The Silenced Majority
I've written numerous times about how social media has succeeded in highlighting the extremes of society. A widely accessible platform where those who would have otherwise unfavorable public opinions or methods of sharing their opinion can shine without the risk of a disaproving crowd. As a result those who have temperate voices, who speak the truth with charity and effectiveness shrink back in fear, both of being ridiculed unnecessarily and of being associated with those loud, obnoxious voices that just so happen to agree with their own.
Two different, yet strangely similar, scenarios presented themselves this week locally. First, our local government and community once again stood before the city council argued for and against a movement that would sanction a 'drag queen story time' for young children at our local library. It turns out that the vote actually had no power or bearing on the actual outcome of the event itself which was ultimately left up to the discretion of the librarian. This did not deter those on both sides of the issue from having their voices heard. Some were reasonable, many were obnoxious. Both sides spewed vitriol and scattered thoughts which pushed anyone on the opposing side away from the possibility of listening at all. Secondly, the Cathedral held a panel discussion with the Bishop and others to discuss the recent media coverage of the scandals in the Church. Similarly, some, in their desperation to be heard, have turned to anger and vitriol in their attempts. I consider myself to be reasonable, charitable and capable of civil discourse on many topics (though I don't claim to be as educated as most) and I would imagine the majority of you are similar. We understand the basic rules of humanity while still able to seek truth. Simply be confident in sharing the truth while at the same time recognize that an actual person with all the dignity and faculties belonging to humanity stands before you or behind the screen as the case may be. And yet, we are not the ones who present ourselves for these debates, publicly or on social media. Why? Two reasons. First, we do not want to be associated with those who share our opinion but act like hotheads (Proverbs 15:18) in the process. They make any appeal to conservatism or faith look unreasonable, uneducated and hypocritical. Second, we do not wish to be labeled and lashed out at by those who disagree. The response is typically equally offensive. Any voice of dissent even those who are charitable and reasonable gets silenced with the term bigotry and we are forced to shut up or be publicly labeled with hate. So, we slip back into the shadows unsure how we should proceed until the issue fades and we never do anything. The squeaky, ineffective, angry wheels continue to be the 'voices of truth' and no one moves forward, only further apart.
Do I have an opinion about both of these issues? Of course I do. Am I angry that children are being abused? So angry it keeps an otherwise sound sleeper like myself awake at night grieving for those who have been hurt, desperate to protect those who might be hurt in the future and worried into a frenzy about my own children. But you know what else I'm angry about? Being effectively silenced by those on either side of these issues who render me mute with their approach. If truth is on your side but hostility is its mouthpiece then you actually move the process in reverse. Slow, calculated hatred turns otherwise reasonable and good people away. You become part of the problem because those otherwise reasonable and good people are the majority but they will remain in the shadows. Because of you they are the silent majority.
Of course I have my fair share of the blame. If I were courageous I would be heard anyway. I would press forward with love and truth on my side undeterred by the cacophony of unreasonableness around me. If I were holy, If I were a woman of virtue, If I were a Saint... this would not be a problem. Thats what we need right now, friends; saints & martyrs. I suspect they are among us, in the silent crowd, praying and prudently waiting for God to make their voices heard. I will pray for them to rise and to be heard among the crowd and for my own life and holiness to be inspired by them.