I was recently listening to a radio news broadcast and heard a really good explanation about why we have such a plethora of low information voters in our American culture today. It was really a very insightful conversation with a couple people when one of them mentioned that perhaps it was not that people were necessarily low information but that they were receiving their news and information from only one source. I basically stopped listening at this point and let my thoughts run down along those lines, and thought about how much I agreed with what was said. When we consult only CNN, or MSNBC or FOX we get a decidedly biased viewpoint that usually already agrees with our own. Rarely do we seek out information or news from sources that we know generally do not line up with our ideology. We feel a certain comfort when we receive information that continues to support what we already think. The problem with this is that we get a very limited swath of information and it never really challenges what we already believe we know. If we really want to get a big picture view, we have to get away from what’s comfortable and what supports what we already believe, and seek out information from the other sources that exist. We can get a more accurate picture of the “real” news and the “real” happenings around the world, if we seek out a variety of news sources and viewpoints. But most Americans will not do that, because we as humans like to have support for our firmly held beliefs and anytime they are challenged we feel personally threatened rather then welcome the opportunity to think deeply. In this time and age, we can have differing opinions on many topics, not the least of which are our first and second amendment rights, illegal immigration, government funding of planned parenthood, taxes, etc etc. etc. I used to hide people from my timeline that posted differing opinions than mine on my timeline. I didn't like to read it because it would get me riled up about what they had to say. But this is really the wrong reaction - I need to know that other people who are my friends, or former classmates, or people I have met along the way think differently than I do - nothing at all wrong with that!
Unfortunately, this myopic tendency sets up a perfect storm atmosphere in our culture. In our information age and the amount of technology we all have at our fingertips today, we can find any amount of resources to continue to support what we already believe. We rarely get outside of our comfort zones and seek out contrary beliefs. As human beings this is a natural propensity to prop us up and make us feel good. We hurt our growth as individuals, and we affect the course of our nation though, when we become myopic in our viewpoints and beliefs. We should actively seek out others who think differently and talk differently than we do so that we can engage and hopefully inform others who think and believe differently.
This line of thought continued though for me down the line of our church life. We remain so comfortable among those who think like us and look like us. We are not challenged too much beyond our normal limits and we are welcomed and feel good about ourselves and our views of life in general. We have been recently challenged in our church family to seek out friends from among our community that we would not normally interact with. This is not in any attempt for manipulation but in genuine interest of friendships and sharing Christ. If we won't get beyond the walls of our churches and develop friendships with the outside world, then we will never ever reach the world with our message of Christ’s saving grace. We hear words like “engaging our culture” but what does it really mean? I think just the same as it means for us politically - get away from our comfort zone and get among people who challenge what we think and so that we in turn can communicate and challenge them in return. Don’t mistake what I am saying - we are not to go out and debate our viewpoints, and our message - we are to literally converse - have conversations that matter -with other people who may not like what we have to say.
We have to get beyond our comfort zones and our small boxes and walk out among those who need to hear what we have to say, not be among those who already agree with our mesasge. If it’s important in our American culture of politics, how much more important is it to our church today.