How many voices talk to us every day? How do we find the truth? Can we be a voice of hope & mercy for others?


How many voices talk to us every day? How do we find the truth? Can we be a voice of hope & mercy for others?

It has never been more difficult for young people to grow up and work out how to live a meaningful life!  Take a moment to consider how many voices we have in our ears today:

Social media: internet, email, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, SMS;
Printed media: Books, magazines, pornography, newspapers, advertising;
Broadcast media: radio, TV, videos, music, podcasts, advertising;
Religion: Church services, teachings: plural Christian religions; Islam; Hindu; Buddhism; etc;
People: Parents, friends, work colleagues, work bosses, school teachers, advertisements;
Social groups: Government: Political Parties; men’s & women’s clubs; sports; etc.

You can tell me which ones I’ve missed.  It’s kind of frightening: we have never had so much information and, yet, be so lacking in common sense and practical knowledge.  And now, with artificial intelligence, we have never been more at risk of being mis-informed through deliberately modified facts and false stories by interested parties.  How to we find the truth?

I have especially identified young people because they are struggling to build solid foundations of reasoning processes and ‘moral filters’ which will guide their decisions.  The huge increase in ‘voices’ can be bad for older people, too, but most of the older generations are able to filter out the rubbish, due to their hard experience and foundational ‘moral filters’ formed long ago.

Today is not just a call to hear about Jesus Christ, but a call to be on guard against the mis-information that can guide our lives into ways which bring sadness and mental health crises.  Who do we listen to?  How do we look for answers?  Google?  ChatGPT?  Our friends?

One social media post said: “The Bible was written entirely by the greatest American who ever lived: Jesus.”  Many people gave it the thumbs up.  ‘We are all suffering under what author Todd Rose calls “collective illusions” — social lies that lead individuals to go along with what they think the majority believes, despite privately disagreeing.  Collective illusions have … “been turbocharged on a global scale — thanks, in part, to the wonders of platforms like Facebook and Twitter’.  New York Post – How social media distorts the truth about everything we know

There are regular reports Google has been taken to court for deliberately removing search results.  eg. for pro-life help centres when people searched for pregnancy help.  Why?  Because some senior Google people (or is it just the middle level software programmers), don’t like the pro-life movement.  Limiting information is also a form of mis-informing people (half-truths).

Why in the Wilderness?  Once again a youth member asked a challenging question.
What’s the point of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness when no-one is there?

First of all, even in the wilderness God is there!  And, to cut a long story short, we hear God more clearly when we are in the wilderness.  The wilderness is usually an empty desert-like place that is hot, with little vegetation, animals, people, food or water; it is a difficult place to live in with no internet or social media.  With few distractions must look at ourselves.

John the Baptist came into the wilderness, paradoxically, so that people could hear his message more clearly; without getting lost in the noise of the world, and the messages given by others.

There are two challenges for us, as we come towards Christmas:
1) how can I create a wilderness in the middle of Nairobi, Vancouver or wherever I live?
2) how can I be a clear and helpful “voice that cries in the wilderness” for others?

We can create a wilderness by finding a retreat centre, a quiet farm or a quiet room at home.  Then, turn off your phone (or let the battery go flat to give you an honest excuse for your friends!).  Get comfortable, turn down the light, take your shoes off, and just sit in silence for 30 minutes (put a do not disturb on the door).  Persevere, whether it’s good or boring!

Now, think about the disappointments in your life: the stress, pain, sadness and regrets.  Try to explain to God how you feel; tell God if you are angry.  Then look at a crucifix and think about the love of God in Jesus Christ.  How do you feel?  Now, think about the things you are proud of and tell God how you feel.  Perhaps, even say thank you.

Think about other members in your family; friends and near neighbours.  Especially their struggles and joys.  The longer we take time in our wilderness, the more we see things: things to be grateful for.  Things we might have done to hurt others.  Finally, see how you might help God to flatten the mountains, fill in the valleys and straighten the roads for others.

Being a voice for others, Jesus said clearly: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Luke 5:31.  Sin does not mean “bad” people, it means people who are separated from happiness and peace in their hearts.  How did it happen?

Did they hear the wrong message?  Receive the wrong message?  Receive abuse?  Can we be a voice of hope and mercy that leads them into the wilderness to find the beauty of themselves?

By Gerard Conlan, OMI