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  • Writer's pictureJonna Meidal

Get Outside your Echo Chamber

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was SHOCKED I knew people who didn’t want to get the Covid vaccine. Later, I talked with someone else who couldn’t believe I had friends who DID want to get it.

I have hippy friends, Big Mac-loving friends; friends who go to church, read the Qur'an, vote Libertarian or don’t vote at all.

You get the point. I have friends. Lots of them. 😉

But why does this matter?

Well, in light of recent events, I think it's prudent for us all to reflect upon who we’re surrounding ourselves with; because whoever that is, we will be directly impacted.

So the bigger question is...Are we intentionally listening to different viewpoints, or are we only hearing our own vocal reverberations? (hence the term, "echo chamber").

My pastor gave a great talk about this recently, and I immediately went home and did some research. Not surprisingly, I found that this idea of "ideological caves" — where one's ideas and viewpoints are reinforced — is amplified on social media (re: what you “like” affects what other topics / posts you see).

This got me thinking:

  • Are people today even interacting with those they disagree with, especially since Covid has amplified online exchanges?

  • Are neighbors and friends “canceling” each other out or “muting” one another based on opposing belief systems?

  • Are mature conversations even happening about tough topics like race, faith, or mental health?

While it's vital to find “your people", if we only talk to those who agree with us, how will this impact future generations? After all, ignoring others’ viewpoints doesn’t mean they go away. It only means our echo chambers get louder.

So how do we "level up" and respond in love instead of fury?

Romans 14:1-4 says that we should accept other people and not argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, if one person eats pork but another eats only vegetables, we are not to pass judgment on either side...because God has welcomed them both.

This argument extends beyond vegetarianism to masks, vaccines, politics, healthcare, and any other debate of our time. WE ARE NOT TO PASS JUDGEMENT. Period.

“The Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, [what church we got to, or who we vote for], but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17 NLT).

But even still, how do we live this out, especially when "those people" are just so wrong?!

Whenever I’m confused (and this past year has left me pretty dumbfounded), I look to Jesus — not to politicians or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (no matter how tempting that may be), but who I would argue was the greatest teacher of all time.

Jesus constantly went out of his way to show people how to live, think, and act differently than the red, blue, or cultural lines drawn between them (Luke 8:1-3; Mark 1:40–45; Luke 10:30-37). And this is why he drew a different one:

“Let anyone who has not sinned throw the first stone” (John 8:7).

Friends, this is how we rise above. We admit that we all have blind spots, we all make mistakes, and we all experience pride, gossip, or bigotry at times because we are human.

This doesn’t give us the right to walk around throwing 💩 at each other. Jesus doesn't say, "Take off your diapers, folks, and go at it." Instead, he suggests that we're all on the same playing field 👉 only those who have not sinned can throw the first stone. And since this is NO ONE, we’d best put our rocks down and try a new strategy.

And one I'd like to discuss today is FOOD.

In this picture, my husband and I are sharing a traditional Indonesian meal with friends and co-workers — a meal that was so incredibly spicy it amplified our sweltering surroundings and even burned parts of our fingers because there were no forks to be had!

To say this experience was out of our comfort zone would be an understatement, but we said yes anyway.

And it changed our lives.

That one tiny dinner led to many more, which eventually opened up opportunities to discuss deeper topics, like faith and gender.

But we didn't start there. We started with rice.

So that’s what I think we need to do today too:

  • We need to put down our rocks (aka cell phones) and open our doors. (Yes, even during Covid.)

  • We need to take hard conversations offline and stop expecting social media to be our entry-point.

  • We need to embrace the age-old skill of slowing down long enough to invite people to the table (ALL people).

And above all, we need to remember that the act of establishing true relationships is a humbling and patient one. The point isn't to "win" anyone over. It's to listen and to love, to befriend and to help.

We can't do any of these things within our echo chambers, though, so if you think you might be in one, I lovingly invite you to step out today: Think of one person you'd like to "cancel out" and invite this person out for coffee instead, virtually or in-person. Ask this friend questions about food (Does s/he love tacos as much as you do? If not, how come?)

Start small, but keep in mind that these small acts of relational kindness will lead to bigger ones of change. And our world needs that right now.

It needs less echo chambers and more wide open spaces.

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