“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human . . . dignity is in jeopardy . . . sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted . . . that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” Elie Wiesel, The Night Trilogy: Night/Dawn/The Accident
Maybe it’s why I have often run headlong into trouble.
Because I don’t fear doing (or saying) “the right thing.”
Doing “the right thing” is “the right thing” so why should anyone fear doing it or need courage to do it?
I often do “the right thing” and it makes people mad. Especially when “the right thing” sheds light on “the wrong thing” that needs to be corrected (intention being that it will cause others to do or say “the right thing”).
If you don’t have the courage to do “the right thing,” then you are either doing “the wrong thing” or you are doing nothing – which is, as Elie Wiesel points out, still “the wrong thing.
Take for example, a certain person in my church who wrote a couple of blog posts that were her take on the pastor’s sermon which he preached only two days after we were told to leave the church. The sermon and the blog are all about extending grace toward the scandalous in our world. Recognize that there was scandal when Mary, mother of Jesus became pregnant. Recognize that the woman caught in adultery was scandalous and Jesus admonished the Pharisees that “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”
What fascinates me about the sermon is that it speaks so directly to the “scandal” that was taking place at that time – the leadership finding out that I had “told” my life story – which included their part in my spiritual abuse. Yet, while the pastor preaches about being “scandalous” as Jesus was by hanging out with and being “a friend of sinners,” they have not in any way attempted to reach out to us.
But this was common. It is the main reason we stayed in the church – because what was being preached and how I was being treated were not the same – and I believed what was being preached. I believed there is grace and forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. This is what is taught and I did my best to reconcile it with what was being done to me.
Even now, my heart is in my throat as I think about how much I want his words to be true – that he and other leaders, and my (former) friends would call, email, come knocking on my door. Because the most scandalous action of all is to reach out to the one who created the scandal.
But my phone is silent. My email is empty. As is my doorstep.
When I read the blog posts, I replied with: Perhaps the scandal would be in stepping between the men with the stones and the woman caught. That’s where Jesus would be. Of course, referring to my own ostracism.
The blogger replied: “I agree. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, ‘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.’ I’m praying for the courage and opportunities to be scandalous.”
And I’m just wondering . . . if you have to have “courage” to speak up (‘Silence in the face of evil is evil itself’) doesn’t that say something about those church leaders – pastors – you need to speak to? If you are too afraid to do the right thing because you fear someone’s wrath or retribution or, heaven forbid, becoming the problem for pointing out the problem, could it be that the problem is not in saying or doing “the right thing,” but in those whom you fear should you do or say “the right thing”?