Why won’t our leaders treat us as adults? Many have been asking this question in frustration, as government ministers refuse to discuss publicly how the lockdown will end.
It certainly feels like people are being treated like a herd of simple sheep. Experts hope for herd immunity. They encourage herd thinking – make sure everyone thinks the same.
Politicians believe we can only understand one simple message at a time. Currently it is “stay at home.” Previously it was “wash your hands.” We are expected to let the experts study the evidence and follow their conclusions. (When they can distil them into a sentence of three or four words.)
But studying the evidence shows that simplistic conclusions unravel. How do we judge what is better: fewer people to die of Covid-19 in the next few weeks or fewer people to die of cancers over the next few months and years? Should we not know the human and economic cost of the various options available?
Why are people not allowed to make their own judgements? Why must we follow herd thinking?
Christians are used to “experts” refusing to let people survey the evidence for themselves. Have you ever felt the pressure of herd thinking about the Bible? Here’s two examples.
Herd thinking: the Bible has been changed.
This dramatic conspiracy theory poses questions: when, how, why and by whom? How was this possible with thousands of manuscripts scattered across countries all around the Mediterranean? Why wouldn’t God be powerful enough to preserve his message to us?
Herd thinking: the gospel writers were biased.
Should an eyewitness not be biased towards what he saw? Ought we not to read what they wrote and then judge whether their claims are credible. Jesus’ disciple, John, was quite straightforward that he wanted to record evidence about who Jesus was and why he came.
These [things] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)
When people depart from herd thinking, the herd often responds with nastiness and mockery, not reasoning. We hear the term “covidiot” bandied about.
Sometimes people have behaved foolishly, but there are strange anomalies. Police persecute isolated dog walkers in remote areas but clap along with groups on Westminster Bridge.
This shows the dangers of herd thinking. If something doesn’t fit the framework of our thinking, we reject it, without even considering the evidence.
Consider one more example.
Herd thinking: Jesus cannot be the only way to God.
This fits with the pluralism of our culture but is not necessarily logical. If God exists, we must deal with him as he is, not how we might like him to be.
If our sin (our breaking God’s 10 Commandments) separates us from God, why should God not decide the way back to friendship with him? If the cost of providing us a way back was God’s Son, Jesus, taking on a human body and soul to suffer and die, why would there be any other way back to God?
Lockdown provides plenty of time to think. Why not consider where you might have been pressured to accept herd thinking? Pick up or download a Bible. Read John’s gospel and ask: so who is this Jesus?
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