There’s No Iron in an Echo Chamber

It’s easy to surround yourself with an echo chamber — deliberately or on accident. You make friends with people whose ideas and stances and lifestyles are just like yours. It’s an easy fit and most of the time just kind of happens, as a kind of social path-of-least resistance. Online, it’s even easier to do that. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks make it as simple as a mouse click to weed out anyone you disagree with or causes you too much angst.

And although it’s tempting, we’ve got to work hard not to let that happen.

It’s something that, in the past year or so, has been reinforced as being incredibly valuable in my life. One of the downfalls of the tribalization of the western Church is that we unwittingly create homogeneous groups of people who all look, think, and act alike. Here, I have to brag a bit on the people in the local body Shelly and I now call our church home: we’ve got political liberals and conservatives, theological liberals and conservatives, and everyone in between. We have some folks who open carry, and even more who conceal carry, on Sunday mornings… and we also have staunch gun control advocates in the same room. We have free market capitalists and socialists worshiping together. We have egalitarians and complementarians sharing communion. On the teaching team I lead at that church we have guys and gals who fall on nearly all sides of that center line — and who aren’t afraid to pull us back into that middle if they see us veering too far one way or the other.

For that, I am extremely grateful.

The same goes for social media as well. I follow folks on Twitter who are more liberal than I am (Eugene Cho, Zach Hoag) and some who are more conservative than I am (Marc Driscoll, John Piper). And I get worked up about some of their posts. Really worked up sometimes, and I want to hit “unfollow” but then I stop and think, “This is the point – to be challenged by other perspectives.” Not so you can argue with them and feel like you’re “right”… but so you are made better by considering another viewpoint you normally wouldn’t have. The temptation will be strong to dismiss them, ignore them, but instead make sure you engage them.

We all have blind spots, or ideas that have been largely untested or unprocessed. Surrounding ourselves with folks who challenge our assumptions and beliefs is a necessary and beautiful part of growth. It helps us (sometimes forces us) to understand what we truly do believe and why we believe it. It helps present a bigger picture of the totality of God.

So today, I challenge you (in your real life and your online life) to engage with someone who is not like you. Allow them to challenge you — and for you to challenge them. Process their viewpoints, because as you will discover, they have good reasons and good stories as to why they believe what they do as well. And as you do that, you might just rediscover the truth of an ancient proverb: as iron sharpens iron, so we sharpen one another.