Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Emotional Appeal

I am going to recount a story that I heard on a podcast "The Poetry of Propaganda" by This American Life.

The Columbian government has long been fighting a war with rebels  by the name of FARC who hide in the jungle.  After years of trying to use force to overpower them, the government tried a totally different tactic.  They hired an advertising agency to come up with a campaign to convince rebels to defect.  One year, the agency tried putting Christmas lights on a tree near a major road into the jungle just at the time of year when many rebels miss home and family.  Another year, they floated lit balls down the river which contained messages from home.  A third example of their ingenuity was the campaign that included finding a childhood photo of a rebel and putting it up in the jungle with the words from their mother, "you will always be my baby."  Of course the only person who recognized the photo was the one rebel for whom it was intended but the campaign was very successful.

In each case, the intent was to pull at the heart strings of a real person not "the enemy."  That real person had feelings, wishes and desires which were identified.  Many times, it was home and family that drew the person away from the FARC and back into society.  The government provided a protection program to help the rebels reintegrate without being harmed in retribution.

Just think about what it takes to persuade a person.  The government could have tried rewarding the rebels who defected with cash.  The government could have tried appealing to their patriotism.  Their could have been sermons broadcast over the radio talking about hell, fire and damnation for all rebels. They could have tried to kill all the rebels with ammunition and guns.  But what worked best, was an emotional appeal and a promise of no rejection from their mothers.

All of us are in a rebel encampment so to speak on Earth.  Our Father is hoping to convince us to defect and come back to Him.  The pressure to stay with the group and the fear of rejection are strong reasons not to listen to Him.  He reminds us that we are his children.  He loves us and he will forgive us of all that we have done wrong.

Defecting is painful and difficult.  We have to give up our crutches -- the anger that protects us, the addictions that numb us, the fear that cripples us -- and just let ourselves go into God's arms.  Defecting might mean that we take the scorn of our friends, the possibility of being disowned, the soberness that comes when parties are declined, as we embrace the tranquility of prayer.  Our church family may never fully compensate for the natural family ties that were broken.

As a child of a religious convert, I saw the effects of a massive religious realignment on the family ties.  They were strained.  They healed slowly.  In some cases they never healed.  What price will you pay?  What level of commitment is required to fully transition into a godly kind of life?

I can say for sure that opposition will fly in your face like a tornado unleashed as you try to change.  That kind of opposition indicates that the stakes are high.  The battle for souls is real and while God uses warmth to invites us, the devil uses fury and power to dissuade us.

My reasons for living a Christ-like life in a world of glitter and glam are simple.  I feel better when I'm focusing on my relationship with God.  I act better when I'm thinking about eternal truth than when I'm focusing on myself.  I have weathered fierce storms in life and I attribute my strength to the rock of Christ on which my life is built.  I have experienced anger and depression, fear and abandonment but these things were temporary.  What lasts and endures in my life is the testimony deep in my heart that Christ lives.  His gospel is the absolute truth.  This life is preparatory phase that tests our convictions.  It is not the only reality and death is not the end.  I know that after I leave this mortal world, I will be resurrected and judged. God will know me and I will know him. Family and faith matter; money and fame don't.  I believe that this life's test is only possible because Jesus Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf so that we could be redeemed.  Whatever I am asked to give, it is less that what He gave.  I am working on being willing to give all that I have and am for Christ.

Image credit: Silvia Andrea Moreno / Flickr