In Defense of the Echo Chamber

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard a familiar refrain from people professing concern over what they deem my more aggressive posture on events of the day:

Be careful, you don’t want to end up just creating your own echo chamber—do you?”

Well, that all depends.

On the surface it sounds like a sensible question. There is of course, wisdom in the idea of not sequestering yourself away from dissent to the point that you’re only preaching to the adoring choir of those who agree with you. And yes, open, reasonable dialogue with those whose opinions differ from your own is healthy and often redemptive. It’s a worthy aspiration.

The problem is, it’s becoming less and less possible. The President and his spokespeople are making sure of that, and an all-or-nothing media adverse to nuance combined with intellectually lazy citizens are helping him.

These days I’m beginning to believe that maybe the echo chamber is actually not the worst place to be. And in times like this when things have gotten really ugly—it might even save your sanity.

We live in an America where FoxNews has brainwashed a portion of the adult population, rendering them fully immune to reason and deathly allergic to factual information. Add to that, a toxic cocktail of  Nationalism, contempt for Government, and good old-fashioned bigotry, and some folks are simply impossible to engage in any meaningful and productive way. They are impervious to evidence. They are unreachable in the ways were taught to reach people.

Worse than that, many emboldened by the President’s unapologetic cruelty, spend their days trolling strangers online, parroting the racist, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ FoxNews talking points, and reveling in a coarseness that a year ago would have been deemed downright profane. They are making already vulnerable people feel more endangered than ever. It is a form of home-grown, virtual terrorism, and to ask people to expose themselves to that every day in the name of avoiding an echo chamber is manipulation of the worst kind.

One of the truest examples of privilege, is when entitled white people chastise members of  marginalized communities for their inability to get over things and get on with their lives. That’s the problem and the impasse: their lives are terribly altered. They are facing a daily assault on their identities, their families, their futures, and their sense of safety—and I am not comfortable demanding that these folks step into the line of fire in the name of cooperation with the bullies. It feels irresponsible. 

For many, the echo chamber can be a much-needed place of protection and safety; a place where their pain is acknowledged, their opinions are valued, their voices are heard, their inherent worth is recognized. It can be a place where they find solidarity and affinity. Why would I or anyone else demand that they step out of this and be exposed to the poisonous venom of extremists and trolls, who in essence sanctioned their present suffering with their vote? That’s a really big ask.

Like many people, I’ve disconnected with friends, family members, and co-workers in the aftermath of the election—not because I can’t bear disagreement, but because I will not tolerate unrepentant racism, homophobia, bigotry, or misogyny. The “echo chamber” that may be naturally forming isn’t designed to stop conversation, but to eliminate unnecessary exposure to vile things. (If someone comes and defecates on your front porch, you’re going to clean it up and you’re make sure they don’t “darken” your doorway again. We’d never feel the need to apologize for that.)  

For example, when someone is programmed by their preacher and FoxNews to make Muslim refugees all into would-be terrorists and their default response in discussing them is ugly slurs and lazy stereotypes, I often need to step away. It’s very difficult to work with blind hatred that refuses to be informed by the truth, as gently and thoughtfully as it might be delivered. If the choices are the echo chamber or unstable, angry people—I’ll hang out and preach to the choir for a while.

And the thing is, in many ways the echo chamber can still be big enough for a majority of us to renovate the country in meaningful ways. With tens of millions of like-hearted people, we can do beautiful, life-saving, planet-altering work together and not have to be exposed to behavior that dehumanizes us or anyone else. We can use our shared influence to push back against all that feels so wrong in the world. We can shape policy and create positive change. So the parameters of the echo chamber can be wide enough for diverse thought, but include nonnegotiables that demand respect for everyone gathered. The invitation to the table is predicated on guests fully acknowledging the value of those seated around it.

Reaching to the vast, rational, level-headed middle and crafting compromise in areas of disagreement is always going to be the noble and best path, but at this moment in time staying in a smaller circle may ultimately be a form of self-preservation, shielding you from abuse and violence and indignity, and allowing you to find encouragement. As a Women’s March attendee said to me, “I came here because needed to know that I’m not crazy.”) 

No, as a rule the echo chamber isn’t a place to spend your life, but as a temporary space to heal and rest and find some hope during really ugly days, as a spot to begin creating something meaningful in response to these disheartening days—it might be just what you need.




124 thoughts on “In Defense of the Echo Chamber

  1. We really need to shadow the kindness and inclusiveness of Jesus and remember that putting material objects (money, wordly objects) before people is Idolatry …..

  2. Dear John:

    Every community in the nation contains a social layer from the most regressive, backward and reactionary people in the country.

    Demagogues [example: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump] do appeal to that layer and endow it with a sense of validation and power as the basis for their own, political power.

    Until there is a strategic political response, the US has no way forward. That will require looking seriously at class issues.


    • Agreed. We have a long road ahead. This article only serves to lengthen it. The author decries biased media outlets for their “lack of nuance,” then summarily implies all Republican voters are unanimously misogynist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and brainwashed.

      • I did a search on the text and do not find either the word “Republican” or the word “voter”. He does identify extremists and trolls who exhibit bad behaviour, but it seems to be you that has equated them as being representative of every Republican voter. I believe that the problem is not with the author but with a reader wanting to find something to be offended by and grasping at straws .

        • Long thought people go out of their way to find offense. But then, I also think they see John P. talking about them and they don’t like what they see of themselves. So they blame John. And sometimes they blame John for something that he never said.

      • Dear Anonymous:

        Yet neither John’s post or yours addresses class issues.

        The bourgeoisie [top 1%] has political representation.
        The petty bourgeoisie [next 9%] has representation.
        Why has the proletariat [90%] no political representation?


      • You might not be racist, xenophobic, misogynistic or racist but YOU VOTED FOR ALL OF IT. QUIT POINTING THE FINGER OUTWARD AND TAKE OWNERSHIP OF WHAT YOU CONDONED WITH YOUR VOTE.

