Monday night I attended my weekly in depth history of the bible class. While this class is the study of the Bible and it's cultural and historical perspective, it's also about growing as mature Christians. Last night our theological reflection if you will was on speaking out. Put another way, silence too often means going along to get along (and a vote to abstain is a vote against!!).
This may sound like heady talk, inappropriate for a retirement blog, but recently I have been rethinking the idea of tactful silence, especially in the current climate.
For example, recently I had the chance to go and view the movie Spotlight. The purpose of this post is not to review that movie as such, except to say that it's an excellent movie and perhaps, finally Mark Ruffalo will maybe win the Oscar he has deserved before and that it has a 98 percent rating. Put simply, this is the story of the breaking of the first priest abuse scandal. Many priests were simply shuffled from parish to parish to do the same thing, with everyone from city leaders to a cardinal either being silent or actively involved in a cover up, because these were just kids, after all. This is not a treatise on all Catholics, nor do I blame all Catholics.
And then today, I finally sat down and watched a movie during the day time, that movie being the Normal Heart This movie is about the aids epidemic in New York, both locally and nationally in the eighties. It also includes well known facts about denial at the government level (including the current president, Reagan, who refused to authorize funding research or allow the Surgeon General in cabinet meetings). Everyone just went along, because after all, it did not affect them and AIDS was just a small disease (not). I told my eldest that after watching these two (excellent) movies, I really needed some lifting up.
There is an old phrase that goes something like "Show me your checkbook and I'll show you your priorities". Originally, I think said phrase had to do with church, tithing and charity. I would go further. I would say our calendars and our action (or inaction) as well as our words show the same thing. Today I am writing about the words. Silence, especially, too often conspires with the bad in our world and has for years.
This is not about large political throw downs at home, or elsewhere. We all have those days with family we need to bite our tongues. In my very large family on my husband's side, I have learned that I am the progressive minority, and that on occasion silence is golden. On the other hand, misinformation, generalities, unkindness-those are things that need to be dealt with. While we can agree to disagree on occasion, standing up for what we know (or believe) is right is something we need to find a way to do. Do it kindly and tactfully when possible, but do it.
I'm not necessarily talking about the so called big issues either. Silence has created an awful lot of smaller, localized problems, that can be equally important and equally unfair. When the guy at the bar says that all those homeless people really want to be homeless, do we smile and change the subject? Or do we make it clear that no, that single mom with the three kids sleeping in her car really would rather be in a house or an apartment. In my case, when someone says that Syrian refugees should be banned from the United States, do I smile and move on or do I speak my mind. For me at least, it's the latter.
Speaking up can be difficult, and no one knows that better than I. I've been a progressive liberal working on a military base during the Abu Graib scandal. I'm a progressive who was used to living in a multicultural peaceful community that included all races and religions who has now moved to the white suburbs where generalities abound. I'm a left wing hippy according to my in laws, a sea of calm in a to the right of John Birch family. I know more than others what speaking up can mean.
I also know that my opinions are not those of every one else, and for someone else speaking up may be the exact opposite of the opinions I mentioned before.
Still, silence is not golden, much of the time. Saying something, doing something (more on the doing later), can make a difference. Try it, you may like it.