Does it seem like almost all of your friends share your point of view on everything? That's called an echo chamber, and they are actually a huge issue in today's world of curated news and social media. Our news sources and social media news feeds have deteriorated our ability to dialogue with people who hold different views than our own.
For example, if you're an atheist and politically liberal, there is a good chance that your closest friends (and most of your social media friends) are also atheist and politically liberal. There is also a good chance that you follow news sources that have a "left" bias and produce commentary that you generally agree with. The same is true for religious people and conservatives. Our news now caters toward our pre-existing opinions. It doesn't confront us with facts that we don't like. Neil Postman was 100% correct in his 1980's masterpiece Amusing Ourselves to Death - our news has turned into entertainment and that has far reaching effects in society.
When someone shares a post that we don't agree with, we almost never even try to understand. Instead we just think they're wrong and write them off as dumb. And then we make posts on social media to show all of our friends (who exist in our echo chamber) how much we agree with them about everything and how wrong and dumb the other side is. No discourse is actually happening in these social media habits. Instead there is an "echo chamber" effect where our preconceived opinions are confirmed by those who also hold the same view point.
Unfortunately, churches contribute to the echo chambers of life in a rather substantial way. Most evangelical, conservative churches are full of people who agree politically with one another not just on topics that are clear from Scripture, but also on topics that the Bible doesn't always speak clearly to. The same is true of liberal, mainline, or ethnic-specific churches. Our consumeristic culture of church shopping has caused us to silo into churches who match all of our pre-existing preferences. As a result, real diversity and difference of opinion, real dialogue and debate, don't typically exist in the church.
So, what is our great hope for breaking through these echo chambers? If our news sources, friends, and churches all contribute to the echo chambers, how can we break out? A good first step is to try to understand others instead of immediately writing them off as wrong. But I ultimately think the great hope of breaking the echo chambers is also the church.
The church should be a place where we're not afraid to tell others that they're wrong, but we do that with compassion and understanding. The church should be the absolute safest place to disagree with someone! Because we love one another regardless of differing opinions. In the church, we're willing to admit when we're wrong because we know that we're not always right.
The echo chambers don't just exist within society though. There are echo chambers of our heart. This is where all sin starts. Our desires and lusts repeat the lies of the enemy. "If only I could have this one thing, then I would be happy... I've messed up too much this time, God could never love me... Spiritual things are hard to understand, so I'm just going to give up... The people at church weren't there for me, I don't need them..." With these echo chambers of the heart, we must realize that only the gospel penetrates. God speaks to us in those moments and gives us an opportunity to turn from sin and to pursue righteousness. We're no longer slaves to our desires, but we're children of God. The gospel breaks through and redeems us. And with that, there is hope.
- Pastor Fletcher