      • That republicans view their fellow Americans with an array of distorting lenses cannot be disputed. There is the lens of liberalism, which to a republican appears to be an absured regard for compassion and decency called “bleeding hearts”. Then the lens of partisianship, which makes republicans think the resistance to the plague of Trumpism is nothing more than “democratic talking points.” According to you incredibly damned ones, we who march for the values we love are “paid by George Soros.” Just because your loyalty is for sale, doesn’t mean ours is. I won’t call you by the usual epithets, you know what you are. What you are doing is making our country the living hell that fits your demonic hearts and twisted minds. I don’t ever want to share such a country with you. Repent of your evil and be forgiven.

      • Respectfully disagree. The author points out that when we progressives attempt to reach out to people with different views than our own we are often overwhelmed by vicious trolls who adore the new administration and its rhetoric. I have experienced this myself. It is exhausting to try to have a dialogue with conservatives when the majority of the ones who engage are vindictive, coarse, punitive and they refuse to hear views or arguments that expose right-wing fallacies. Those are the folks actively representing Trump and his people.

  3. I could not agree more, at times the only safe place to be is huddled together with like-minded family and friends in the echo chamber. At times like these the echo chamber serves as a deflection barrier to the incessant, insensitive, arrogant, ignorant, and just plain cruel mantra of those that voted for the Liar in Chief. “We all just need to pull together for the good of the country. We need give him a chance. We need to work with him not against him and his Republican regime. After all they won the election,” they say.

    To that rather hypocritical drivel, my friends holding forth in the echo chamber with me reply –
    • I will never forget how badly the Birther in Chief and so many grass roots Republicans and Republican leaders treated President Barack Obama for 8 years
    • I will not “work together” to privatize Medicare, cut Social Security and Medicaid.
    • I will not “work together” to build a wall.
    • I will not “work together” to persecute Muslims.
    • I will not “work together” to shut out refugees from other countries.
    • I will not “work together” to lower taxes on the 1% and increase taxes on the middle class and poor.
    • I will not “work together” to help Trump use the Presidency to line his pockets and those of his family and cronies.
    • I will not “work together” to weaken and demolish environmental protection.
    • I will not “work together” to sell American lands, especially National Parks, to companies which then despoil those lands.
    • I will not “work together” to enable the killing of whole species of animals just because they are predators, or inconvenient for a few, or because some people like killing them.
    • I will not “work together” to remove civil rights from anyone.
    • I will not “work together” to alienate countries that have been our allies for as long as I have been alive.
    • I will not “work together” to slash funding for education.
    • I will not “work together” to take basic assistance from people who are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.
    • I will not “work together” to get rid of common sense regulations on guns.
    • I will not “work together” to eliminate the minimum wage.
    • I will not “work together” to support so-called “Right To Work” laws, or undermine, weaken or destroy Unions in any way.
    • I will not “work together” to suppress scientific research, be it on climate change, fracking, or any other issue where a majority of scientists agree that Trump and his supporters are wrong on the facts.
    • I will not “work together” to criminalize abortion or restrict health care for women.
    • I will not “work together” to increase the number of nations that have nuclear weapons.
    • I will not “work together” to put even more “big money” into politics.
    • I will not “work together” to violate the Geneva Convention.
    • I will not “work together” to give the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazi Party and white supremacists a seat at the table, or to normalize their hatred and racism.
    • I will not “work together” to deny health care to people who need it.
    • I will not “work together” to deny medical coverage to people on the basis of a “pre-existing condition.”
    • I will not “work together” to increase voter suppression.
    • I will not “work together” to normalize tyranny.
    • I will not “work together” to eliminate or reduce ethical oversite at any level of government.
    • I will not “work together” with anyone who is, or admires, tyrants and dictators.
    • I will not “work together” to give less support to government employees.
    • I will not “work together” to find ways for the billionaires to cheat the system.
    • I will not “work together” to implement a hiring freeze at government agencies.
    • I will not “work together” to suppress reporters’ right to ask questions the administrations does not like.
    • I will not “work together” to bully any country, big or small.
    • I will not “work together” to craft a message diminishing women and young adults.
    • I will not support anyone that thinks its OK to put a pipeline to transport oil on Sacred Ground for Native Americans. And, it would run under the Missouri River, which provides drinking water for millions of people. An accident waiting to happen.
    This is my line, and I am drawing it.
    • I will stand for honesty, love, and respect for all living beings.
    Signed: (as of 5PM 15February 2017)
    Patricia Rollins Trosclair
    Andrea Dora Zysk
    George Georgakis
    John Christopher
    John Bowles
    Patrick St.Louis
    Carla Patrick
    Darnell Bender
    Vickie Davis
    JMichael Carter
    Janice Frazier-Scott
    Rev. ELaura James Reid
    Jeanette Bouknight
    Rev. Dollie Howell Pankey
    Gerald Butler
    Carolyn McDougle
    Vaughn Chatman
    Adrienne Brown
    Gary Trousdale
    Steven E Gordon
    Isis Nocturne
    Debi Murray
    Maureen O. Betita
    Mona Enderli
    Fernie James Tamblin
    Myrna Dodgion
    Alan Locklear
    Tom Wilmore
    Jackie Evans
    Donna Endres
    Lora Fountain
    Roberta Gregory
    Heather A Mayhew
    Stevo Wehr
    Nathan Stivers
    Jen RaLee
    Joan Holden
    Leigh Lutz
    Deborah Kirkpatrick
    Linda Levy
    Tom Rue
    Nancy Hoffmann-Allison
    Beejay McCabe
    Michael James Myers
    Chase Levy
    Heather Hawley
    Cathy Troisi
    Joan Jaffe
    Emma Jackson
    Edward T. Spire
    Rupert Chapman
    Dawn R. Dunbar
    Robin Wilson
    Monique Boutot
    Laura Brown ??
    Susan Aptaker
    Steve Katz
    Bonnie Wolk
    Risa Guttman-Kornwitz
    Angela Gora
    Butch Norman
    Sharon Tolman
    Sue Zislis
    Maurice Hirsch
    Satch Dobrey
    Jim Krapf
    Don Starwalt
    Deb Johansen
    Daniel Anderson
    Diane Kenney
    Rebecca Koop
    Nancy Shuert
    Bill Pryor
    Patrick Lamb
    Bob Travaglione
    Margaret Ragan
    Martha Peters
    Steve Wilson
    Lauren Sullivan
    Lauretta Hendricks Backus
    Janet FitzGerald
    M Molthen
    Susan E Palmer
    Ralph Doggett
    Bob Frick
    Daniel Quinn
    Mark Taubenkrau
    Kristen Dunder
    Juan Carlos Valle
    Kim Heddinger
    Lynell stokes
    Maida Belove-McCarthy
    Bruce McCarthy
    Sally Sefton
    Jody Lee Hamilton
    Gregory Harrison
    Heather Menzies Urich
    Mimi Maynard
    Madeleine Fisher Kern
    Julie Fleischer
    Robin Cohen
    Jeffrey C. Kirsch
    Ivy Landsman-slevin
    Susan Weiskopf
    Jack Watkins
    Nancy Richards-Adams
    Vickey Scott
    Andy Billotti
    Lauren Miller
    Caren Epstein
    JoBeth Levy
    Frank Levy

