Conspiracy theories, mystery, and truth |… | God's World News

66. CONSPIRACY THEORIES, MYSTERY, AND TRUTH

05/01/2024
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Kelsey Reed
Hello, welcome to Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News. At Concurrently, we approach the news through a discipleship perspective. We tackle the challenging topics in culture and current events as learners and fellow laborers with parents, educators, and mentors of kids and teens. We consider the whole person, promoting growth and knowledge, attitudes, and action in the world. I’m Kelsey Reed. I’m here with Jonathan Boes.

Jonathan Boes
Hello!

Kelsey
We welcome you to the conversation. In fact, we’d love to hear from you. Please send in your questions or comments by way of voice recording or email to newscoach@wng.org.

Jonathan
Well, today, we have on our tinfoil hats, because we are talking about conspiracies, conspiracy theories. And this subject comes up all over the news. We have several different news items recently that have brought this to our attention. There’s the eclipse—the total solar eclipse that just happened this April. There’s the [Francis Scott] Key Bridge collapse, the tragic bridge collapse in Baltimore and the conspiracy theories that rose up around that. And of course, just these last few years, this idea of conspiracy theories, it pops up everywhere. In fact, it can be really, really divisive. This touches on areas of misinformation, news literacy—there is so much to unpack here—and of course, the spiritual aspect. What does this mean for our discipleship? Today, we’re going to explore: What makes us attracted to conspiracy theories? What gets us sucked into them in the first place? And how do we avoid being duped? And how do we especially disciple kids, teens, students, through a world where conspiracy theories seem to spread faster than ever?

Kelsey
It is a news literacy issue. It’s a biblical literacy issue, I would suggest, as [we’re] thinking about the way that we discern truth, and what is or isn’t revealed to us in scripture. And yet, it still serves for us as the capital “T” truth, by which we can understand and discern anything that is trustworthy, true, good, beautiful in the world. So, it’s a news literacy issue as well as a biblical literacy issue. One of the things that I observe right out the gate, that is a good thing to cast a vision with, is that there is a lot of talk of mystery in scripture. And I want that idea of mystery to go hand-in-hand with this desire for knowledge, or almost a special knowledge—being “in the know”—that occurs as we observe stories of conspiracy theories, the tendency towards it. There is this partnering of the drive to know and to piece together aspects of mystery, which I might argue: Mystery—there’s some things to be embraced about mystery. And we’ll unpack that as we go.

Jonathan
Maybe we could observe some of the places we’ve seen this theme of conspiracy theory arise. There [are] these really obvious places we’ve seen it pop up recently. One of the examples that I think comes up in almost every discussion I’ve heard is the Pizza Gate story. Briefly, this is an otherwise normal, peaceful man shows up at a pizza restaurant, armed with some kind of gun. I don’t know exactly what type of gun it was. But he shows up because he has been convinced that there is a child trafficking ring operating out of the basement of this pizza restaurant. And, as it turns out, the restaurant didn’t even have a basement. You hear all the time that example come up. And of course, with COVID-19, the pandemic, all sorts of talk of conspiracy theory is flying right and left. And it seems like the talk of conspiracy theories has just been going on and on since then.

Kelsey
One of the things that I noticed right out the gate, about Pizza Gate, is that there’s a huge body—as almost always—there’s a huge body of emotion that is going on in each of these situations. Now, you know, if you have been listening to Concurrently for a while, that there’s a reason why we talk about the emotional or affective dimension of our being. Because if we are merely primed for an emotional reaction to something, our action will often flow out of that emotional place. We see that in Pizza Gate that a man had an emotional response to something that he had heard. And he immediately went to action without careful thought, without scrutinizing and seeking after the facts. These are the reasons why we try to encourage and try to also practice those careful observation-work exercises where we ask the who, what, when, where, even the how and the why, in order to discern what is going on in a story. These are appropriate journalistic, news literacy practices, and they slow us down.

