Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone about something you’re well informed about and they refuse to accept actual true things as true? Like… they will shout you down to die on their hill of misinformation, make believe, and deception! There’s absolutely no getting through to them, because their mind is already made up. They’ve ingested the faulty information they propagate as fact and the subject is closed. They are no longer accepting applications. No new evidence can be presented.
It’s us. We’re all “someone.”
At one point in time or another, all of us have been guilty. All of us have had (or currently reside in) a place where—if conversation goes there—we would hold on to our perspective as fact and never let go. I think one of the heaviest reasons we do or have done this is fear. Fear of our personal truth being snatched from under us. Fear that if what we hold as true loses a leg to stand on, that everything we’ve built upon it will fall along with it.
Christians can be some of the worst about this. Many of us have our way, truth, and life (and none of the other details) and everything else we don’t already know about is a lie. Everything we learned at our church growing up or our favorite preacher said is golden and everyone else is wrong about what they know, or have even studied for themselves. No one is allowed to have a life experience that suggests something other than what we believe is right.
Don’t get me wrong… I wholeheartedly believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; and that He alone can gain us access to the throne—presenting us there without the fault our sin stains us with. I just know that I’ve been loud and wrong about biblical matters, because I only considered the perspective I was given. There are things that I have been taught and accepted as truth, then I used everything else I read to support what I already believed—whether it actually supported it or not. You can keep reading this, pretending that none of it applies to you, but I *know* I’m guilty!
Have you ever seen one of those math posts on social media, where there is a seemingly simple equation presented and we’re asked what the answer is? You take a look in the comments and quickly discover that there are at least two—often three different solutions that people post confidently.
“I am a math teacher. The answer is 16.”
I don’t ever involve myself in those. I’m merely curious, but I don’t really care. All the math I have to do in real life consists of tangible components, and have a fixed solution. I don’t have to be right about social media math. Lol But many people will go back and forth in the comments, because their answer has to be right. For many, it is inconceivable that they learned (or remember) PEMDAS wrong.
The other day on twitter, I saw a statement that made a lot of sense. At least on the surface:
“Unfollow people you don’t like.”
Hundreds of people expressed their agreement. Read in a certain context, it still makes a lot of sense. It is poor self care to constantly take in information that is harmful towards you. Sometimes those people you don’t like have actually done you some personal wrong and caused you to suffer some personal loss. By all means: guard your gates!
The context I read the statement from led me to receive and understand it more broadly. Sometimes I continue following people whose tweets and takes I don’t particularly care for solely for the purpose of strengthening my tolerance for such things. It’s practice for managing the ebbs and flows of my offline interactions and relationships. I don’t agree with everyone I interact with or even have relationship with. We’re all individuals, and even our shared beliefs guide and convict us differently.
Many of us struggle to manage conflict and disagreement in our day to day relationships because we lack the depth and breadth necessary to keep our cool when things aren’t done or said exactly how we’d prefer. That’s why a lot of people can’t sustain relationships of any kind. If I couldn’t handle a differing opinions, my wife and I would not be able to live together—much less raise kids together. Everyday, I would be on the verge of losing my job. The range I need to disagree agreeably is birthed in my attempts to understand different perspectives when the cost is minimal and the stakes are low.
Romans 12:18 | “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
How can we live at at peace with people if we can’t even stomach their perspectives? How on earth is it possible that any of us have all the right answers? Spoiler alert: It’s not.
One of the things the blessing and curse of social media has done is enable us in creating echo chambers—spaces in which all we hear (and see) are the same thoughts, views, and takes that we put out. Those same sounds continue bouncing around, until they become the only sounds we can tolerate.
There is a difference between not having access to information and nurturing a disdain for knowledge and perspectives outside of our bubbles. Don’t just take it from me, C. Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Utah Valley University put it this way:
“An epistemic bubble is what happens when insiders aren’t exposed to people from the opposite side.
An echo chamber is what happens when insiders come to distrust everybody on the outside.
An epistemic bubble, for example, might form on one’s social media feed. When a person gets all their news and political arguments from Facebook and all their Facebook friends share their political views, they’re in an epistemic bubble. They hear arguments and evidence only from their side of the political spectrum. They’re never exposed to the other side’s views.
An echo chamber leads its members to distrust everybody on the outside of that chamber. And that means that an insider’s trust for other insiders can grow unchecked.”The Problem of Living Inside Echo Chambers, by C. Thi Nguyen — The Conversation, September 11, 2019
I heard it put another way a couple years ago: “Homogenous environments hide homogenous sin.” Meaning, simply, that we are unable to see our faults and where we are wrong when we allow ourselves to be surrounded only by people are look/act/think/believe just like us. Dwelling in our self-curated echo chambers, we feed ourselves opinions we already agree with; thereby reinforcing our stubborn will and instinctual belief in our own rightness, recalibrating our moral compass, and eroding our ability to maintain a reasonable grasp of reality.
Let’s burst our own bubbles. Someone can still be wrong after you’ve heard them out. It’s the not hearing them out that stifles the peace. Silencing dissent doesn’t make us right. It just makes us prideful. We bring harm to harmony when we fail to hear. We endanger ourselves when we stop considering what others have to say. When we’re in the habit of snuffing out voices that don’t sound like ours, we run the risk of silencing the voice of God. Perhaps it’s already happened… maybe it isn’t that God isn’t speaking, but that we’ve insulated ourselves against the sound of His voice.
Keith Goosby II is the founding minister of NET Church. He has served in ministry for over 20 years, in various capacities–including music, social media management, teaching, preaching, consulting, and leadership. Keith’s first church experience as a child was a home church. Since then, he has attended and served at churches sizing from just a few to over 10,000–of various denominations and affiliations. As NET Church is being planted, Keith continues to serve at his Dallas home church, Golden Gate MBC, in Dallas, TX, under the leadership of Minister Vincent T. Parker. Keith is married and currently lives in the Dallas area with his wife and three sons.