  4. Thank you, John. You’ve put into words what I’ve felt for some time.

    It’s absolutely a form of manipulation to accuse a person of wanting to live in an echo chamber when they want to avoid online abuse and bigotry. Gaslighting, in fact. Along the same lines as telling someone being sexually harassed that they have no sense of humor.

    And I am endlessly frustrated with those who are brainwashed and refuse to acknowledge facts and reason, and who eschew empathy at the same time. What do we do with that? When appeals to people’s empathy fail, what’s left?

    • Hey! The local troll is back! Joe Catholic has been haunting this site for months. He must have known we were talking about him. Now, he will run off twenty or thirty comments on just today’s essay. Joe, Joe go away. Don’t come back another day! Something just occurred to me–in normal face to face conversation, I bet Joe would not be such an ass because he would often `end up with a bloody nose. But here–he can hide behind his anonymous name and not suffer the consequences of shitting on someone else’s porch.

      • Joe – I don’t remember saying anything to you for which you might be owed an apology, but my impression of you has got better over time, so I may have snarked a bit early on. If you remember anything specific, I’m willing to apologise for it.

        I did expressly say a little while back that I respected the way you answered … a man whose name won’t come to me …*goes looking* Stan G. Duncan.

        I said:

        Lone Catholic, I’ve been glad to see that you meet civility with civility when it’s offered. I guess you feel that acting otherwise is simply meeting incivility with incivility? Sometimes I’ve felt as if you offer incivility pre-emptively, as it were… but maybe that’s a carryover from previous incivility you’ve experienced?

        I *was* starting to feel as if responding to you seriously was simply falling into the trap of a troll, but in view of a few of your recent responses, I’m reconsidering. I’m trying to imagine what it would feel like to be someone like you reading this blog… and I don’t think “If you don’t like it, don’t read it” is the right response.

        Not that I think some of your responses are all that creditable either, but I’ll do you the courtesy of assuming you’re here in good faith… at least till the next time you say something especially egregious. ?

        Does that count, do you reckon?

    • Joe (and Zak, and Anonymous 1, 2, and 3,)

      I am asking this truly out of curiosity: why are you here? What is it you hope to accomplish? You know by now you aren’t going to convince anyone who disagrees with you here, and I’ve never heard you say anything like “this is how I got to my understanding of x,y,z, how did you come to your understanding?” I would never go to a fundamentalist or Catholic pro-life website and tell the author and everyone that they are wrong. So why do you come here? Why do you spend your time doing this?

      • “3) It’s entertaining and fun.”

        This alone should tell you what this man is all about. He’s having “fun”. Anyone here besides Leslie who wants to have “fun” with what the world has to deal with? This is serious. Not fun.

          • Some who has fun bullying and abusing people is someone who is in urgent need of the services of mental health professionals.

        • So Joe – you don’t like people who attack Trump “incessantly”. Why do I suspect that you are one of the people who attacked Barack Obama incessantly from day one of his first term. See, this is one of the things that bugs the daylights out of myself and most of the people here – what we get from you is “give Trump a chance, sit down here and sing ‘Kumbayah’ with us”, when you adamantly refused to do any such thing for 8 solid years. When it comes to things like that, you’re darn right we can’t understand it…..

    • Those who mock a “liberal echo chamber” and berate us as “snowflakes” are guilty of the grossest hypocrisy. Most of us are educated enough to be able to read and question as conservative a writer as Wm F. Buckley or David Brooks, but the FoxNews crowd absolutely limit themselves to the sources that reinforce their preconceived biases.

  5. I grew up in an alcoholic family. I learned early on that there is absolutely no reasoning with a drunk. You have to change the subject, walk away, whatever. That’s how I feel about the people who resort to name-calling: they no longer have anything meaningful to say.
    That said, I don’t want to shut the door on them. This presidency is not yet even a month old and already it’s staggering. Given time, I believe even the die-hard bigots will have to recognize what they’ve done to themselves. Remaining open to light-hearted contact means the conversation can change. and I can still care for people whose politics baffle me.

    • Hi, Emily. I read the blog and Joe’s comments on this thread. I must say the blog itself is pretty inflammatory toward Trump supporters in that it lumps all of us into all the derogatory categories he listed, “intellectually lazy citizens”, and also people who are filled with “blind hatred” who refuse “to be informed by the truth”.
      The fact of the matter is that we know the majority of people that voted for and support President Trump are nothing close to any of those descriptions. That is why people get upset and defensive when those words are thrown around! Many educated men and women, white, black, Latino, and Asian, etc. voted for the man. There were also many skilled laborers that voted for him as well.
      Here’s the thing…the people that actually followed him, listened, and learned what Trump had to say know that he is not the horrible ogre he’s been made out to be. It IS something that was fueled by media as most were biased toward Hillary. (Proof is in the Podesta emails on Wikileaks) Hillary cheated and was given the debate questions by at least one of the networks. Someone got fired over it. There were news stories about it; it’s fact.
      I have to feel a little bad for people that were pulling for her because you were all duped by mainstream media and those fake presidential poll. They made you guys think she was going to win huge. I’m sure it was a disappointment. I’m being sincere.
      I really hate how politically divided America is. The hate rhetoric is still being driven by the mainstream media actually. It’s an election. We have them every 4 years, someone wins and someone doesn’t. People seem to have lost their damn minds over this one.
      Take heart…it’s really not as bad as all that.

