I didn’t go to seminary.
It is the biggest curse and blessing in my ministry.
It’s a curse because it has been costly to my family and limiting to my employment options within the church. It is a curse because it has occasionally maintained my ignorance of a certain amount of scholarly work on the Bible and Theology.
It’s a blessing because my journey towards a deeper understanding of God has been largely inward, led by the Spirit and my experiences with Christ. It is a blessing because I learned the practical love of God and the Body before anyone taught me how it was supposed to be done. I also continued to learn to educate myself which is always easier as it’s driven by will.
Recently I discovered the Great Courses series on Audible and decided to continue my education with a few great lectures on Christian theology. It has been wonderful! but…it did bring up an interesting thought or two. The first one is this, I have lived most of my life in an echo chamber.
Echo chamber. Echo….. heh.
I keep hearing this term thrown around lately. It’s something that people on ‘my side’ of any specific argument say about people on ‘the other side’ who obviously are close-minded, mouth-breathing, idiot elitists or rednecks or nut-jobs or pagans or…whatever your villain of the day flavor is right now. Wikipedia defines it this way:
An echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a defined system. Inside a figurative echo chamber, official sources often go unquestioned and different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.
That definition is from a media perspective but is still solid. The variable, of course, being what we are willing to call a ‘defined system.’ Obviously a Presidential Cabinet is a defined system, and, with very few exceptions, an echo chamber for the POTUS. Political parties count as well, I would think, as would more loosely affiliated groups as in ‘the news media’ or ‘Hollywood.’ I think also that Religion qualifies as do individual sects (in the US we call them denominations). Even a reasonably static group of friends can become an echo chamber under the right (or wrong) circumstances.
This is killing us.
From a Christian perspective, how much have I missed by only hearing my own voice and the voices of those I know and agree with thrown back at me? I’m not talking about the main, immovable points of the Faith, but what about the variations of practice and understanding that different groups have? Is their experience with God any less real than mine? And if it is, how do I even begin that conversation without offending them to the point of silence, driving them back to their own Echo Chamber?
And what about those folks who disavow belief in my God or any? Do I ignore them and not listen to their perspective? The very nature and theology of Christianity says that I am supposed to woo them, draw them, compel them to come in, but did my Master do that by not listening to their needs and broken dreams and the songs of their hearts? He must have listened because that’s what love does.
The pubic forums of social media are awash with the detritus of broken relationships because we can no longer listen to each other. In politics, a field so ethically gray and capricious that calling it a science is a joke, we are so cocksure that we have the right answers.
I love you…..but that’s ridiculous. To place politics above relationship is the worst kind of sin, no matter how you define sin. Learn how to argue and then hug it out. We want to talk about civility but there is no civility. We’d like our government to govern, but in a plural representative democracy like ours there is no governing without compromise. Leadership demands that you respect your opposition. How far have we fallen? Or is it that we haven’t fallen at all, that we just woke up to the wickedness within us?
Alas, Babylon! She fell, not by the sword, but by the scathing tongue of repetitive arrogance. Her leaders were so busy feasting and and being feasted by their keepers that they never noticed. Her prophets only prophesied hatred and party lines! And finally, She drew a last whimpering breath and expired, all of her dreams for naught, all of her potential locked in a broken heart.