Jonathan
Again, slowing us down. And, you know, the emotive aspect of conspiracy theories: I’ve never encountered a conspiracy theory that makes people feel more peaceful, or that makes people want to rest in God’s sovereignty more. Every conspiracy theory I’ve encountered makes people afraid or angry. And those emotions unchecked, like you were just explaining, can counteract the slow process of reasoning and drive us straight into action. So, you know, when I think about my own experience with this idea of conspiracy theories, I wonder if anybody else has kind of had this experience: When I was younger, and I thought of conspiracy theories, it kind of seemed mostly like a harmless or even fun thing, right? Like, okay, somebody doesn’t believe the Moon landing was real, you know, that’s crazy, but knock yourself out. Or, you know, you think the government is covering up the existence of aliens. That’s a fun kind of like science-fiction hypothetical; I could entertain that theory and just have a good time. But when you start getting into these things like Pizza Gate, COVID-19, you start to see the real ugly side of this where those fear things, those anger things start to come out. I also think of another big example, recently, Alex Jones, telling his audience that school shootings are fake, and that the grieving parents are just crisis actors. And this has gotten to the point where parents successfully sued him because of the endless harassment they faced from his followers. That’s an example where conspiracy theories have gotten really ugly. And the fear and anger just spiral out of control and harm real people.

Kelsey
What I hear in the stories that you’re telling, and also the observations that you’re making of culture, is a difference that I like to make between embracing mystery and even enjoying mystery. We’ve talked about enjoying fiction. But I’m observing and what you’re saying the difference between theorizing, and, you know, coaching alarmism, or coaching cynicism, or coaching an emotional response that is not helpful to our process in community, in our nation or elsewhere. The beauty of embracing fiction, embracing mystery, being even curious about mystery, that does come with a child-like quality, which is beautiful. You know, we read stories to our kids, and they often will have some kind of mystery afoot. My daughter was reading one of the Harry Potter novels next to me this morning. Harry Potter is big in our family. It is—I would argue—a very redemptive narrative. We can pull out redemptive themes, part of which is the idea of mystery: We are not going to know the ending, and experience the fullness of the ending, until the fullness of the story is complete. You have to suspend this waiting for redemption, this hope for redemption. And she was asking me a question, “Mommy, what’s going to, what happens?”—with this-and-such particular thing. I’m going to make sure not to give spoilers in case…

Jonathan
So that our audience can live in the mystery.

Kelsey
Right. And I said, “Well, baby, this is the joy of reading the story, you’re going to have to accept that there’s some mystery that is not going to be something you know all the details too, yet”—“yet” being a big, important word in that. And I think that we can use this as a part of our lens for not only helping to coach our children well for how they view story or theories or mystery, but it supplies us with the lens for looking at what is going on, when conspiracy theories popcorn and multiply.

Jonathan
In life, we are faced with mysteries, all the time, in all sorts of areas. And you’re describing how you’re coaching your kids through a mystery. What we do with mystery, I think, is such a big part of this whole conspiracy theory issue. In my personal experience, some of the people I’ve seen most mired in conspiracies—or conspiracy theories, rather—I want to be careful not to mix up those terms, which I sometimes do. Some of the people I’ve seen who are most mired in conspiracy theory thinking are the same people who tend to throw up their hands and say, “We just can’t know what’s going on in the world.” It’s sometimes hard to know what to trust. And there are legitimate reasons for mistrust sometimes, right? Like: Mainstream media is biased, and it can be influenced by economic forces, political forces, and the government does do sketchy covert stuff. We’re faced with uncertainty. So, then what do we do with that uncertainty? And I think one of the real dangerous trends you see with conspiracy theory thinking—it says, “Okay, the reputable sources of the world are flawed”—or the “reputable sources”—so let’s look for the disreputable sources. And you end up in this bizarro environment where, if a fact checker says that something is not trustworthy, then it must be trustworthy. And if a doctor is disgraced by his peers in his profession, then that’s the doctor I should believe. We start looking at the oddities, the outliers, as “that must be the one I should trust,” because we’ve lost trust in the main system. And of course, there’s no real logical basis for that other than our distrust in the mainstream. Instead of becoming more discerning, we end up actually becoming less discerning.