  6. I seem to say this after each of your posts, but once again Thank you. I have felt the need to retreat, kind of like a turtle into her shell and you make me feel less crazy for that. This is so new to me. Have always been an optimist seeing good where others didn’t but she seems to have left me for the time being, you sir have given me permission to just be who I am right now, struggling to understand who these people are who only want to hurt others who don’t look or believe as they do. Thank you for my echo chamber. Peace………………….

  7. I understand the need of the echo chamber. I retreat to that space often when I feel overwhelmed by hateful and disparaging words. Words are important. Words can and do hurt.

    But words can also heal. I refuse to be filled with hate. I refuse to play the same hateful games. I refuse to return hate with hate.

    The danger of staying too long in the echo chamber for both sides is to turn into that which you loathe. No one looks good dressed in hatred. No one wants a soul blackened with hate.

    • Joanne, one thing I have observed from you on this blog is your ability to relate to those who oppose your viewpoint in a dignified and graceful manner, although not perfect — you have had your moments, but you are honest about it– you apologize and you try to work through your differences with commenters, like Joe Catholic.

      Thanks for being realistic and sensible. I can feel your humanity and compassion through your comments. Is this what Jesus meant by do not resist an evil man and turn the other cheek– is it because if we dig in our heels and fight harder with one another it leads to a hardening of the heart and more hatred. It makes me wonder what all this grace is about that Jesus represents.

      • Love (III)


        Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
        Guilty of dust and sin.
        But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
        From my first entrance in,
        Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
        If I lacked any thing.

        A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
        Love said, You shall be he.
        I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
        I cannot look on thee.
        Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
        Who made the eyes but I?

        Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
        Go where it doth deserve.
        And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
        My dear, then I will serve.
        You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
        So I did sit and eat.

        • Joe Catholic — Not all liberals are your enemy and not all people are divided in to liberal and conservative camps. There are many different ideaologies and many shade of conservatism as well such as:

          Conservative liberalism
          Cultural conservatism
          Liberal conservatism
          Libertarian conservatism
          National conservatism
          Social conservatism
          Traditionalist conservatism

        • Joe you jumped in on a personal comment I made to Joanne. Again you probably didn’t read what I said. Not sure why you are bringing JP into it.

          Take care.

        • You are blind to how nasty… He’s insulting. he attacks. He villifies.

          Hmm. sounds like the troll who spends more time insulting and attacking JP than he spends in his church praying for those whom he thinks need prayer.

          Dude: you’re wasting your time here.

      • Kathy, thank you for your words. I stumble and fall often. I admit to have my own prejudices. I admit to my mom/gramma mode in feeling I have the right to call out what I see as inappropriate behavior. I stumble on that one too often. No one here is my child or grandchild, although many here, including me, fall into childlike behavior.

        I admit that with my friends/family, I do sometimes have a foul mouth and I do enjoy inappropriate jokes – because it feels good and makes me laugh.

        I have less patience with the us/them argument of putting everyone – each beautiful in their own way – who does not agree with you in the same basket. To me weakens the argument and in a short time becomes white noise. I also have little patience for what I see as hypocrisy. I have a whole path of things I stumble over.

        • Grumpy, I am new here, but your comment personality seems almost Wayne or Zaglog like. In my unwanted opinion you tarnish John, his blog, and the good people here who follow the way of Jesus.

  8. I’ve been following this blog for a while now and I’m really happy that someone, you John, is addressing this problem that we have with communicating with one another. I’ve often wanted to comment, but I’ve been afraid to open myself up to the possibility of any extra abuse from trolls. Day to day is plenty.

    Last night I saw the James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro, and something I heard there really spoke to me, but at the same time I realized it was something I’ve been hearing all my life growing up as a black woman. While I’m still processing my thoughts about the movie, I realized that one thing Baldwin was pointing to was this purposeful work that you mention, John.

    I’ve not contributed in the ways I feel I should, often out fear of what could happen, the ways I could be singled out, the ways of my very life and livelihood could be threatened, as well as how those choices affect my ability to mother my child, to love my husband, to be a good teacher. I know many people who are doing a lot more in their day-to-day lives to make the world a better place for me and others, for everyone. But what steps should I take myself? I’ve been in situations where I felt targeted, assailed for reasons beyond my control, reasons that don’t necessarily define who I am as they define the boundaries that surround me. If I’m going to be confined, and echo chamber seems a valuable and viable option.

    Baldwin also spoke of the confirmation one needs to hear when so much of what other people say and do is hateful (and often results out of the ignorance of the humanity of others). What is astounding is how long this has been going on. I realize that I have a lot of work to do, but until recently I’ve been unsure if where to do it. The way you define the echo chamber is, I think, that Where.

  9. Cant help but think this post is going to enrage those who like to insult John P, call him hideous names, accuse him of abandoning his faith. Let the reader beware of the trolls, in other words. Protect yourselves if you are tender hearted people.

      • “Another young man went astray, but repented so much when Divine Grace was visited upon him by the hearing of only one sermon, that he left the world and became a monk. He built a small but in the desert and cried each day over his sins with great compunction. But nothing could console him.

        “One night Jesus appeared to him in his sleep, encircled by a heavenly light. He went near the monk with kindness: “What is wrong, young man, and why do you cry with such distress?” He asked him in His sweet voice.

        “I am crying, Lord, because I fell,” the sinful man said with hopelessness.

        “O, then get up.”

        “I cannot do it alone, Lord.”

        “So the King of Love stretched out His divine hand and helped him to get up. The monk, however, did not stop weeping.

        “Why are you crying now?”

        “I am in pain, my Christ, because I failed You. I wasted the riches of Your gifts on debaucheries.”

        “The benevolent Master tenderly placed His hand on the head of the suffering sinner and cheerfully told him: “Since you suffer so much for me, I will put an end to your sorrowing for things past.”

        “The young man looked up to thank his Savior, but He was no ,longer there. In the place where He had stood, a huge cross, all lighted, formed. Delivered at last from the weight of sin, he fell down and venerated it.

        “With gratitude in his soul, after this vision, the young man went back to the town in order to become a more fervent advocate of repentance and to guide many other strayers to Christ.”

