LET’S SAY you own a neighborhood fruit & veggie stand, and you’ve just received a big batch of tomatoes. Since tomatoes have a short shelf life, you want to get rid of them fast. So what do you do? You put them in a prominent place with a sign saying, “Fresh red tomatoes”. Plus, when people visit you might say, “Need tomatoes? Just came in fresh today.” You might have also learned that stacking tomatoes in a pyramid helps sell more.
It’s all part of normal commerce to gently persuade people to buy things. You’re not going to display your tomatoes in an unappealing way, right?
In today’s commerce, the persuasion happens online in front of your eyes. Little tweaks, like how to stack tomatoes, are analyzed by powerful computers to improve sales. Colors, images, words, sounds, and even the timing of messages go through billions of tests to see what works best.
More and more, this process targets individuals. Artificial intelligence can generate messages tailored to each and every customer. We’ve all grown used to this. You get emails and see ads for things you’re interested in all the time. Brands use these tools to get you to buy stuff and to want things you don’t really need.
BUT WHAT IF the brand is a political party? Or an ideological movement? What then?
The psychology behind marketing is centuries old. However, the messages penetrate deeper and faster now thanks to the internet. Very powerful people, with highly sophisticated technology, manipulate our opinions, desires, and fears. It’s shockingly effective. They skillfully persuade you what to think and feel.
As easy as stacking tomatoes
Nobody is immune to this influence. It helps explain how big movements and fanaticism appear quickly with such force. Plus, unlike commerce, governments and contractors have access to more intimate information about us. Even if you never use the internet, you talk to people who are online—so the influence spreads, no matter what.
This tactic has been used for ages. Political forces would send people out to manipulate the masses. And nations rise and fall, revolutions rage, and some even lose their heads in the town square.
Perhaps the most effective message is this: the OTHER is dangerous and less than human.
Many times we hear the phrase: “They’ll stop at nothing to get what they want.” Just by dropping in this short line, they depict the other tribe as a ravenous mob that wants to devour you. And the suggested reaction is to join an even stronger mob to make sure you remain safe. Each side drives their followers to become more loyal and fanatic.
MAKE NO MISTAKE. ALL THOSE at high levels of power employ these methods. It has nothing to do with what’s right or wrong. Instead, they manipulate our fears to consolidate their power. They hack your brain to scare you into obeying them. And if they can change you into a blind, willing fanatic, all the better.
This goes beyond the political contests shaping our world. Hearts and souls are at risk here.
Your place of clarity
If you don’t maintain an interior space, a time with God, then these toxic messages end up dominating your mind. Even though it helps to be aware how they work, we can never escape these influences completely.
That’s why the inner temple of your mind, heart, and soul must be kept as clutter free as possible. This happens when you maintain a healthy relationship with God.
It’s quiet time in his presence and in his Word. It’s persistent prayer and conversation with your Creator. He guides you in how to interpret things.
So yes, you vote if you want to. You participate in political and social debates. You stand up for principles you believe in.
But you aren’t misguided. You’re nobody’s fool. You won’t be part of any mob. You even know your religion can be used to manipulate others. You see our fallen world with clarity. The world is what it is, but you are not of this world.
You are God’s child. Your identity is indestructible.
And you are fully conscious that we are all made in the image and likeness of God.
You are the light of the world
When you sense your blood boiling, stop and ask yourself, “Who stands to gain here?” Then make an impact driven by faith in God, not by any computer algorithm or fear.
Protect your inner space and your communion with God. Be fully aware and vigilant as the assault to control your mind is tenacious.
Be not of this world.
Jesus prayed for us like this:
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
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