Kelsey
I want to push in a little bit more to that. I think that you are hitting on some really important observations in terms of when the mainstream has become untrustworthy. And we did see some of that—there was very reductionistic type information put out about COVID vaccines. They were inflated to be much more efficacious than they actually were. And the same thing with masking, as though there was going to be complete protection with each of these measures. Now, complete protection was not correct. That was a reductionistic thing that I heard, unfortunately, even touted by government agents. Now, there was a measure of protection in each of those things, those things were accurate. But the way that we use information to try to persuade, and the way that when we do so, for a persuasive [effect]— to get people to think or to do or to feel what we want them to think feel or do—then we are becoming manipulators instead of those who coach good thinking. There’s almost a mistrust in the public to grow in good thinking, good feeling, and good doing. There is a tendency sometimes for leaders to think, “Ah, in order to lead well, I just need to tell people, ‘You got to do this,’ and do everything I can in my power to ensure that they do that thing. Well, when you learn that that was an oversimplification, or that it was based on faulty material, that human beings made mistakes—which happens, we are not faultless, we are broken. Even those who are leaders in their fields, they make mistakes too. But we can then turn to, as you’ve identified, dumping everything that they have had to say out and running to something that has the appearance of either being completely opposite, or more trustworthy. This is one of those ways that social media is used. You see a face, you hear something that you connect to, it feels like an average Joe or somebody that you—there’s an authenticity to it instead of maybe a cold, clinical-ness. Let’s just put it this way: We are wired empathically. We’re wired in a way where we respond well to a smile that’s across from us, or that our emotions are also stirred by the emotions that we see across from us. That is, we’re relational creatures. That is the way that we have been made. And so when we see somebody on a Reel, or some other type of video, where we can get as much of a look at their eyes, of the sound of their tone, we are going to be coached by them. And when they have a warmth or a dynamic manner, we’re going to respond to them, and maybe even be taken in by them. I’m calling out social media here because we do have this tendency of looking for our friends and allies in those realms, in those applications or programs where we’re wanting to have that human connection. And that unfortunately, that can come with a number of consequences, like believing things that have not been verified.

Jonathan
And even what we think of as human connection on social media, often there’s a human aspect, but so much of it is fed by algorithms that give us what we’re looking for. If we are Googling about a certain conspiracy theory, you’ll probably start to see a lot of humans talking about that conspiracy theory in your, like, Instagram suggested Reels. It feeds itself and becomes an echo chamber. And I think another aspect to keep in mind here is how we engage with study data versus personal testimony. You know, our empathic nature, which is a good, God-designed thing, can sometimes lead us to value personal testimonies over real studies and research. And there are realms where that’s appropriate—realms of wisdom. But there are times, especially if you’re talking about something scientific, where we need to be careful. And I think it stems from that we can have a misunderstanding of what a study is. We think of it as something very sterile that almost happens in a lab, right. For example, a friend tells you, “I ate a burger from Burger Hut, and it gave me food poisoning.” But there’s a peer-reviewed study that says, Burger Hut burgers are safe. Our empathic nature tells us to believe the friend. But this study—studying my made-up restaurant, Burger Hut (if there’s a real Burger Hut in the world, sorry)—but what the study is doing is: If it’s a good study, it’s taking dozens or even hundreds of people and gathering their testimonies and it’s eliminating variables. So, your friend who says they got food poisoning? Well, you don’t know what else they ate that day; you don’t know if they just caught the stomach bug. Whereas a real study will eliminate those variables, and then take hundreds of personal testimonies and combine them to see what’s really going on. And so, I think sometimes, when we value one person’s testimony over data coming from research, we’re actually valuing one testimony over 100 testimonies. And why is that important, I think, to bring it up even with our kids is: When you’re a kid or a teen—in my experience, when I was younger—people just kind of tell you things, your fellow kids and teens just kind of tell you things. And it’s sometimes hard to know what to believe. And with social media, you know, that wasn’t around as much when I was a kid, but I’m sure it’s even crazier now. And some of those things might be harmless. But some of those things might be, “This substance isn’t actually addictive; you won’t actually get hooked on this; you don’t have a chance of becoming pregnant.” And in those circumstances, I think we want kids equipped to not just accept personal testimony, but to trust sourced information.