        • If you are going to persist in calling me by a name other than my correct name, I m going to suspect you are another one of Joe Catholic’s many pseudonyms because he refuses to respect the boundary I’ve set.

          People who don’t respect set boundaries are abusers, bullies, and often rapists.

  10. This is an excellent time to put the serenity prayer into action:
    That we know what is ours to do, that we know what isn’t ours to do and that we know the difference.

    No problem has been corrected by repeatedly yelling, screaming, whining and being upset. Problems do get corrected by forward planning and action.
    The call to action involves strong leadership and those willing to shoulder the tasks ahead for the long haul.

    Who will become the leadership?

  11. I need to come to the “echo chamber” just to feel some peace and civility. The rest of my day is spent hearing all the other sides of insanity.

  12. Dear John Pavlovitz Reader:

    Toward a positive statement:

    ‘The inalienability of human rights means that workers of every country have the right to live and work with full rights in any country they choose. ‘


  13. “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us strive to love God above all, and fulfill His holy will.”

    “The true Christian is a warrior fighting his way through the regiments of the unseen enemy to his heavenly homeland” (Saint Herman of Alaska).

    • –the Good News is… Jesus accomplished all. No striving is needed. Thank God!

      ‘Come to me, all you who are heavy ladened, and I will give you rest.’

      • leslie– do liberals and progressives get to rest in your world ? Or are you going to hound us with your visions of hell until we are deprogrammed ?

        • It’s not my world. Liberals and Progressives rest in Jesus. I thought this was a Christian blog, –so I comment using bible scripture.

          –not sure what you mean about my ‘visions of hell’. [whatever the bible says about hell… that’s my vision.] I know it’s torturous, dark, and eternal.

  14. Joe if you really want to have a conversation can I start by asking a question? If liberals would never come around your way of thinking and you had total control over the country. And you made conservatism the law of the land what would you do with liberals? Is your idea of nationhood about conquering your enemies? Then what happens to the liberal thinkers? The progressives?

    Don’t you see that diversity and difference of thought is what enriches and helps us as a society?

    • Dear Joe Catholic:

      If you refer to President Obama, know that he was the most reactionary, right-wing President to his time. Where being rightist is concerned, President Obama is surpassed ONLY by President Trump.


      • I don’t believe Trump or Obama are either truly right wing or left wing.

        There is no purity in politics.

        Ideologies are always blended.

        Time to get real folks !

    • That was a dodge. What you are describing is a Liberal vs Conservative scenario. Obama didn’t make you liberal did he? He made you angry and rebellious against him. The same is happening with Trump. What is the endgame ? Who wins Joe? Is this an endless back and forth fight or is there a winner?

      Is conservative good and liberal bad?

      let’s have a conservation– reflect on the questions and give some answers– won’t you?

      • [I know you didn’t ask me.. but I’m a conservative.] Obama didn’t make me angry or ‘rebellious’. I never protested against him, or wrote letters. I never criticized his character. I prayed for him. I accepted him as President. I respected him. I thought his wife was wonderful, and his kids. He can deliver a good speech & he’s got great timing. –I don’t miss him. I think he was destructive to the country. History will paint a clearer picture of his presidency. It’s too soon to assess it.

        I think many of his decisions, were just that, ‘his’ decisions, and they weren’t backed up by a strong foundation. Now it’s crumbling. But that is his doing. He didn’t shore up much. He mostly acted alone. That’s poor Governing.

  15. You have summarized very well the discussion that my husband (a retired minister) and I have been having for months. He longs to communicate to that “middle” and continues to do so, but I have run out of steam and am seeking the support of like-minded (and like-spirited) colleagues and friends. Maybe that reflects the difference in our roles, his as a minister, mine as a congregant. Thank you for continuing to shed light on this crisis and to encourage us all with your words of encouragement and comfort.

    • Anita, I suspect it could be temperament also. My husband (a retired minister) has taken your role while I have attempted the other. Have to say not with much success. We muddle through. Good luck. Peace…

  16. Dear Joe Catholic:

    Personally, I think that polls are meaningless. But then, I believe that elections are meaningless. If 1/5th of the electorate votes for one who shortly after assuming office has 55% of popular support, what are the ‘figures’ to mean?

    This poll would make more sense had it asked, ‘do you hope to get rich quick’ under this administration.’


  17. –What Progressives cannot see, is that most Americans are Conservative, & have average traditional values. [The media & hollywood & urban life are the exception to the rule.]

    Progressives are not gaining support. They have lost so many Governmental races, and for months, moderate Democrats are lining up with (very reasonable & civilized) Conservativism.

    [Note: my only ‘insult, attack, hideous name-calling’ to Progressives, is that they ‘cannot see’. Rather a mild criticism. (JP slings; ‘fascist’, ‘racist’, ‘hateful’, and ‘terrorist’, at Conservatives.)

    • Dear leslie m.:

      This is what I see…

      The world capitalist system is ensnared in its greatest crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The financial turmoil that began in September 2008 with the sudden failure of Wall Street icons has metastasized into a global economic breakdown.

      Can you?


      • GDD. yes, i can understand what you are saying…. yet, I don’t think anyone understands all the complex Global ramifications. I do know that chaos increases. I do know that things will get worse, not better.

        Economic systems come and go. [This World is ruled by Satan.] He’s deceitful, and very desperate, so I’m not that impressed with his machinations. I have a biblical world view. God is so gracious! & merciful, that He has given us the beginning, the middle, and the future.

        • Dear leslie m.:

          Since you see that economic systems come and go, can you see also that two world wars, countless ‘local’ conflicts, the nightmare of Nazism and other forms of military-police dictatorship, communal pogroms and eruptions of genocide which claimed hundreds of millions of lives are together an unanswerable indictment of the current system of socio-economic organization?

          Not only is Capitalism frequently exonerated but it is equated with a Biblical worldview. The cognitive dissonance is overwhelming. Yahweh is indeed gracious and merciful. That said, Capitalism long ago exhausted any progressive, historical role.

          Can you see that it is time this economic system was relegated to the past?


