The perils of the echo chamber
Beware personal attacks and focus on policy in the final days of the election, writes David Mayne
My experiences of the 2015 General Election and the Brexit Referendum have made me aware of how much of an echo chamber my social media world is. There are few dissenting voices, and status after status, tweet after tweet, article after article a variation on the same message is given. It seems like the whole world is voting in one way, until the results are announced and it turns out that most people actually voted for something else. My friends, or at least the ones who had been more vocal with their politics, were not representative of the opinion of the nation.
Whether your echo chamber is one of the left or the right, something that is intentional or something that has gradually evolved, one of the dangers it presents us with is the opportunity to demonise our opponents without being challenged. Discussions about policy can quickly descend into personal attacks on those who disagree with us. Not only does this demean those involved, but it prevents any decent discussion about policy getting off the ground.
This past Sunday we were pleased to have a visiting speaker at our morning service. He spoke to us from John 8:1-11 and the story of Jesus writing in the dust. We rejoice that Jesus didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery, but it caused our congregation to fall silent when it was pointed out to us that Jesus does not condemn the Pharisees either. He clearly does not agree with their actions, but he does not condemn them. I wonder if there is something in that as we enter the final days of this general election campaign, to make every effort to engage thoroughly without resorting to insults and a mean-hearted spirit.
Attributed to John Wesley are these words from October 1774:
‘I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election and advised them:
1 – To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
2 – To speak no evil of the person they voted against
3 – To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.’
Perhaps our challenges have not actually changed as much since 1774.
Perhaps the way in which we engage across the political divide after 8 June is as important as how we deal with the final days of the campaign.
Perhaps we might pray that God would keep our hearts soft and open, even to those who think differently to us.
Image | Sergey Fediv | Unsplash
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The Revd David Mayne is Lead Pastor, Shoeburyness & Thorpe Bay Baptist Church, and Moderator, Baptist Union Council