Penetrating Filter Bubbles and Echo Chambers with the GospelApr 10, 2023
What is the Gospel?
When the word gospel was used in Jesus' day, it was the word used to describe when a herald would come to a village and make loud declaration of good news. Almost always, either a king had been born, or a significant victory had been won.
Makes you love the Gospel even more, doesn't it?! For surely, the gospel we love heralds the birth of the King of Kings who has established the victory of the ages!
Today Most News Isn't Good (nor is it Reliable)...
Today people who report the news are no longer called heralds, and the news they report is not necessarily good. In fact, the reporting of bad news seems to gain a whole lot more attention than the reporting of good news.
And most news that we have access to is reported through the belief system of the people reporting it. Most all of our news is colored by the lens of far left liberal or far right conservative thought. The goal of the people who report the news is not to inform, but to influence the thoughts, attitudes and (eventually) actions of the hearer. Two reporters can observe an event and come away with stories that draw diametrically opposite conclusions.
I just googled "What's happening in Israel today?" I'm interested in the complicated situation there, not only because we're planning on taking a team of pilgrims in February 2024, but also because Old Testament prophecy is being fulfilled in present time and I find that exciting.
Unfortunately, there's a lot of violence going on in Israel today--the most recent being a clash in the old city of Jerusalem at the Al-Aqsa Mosque where Israeli police arrested 350 Palestinians this past week.
My googling brought me first a website hosted by Al Jazeera, where the news was reported like this:
"Here we go again. The state of Israel is committing unchecked barbarism against Palestinians and the Western corporate media has decided it all comes down to “clashes”.
The latest round of so-called “clashes” – sparked when Israeli police decided to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by repeatedly attacking Palestinian worshippers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque – has produced predictably disproportionate casualties."
Now granted this was designated an "opinion" article. Here is the link if you'd like to read more. Israel's Violence is Open Terrorism--Stop Calling it 'Clashes'. You can definitely read this tiny excerpt and know which side of the conflict the writer sympathizes with.
I then went to a source I know, called the Israel Guys. Here's the same incident reported by them:
"Tuesday night, Arab rioters locked themselves inside the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. Contrary to what the mainstream media and social media users have been reporting, a group of more than 350 rioters stockpiled iron bars, clubs, fireworks, and rocks inside the mosque, after which they barricaded themselves inside. After repeated attempts to convince the rioters to leave the mosque peacefully, the Israeli Police finally entered and hundreds of people were arrested."
Their article goes on to say that after the area was cleaned, the Israeli police restored order and allowed Muslim worshippers back onto the site for prayers.
Here is the link to the Israel Guys article: Rockets from Lebanon and Gaza and Riots on the Temple Mount
This is a prime example of news being reported from two vastly different perspectives. If you always only listened to one of these news channels, you would always only have their position reinforced with each and every story.
Filter Bubbles and Echo Chambers
When we are reading news and interacting with like-minded people online, unbeknownst to us, computer generated algorithms track our engagement and deliver to us content they "think" we want. With the algorithms creating our online experience for us, we end up in what is called a "filter bubble." Here's what's significant about these filter bubbles:
"According to Eli Pariser, those algorithms create “a unique universe of information for each of us … which fundamentally alters the way we encounter ideas and information.”
This quote and the following content came from this article: How Filter Bubbles Distort Reality: Everything You Need to Know
The writer makes this statement at the beginning of the article:
We find ourselves in a filter bubble any time we’re only surrounded by views and opinions we agree with, while being sheltered from opposing perspectives. Filter bubbles distort our understanding of the world and hamper our ability to make balanced decisions.
He goes on to say that when we only read what we already think, we might begin to assume that everyone thinks like we do! We forget there are a whole of people out there who see things differently.
And while filter bubbles are definitely online, that's not the only place they are found. They are created by our gated communities and upper, middle, or lower class neighborhoods. They are created by our social circles, our work environments and even by our churches. If we never get to know people outside our bubbles, we might drift into a place where we think we know more than we do, as we base our knowledge on what we see (from our little corner of the world).
"The concept of filter bubbles was first identified by Eli Pariser, executive of Upworthy, activist, and author. In his revolutionary book Filter Bubbles, Pariser explained how Google searches bring up vastly differing results depending on the history of the user."
He goes on to explain the concerning repercussions of this. Pariser is quoted in the article as saying,
"Democracy requires citizens to see things from one another’s point of view, but instead we’re more and more enclosed in our own bubbles. Democracy requires a reliance on shared facts; instead we’re being offered parallel but separate universes.
… Personalization filters serve a kind of invisible autopropaganda, indoctrinating us with our own ideas, amplifying our desire for things that are familiar and leaving us oblivious to the dangers lurking in the dark territory of the unknown."
Perhaps "Filter Bubbles" and "Echo Chambers" Have Contributed to Deconstruction of Faith.
Think about this. You're googling like a pro and you've googled, "early days of the Church" because your church is in conflict and you want to know how your modern-day church experience compares to the original idea.
When you google that, you come to an article that's hosted by the History site. And you discover that the reason Christianity spread so rapidly in the beginning was this,
You never thought about it that way before.
What if your entire faith was built on a brilliant marketing strategy?
So then you google, "similarities between Christianity and paganism?" And you land on an article that tells you there's nothing at all unique about Christianity! Pagan religions also had a "highest god, supernatural beings who answered prayer, and valued moral lifestyles."
At the bottom of that article is one called "Christian Emperors and Pagan Generals" where you read more history that tells you things about your Christian faith you never considered before.
And since its history you're now beginning to wonder what else there is to discover about the origins of Christianity that your parents, professors and youth pastors and Sunday School teachers never told you. You spend an entire night following one article to the next and when morning dawns you are overwhelmed at the deception that even the people you love have fallen prey to! Good people, hungry for answers burst out of the filter bubble and vacate their lifelong echo chambers.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to them, they've immediately been caught up into a different filter bubble and are being ushered into another echo chamber and the price they pay is perhaps the peace they once had in their relationship with Jesus; and the intimacy they shared in relationship with you.
I hate to stop here but I've given you much to think about this week. Consider the people you know (or the people you know who know people) who have dismissed their Christian faith in pursuit of something else. If your relationship with them is healthy enough, ask them what the initial departure looked like. Don't share any thoughts with them, simply listen to them share their journey and keep your lines of communication open.
Check out next week's blog post: Sharing Jesus With People Who Think They've Known Him All Along
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