    • leslie– I am progressive and I don’t follow Hollywood nor do I admire actors– your label doesn’t hold true. Neither does the labels JP throws around. It’s a simple way to cut to the heart of the matter and divide the issue to look at the general themes we believe in without questioning them. The problem is many people here are so caught up in personal offends and indignation and self justification that we barely scratch the surface on how to really love your neighbour and accept those with different ways of thinking.

      So leslie what do you propose is to be done with progressives and liberals– If we don’t change our minds? what happens to us in your conservative dominant society? Do we have the right to think the way we choose?

      • I have lived a long time and no, you will not have the right to think the way you choose. Think about it, it is not liberals who want to dictate the kind of religion you follow, just to mention one aspect, I mention that because the separation of church and state is extremely important to me, who is liberal, a follower of Jesus but does not think I have all the answers for everyone else. Peace……………………

      • reverb. — Free will is one of God’s most brilliant inventions.

        Regarding Progressives & Conservatives… I would like all, who wish to, to know Jesus Christ and be saved. [And I would like the body of Christ, to fellowship together in service to God. ]

        [I don’t care very much about current politics. But, it is sometimes good for a couple of laughs. Theatre of the absurd, and all that. ]

    • “What Progressives cannot see, is that most Americans are conservative and have average traditional values.”


      Most Americans voted for Hillary.

      • Thank you for pointing out the facts as opposed to the alternate truth, I used to scold my children when they used alternate truths. Now adults are doing it. Peace………………

      • It’s amazing to me that people still claim Secretary Clinton received the majority of votes. As with President Trump, more people voted for someone else.

  18. As per usual YOU are right on! Your blog is aptly named and i have been sharing it on facebook where it is being well received. Don’t be discouraged! You are doing courageous work and it is hugely appreciated. In particular, because you are coming from the place of a Christian minister in the days when “Christianity” is being hijacked by a whole different order of being that has nothing to do with Christ’s mandate to love one another, I am glad to be able to share with my struggling non-christian friends that the voice of reason is coming from within the clergy. That not all those who call themselves Christian are hypocrites, and that those of us who follow the teachings of Christ do so humbly and with respect for all the belief systems, as Christ himself did in his lifetime.
    Thank you and be blessed.

  19. this is from slacktivist blog from yesterday:

    Against folly we have no defense. Neither protests nor force can touch it; reasoning is no use; facts that contradict personal prejudices can simply be disbelieved — indeed, the fool can counter by criticizing them, and if they are undeniable, they can just be pushed aside as trivial exceptions.

    …the fool, as distinct from the scoundrel, is completely self-satisfied, in fact, they can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make them aggressive. A fool must therefore be treated more cautiously than a scoundrel; we shall never again try to convince a fool by reason, for it is both useless and dangerous.

    • So true, Bonhoeffer also wrote of “Stupid” and the inability to convince otherwise;
      Those afflicted with “Stupidity” or in my opinion, all Trump supporters.

  20. Joe Catholic: A challenge: Tell us how you vision America. Where do other religions, races, opinions, world-views fit into your vision for America? Do you see EVERYONE as worthy of equal respect? Equal dignity? Equal rights? Equal opportunity? Are sinners worthy of these things? What about adulterers? Thieves? If you see LGBTQ people as sinners, would they also be worthy of these things? If you believe they are born that way, would they also be worthy of these things, as children of God? Justify your answers.
    On your hot button/red herring: You talk about right to life; what about the right of a pregnant woman whose pregnancy will kill her? Does she also have a right to life? Doesn’t she get tO choose for herself? What about the thousands of refugees who will die if they can’t find someplace to go? Do they also have a right to life? If not, why not?
    If you oppose birth control, and think women should just not have sex if they don’t want to get pregnant, how many times would you accept that excuse from your wife? Remember: it takes two to have a child, and it also takes two to prevent a pregnancy. And how would you prevent rape? Women don’t get pregnant on their own. Your concern for the unborn is touching. Your apparent lack of concern for pregnant women is telling.
    You talk about making Amreica safe, but consider this: More Americans die in automobile accidents every year than die from terrorist attacks. Would you outlaw cars? Are we to fear cars, too? There are more MURDERS in the US every year than people dying from terrorist attacks. If we’re so fearful of dying, shouldn’t we outlaw guns? Knives? Baseball bats? Should we cower in the closet? WE ARE AMERICA – are we not stronger than our fears? Vetting is one thing – an outright ban on immigration is another.
    I hear talk about making this a Christian country, yet our Constitution specifically defines a separation of church and state, and allows for all to worship as they choose – a direct response to religious oppression in England. To make this a Christian country not only goes against the Constitution, but to force everyone to follow Christianity would be the same as the radical Islamists who force conversions to Islam. It’s religious oppression. Is that what you think America should become?
    Do you think that a Christian country should deny healthcare to the sick, food to the hungry, clothing to the poor, shelter to the homeless? What does the Bible tell you about that?
    Deuteronomy 15:7-8
    If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be.
    Isaiah 10: 1-3:
    Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?
    Matthew 10:8:
    Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers…; freely ye have received, freely give.
    And what about Matthew 25: 31-46? The list could go on and on. There truly are too many such instances to quote here. The Bible is full of them.
    How do all these exhortations to truly treat others as you would be treated fit into your view of America? Does Trump’s vision of America encompass these things? I certainly don’t see it from what he’s done so far.
    Answer the questions, and let us weigh your answers, instead of badmouthing John – IF, as you say, you come here for “reasonable dialogue”. Put your mouth – or fingers, as it were – where you say John should put his. And don’t just tell us, **SHOW** us what you think a Christian should be – what a Christian NATION should be. So far I haven’t seen it in you, either.
    To be fair, I do think John paints his opponents with a broad brush, and negatively so; and he does seem to be speaking to the choir. But I also see that his vision of America is what I would see: Christ’s vision here on Earth. People caring about – and TRULY caring for – others. You can see it here:
    I believe in Christ’s vision, and I will fight for it – and I’m not even Christian.

    • Anyone watch the trump press conference today?

      “The leaks are real, the news is fake.”

      Say What?

      Knee slapping funny if it wasn’t so nuts.

      • Joe said,

        “That was the most awesome press conference ever.”

        EVER !

