Have you ever been in a cave or a tunnel and tried to shout out and then hear the echoes? We hear the reverberations of our voice, perhaps not so clearly as our initial shout, but it is our voice. Bats use this technique all the time.
In a political world we currently – it is even difficult to use that word as things change so quickly – have that debate between leavers and remainers. On Social Media there are ‘debates’ which can get increasing vociferous, pointed and then rude, suggesting that their ‘opponent’ is perhaps racist or against democracy – then people ‘block’ them (a term which means that no further communication is possible).
Then what happens? The person can continue in their own beliefs sure that their opinion will still be heard as those who were able to here, their followers, decrease in number. Their ‘echo chamber’, those voices that they can hear, reduces in size but of course becomes clearer, it contains a single message – their own beliefs.
We might do this with which newspaper we read (a real one or online), which news broadcast which catch on TV. We can be sure that we read the ‘right’ news, the one we believe.
Is this what it is like in Church? Do we forbid the voice which tells of a different understanding to ourself? But “we believe in the one Gospel” may be your response – yes but is that so clear, so well defined that there is no latitude whatsoever for any difference in understanding?
When can we discuss issues in Church which rarely if ever get aired? We might be told of a particular view, but when do we share our perspective, that wisdom gained through our life experience, on that issue. Our own understanding may be challenged, we might need to re-think what we originally understood, but then we can re-engage in that discussion, seeing if what the other believes might resonate with us as well. What we can also do, as with the social media example above, is to dismiss the other’s opinion, ‘block’ them from the conversation.
In our cultural history there are many subjects which ‘we don’t discuss’: death is one of those; personal incapacity, once never discussed as it might have been seen as a sleight on the family; and now more so, faith.
If as people going to Church we never speak of our faith, how will anyone discover that there is something wonderful about God’s love? If we are afraid to say that we felt God at our side during a certain circumstance or when we were looking at God’s creation – our beautiful countryside – then our faith gets diminished, hidden in a box: we block ourselves.
Church membership is, on the whole, decreasing in the traditional main stream churches. Are we hoping that our buildings will entice people to ask about our faith? Will baptisms, marriage or the funeral spark a discussion about faith or will we say ‘it isn’t right for this occasion?’. Will we ‘block’ our own discussion of faith? or do we intend to live out our life safe in our own cocoon? Tough questions for a possibly difficult future for the church.
If you are asking well ‘how do we discuss faith?’, please why not email us. You might wish to leave a comment below, and others might wish to engage in that conversation – this could be your echo chamber.