Kelsey
And often the beginning of that is asking good questions. I can’t harp on that enough. I write about it all the time. I think I talked about it enough in the podcast, that really affirming the question-asking, modeling asking questions, and learning the art of good question-asking—and, really, I want to almost backtrack and say any question is a good question, because it will lead to further question-asking and refining, and being able to develop that ability to discern and to scrutinize—to interrogate, as it were. I don’t mean that kind of putting somebody under the spotlight kind of interrogation. But I’ve been reading a good chunk of Plato recently. As I read the way that Socrates forms questions, and the way he drills down, sometimes I get a little bit impatient because I feel just irritated with the way that he continues to attack the person with whom he is having this dialectic.

Jonathan
And I love how he also adds in his friends and their dialogue to be like, “You’re so right, Socrates.”

Kelsey
That’s right. That’s right. It’s very interesting to read Plato. But the point of these things is that they map out for us what engaging dialogue and great question-asking is for diving to the deeper understanding instead of seriously only making assumptions. And this is where I’d like to go from here: We’ve talked about what it means to look at good sources to really discern data. Usually, a “.gov” is a substantive source that you can trust. We talked more about that in our episode with Juliana Chan Erickson and Colin Garbarino. But we, when we are starting to ask the good question, we are at the very beginning stages of doing good research. This is also a part of what we would say are our journalistic practices, but they are scholarly practices: We’re asking, and we’re looking for good resources that are complete in the data that they serve others—“serve up to others” is what I was looking for there. My other daughter and I, my 17-year-old and I, were having this conversation about these sources the other day. She’s now in a place where she’s taking some higher level science courses. And one of the things that we are recognizing is that you have to have a certain amount of methodology in place for discerning what data is telling you. And I think that that can also be a stumbling block for people, when we don’t emphasize that the question is the very beginning of good methodology. We can ask questions about the data, instead of just looking at it and going, “Okay, I’m accepting that.” We’re allowed to say, “What does this really mean?” And we should also be doing that in our relationships, so that it is not merely personal testimony that we receive. We’re thinkers. We’ve been given good brains that can continue to sharpen and to grow and to mature and to gently ask those questions, even of those people who might be giving us what we might call “false testimony.”

Jonathan
And often those people don’t even intend to give false testimony. And you can ask, “Well, where did you hear that?” I think something that happens. And again, this is my own experience talking—personal testimony, so take this with a grain of salt: We all have different thresholds for what we believe, and from whom we believe it. And we all have different people that we trust. There might be somebody who would never believe a factoid they see on a Facebook meme. But maybe they have a friend who has a friend who believes that, and that person tells it to somebody, and that person trusts that somebody, and that person shares it with somebody else, and that person trusts that somebody. I think the people we trust have people they trust who have people they trust, and somewhere down the line, you know, they might be trusting something faulty. And so, we need to be careful, even sometimes just believing things from people that we otherwise trust, and sometimes say, “Okay, but where did you hear that from?” Because there can be those kinds of chains of trust where there can be a fault somewhere in the line.

Kelsey
I agree. And I think there’s also an added—what I’m hearing is this repetition that can happen—in the repetition of an idea, it gains more ground. It becomes the thing that is known. “Oh, yeah, I heard that too.” “I heard that too.” And it is repeated and reinforced in the reiteration. I think that that is something that happened with the Francis Scott Key Bridge phenomenon recently. It was labeled by many people as a “black swan event.” And to define what that is, it is one of those terms that is like, “Oh, look over there, not over here at this other nefarious event that’s going on.” So the black swan event is supposed to attract the attention away from something else that’s even bigger that’s going to happen. And it was repeated so often over Twitter [X], several influencers, thought-leader types mentioned it; Andrew Tate was one of them. He’s got a huge following. He said, “Oh, this is definitely a black swan event.” The point being that the more things are repeated, the more it is taken for granted that that has become established truth. I think that a similar phenomenon happened with the solar eclipse that because there was this communication that the pathway of the eclipse was going to happen in eight cities named Nineveh. Now, that was actually based on the fact that it was going to pass through two cities named Nineveh, but it was inflated, because in the inflation of numbers and of iteration it becomes more convincing.

