Is your church an echo chamber?

Reflections

“I cannot break bread and share wine with someone without engaging from the premise that he or she has come to a given viewpoint with a deep desire to make the world a better place in some way,” says The Rev’d Andrew Schmidt

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If you use any social media platforms, you may unwittingly be part of an echo chamber. An ‘echo chamber’ is an environment where all of the news a person consumes and opinions he or she encounters reflects back the views they already hold, so their current views are reinforced, while alternative opinions or ideas are not given space for consideration.

We all have a tendency to pay more attention to those who are wise enough to agree with us, and to discount the voices of those who disagree. This phenomenon is part of the so-called ‘confirmation bias’ problem.

One of the many advantages of being part of a group as diverse as a church community is that there are a number of people whose views do not match that of my echo chamber, and I do not match theirs. In part, this reflection is my acknowledgment of all those people in the church who are generous enough to give space to a lightly socialist, affirming and environmentally concerned priest, despite disagreeing with me in part or in entirety.

Being part of a church that allows space for disagreement reminds us that if we wish to engage in healthy conversations, it is very important to assume that everyone has the best of intentions, including those who disagree with us. I cannot break bread and share wine with someone without engaging from the premise that he or she has come to a given viewpoint with a deep desire to make the world a better place in some way.

We may disagree about the state of the world, we might have different visions for the Church, we might dispute the best path forward, or we may even disagree on what is the most loving thing to do in a particular situation. However, if I do not want to be negatively or suspiciously judged on my intentions, I should start by assuming that my neighbours have good intentions. Being part of the Church helps me to put that into practice.

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