        Well Joe I am holding you to it. Trump can only go down from here

        • Hmmm … “honest and open”. Trying to shut down the press? Not ever gonna happen. Not until he amends the first amendment.

          The most electoral votes ever? Nope. Not even close.

          Not honest. Not open and filled with bulls***,
          That’s your pres. not the majority of people.
          Even fox news and the rnc is trying to make sense of this unhinged, thin skinned man. Sad.

      • Joe, will you at least admit that he still mentions Hillary more than anyone on these comment threads? I see that you got your wish and Trump is holding a rally this Saturday in Florida. You are a man – if you go to the rally could you please pull him aside and make him understand that size isn’t what makes a man. Jeez poor guy someone really did a number on him.

        • He’s so obsessed with Hillary. Did anyone tell him she is not the president? The campaign is over. I keep hearing “get over it” but obviously he hasn’t. Did anyone tell him to start acting presidential, get to work on important things. and stop being so petty? He lies and fabricates the truth ( I guess that’s the same thing) to the point of making America (along with other countries) never want to believe another thing that comes out of his mouth.

    • John P. Thank you again. I am so glad I found this blog.
      Second, is there a way to set a limit on the number of posts one individual can post on one posting? Like five, or even ten? I think it would cut down on the trolling. I really believe you have been targeted for harassment by either an organization paying people to Muddy the waters with geck. (Geck is worse than mud. The sort of thing mother’s clean off children’s noses). Just a thought.

      • It’s those damn Kochs. They took down Clinton and now they’ve set their sights on a random liberal blogger. Have they no shame?!?

      • I care what he thinks, when he’s being civil. Which, as Joanne observes below, is happening more often lately. I for one would be happy to see more posts of this sort.

    • Joe,

      First, I am sorry that your wife suffers from health issues. Your dedication to your wife speaks to the man you are and a trait I greatly admire.

      I agree with some of your words. But alas, you see things in Trump I cannot.

      In my unasked for opinion good job with the tone of your words in this response. I see it more and more

    • Gee, isn’t he just so endearing when he’s not Zak, etc. Don’t worry. They’ll show up and you’ll see his true self. He needs help. Truly. He needs help. What else keeps him here besides having “fun”?

      • What keeps you here? Would you like it better if the same people said the same things and then high-fived each other? Do you think that is what John really wants? Do you learn anything that way?

        I have learned to accept most of the things that do not interest me as white noise. I do stumble at that sometimes. That goes for both sides if you will. I have also learned many good things from different views and sometimes it is even fun. Is it not good to feel joy when you can?

        • I understand your feelings about the term “White Christians”. Personally I think he is referring to those like Jerry Falwell Jr and his ilk. They ingeniously try to portray Trump as a man of God instead of just admitting he was there only conduit to more power in government.

          Do you see a world of Catholic Schools, Mormon Schools, Evangelical Schools, etc. as a good thing? Do you think you can legislate people to believe in a certain religion? What about personal freedom, individuality?
          I find that horrifying.

          Why would he lump all white Christians together? He has many white Christians who agree with him and follow him. Is it because you believe in your heart that those who do not agree with everything you believe do not deserve to be called Christians?

          You are a man of strong faith. You have never wavered. I admire that. But, there is a reason it is called faith.

          You are getting the policies you want from the Republicans. You have every right to be happy.

          On a personal note, in my heart I do not believe Trump cares one wit about the unborn or the born. He only sees himself as the center of all. He cannot move out of campaign mode. He needs the crowds, the adoration. He is a visual man not a deep one.

          I hope we can continue to exchange views. I would miss this.

          • There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal I read online today – “Communities Built on Faith”. I think there are many looking for their own “echo chambers”.

            I just learned that by the end of the year my pension will be reduced by 1/3. The bane of the defined benefit – too many old people and not enough young people. Us baby boomers have been told for years that we are going to be a drain on the economy because there are so many of us.

            So do I say “Sorry”? I feel that I have worked hard for what I have. There will be a little less for charity, for savings, and I certainly can lose some weight. We will be fine. We live very simply. It is just a reminder that you actually cannot count on anything forever.

            A few years ago my husband said the most remarkable thing. At a particularly loving time he said “There isn’t enough time left”. I think of that often. There isn’t enough time left to love each other enough, to laugh enough, to find joy enough, to be with our children enough. The sadness of growing old.

            I hope you find joy, passion, and peace Joe. I hope you will squeeze out every minute of it.

    • @Joe Catholic
      Re the abortion debate: I don’t think I’ve worded this disrespectfully – my argument was

      directed at preganacies where the woman’s life is in danger. Many laws being passed now by

      Republican-controlled state and local governments in this country are designed to prevent ALL abortions – with no exceptions for preserving the life of the mother if the pregnancy will be deadly. The restrictions passed on US money being used for abortions overseas also do not contain exceptions for same. THAT is what I object to. There was even some state legislator out west who talked about making women to carry dead baby to term, because “that’s what they do with cattle and it’s sad, but it happens.” What was he saying? Women are the same as cattle? Or just that they should be treated as such? NONE of the women in my life deserve such demeaning statements made about them. I note that all the committees/advisors on such women’s issues had no women in them. As if only MEN know what’s good for women?

      I also personally know of the horrors of a rape pregnancy: Some time ago, I had a friend who

      was raped, and became pregnant. She was in her teens, and the rapist was taunting her that he

      couldn’t wait to spend time with their child. This was in a rural area, and in an fairly

      religious community. Abortion was out of the question, due to the parents’ religion. I tried

      to help her as best I could, but at that point, she was afraid of males in general. A couple

      of months into her pregnancy, her parents found her hanging in the barn. At the funeral, some

      of the women from the church had the GALL to say to the mother things with the gist of “it’s

      better this way, so you don’t have to live with the shame” and “it’s too bad they could’t save

      the baby.” So, those religious folk got a 2-for-1 deal: two deaths, instead of one life they

      could have SAVED. Her mother had to leave the receiving line, and she never went back to that

      church. I don’t blame her. And because of that, I think there should be allowance for rape,

      also. How many more lives will we lose under such circumstances? It should be up to the

      mother whether or not she can handle that issue – not some elected official in government with

      a one-size-fits-all mentality. I have no idea what it’s like to be raped, but how did I feel

      when my apartment was broken into, and the thief not only took everything of value, he left me

      a huge mess to clean up? I figure it’s that feeling multiplied by a million. I didn’t feel safe in my apartment after that. A raped woman probably can’t feel safe IN HER OWN BODY.

