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Petrol, petrol, petrol everywhere and not a drop to pump

by Simon Whereat

with apologies to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge[1]

Whose fault is it? Not the poor BBC presenter, Phil McCann who was asked to go out and cover the crisis - with a petrol can in in hand?

Petrol Crisis Reporter - Phil McCann
Phil McCann...please?

Panic buying, lack of HGV drivers, Media, Government, Petrol Companies, Russian spies, Facebook or even God? Some social media posts suggest it is a Government conspiracy for us all to buy electric cars.

Key workers, emergency services and others all need their cars for work, although with a large quantity of people WFH you would have thought there would be a reduce demand for fuel. However, we read the media reports and are persuaded we need petrol for FOMO.

Persuasive technology is described by Jonas Kurlberg as ‘a design mechanism that seeks to sway individuals’ behaviour and thought, persuasive technology is widely applied in the world of tech.’ [2]

We see on Facebook where advertisements selected by AI appear in your timeline, or perhaps product conversations you had with Alexa appear in your suggested shopping list. As Kurlberg describes ‘the algorithms of social media push content that is emotionally loaded, giving rise to anger, laughter, or warmth, to keep users engaged.‘ I have seen several posts on social media debating whether locations having fuel should be posted, as people see it, rush there and then the pumps are empty.

Persuasive technology has always been with us which is why companies pay high fees for advertising during popular events like football finals. These cost around £1/2 million - nothing compared to the $5.5 million for 30 seconds at the Super Bowl in USA. However, the media can be persuasive just by reporting the news, saying there might be fuel problems has led to their being fuel problems, there is now news of not enough turkeys for Christmas, will everyone now buy a turkey and keep it in their garden in case (alongside the full petrol cans)?

Sometimes, we are almost persuaded, as the old hymn by Philip Bliss reminds us ‘almost persuaded now to believe, almost persuaded Christ to receive….’ drawn from the comment by King Agrippa to Paul that he had ‘almost persuaded’ him to become a Christian (Acts 26:28). We may be ‘almost persuaded’ to keep a turkey ready for Christmas, but unlikely we will, unless it comes free with a full tank of petrol!

A CGI Design for the Wall of Answered Prayer
CGI Design of the Wall. Picture by Rambolls, Engineers for the Project.

The recent Savanta ComRes report commissioned thy the Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer found that younger people are twice as likely as older people to pray regularly and that 49% of younger people (18-34 year olds) are likely to attend a place of worship every month compared to 16% of over 55s.[3] These young people are obviously attended the ‘larger churches’ as the smaller ones I visit locally are mainly older folks or perhaps they are joining online, the new digital natives having been persuaded during lockdown, they have remained.

The new advantage of online worship, apart from still being in your PJ’s, drinking freshly brewed coffee, on a comfortable seat, is that you do not need any fuel to get there!

Perhaps if we advertised the church services were running out (online or onsite) we might have an influx of visitors, keen to make their peace with God. Scripture is quite clear there is a limited time for the world, Jesus said ‘and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am’[4] and the early disciples and Paul certainly expected ‘this same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven’[5] to come back in the same way and within their life time. They certainly did not expect the world to be still in existence over two thousand years later. Peter reminds us ‘ The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’[6]

The good news? No fuel will be needed for the rapture as those who are alive will be caught up with those who have gone before ‘to meet the Lord in the air’[7] and as Christians, Paul instructs us to encourage people with these words and persuade people about the good news of Jesus.

Perhaps the poem should read: "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus everywhere: Meet Now: Our time is running out."

Are you persuaded?

[1] With apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. [2] Kurlberg, Jonas, ‘Liturgy as Persuasive Technology: Exploring Liturgical Practices in Online Worship’ (Unpublished) [3] [4] John 14:3 [5] Acts 1:11 [6] 2 Peter 3:9 [7] 1 Thess 4:17


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