Jonathan
And we are recording this before the eclipse happens, and it’s going to release after the eclipse happens. So, if the world does end on the eclipse, we will retract this.

Kelsey
Ha! That was great. In the reiteration, in the repetition, there is this phenomenon that also is worthy of definition, which is this confirmation bias situation, where you are already inclined to believe something is true. And then the more that you hear it, or the more that you look for things to confirm it, the more convinced you are that it is true. Did I leave something out with that definition? What would you add?

Jonathan
I think it kind of comes down to our frameworks, right? If we’re tending to believe, some sort of conspiracy, then we’re going to want to slot the facts we see into that. So again, with the COVID stuff, whatever you believe about Dr. Fauci and whether or not he did a good job—not getting into that—but there were a lot of pictures of him with different politicians and celebrities that I would see circling around the internet as, “Look, he’s connected to all these people.” Well, he’s been a major political figure for years. It makes total sense that somebody in his position would interact with those people across the years. But if you’re already thinking in conspiracy terms, then those photos are evidence that he has connections to whatever the leftists are doing behind the scenes. It really easily spirals out of control. And I think one of the tools that can help us break through confirmation bias is Ockham’s razor. Ockham’s razor being this logic principle, it’s attributed to William of Ockham. Basically, if you have two ideas that could explain the same phenomenon, you should prefer the simpler one, as long as they’re not intervening issues. With my example of the pictures of Dr. Fauci: Is it simpler to believe that he is part of a grand conspiracy connected [to] all these celebrities and politicians? Or to believe that because he has been a major political figure for decades, he met these people along the way?

Kelsey
When we talk about Ockham’s razor and preferring the simple over the complex, or preferring to engage with careful scrutiny, but knowing that at some point, we’re going to have to pry our hands off of it, and let it go into the greater hands of the Father. That the mystery—pushing into that word again—the mystery is not mystery for the Father. While it is mystery for us. So, in terms of a response, we’ve got a number of discipleship principles to draw out in this topic area. And one of the first things that I want to lead out with is this recognition that we are children of the living God. And a part of the way that He is discipling us is to be the one who knows all those things, and says that, “All knowledge is not for you.” Though, at the same time, He gently leads us and beckons us to think His thoughts after Him. But His thoughts are defined in scripture which reminds us of what our purpose is in the world, which isn’t to know and to control and to have that special knowledge. But it is to act in the ways that He has purposed for us to act. That has to do with—simplifying—the building of gardens, the investment in human flourishing, in the taking care to remember the poor, as Jesus and many of the prophets reminded us to do. Our work has everything to do with following after Christ in His mission on Earth for redemption and reconciliation, and that He repeats to His disciples. And that the mystery, that Paul even emphasizes in his work—is this mystery that the gospel—a relationship with God, a restored relationship with God—is not merely for one group of people to know, but for all men across the entire globe to fathom. This is the thing that is intended for our knowledge, for our heart transformation, and for our action.

