Of choirs and locker rooms and preaching
There is this thing that happens in conversations that is so consistent in my experience that I’m surprised I have never learned a name for it. Nor can I think of one, except maybe ‘echo chamber’ so I’m going to make one up, after describing what I’m talking about.
We all live in individual and communal “bubbles” of cultural understanding. Within our bubbles, whether the bubble surrounds our own thoughts, or our life with a good friend, or a family bubble, or a workplace bubble, a church bubble, or a political bubble there are words and actions that mean certain things and which are immediately understood.
When we are communing with people of “our” bubble, communication is usually fairly easy. And there is affirmation found in learning to speak the language of our particular group. If the group is not keen on Native peoples, for example, or rich people, or those in some other bubble, we learn to join in speaking negatively about them. Then one day we do the same in a bubble where that is not considered the appropriate song, and we suffer some consequences. If the group is not keen on a particular political view, we learn how to sing that song.
I recall doing that once with what I had learned in catechism about pentecostals, so I accosted one with all that “knowledge” when I met one. Boy was I surprised to find his reality to be quite different than I had been taught! A bubble burst.
When one day we sing that song in a different bubble situation, and are squelched. A bubble is popped. We stand exposed, or we feel that way. So we either take time to reconsider the tune and it’s words and the view they represent, or we retreat to our familiar bubble where we feel affirmed and where things seem black and white again. The retreat into the locker room with ‘our’ team is often the easiest. Acoustics are usually good in there, and we all nakedly sing that song and build some animosity for “the enemy” who pops our bubbles. We reinforce each other as to the correctness of our views. And plan how to stop those who tend to pop our cozy comfort bubbles.
The internet age has “outed” some of those safe bubbles. I’ll let you imagine and fill out for yourself how this has happened.
Even some professions no longer have a safe place to vent about problematic clients, because someone might be recording and posting.
This reinforcement is one way bubble-lost youth are recruited into malicious groups. See: http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/23/the-joy-of-isis/?_r=0
Today, bubble challenging voices are all over the place, and the world is an unsafe place for bubbles. So ways of reinforcing the strength of them are contemplated.
My opinion is that often that is not a wise reaction or response. We need to better learn to reach out through our bubble with some curiosity about what is in the other bubbles.
But we do the other instead. Sometimes in the name of Jesus. We build might fortresses of doctrine, or other guidelines, that define the bubble once and for all.
When I find myself doing it, or when I see it being done, I think of it as “Preaching to the choir in the locker room.”