The Mandela Effect Versus Reality

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Message No. 173 from the Shenandoah Christian Alliance:

Learn it wrong, remember it wrong

  • Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7 NLT)

I seem to recall writing about Nelson Mandela before. If so, I can only ask for your indulgence—a lot of water has flowed under the bridge in the last couple of years, but I remember in the summer of 2021, the Bible Studies for Life adult Sunday school series for “senior” adults, published the lesson, “Lead Others to Serve” prepared by Jennifer Denning.

In the study, Denning credits Mandela with this quote, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” 1

The sentiment is praise-worthy, and I don’t doubt he said it. But there is something that perhaps Denning either overlooked, or felt wasn’t important. Mandela’s personal story includes irrefutable evidence that he was a communist, and never really refuted it. He spent decades in prison largely because of it. Quotes like this might have it least have included this inconvenient fact. Perhaps also, there might be any number of other historical figures who could have just as easily made the same observation who were not only not Marxist, but perhaps, if not actually a believing Christian, at least sympathetic to the message of the Gospel, which makes huge differences in the lives of others.

While this might sound like quibbling, there is something not quite right about associating certain people with the message of good works who, though they may have accomplished some good, have to be identified with those beliefs in the context of the true narrative of their life. In other words, quoting Nelson Mandela (pictured) in a Southern Baptist Sunday school lesson is, well, a little bit discomfiting. Apparently not many—if any—showed any concern about it. 

I mention this because although it is a small point, it reveals a “tell”—subtle evidence—that discernment, and a lack of historicity, may be describing a church that is losing the plot in what we are to be about—which is to deliver the truth without obeisance to any other popular cultural narratives that only persuade gullible people.

This peculiar little factoid is revelatory in some way in that it might explain another cultural phenomena: cognitive dissonance. 

Some pretty big issues within the evangelical community have been steadily mounting. Among the reasons for this, arguably, result from a lack of discernment—which I will remind us—is a gift of Holy Spirit. There are situational reasons that can lead to cognitive dissonance. Among them are these:

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Forced Compliance

We might engage in behaviors that are otherwise oppositional to our own beliefs due to external expectations at work, school, or in some other social situations. This might involve going along with something due to peer pressure, or submitting to directives demanded by medical providers whom we never expected to make them. COVID masking, sheltering in place, and other lockdown mandates. Reports are emerging that masking and social distancing requirements are required in some colleges and hospitals. This in spite of the fact new studies have shown these measures are largely pointless.

New Information

Occasionally, learning new information can lead to feelings of cognitive dissonance. For example, if you engage in a behavior that you later learn is deemed harmful, it can lead to feelings of discomfort. People sometimes deal with this by finding ways to justify their behaviors or findings ways to discredit or ignore new information. I refer once again to the idea that masking is a way to stop the spread of COVID.

I’m thinking we will begin to see this crippling specter rise once more in a year before the next presidential election. Personally, I’m not big in coincidences.

Did we think abortion rights was dealt a decisive blow? Many Christians may not realize that a year after The Dobbs Decision handed down by the SCOTUS, media outlets are reporting that the majority of Americans still actually approve of legalized abortion. This will explain why more than a few states—both red and blue—failed in legislating against abortion. Were we mistaken that the Dobbs decision would stem the tide of abortion? We are, if we are to believe the polling main-stream media is reporting.

Finally, we might ask, “Is America really heading down the road in the wrong direction?” Evidently so. According to an NBC poll—yes, that NBC—“US voters bitter about nation’s direction, 74% say it’s on the wrong track,” read the headline from the New York Post, who reported on the story. 

“Voters are souring on the state of the nation, with a stunning 74% saying the US is on the wrong track, according to a survey released Sunday. The NBC poll found just 20% of respondents say America is moving in the right direction.”

“The last time voters were that bitter about the nation’s course—in 1992 and 2008—the party in control of the White House changed hands, NBC’s Chuck Todd noted in unveiling the results.” 

America might be leading the way in abandoning knowledge-based education. Without the basic building blocks in acquiring wisdom, many Americans lack understanding and discernment. Their children are expected to arrive at their own conclusions by unguided interpretation, rather than by acquiring the right answers. Not surprisingly, it’s not that big a leap to expect these same children to decide they can change their sex by surrendering to their own speculations and imaginings.

I am persuaded that the Church is forgetting something that was always accepted until only recently. Dr. Donald Schanzenbach reminds us, “Christianity is a system that must have its foundation on Christ in every area of study for it to be stable.”

  • Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:6-7 NIV)


Mandela is also associated with something else we might find equally interesting: “The Mandela Effect.” Writing in verywellmind.comArlin Cuncic, MA, noted “The Mandela effect refers to a situation in which a large mass of people believes that an event occurred when it did not. The term was originated in 2009 by Fiona Broome, after she discovered that she, along with a number of others, believed that Nelson Mandela had died in the 1980s (when he actually died in 2013).” In essence, the Mandela Effect explains how, through repetition, assumptions and flawed recollections became accepted narratives.

“Drawn into the Communist Party’s social circles through friendships during the 1940s, Mandela became increasingly interested from 1952 onwards in the party’s doctrines and in the Marxist canon that informed their premises. His first encounters with Communists were at a time when the party was beginning to develop its strategic justification for aligning itself with African nationalism, a development that would prompt Communists to begin recruiting and extending their influence among the middle-class African elite.” 2

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

About the Author

Shenandoah Christian Alliance
Shenandoah Christian Alliance is a Christian organization devoted to the promotion and education of biblical truths, faith, and spiritual equipping. We believe in the sanctity of marriage as defined in God’s revealed word. We oppose the practice of abortion, and respectfully object to its funding and facilitation as currently promoted by our elected leaders. We understand homosexuality to be something that God—whom we worship and honor—does not approve among his creation. Our faith in God as revealed in scripture is not something we are ashamed of, or for which we must apologize.