Sunday, 12 February 2017

Beyond the echo chamber by Andrew J Chamberlain

We live in a time of digital outrage. The conversation in social media about issues of public importance has degenerated into a series of soundbites directed not at the ‘opposition’ but at those of similar beliefs. I can join my own interest group on Facebook and I may be gratified that the noise we are all making is turned up to eleven, but in truth nearly all of that noise stays in the echo chamber of our group. There’s no real conversation, no real communication.

What is a writer to do in this situation? What is a Christian writer to do?
As ever there are some clues in scripture.

1.       Reasoning is better than ranting

 In the first chapter of Isaiah the prophet speaks out God’s displeasure at His people, there is anger and discord, God is angry, but the it’s interesting to note that the process by which He seeks to resolve His issues with His people is through reasoning. In verse 18 He says “Come, let us reason together.”

If the God of the universe is prepared to reason with His wayward people, it behooves us to also try to reason with each other.

          2. An attempt at unity carries with it the aroma of God

At the beginning of Psalm 133 the psalmist declares how good and pleasant it is for God’s people to live in unity. This unity is not a static, passive thing, it is active and full of the sense of God in action with His people. The symbol from the psalm is of oil running down Aaron's beard and on to the collar of his robe. It’s a strange analogy but even for us, displaced from this process by culture and time, it has a resonance of God’s presence and holiness.

3.       Peace is not weakness, peace is power

From Martin Luther King to Mahatma Gandhi, from Nelson Mandela to Jesus Christ. The power is with the people of peace. Let me say that again, the power is with the people of peace not the people of violence. Jesus told His followers that he would give them a peace that passed all understanding. And peace does go beyond our understanding. But how does peace win against violence and force? One reason is that an environment of peace creates a space for words, spoken and written.

And so, enter the writers…

As writers and as Christian writers we have a particular responsibility and a particular opportunity to exercise the gifts God give us. This applies not just to comments on current politics, although that certainly is the case, it also applies to articulating our experiences in a way that supports and encourages others, it applies in the crafting of compelling and immersive stories to entertain and inspire, it applies in educating and informing others.

So may God give us writers wise and gracious words to share with each other, beyond our own tribe, beyond the echo chamber and out into the world.

Andrew Chamberlain is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt, a podcast that offers practical, accessible advice on the craft. Andrew has published fiction and collaborated on a number of ghost-writing projects through Authentic Media, including the bestselling, 'Once an Addict' with Barry Woodward. He has also self-published a number of science fiction short stories.