“If you keep your mouth shut, you will stay out of trouble”
Sometimes, it is the simple things that make the biggest impact! But the more I thought about it, I had to admit there are times when you NEED to speak up, even if it gets you into trouble! So, how do you know when to speak up and when to keep your mouth shut? Is it easier to live with the pain inflicted on you by doing the right thing or the regret of knowing that you didn’t speak up when you should have? Yet, in my experience it is never as simple as that, because when you are making the decision to speak up or stay quiet, you rarely have all the facts or a grasp of the big picture.
In the most recent Crossfire Journal from Military Christian Fellowship, Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby presented a paper called Silence is Not an Option. He makes no apology for suggesting that politically we face some of the same challenges as the Lutheran Church in the early 1930’s in Germany. Dietrich Bonhoeffer recognised the pressure from Hitler and his regime for what it was and “began challenging the Lutheran church to again become Christian in more than name only…”. Metaxas [in his book Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy] writes that no one took Bonhoeffer seriously… Bonhoeffer’s plight motivated him to say:
‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.
God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’
Shelton was raising this in the context of legalisation of same sex marriage, but I think that it applies to many situations. The New Horizon – Air Force Adaptive Culture Bystander Behaviour Intervention Program says much the same thing, with slogans such as:
“You can’t correct what you aren’t willing to confront” or
“If you see or experience unacceptable behaviour please speak up” or
“Our reaction to a situation has the power to change the situation itself”.
What is the takeaway message? We can change our culture, but it will only happen when enough people are prepared to speak up no matter what the cost. We may not have all the facts, but if it feels “off” question it! It cost Bonhoeffer years in a Nazi concentration camp and an execution just 23 days before the German surrender. If you keep your mouth shut it might be easier in the short term but it will not fix the problem and who knows what the long term ramifications will be!
Padre Ian Whitley
I S Whitley AM