“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3
This morning I woke up to the news that pipe bombs had been sent to several Democratic leaders and supporters. It right away renewed an internal struggle and dialogue I have been having with myself over the last few months—“When is it important to keep silent with regard to our political life and when is it time to speak up as the conscience of our nation?”
Obviously, over the months I have landed more often on the side of keeping silent. I feel (and our laws enforce it) that my role as presbytery staff is not to endorse or condemn any particular political leader or political party.
But I am also deeply troubled by my silence. What if those bombs had reached their targets and were successfully detonated in the hands of those who were so carefully selected? What if today we were not just expressing our dismay at how far we have fallen as a people, but were actually mourning the assassinations of a former president and former presidential candidate? What if today was not just another Wednesday, but the day that marked the beginning of an outbreak of national violence?
Would I still feel that my silence was the best way to honor the delicate balance between church and state, faith and politics? Would I still feel that my role had nothing to say to a society hell-bent on violently destroying itself? Or would I feel that my silence would make me at least partially responsible and guilty for whatever destruction I refused to condemn?
Ecclesiastes tells us that in God’s realm there are seasons for silence and seasons for speaking up.
This blog is not to tell our churches to either speak up or stay silent in the face of ongoing attacks on our national civility. It is not to tell our churches what I believe is the right and moral thing to do. It is not to get the Presbytery of the Cascades to uniformly adopt a response to our destructive political environment.
This blog is simply to ask you, “Are you wondering too about when to speak up as a religious body? Are you wrestling with what the right thing to do is as a Christian congregation? Do you wonder if God respects our silence as much as we respect the boundaries between church and state?
Today (Wednesday) the news broke that pipe bombs were sent to a number of high-level political figures. Thank God, the bombs did not explode in the hands of their targets. For one more day we are allowed the luxury of our silence. For one more day we can get away with saying nothing. For one more day there is no blood on our hands.
“There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak,” writes the author of Ecclesiastes.
I am wondering, “Do we want to be judged by what we say or by what we don’t say.”
Brian, we’re not talking about some policy issue here. We are talking about attempted murder. How can you not condemn it. As an ordained member of the Presbytery staff I believe that you are right to express he churches outrage at such a heinous act.
Condemning the actual act is the easy part. But does one step in as a religious organization to address the underlying political realities that have likely created this environment? If it is no coincidence that the people who were targeted were also the people whom the president targeted as “evil” does one condemn the violent acts and condemn the one who made such actions permissible? It seems that we have a moral obligation to do so, yet it also crosses a line with regard to church/state issues? My question is, “Does God require that we now take that risk?”
My understanding is not that we can’t speak out for or against policy. We simply cannot endorse a particular candidate or party. Am I wrong?
You are correct. But there is not a uniform understanding among churches and within a congregation about how far a pastor or church steps into a dialogue that does carry with it political implications. My blog was largely to ask the question, “At what point do we as religious figures take the risk to cross lines?” While we may not cross a legal line, in many congregations just the hint of making statements that have political implications can be going too far.
Thank you for your comment, Bob.
Good morning Brian. I think I see your point. I don’t think that you can step in “as a religious organization.” to condem those who mail pipe bombs and those who encourage them to. You have been up front about how you, as a private citizen, feel about the recent events and I for one, applaud your statements. The PCUSA has a process where-by you can petition the organization to issue a statement condemning the actions of those who put people’s lives in danger and those who use the bully pulpit to encourage these actions. You can count on my support Regards Roy
We have no blood on our hands. You actually believe that? Must one enumerate the many ways this country has blood on our hands here and abroad. We choose not to care for our own, nor those who suffer under our Oligarchy. And of course the endless wars fought out of greed and propagandized as the Patriotic pursuits they are not.
Louis, point well taken. I was referring to the fact that we survived this threat with “no blood,” but I agree, we have blood on our hands for many, many things.