The Danger of Silence


Here we are, again. Once again, we find ourselves in a place we have been all too many times before, and only too recently. Here we are, again, mourning the tragic, senseless loss of life in a mass shooting. This time, at a mosque. Last time at a synagogue, and before that, at a church, and before that, at another mosque. You get the idea. We have been here before.

Don’t you wonder if it is ever going to stop? Don’t you worry that it will never stop?

I worry about those things too, but recently I have started to worry about something else even more. I worry that we are going to get used to mass shootings. That they will continue to happen, and little by little, we will cease to be outraged, and in the end, we will start to accept them–come to expect them, even, as just a normal part of society.

Such a thing may seem unlikely, a distant possibility, but I am not so sure.

This week I am here at the Philadelphia campus of ULS, teaching a theology intensive. As part of that course we are reading the powerful, excellent book by the late, great James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. In that book, he quotes Rabbi Joachim Prinz, a refugee from Germany, who said the following in the speech he gave at the March on Washington. “When I was a rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime….The most important thing I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problems. The most urgent and most disgraceful, the most shameful, the most tragic problem is silence.”

I have been thinking about that a lot in our current situation.

You get the point; I don’t have to belabor it. Maybe you wonder if people are tired of hearing your voice, tired of hearing you complain that this is wrong. Maybe you’re tired yourself, tired of always being the one that is outraged and angry. I know, but nevertheless: don’t give up. Don’t sit down and shut up. Don’t acquiesce to violence and injustice.  All it takes for evil to triumph is a lack of resistance; all it takes is silence.


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