Faces on Faith: When silence isn’t golden
When President Trump announced that the press was the enemy, it was a stunning moment for all of us who value truth. It’s well known that politicians and the press have traditionally had an adversarial relationship, but the “dagger-drawn” relationship between the president and the D.C. press corps,, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC is unprecedented.
Words like “alternate facts” and “fake news” are thrown at us daily.
What happens in a society when truth, or facts are muzzled? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis for his defense of human rights, warned: “Not to speak is to speak,” and Elie Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camps, wrote: “the opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.” Tom Fiedler, dean of Boston University’s College of Communication, tells us: “Citizens of a democracy need solid information and credible journalism. Facts matter when we are besieged by a landscape of fake news, misinformation, trolling, distraction and vilification.”
So what is the role of religion in all this? Former Senior Pastor of the prestigious Riverside Church in New York City, William Sloane Coffin, who went to jail to protest the Vietnam War, wrote in his book Credo: “To believe that religion is above politics, and that the sanctuary is too sacred a place for the grit and grime of the daily battle for truth,” challenges us to have a “politically engaged spirituality.”
Lines from a familiar old hymn chime in:
Oft to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side.
Grant Oliphant, in his disturbing article “Silence” wrote: “Our simple task is to refrain from falling mute; to courageously fill the vacuum of our own stunned silence with the truth abiding in our own hearts.” He quotes a poem by W. H. Auden which begins: “All I have is a voice, to undo the folded lie.” Oliphant continues: “We have that, each of us, a voice to speak and undo the insidious lie.”
In the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy tells us: “Principle is imperative. Always right, the divine principle never repents, but maintains the claim of truth.”
Auden’s poem ends with this refrain:
Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light.
Show an affirming flame.
May we of the faith community, find this our moment in time, to be that “affirming flame.”
June Sieber, Sanibel Christian Science Church