Are you living in an echo chamber? I am afraid our social media feeds tend to create an echo chamber in people’s lives that they may not be aware of. As with similar posts in the past, let me first attempt to define an echo chamber. According to Wikipedia, it is a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system and insulates them from rebuttal. In other words, it is a phenomenon where you only hear one side of a story or the same line of opinions which relate to your beliefs, thus reinforcing those beliefs.
I have found Facebook and other social media to be a cacophony of echoes, to the point of being deafening. It is quite rare to read a personal, heart-felt post rather than a repost or a meme. Based on likes, comments you make, even the time that you stop scrolling to read something, Facebook’s algorithms “learn” your patterns and give you more of what you like so you will keep scrolling and clicking. By reading more of what you inherently agree with, beliefs and opinions are reinforced. All of this may be happening without you even being aware of it.
In a political landscape where your belief in a political party is studied by the algorithms, an echo chamber can be developed such that you become even more entrenched in partisan politics. If you aren’t aware of it happening, you can even become brainwashed to an extent. Without an effort to search for the other side of an opinion or story, you are left with a more whitewashed feed of news and posts.
I have seen this play out on Facebook this past year with people I know. I have seen memes and posts where those commenting or liking paints a very monochrome picture. If you never hear someone else’s opinion or study the ideas of other people, how will you know if your opinion is the best? And while it is noble to say that your opinion is based solely on biblical principles, how do you know if your understanding of scripture is even correct?
While scripture hasn’t changed, interpretation, tradition, and social norms has changed over the years. There are so many ideas about the church and Christianity that have really only been formed in the last 150 years. Why are the first 1850 years of the church not studied? In what I have studied, there is a vast difference between the modern church and the church of Origen, Polycarp, and Augustine. Would it shock you that to become a Christian in the early church you had to leave all association with government positions? You couldn’t work in government or even be a soldier.
Why are modern Evangelical Christians so staunch in their opinion of how a Christian should behave, or even vote? It seems to me that they have placed opinion and tradition on the same pedestal of the teachings of the Bible? In Matthew 15:1-20, Jesus is teaching the Pharisees that hand washing, while maybe a good thing to do, isn’t scriptural. How many of our modern teachings may be seen as good traditionally, but not necessarily scriptural? Teachings like voting is the Christian thing to do, or not drinking any alcohol, or going to church three times a week, or voting for ‘X’ Party, if not Pharisaical teachings, then at least teachings based on tradition or opinion. Those teachings may echo in your chamber, but they may not echo in other Christian’s chambers.
I am not advocating that Christians should change their beliefs or traditions without sound reasoning. However, be careful of whose opinion posts you always read, whether mine, or another lay-person, or even a preacher. I would encourage Christians to understand and respect the traditions, beliefs, opinions, and scriptural interpretations of other Christians. But work out your own salvation as we are instructed in Philippians 2:12-13. While some issues may be black and white to one person, they may not be to another. For how do you know if your truth matches exactly with The Truth?
There are loud, thunderous posts by well meaning Christians. I sometimes cringe and have even wept when reading some of them. I have learned to just keep quiet and pray for the writer as well as the readers. Emotion and fear are powerful tools. Yet Christ never taught on the hillside with fear and scare-tactics. He preached unconditional love; physical, emotional, and spiritual healing; hands and feet helping the poor; food for the hungry. He challenged the politicians and political followers (Sadducees and Pharisees) of His time. I challenge anyone reading this to find a quiet place and ask yourself this question: Does the conservative Christian voter in politics today live and speak according to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)? (Seriously….don’t just think to yourself how you know what that scripture says. Please, go and read it, study it. It’s only three chapters.) How does the political landscape of today match up with what you just read?
In closing, to correct those that simply label me as a liberal, I am not. For those that think I am in peril of hell for not voting, I am not. For those that think I am a Republican in Democrat clothing, or vice versa, I am neither. It is my prayer that brothers and sisters in Christ think for themselves by following the Word of God and the teachings of Christ and not listening to the roar of an echo chamber. Silence is golden. And in it, you can hear God.