Christianity Today, Editorials, and Cognitive Dissonance

[I know it’s Christmas Eve, but I was catching up on things and saw this pattern. Merry Christmas. Read this later.]

The dictionary defines cognitive dissonance as the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. As a rule, we cannot maintain cognitive dissonance for long.

When we run into information that contradicts our personally held beliefs we must either refute/discredit the information or change our beliefs. Sometimes instead of discrediting the info, we discredit the source. (That doesn’t make the info false, but allows people to feel OK about ignoring it). Other times we rationalize our positions. (That also doesn’t make the info false, but does allow us to feel we’ve chosen the best position in difficult situations.)

When the new information is challenging issues of core beliefs, we are more likely to defend current opinions more strongly. It’s difficult to move people in their core beliefs.

Case in point- Christianity Today publishes an opinion of one editor. The article makes several points, and compares the current president to President Clinton, morally. CT is a previously trusted source (Many agreed with their criticisms of President Clinton), so Christians take note. But the opinion causes cognitive dissonance. Trump supporting Believers cannot accept the editorial and continue to support Trump. So we see the responses… CT is progressive, etc… (Attacking the source) What’s the alternative, supporting baby-killing Democrats? Lesser of two evils, etc…(Rationalizing)

For the record, I don’t agree with everything in the article. But I find it interesting that the primary criticism of the piece falls into those 2 categories- discrediting source and rationalizing, rather than point by point rebuttal of the points of the article. I’m sure there are some responses that do that, but most I’ve seen are pointing to the source or rationalizing.

People really don’t like it when their core positions are challenged.

What’s our go to response when presented with contradictory info? Do we discredit the source, rationalize our position, or refute the information or change our position?


Year 1

caledarOne year ago I stopped being a media pastor.

I left my job. I left a steady paycheck with benefits in a bad economy. I left with just a mortgage, utilities, and some money in the bank. I left with a wife and 3 kids to provide for.

I left with a vision, a dream, that I still believe God has given me.

I wish I could say that everything has been awesome. I’ve dipped further into our savings than I expected. I’ve not had the number of freelance gigs I hoped.

But, that sitcom I’ve been working on, we just finished taping the 10th episode. It’s playing on 3 Christian networks this Summer. And the first 6 episodes hit DVD July 16th. One of the episodes even got chosen for screening at the Gideon Film Festival this Summer. Not bad for the first effort.

And working from home? Love it. I see my kids now. That last few months at the church, when God was nudging me pretty hard about making the move. I was working 60+ hours a week, every week. For about 5 months. Frankly, that’s too much. Once in a while there are busy seasons, but not 5 months straight. I won’t ever do that again. It’s not worth it.

I may still work 60+ hours, but their my hours on my project. And my family sees me. They can talk to me. I am not missing my children growing up anymore. I’m not leaving my wife to raise my kids by herself anymore.

I can’t believe how supportive my wife has been. She is amazing.

We just finished shooting 4 more episodes of the show. I’m in the middle of post production. Once these are done, I will likely put these on a DVD with some bonus features and see if we can get them released as well. If enough money comes in, we could revisit Peculiar again.

What’s next? I’ve got ideas for a documentary and a movie that could turn into a series… but I really want to shoot someone else’s script. I want to find a good script that I can produce. I’ve also got a couple ideas for general religious TV shows that could appeal to younger audiences.

And, still looking to add more freelance work. Gotta’ pay the bills. Camera, audio, video work.

One year in, this is what I know. God provides. Every bill has been paid. We have not gone hungry. We took a huge step of faith, and God provides.

Into the New Year: Without a Net

no netToday marks the first day I am completely self employed. There is no net anymore.

Back in June I wrote about the change in my employment. I left my position as Media Pastor at First Baptist Orlando to work on new TV and video projects that appeal to people under age 50. Specifically, I produced 5 more episodes of a series called “Peculiar“. And I took on contract/freelance work.

Sometimes I am asked why the church didn’t help me with my new ministry project? I always quickly reply that they did very much help me. They allowed me to remain employed at a significantly reduced pay doing even more significantly reduced work. I worked the equivalent of a part time job, and they still paid me a salary (Which included benefits). That “net” allowed my family to have some certainty about finances. It didn’t pay all of our bills, but knowing that those checks were coming every 2 weeks helped. Our arrangement, as was agreed back in June, expired at the end of the year. There was some conversation about extending it, but things didn’t work out.

I cannot express just how thankful I am for First Orlando and their support of my new venture. While they did not write a check to the actual show, they did write me many checks, which helped tremendously. Yes, I worked there, but they were very generous with compensation. Blessed doesn’t begin to describe it.