      Multiply those kinds of deaths by thousands for the women who could be saved in third world

      countries, but our wonderful Republicans in Congress won’t allow it. The argument I hear most is about “the sanctity of life,” but where is that “sanctity of life” in policies that will cause the deaths of women? What I REALLY hear is that women’s lives don’t matter.

      I equate the government telling a woman that she has to die for the baby as equivalent to them

      telling me that I have to give up my heart – or any organ of choice – because someone

      considered more important than I needs it. That abrogates a key article of the Constitution,

      and I’m not willing to give my government that much authority over me. They don’t own my life; they don’t own my wife’s, my daughters’, my sisters’, my nieces’, lives. Do they own the lives of the women in your life? Are you willing to give them that power over YOUR life?

      On the subject of birth control: The exemption for providing birth control coverage was also

      allowed for corporations whose owners or CEOs opposed birth control. Those aren’t “religious

      institutions.” I would like to see how Catholics and other ultra-religious Christians would

      howl if they were subject to the religious beliefs of owners or CEOs who were Muslim, or

      Wiccan, or even Satanists. There’s enough of a problem with the Scientologists on that count –

      and their opression of their workers is LEGAL.

      On immigration: Yes, we have a right and duty to control who comes into our country. However,

      the immigrant directive was a direct ban on people coming from Syria. I note that Trump did –

      once informed of the problem – allow entry for people with existing green cards, plus non-Muslims. But that only proved that directive was directed only toward people of a particular faith, which is unconstitutional. And the people coming from those countries were being vetted pretty heavily already under the Obama administration: for ones who actually made it into this country, the wait was 4 years or more.

      What I said is we can’t be afraid of every Muslim – or any other religion – that we take into

      this country. But I’m seeing that happen in some places, and it’s not pretty – and it most

      certainly isn’t who we are as Americans.

      As to the “Christian country” thing – I should have said “Christian-based country.” The

      difference I see is that a Christian-based country, while its policies are based on Christian

      principles, has room for all beliefs and cultures. A “Christian country” I see as having laws

      that force the Christian religion on its citizens – whether they are forced to believe in the

      religion or not. Something like the Sharia laws in Iran.

      As to Trump’s plans for the inner cities – I see voter ID laws and other actions proliferating

      now that are targeted at preventing certain classes of people from voting – the poor, blacks,

      the elderly. If those are allowed to continue, we won’t be a country for all – only the people

      who are allowed to vote: white middle- and upper-class people. I believe that EVERY CITIZEN should be able to vote. If an ID is required, then the system should be arranged so that the

      marginalized have the opportunity to fulfill that requirement. In some poor areas – especially

      in the South – blacks live in their own communities, which have no outlets for the agencies

      that issue the cards. Sometimes to get to the agency, it requires taking time off work – which

      is nearly impossible for the very poor.

      I had an aunt in the south who didn’t even have a birth certificate – she was born at home, attended by a midwife – because the family was too poor to afford a doctor. Hopefully, that will change, if our rulers in Washington ever figure out what they can use to replace the ACA, rather than just repeal it outright without a replacement ready. I’m not holding my breath on that one, either.

  21. God job Joe Catholic! I counted 15 posts from you today Out of 85 total posts so far! Not a record, but I’m sure you are very proud of yourself. Now go get a job.

  22. Somewhere in thsi morass of comments, was a brief discussion about the GOP allowing the mentally ill to buy guns. I objected to the blanket implication that all mentally ill people are violent people.

    here’s this in support of my words.

    “We Can Stop Gun Violence Without Blaming People Living With Mental Illness
    The idea that mentally ill means violent is an alternative fact. Period.”

    A lot can change in five years. If you had asked me five years ago how we should approach the intersection of guns and mental illness, I would have said the two should never mix. I would have said all people with mental illness should be prohibited from possessing firearms. I would have used the term “dangerously mentally ill” without thinking twice.

    Then, in 2013 – more than 20 years into my career – my perspective changed. In the wake of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I convened a meeting to tackle a complicated question: What does research actually tell us about the intersection of mental illness and gun violence? Those who attended the meeting established the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm policy – a group of researchers and practitioners dedicated to developing evidence-informed policy proposals. And much of what I thought I knew about mental illness turned out to be wrong.

    The researchers I work with have taught me about the actual risks of violence among those living with mental illness – specifically the lack thereof. I’ve learned that those with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. I’ve learned that only four percent of interpersonal violence is attributable to mental illness alone. I’ve learned that those living with mental illness pose a greater threat to themselves than anyone else. I’ve realized that the gun violence prevention movement focuses less on preventing suicides – nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths – than we should. And I now have a far better understanding of the discrimination, stigmatization, and even violence that people living with mental illness face. Moreover, I have come to appreciate that mental illness is part of a person in the same way that race and national origin are; diagnoses do not define individuals, but mental illness is not a choice. We can’t choose where we come from, we can’t choose what we look like, and we can’t choose whether or not to have a mental illness.

    Nearly 20 percent of Americans live with a mental illness in a given year – these individuals comprise one of our nation’s largest demographics. Once you begin to view mental illness the same way you view other immutable characteristics, the daily discrimination against those who suffer becomes apparent and painful. The language you hear your friends using becomes painful. The message you hear from the press, leaders, and the public becomes painful. The things you have said in the past become painful. You are forced to confront your own biases and those of people you respect. It is uncomfortable.

    You may read more here:

  23. Your post brought me back to a scripture that came to mind during church today. It’s really all I have to say in the midst of the above storm, except that what you say rings so true. Thanks.

    Matthew 10:34-36 (KJV)
    34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
    35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
    36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

  24. I found out I was pregnant (in a rabidly red state) a few weeks after the election. Establishing and forcing myself to respect my echo chamber has been crucial in helping me manage the despair and guilt over bringing a child into 2017 America, especially in the area in which we live.

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