St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church of Ridgefield, CT 203.438.3789

August 16, 2017

Why it’s important to always speak up

Why it’s important to always speak up

In difficult situations it can sometimes be hard to know what to say. 

Knowing that your words carry gravitas and impact can be the “turn of the screw.”  So, I sympathize with public figures, like our President, who discover that every word spoken—or not spoken—is being listened to.

Lest we think that we’re off of the hook, however, we have our own area of influence.  There are people who listen to our words and consider our actions.  What do they hear?  What do they see?

What I hope that you hear from me is that white supremacy…or any other kind of supremacy…is wrong.  Our own Christian faith makes this very clear, with no room for misunderstanding.  Whether it’s Jesus who challenges the morally righteous or Paul who scolds the early followers of Jesus for seating themselves at the table according to status, these are only two examples of the many ways in our  scriptures that make it clear that there is no room for outcasts in Christ.  All are one.

This Sunday’s appointed lessons make this point clear.  In the reading from the prophet Isaiah, God says, “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”  The few verses from Romans emphasize that God’s favor on people other than the Hebrew people does not diminish his original blessing on the Hebrew people.  And Matthew’s Gospel leaves no room for confusion on our part– Then Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”  (To read these pieces of scripture, go to )

Freedom of Speech is not freedom to hate.

Hatred and division are not American values.  (Or am I wrong on this?)  I will work from the foundation of my Christian values toward eliminating hatred and division in our world.  I don’t want my moral failure to be indifference or surprise that hatred and division are alive in this world. 

German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) spoke a lamentation that I hope will never be mine.  Taken from Wikipedia, here is part of “his speech for the Confessing Church in Frankfurt on 6 January 1946, of which this is a partial translation:[1]

“When Pastor Niemöller was put in a concentration camp we wrote the year 1937; when the concentration camp was opened we wrote the year 1933, and the people who were put in the camps then were Communists. Who cared about them? We knew it, it was printed in the newspapers.

Who raised their voice, maybe the Confessing Church? We thought: Communists, those opponents of religion, those enemies of Christians – “should I be my brother’s keeper?”

Then they got rid of the sick, the so-called incurables. – I remember a conversation I had with a person who claimed to be a Christian. He said: Perhaps it’s right, these incurably sick people just cost the state money, they are just a burden to themselves and to others. Isn’t it best for all concerned if they are taken out of the middle [of society]? — Only then did the church as such take note. Then we started talking, until our voices were again silenced in public. Can we say, we aren’t guilty/responsible? The persecution of the Jews, the way we treated the occupied countries, or the things in Greece, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia or in Holland, that were written in the newspapers

I believe, we Confessing-Church-Christians have every reason to say: mea culpa, mea culpa! We can talk ourselves out of it with the excuse that it would have cost me my head if I had spoken out.” 

I don’t want to fool myself in thinking that hatred and division will simply pass on by.  I’m smart enough to notice that it hasn’t happened yet.  Hatred and division were there in the time of Jesus.  And they’ve been allowed to have a place in the public sphere for way too many months now. 

How will I use my God-given creativity and my commitment to the power of Love to change these things?  How will you?

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