being duped by clever lies from the opposing side. Not only does this create a great deal of uncertainty, it also stokes division and hostility rips at the fabric of society.
Think about it: If you don’t believe that Christ died and rose again as the salvation of humanity, you’ve been deceived. If you don’t believe that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal ravaging the Ukraine, you’ve been deceived. If you don’t believe that the climate crisis is the greatest threat to public health, you’ve been deceived. If you don’t believe the COVID vaccines are safe and effective, you’ve been deceived.
In reality, the accusations of deception flow from both ends of the political spectrum. Nobody wants to be deceived, nor are we quick to realize that we actually have been deceived. When confronted with the threat of deception, it is human nature to double down on personal beliefs, justifying ourselves through confirmation bias and insulating ourselves in isolated pockets of influence.
While all of this is normal, predictable behavior, it raises the question: How do we know if we are being deceived? And, by asking this question, we rip the lid off a big can of worms.
There are deep philosophical and psychological angles from which we could approach this delicate subject — questioning the validity of personal beliefs — but, for the purpose of this podcast, I want to take a more practical approach.
Let’s assume, if you will, that politics and religion are both rooted in deeply held convictions that are seldomly questioned outright. Religious people don’t question religious texts anymore than progressives question the progressive agenda. Regardless of affiliation, it is precisely this lack of curiosity and questioning that allows deception to take root.
Practically speaking, in order for society to function, we must be able to communicate with our neighbors and find common ground — despite the conflicts in personal belief. I understand that many people believe any such effort is ultimately futile, but if we do not attempt to bridge this gap, our country will continue to collapse under the weight of perpetual conflict.
Thus, it is imperative that we push into this uncomfortable consideration: Have we all been deceived? What do we really know for sure? How do we know that what we know is really what is right and what is true? These are not easy questions to answer, and wrestling with this line of inquiry can lead to internal consternation — but we must press forth.
Continue the passage from above, Peter goes on to point out that people around the world are “undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” This remarkable insight implores us to remain humble, and acknowledge that people everywhere are struggling to discern the truth.
In the modern era, as we wrestle with who to believe, as we question the common narrative, as we sift through the propaganda in search of objective facts and truth, it is critical to keep in mind that there are many different political interests who are actively seeking to deceive us.
Here we might heed the words of the Communist Manifesto, which explicitly states the intent to use language that has a “hidden, higher, socialistic interpretation, the exact contrary of its real character.” This is how they deceive the ignorant masses, by simply lying and using words that conceal what they actually mean.
This is why we must remain self-controlled and alert, and not be swayed by the emotional appeal of crafty propaganda. And, this is also why we must remain humble to question our own perspectives, so that we are not deceived by twisted words. Everybody believes something, but not everybody gets to be right — somebody is being deceived.
We can’t say that we haven’t been warned!