The Echo Chamber

Human beings’ inability to find common ground in their humanity has been a problem for all of human history. We never fail to divide into opposite camps over the slightest of differences. Since God scattered the human race from the Tower of Babel, humanity has separated themselves on race lines. If not over race, we divide over differences in political ideology, moral codes, and resource distribution. Even the Christian family has segmented into thousands of different denominations.

How do these divisions come about? First, we find a point of disagreement. Then, both sides of the conflict form their respective camps and gather supporters. These camps become more and more closed off to people with whom they disagree. The more closed off the separate groups become, they begin to resemble echo chambers where the same polarizing statements are repeated over and over again. Fierce division grows imminent.

We find an example of this phenomenon in 2 Kings 12. Rehoboam has just ascended to the throne of his father, Solomon. Solomon’s former slave driver turned sworn enemy is vying for his part of the kingdom. He gathers some former slaves and travels to Shechem to meet with the new king and his court. The lines of division are drawn at this point, the camps formed, but they have not yet closed themselves off into an echo chamber. They are still willing to talk with one another rather than just about one another.

Jeroboam and the slaves explain they have no beef with the king if he will only promise to go easy on them. Rehoboam’s father, Solomon, had Jeroboam and his people harshly, and their only wish was for their new king to acknowledge this by lightening their burden.

Rehoboam sent the visitors away, promising to give them an answer in three days. Rehoboam then took counsel from his father’s advisors, all of whom understood how harshly Solomon treated the slaves. The older men advised Rehoboam to bend to Jeroboam’s request.

The new king, Rehoboam, then took counsel from his friends, younger men with whom he grew up. The friends of Rehoboam could not appreciate what Jeroboam and the slaves endured under Solomon. Their advice was to ignore the request and impose even more onerous burdens on Jeroboam and his people. Here is where the echo chamber formed. 2 Kings 12:8 says, “but he (Rehoboam) abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.”

The formation of Rehoboam’s echo chamber spelled the end of the United Kingdom of Israel. Ten northern tribes split off with Jeroboam, and two remained with Rehoboam in the south. Of course, all of this was part of God’s judgment on His people for their idolatry, but that does not change the fact that Rehoboam’s group became the instrument of that judgment.

This story contains a relevant and valuable lesson, especially during these times of intense polarization. God judges the nations. Sometimes He brings them down with an outside force, but other times He judges them by causing them to implode from within. When division gives way to camps that become echo chambers, all the signs are present that we are approaching a watershed moment and possibly even an existential threat to our way of life.

God gives us history to warn us. If we know our history, then we will realize what is happening. Has not our nation divided into camps that are quickly becoming echo chambers? Do we not see that the various camps are talking about one another more than they are talking to one another? According to 2 Kings 12, where could we be headed?

If Rehoboam could speak to us today, he would tell us to listen to people who believe differently than you. He would advise us to have conversations with people who’ve had different experiences in life. Your opponent in any ideological disagreement is not your enemy. Quite the contrary, he is the key to both of you escaping the judgment of God.