A little girl I know, I’ll call her Alice, believes in the tooth fairy. No, I mean, really believes in the tooth fairy. I know, everybody believes in the tooth fairy, don’t they, but Alice is next level. She won’t be shaken. Because she’s been told by her parents that the tooth fairy comes and – well – the evidence is overwhelming: she put her tooth under the pillow and there was money there in the morning. What more proof could you want? Like the biscuit crumbs and empty glass and reindeer kibble that are left beside the fire place on Christmas morning.
There’s also the Easter bunny. I mean, nobody really believes in the Easter bunny, do they?
Well, Alice does. Because her teacher told her so; and if anyone is to be trusted, and who knows everything, it is the teacher. So I can’t shake this innocent’s unshakeable belief in the bunny.
Would we call it gullibility?
I don’t think so. Gullibility is a misplaced, foolish belief and trust by someone who should know better. That doesn’t really describe this six-year-old. How could she know better when people she justifiably trusts assert something with a straight face?
When does innocent trust become gullibility? When should a person wake up to foolish belief? There’s a group of adults in Kenya who’ve been told that if they starve themselves to death they’ll pass quickly and painlessly into heaven; even better if they starve their children first. At time of writing, the death toll has surpassed 200, and more than 600 people are reported missing.
There’s a group of adults in free Europe (not just in Russia itself, where Putin controls information) who believe that Putin really is defending the freedom of Russia. See, for example, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-65559516.
There’s a group of adults in America who really do believe there’s a conspiracy of prominent and highly influential men running a global paedophile ring.
Some people will believe anything. How do grown-ups fall for these things?
Yes, some people resolutely believe what they’re told. Not just six-year-olds. Uncritical, unquestioning, undiscerning people. If someone they respect says something, they will buy it without investigation.
We need to question everything we receive and believe. We need to cultivate a hedge of healthy suspicion! What I believe is not a given. It’s open to exploration. I need to stay awake, not drift cosily along with the half-baked opinions and third-hand messages on my Facebook group.
Religion can deceive people, don’t you know. The faithful need to be critical and discerning too. What ‘truth’ is actually true? Not just, what does the preacher, the priest or the imam say?
In contrast to the gullibles listed above, there was a group of adults in a city called Berea, in first century Macedonia, who had the right posture. Acts 17:11 reports that “the Bereans … received the message … and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” St Paul himself later wrote, “Prove [weigh, judge, discern] all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
Alice would do well to learn from the Bereans, and soon. Before her bunny belief pops and her adamancy about the tooth fairy leaves her embarrassed, or worse.
One thought on “A Healthy Suspicion”
div>Discernment is part of my Jesus prayer today
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