Jonathan
In our faith, we have mysteries we hold, but we also have things that we know and that we’re supposed to declare. And that brings out one of the spiritual takeaways that, to me, is really one of the most prominent in this whole issue, which is that as Christians, we have a really wild message. The knowledge part of our faith is that God became a man, He died, and He rose from the dead. That is a wild thing to tell people. And that’s the center of what we want the people around us to believe—that includes our kids. But if we become intellectually lazy, if we become people who seemingly will believe anything, and are blown by every wind of doctrine, then what does that tell our neighbors and even our children about this gospel message? If we want our kids to believe this wild thing, then we need to be intellectually rigorous about it. There was a point in my life where a person I considered kind of a spiritual authority over me came to me and expressed a crazy conspiracy theory, just very, you know, straight-faced. I had to struggle with how do I submit to this person’s authority and their teaching on spiritual matters when—they haven’t expressed any sort of heresy; they haven’t committed any sort of grievous sin—all these biblical reasons I would have for not trusting their spiritual authority. But I had suddenly this great doubt in whether I can trust them, because alongside of all the spiritual things they were teaching, they were also holding on to this conspiracy [theory] that really made me question the rigor with which they viewed things. And so I had to wrestle with that. In my life, I want to try to avoid having the people I teach have to wrestle with the things I teach them, if that makes sense. I’m sure there are going to be times where I stumble into things like that. There are probably things I believe that are going to turn out to be false someday. But I want to—as much as possible with my kids—to not put any stumbling block in the path of what I teach them about God. I hope that comes across as I intended to come across. I feel like there’s a danger of that becoming arrogant, where it’s like, “I know what’s a conspiracy and what’s not a conspiracy.” That’s not at all what I mean to say. I think it’s just for all of us individually, to try as hard as we can, to really think about the things we believe and express so that we don’t unintentionally, again, put those stumbling blocks in the way of the people that we have some sort of authority over.

Kelsey
I think it comes across with great humility and care. This is very sacred ground when we’re talking about shaping hearts and minds. And, we pray, shaping those actions in the world towards the restoration, towards moving in and loving neighbor—that gracious love that overlooks a multitude of sins and failures, and that clings to what is true. The gospel is a wild story. It’s a scandalous story, and one that many people have sought to say is—you know, that the [empty] tomb was not real. They have developed their own theories, conspiracy theories. And yet, we know that it is one of the best documented and witnessed events in all of history. The author of history knew exactly what time in history for Jesus to come, embodying truth, showing that there is a standard of truth and that He is love as well. And what I mean by the perfect time in history: Think of Roman roads and Greek lingua franca, the amazing things that were available so that the gospel would go forth, so that it would be documented well, so that there would be many, many witnesses of many different types, even just when that happened during the time of year. This is a story that withstands scrutiny. And we can learn how to examine and interrogate other stories very well by seeing the way that the Lord ordained that truth would be verified. And so, that is an exciting thing that we have a resource to lean into, even as human fallibility unfolds, and that we experience that as we’re all growing and changing and by His grace, transforming more and more into Christ’s likeness.

Jonathan
And that brings out some of the things of our head level response, which is: We don’t need to be afraid to subject the gospel narrative to rigorous scrutiny and logical analysis. And we shouldn’t be afraid to do the same thing to the theories we encounter, whether online or in the news. In fact, I think if we’re afraid to do so that’s probably an indication that there’s something faulty with it. Just the fundamentals of logic [are] such a huge thing that can quickly both dismantle our trust in conspiracy theories and bolster our trust in the truth. We mentioned Ockham’s razor; that’s a big thing. Simple principles, like “correlation doesn’t equal causation,” that’s something that’s repeated so often, it almost becomes a bit of a cliché, but it’s really important. Just because you see two things together at the same time, doesn’t mean they’re related. And of course, you know, this idea of “affirming the consequent.” So, like, “A is C, B is C, therefore A is B,”—my dog can breathe, my cat can breathe, therefore, my dog is a cat. Very silly when you put in those terms. But often that same faulty logic is at the heart of a lot of conspiracy theories, just these simple logical principles.

Kelsey
And it gives us a chance to refer to C.S. Lewis again, “What do they teach children in the schools? Logic, logic!” (Sorry, this from the Chronicles of Narnia.) And it leads to that heart level response, again. What you’re saying about that better story that we’ve been talking about that allows our hearts to be shaped, and to slow way down, when we’re engaging any other story. We do not need an abundance of social media in our lives; we do not need an abundance of news media in our lives. I really appreciate what Crouch had to say about this, about remembering to keep it in its place. Diminish the amount of words that you’re getting from a source that does not bring life. Know where to find that better story, or even the better stories in fiction, and dive deep into those, because they do train the brain to go “Hmm?!” when a [inferior] story is brought up or read.

