“Play it again, Sam.”
“Lucy, you got some ‘splaining to do.”
“Mirror, mirror on the wall.”
“Beam me up, Scotty.”
“Luke, I’m your father.”
In the late 80s, if you asked many people about human rights activist Nelson Mandela, they would tell you that he died in a South African prison in 1985. It’s the way people remembered him and the end of his life.
But it’s not true!
Mandela was in prison, but in 1990, he was released.
He was elected President of South Africa in 1994.
Nelson Mandela died in 2013.
The fact so many around the world remembered his death…were convinced he’d died and even talked about his funeral on TV…was later termed the “Mandela Effect,” a term used to describe the phenomenon of group or collective misremembering.
Each of the phrases at the beginning of this post also fall into the “Mandela Effect.” People know them, and quote them. Most can confidently cite the show or movie, perhaps even the character who said it.
Here’s the problem: the quotes were never spoken.
Though people are adamant, all of those quotes are…misremembered.
Side Note: There are many examples of this misremembering, and it’s interesting to look at them. I’ve seen the Mandela Effect detailed, discussed and dissected as it relates to movies, TV, world events and so-called Urban Legends. (e.g., Mikey, from the old Life cereal commercials, died drinking Coke mixed with Pop Rocks.)
More fascinating are all the theories people have to explain it. Admittedly, as a sci-fi geek, I love some them! Everything from a Matrix-like event, a hole in the time-space continuum, a world-wide holodeck experience, or sliding between parallel realities.
Of course, there are also some logical, scientific explanations.
As a Cultural Observer, I think I’ve also noticed the Mandela Effect often slips into the faith and beliefs of many Christians. In my numerous conversations (online and in person), I hear the same phrases, sayings, convictions, concepts and retorts over and over. They are absolutely convinced what they’re saying comes directly from Scripture.
Eve gave Adam an apple.
Three Wise Men visited Jesus at the stable.
Angels sing (and play harps).
The Bible is inerrant.
We’re looking for the Rapture.
There are seven deadly sins.
Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.
The same with platitudes folks use, confident of the divine/biblical origin:
"This, too, shall pass."
"God helps those who help themselves."
"God works in mysterious ways."
“Charity begins at home”
"Cleanliness is next to Godliness."
“Moderation in all things”
"Spare the rod, spoil the child"
“The lion will lay down with the lamb”
“Pride goeth before the fall”
“To thine ownself be true”
"Hate the sin, love the sinner."
"Money is the root of all evil."
"God won't give us more than we can handle."
Some of these are innocent.
Some are innocuous.
Some are insidious!
But none are actually in the Bible!
Essentially, I think it’s the Mandela Effect—Collective Religious Misremembering!
Proverbs and “old sayings” are part of our culture, and permeate our general mentality. We all know “A penny saved is a penny earned,” “Birds of a feather stick together” “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” “Curiosity killed the cat” and “Bad news travels fast.”
These adages may contain some truth, but not always.
(Where would we be today if people weren’t curious, in spite of the cat's demise?)
This is also true with many of the religious axioms I hear so often. Some may be contain truth, but quoting…adhering to them…as if they are in the Bible, or holy obligation, or THE Truth can have consequences.
The belief that “God helps those who help themselves” serves as a motivation to (at least passively) condone oppression of the poor and homeless. We can sit idly when we comfort ourselves with the belief God will do something…just as soon as these folks get a job, find a home, and "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps."
This is not in the Bible!
The belief that “God never puts more on us than we can handle” is not helpful to a single mother who’s just lost her job and wonders how she’ll feed her children, or to someone who’s just been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, or to a person suffering clinical depression.
It’s trite, dismissive…and not in the Bible.
The belief of "spare the rod, spoil the child" has been used to inflict physical pain on countless children. Some have suffered lasting injuries, both emotionally and physically, while parents and teacher justify their violent actions.
It's punitive, barbaric...and not found in the Bible.
Jesus said he came for the poor, the brokenhearted, the downtrodden, the oppressed. (cf: Luke 4:18). Jesus said we’re judged by the way we treat “the least” among us—the sick, the hungry, the stranger. (cf: Matthew 25:31-46) Jesus valued children, widows, orphans and outcasts.
How did we collectively forget this, and misremember that we can ignore them?
I meet people all the time who can’t quote a single passage in the Bible (We elected one such person to be POTUS!), but can regurgitate such statements as “The Bible says homosexuality is a sin,” or “The Bible says all homosexuals go to hell,” or “The Bible says homosexuals are abominations” or“The Bible says God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality.”
They are firm…even defiant…in their convictions of the scriptural origin of such beliefs.
It’s what they’ve repeatedly been told, or pieced together from what they’ve heard.
But they are wrong!
Those statements are not in the Bible.
(Yes, I understand we’re also dealing with tradition and interpretation, but my assertion stands as related to those blanket statements.)
The false beliefs about homosexuality are not just inaccurate, they’re menacing. Such harsh beliefs have resulted in untold damage to families, as well as the oppression of LGBTQ people. I think it’s created a culture of hatred and aggresion toward LGBTQ people, and led to physical violence against the LGBTQ community. It's resulted in countless deaths, and has contributed to the high suicide rate among traumatized LGBTQ kids.
I think it’s easy to believe something because we’ve been taught we should believe it.
It’s comfortable to believe something because “everybody believes this.”
It’s difficult to make the decision to re-examine our beliefs.
It’s a challenge to open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to see what these beliefs…this misremembering…might be doing to others.
But we must!
If what we believe is harming others, we are believing the wrong things.
If we remember Bible verses that justify hurting others, we are misremembering.
Let’s do the work necessary.
Study the life and ministry of Jesus.
Ask the difficult questions.
Talk to those being hurt and harmed.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but in many cases, the lack of curiosity is akin to mass murder!
"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest,
but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
~ John F. Kennedy