“Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
There is something exciting and noble about how these verses sound. Overcoming poverty! Forgetting misery! It sounds fantastic. Most of us would long to be known as those who speak out for those who have been silenced, defending the marginalized.
Yet what happens when we are called to speak out against injustices within our own communities and churches? It’s one thing to protest an abstract and distant injustice. It’s entirely another to face those we know and love, name the harm that’s being done, and call them into a better way. At best it is uncomfortable. At worst, it could cost us our place in those very communities. And so, many of us simply maintain the silence.
The call to break the silence, however, is one rooted in the very heart and history of God’s people. Walter Brueggemann reminds us that such a posture dates well back into the Old Testament:
“Thus, the ongoing historical process can be seen as an unequal contest between the silencers and those who would break silence in the interest of new historical possibility… ‘Breaking the silence’ is always counter-discourse that tends to arise from the margins of society, a counter to present power arrangements and to dominant modes of social imagination.”
And he continues, speaking to the church today:
“The church has a huge stake in breaking the silence, because the God of the Bible characteristically appears at the margins of established power arrangements, whether theological or socioeconomic and political. The church at its most faithful is allied with artistic expression from the margin that voices alternatives to dominant imagination.”
While we always seek to do so with grace and humility, we are nonetheless called to break the silence, and with love, speak truth to power.
Have you seen good examples of people “breaking the silence” about injustice? What made it good?
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt compelled to speak out, yet chose silence?
How can you foster this commitment to breaking the silence into your life today?