I must admit that when I found out for sure that things were not going to be extended at the church, I had a few moments of fear. I have a family of 5. We have bills. Health insurance is expensive.

That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of ways to make money with my skill set. And we have been preparing. We have eliminated almost all our debt, and even refinanced the house in preparation for this time. God blessed us with a good bit of freelance work on top of this, so we have a few months of expenses in the bank.

Still, it’s scary. There are lots of options out there, and knowing which to choose is hard.

The next day I was up early, reading the Bible, and I came across this passage in James:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (ESV)

That certainly applied to me in this situation. I lack much wisdom in self employment, generating enough revenue to pay my bills and accomplish the ministry God has set before me.

It’s easy to see how doubting that God will direct you can lead to instability and worry and generally, not being at peace.

So, I asked God to give me wisdom in this area. To show me what to do, who to talk to, and which direction to go.

I trust he will.



For people of my generation, it’s hard to do. We were born a few years after the time our parents had their faith in the US government shaken by Vietnam and Watergate. Whether they intended to or not, they passed on the expectation to distrust authority. When I was growing up, I, like many, was drawn to the phrase “question authority”. I still submitted to it, but I questioned it. I’ve never been one to simply accept something without a reason or cause.

As a result, I often consider that I know what is “best” in every circumstance, for everyone. I never share that knowledge unless asked. But if you ask, I will tell you. And since I know what should be, I question decisions that do not follow my opinions. Nice bit of circular logic, isn’t it?

I obviously do not actually know what is best, but I often think I do.

Trust is this fragile thing, that grows over time. It is easily fractured, easily crushed. But not easily repaired.

Trust overcomes the need to be right, and overshadows the desire to question. Trust can overcome generational tendencies and personal inclinations. But it’s hard.

Years of joint experiences have bred trust between some that I work with, and for. Normally we are in sync with direction and decisions, but when we are not I know that my ideas and views are considered, even if they are eventually rejected. I know that they have experiences I do not and they may be in possession of facts I am not.

In a seemingly natural outgrowth, trust happens when people come together following the will of God. They work together for common goals. Over time they learn each others strengths. Those in authority learn to listen to those surrounding them. Those who “lead from the second chair” (or third or further down) learn when to simply accept a decision.

That is a hard thing for me to do. It requires a conscious decision on my part. It doesn’t come naturally.

When decisions are made, I believe they sought God. I believe that they have sought wise counsel. I believe that they are in possession of information I do not have, which may skew the decision away from the obvious (to me). I trust.

I trust that in the same situation, with the same responsibility to make the call, I would end up with the same decision. I trust.

Simon and Conventional Wisdom

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. Luke 5:4-7 NIV

Conventional wisdom says that Simon, a fisherman by trade, should know more than Jesus, a carpenter and teacher, about how to fish.

Simon knows Jesus, calls him master. He’s probably thinking that this guy knows something about teaching, but not much about fishing. Simon and his fellow fishermen know how to fish. That’s what they do. They have been doing it all night. Conventional wisdom would say to go home and rest, and hope for a better catch the next day.

Yet, out of respect, Simon does as Jesus asks, although not without a bit of grumbling. And then has to call for help because the catch was so large.

When I read this I was struck by the thought that we often think we know how to do something. We know a lot about how things get done, and the circumstances that are needed to be successful. Conventional wisdom says we should do what we know.

If Jesus asked us to do something we just knew wouldn’t work, something that goes against conventional wisdom, would we do it?

Would you let down your nets?

Help our Unbelief!

And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out[d] and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. Mark 9:20-27 ESV

I have been reading through the Gospels lately, and today I hit Mark chapter 9. Here you have the disciples arguing with religious leaders. The disciples tried to cast out a demon, but they failed. I assume that the teachers of the law seized that opportunity to attack this new teaching. It’s obvious from verse 19 that Jesus is disgusted by the whole mess. Then we see the above quoted exchange.

What resonated with me this morning was how we react today when Jesus is ready to act on our behalf.

Here is Jesus, he has the power to heal the boy, and is willing to do it. The father just has to ask. But how does he ask? Half-hearted without hope or belief that it will happen. The father knows of Jesus, otherwise he would not have approached his disciples. He knows in his head what Jesus can do, but he doesn’t believe it in his heart.

I know in my head how Jesus has come through in the past. I know what he can do. I know he has the power to do anything in any situation.

How many times does that knowledge translate into truly believing he will do something?

Lord, Help our unbelief!