Yesterday we were in the city to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday. We stayed the house we purchased for our children while they go to university. As I was getting ready to go for coffee in the morning, my daughter, S., gave me a flyer that came in the mail box. I skimmed the first paragraph and glanced at the rest. I really didn't need to read beyond that first paragraph to know that I was not interested in what this flyer had to say.
But, what it did say was horrible and I have a number of gay and lesbian friends (being a member of Integrity). I could only think about how they would feel had this flyer ended up in their mailbox. Now, I know that most people would see this flyer for what it is - my two neighbours certainly did and both of them did not appreciate it in their mail box. If anything, the flyer would annoy most people rather than convince them - the language was so inflamatory and the stats and incidences so unreal that most people would probably be like me and not really read beyond the title. Still it annoyed me that this flyer was being passed around and that someone had the gall to put such hate literature in my mail box with the claim that they had the right to do so because they were Christian and supporting true faith in God and adherence to the scriptures.
So what do you do with such a flyer? Close your eyes to its existence? I've already closed my eyes enough. So after coffee I drove down to the police station to show them the flyer and put in a complaint. The woman at the front desk told me there was nothing they could do. I said fine, I will find some other way of dealing with this. I think she was concerned about what I might do so she asked me what my plans were. I told her I might write an editorial to the newspaper or somewhere. Basically she told me to suck it up and live with it. I told that I was sorry that I couldn't do that because this sort of thing was very hurtful to my friends. Still, her response was something along the lines of give up and live with it.
Normally I am polite to the nth degree, especially when in serious disagreement with someone. I would normally have thanked this woman for her time and said good-bye. But I was so frustrated that I just turned away and walked out the door. And of course, as always happens when I am that mad and frustrated, I was in tears. I got in my car and had no clue what to do. So I did what I often do, I went to see Shawn (yes, the same Shawn who comments here). After showing Shawn the flyer, he phoned the police and got an entirely different story. Yes, there was a place for a complaint to be made, one just had to bring the flyer in.
Now, I was furious. There's not much I can do about the response of the policewoman. For one thing, I never thought to get her name. But to be told that I should be quiet about something so disgusting and hateful, that there was nothing I could do about such hate literature being passed around (even though most people would probably ignore it - but there are a few people that it might fuel in a negative way) made me feel so powerless. How can it be that writer of this flyer can say whatever he pleases and not be called to account for it? What does it say about a society that allows such flyers without accountability but which strives to silence the more rational voices?
Silence. I think that if I had to describe one of the most evil things in the world that might be it. Silence. How it harms people. Now, I know that there are times for silence but there are times when silence needs to be broken in order for health and healing.
I think of the parishes who have suffered from abusive leaders and how they are condemned to silence. This silence is not necessarily because the leadership in the church is afraid of negatives being known although that is part of it. I have come to understand, though, through personal experience, that we are forced into silence through society's legal systems. We can't speak out against abusers because then we will be the ones charged with libel or whatever. The abuser can get away with just about anything but our hands are tied in regard to honesty. From personal experience and through conversations with others I have learned that this silence fosters the continuation of evil because it means that the evil is not made accountable.
Silence also hurts because it leaves the victim powerless and feeling isolated. Once again, because the victims have no recourse without suffering even more themselves, the evil is allowed to thrive.
And silence is what is occurring throughout the WWAC. There are people speaking but they are the ones fostering exclusion. They are hurting those who have little or no voice because no one is allowing the voiceless to speak. Those who should speak for them are being silent. I realize that the silence is thought of as postive by those practicing it. By being silent they are lessening the potential for conflict. Or are they? Will they wake up some morning to find that their very silence has brought about a world (or a church) that is so far from Jesus' vision of the kingdom that there may be little chance of healing.
Evil is allowed to grow in the silence. If not brought to the light it is allowed to flourish and grow stronger. Is that really what we want. When will someone speak out?