Jonathan
And I’m going to make an absolutely shameless plug for our resources at God’s WORLD News. Because that’s what we try to do with these news stories as we present them to kids and teens: We try to tie them in to the larger picture of the story, the truth that God has given us. And I think there are some more spiritual takeaways here. Because really, I think the dangers of conspiracy theories, the greatest dangers, you know, when we hear about them in the news, it’s portrayed as like, the greatest danger is to our democracy, the greatest danger is to health, the greatest dangers to this or that. I think the greatest danger is to our hearts and our families. For one thing, it can turn us into slanderers. The Bible warns us about slander. And it’s really easy to identify slander, when we’re talking about the guy next door. But we can forget that it’s still slander, if we’re talking about a politician or a celebrity. And of course, you know, there’s a proper place for judging such figures based on things they’ve actually done or said, and basing that against biblical truth and fact. But conspiracy theories usually take the shape of rumors, they involve assumptions, and we can end up slandering people. And as I mentioned, towards the top of the episode, you don’t see conspiracy theories that lead us more into peace and trusting God. They usually bring out fear and anger. And it can become a whole atmosphere around somebody. I think we’ve all had that friend—maybe some must have been that person—who their social media feed has just turned into a fountain of anger. That’s what these theories are often designed to trigger. And when we entertain them, we become scared; we become angry. And if we’re parents, then that becomes the atmosphere of our home. And if we’re teachers, that becomes the atmosphere of our classroom. Again, the better story, the story that God gives us, will lead us to peace. I often think about the book of Revelation, which was given to the church as a source of comfort, as a message saying, “God is going to win; God is in control; the church will be victorious.” How often we turn the book of Revelation into a source of fear! We’re so often pulled by these stories that lead to fear and anger. But instead, how can we allow the atmosphere of our home or classroom to be shaped by the good story that leads to God’s peace?

Kelsey
You’re absolutely correct. Based on educational theory, which is one of those very well-sourced, well-documented areas where data has been collected to show us that when we are believing something, it comes out in our actions. What we know shapes our hearts’ belief and moves outwards into action in the world. That’s the reason why we reinforce that often through the Play-by-Play through our work here at Concurrently, and it is supported in scripture. Let me begin to read some of our passages for today. From Luke 6, starting in verse 43, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”—And his actions follow. That’s my little addition. But what we believe, definitely transforms what we do.

Jonathan
And from the first chapter of Proverbs 1, when it is sort of laying out the purpose of the book in verse four, it says, (again, Proverbs being a book of wisdom) “to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—” And if that isn’t part of our mission at Concurrently…

Kelsey
Then last, from Ephesians—and let me frame this so you can understand why I’m bringing this up: What our purpose is in this world, is to go to make disciples of all nations. And this is a beautiful mystery that the Lord has revealed to us. So, from Ephesians, 3, verse eight through the beginning of verse 10. “To me,” says Paul, “though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known.” This is our purpose as believers: To be those who shape the culture, who serve as salt and light in this world and point people to truth. His spirit dwells in us equipping us. He has equipped you for the work.

 

Show Notes

How do we handle mystery and truth without falling for the temptation of conspiracy theories? What makes conspiracy theories so tantalizing? And how can we offer our kids a better story?

Check out The Concurrently Companion for this week’s downloadable episode guide including discussion questions and scripture for further study. Sign up for the News Coach Newsletter at gwnews.com/newsletters.

We would love to hear from you. You can send us a message at newscoach@wng.org. What current events or cultural issues are you wrestling through with your kids and teens? Let us know. We want to work through it with you.

Further Resources:

 

 

Concurrently is produced by God’s WORLD News. We provide current events materials for kids and teens that show how God is working in the world. To learn more about God’s WORLD News and browse sample magazines, visit gwnews.com.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Sam Allberry’s God’s Go-Togethers.

Author Sam Allberry has a new book for kids called God’s Go-Togethers. This colorful book features siblings Lila and Ethan as they visit the beach and discover that God not only made the sand and sea to go together, but He made men and women to go together, too. God’s Go-Togethers offers a thoughtful look at the biblical design for people and provides a helpful foundation for explaining why God made men and women as a special pair to complement each other in marriage and beyond. Learn more at GodsGoTogethers.com.

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