March 3, 2014

Speaking Up

Preach the truth as if you had a million voices — it is silence that kills the world.” – St. Catherine of Siena

I came across this quote while reading this article about a Catholic nun who ministers to the transgender community, in spite of the teachings of her church.

Whatever your feelings about the issues of gender identity and the Bible, it’s worth reading for a better understanding of what its like to be a transgender person in the Church, and how love and ministry and grow in surprising places. It’s also about knowing when to speak out.

As a fairly opinionated person, I am often unsure about when to speak up--in personal relationships, community, and online. When is the right time to speak up about what I believe? When do I become the negative voice that offers nothing but criticism or is always always spouting my opinions?

I am on the Leadership Table of my church (basically, the vestry). Occasionally, I find that I am the person who has questions or concerns, who isn’t quite on the same page as everyone else (usually just about the day-to-day decisions of growing a small church). I occasionally worry about being obnoxious, but with a little discussion we have always, thus far, ended up on the same page.

Although these are always minor disagreements, this has taught me that dissent is best addressed in relationship, and when it comes from a place of compassion and love, when it feels like not speaking up is doing a disservice to my community. Although I am sometimes tempted to speak up in an attempt to demonstrate how thoughtful or smart I am, this usually turns out to be a mistake, just adding noise to the world. 

Disagreement and dissent are part of living in community, and they are part of our Christian heritage. Jesus was not afraid to speak out against those he felt were obscuring the love of God often with strong words. 

When Jesus spoke up, like the nun in the this story, it was out of love. It was in relationship with people. Jesus did not speak out to glorify himself, to show that he was smarter than anyone else, but because to stay silent was to let the world he loved die a little bit.