One of the questions I’ve been asking myself over the past few days is “Why am I getting my knickers in such a twist about the Mark Driscoll thing?” I asked myself why I bothered to blog about it, why read more about what he said, follow up things on his website, feel upset etc. etc. There are plenty of other people better equipped than me to comment, other people more nearly affected by it than me. The chances of my life being seriously impacted by anything Driscoll says are vanishingly small aren’t they? Aren’t they?
This is a bit of a perennial question for me: I do get churned up about things that I perceive to be unjust. I get irritated by individual acts of injustice in those around me: someone who speaks sharply to a young person in a way they never would to an adult; someone who tells a slightly sexist or racist joke without thinking about it; someone who behaves badly so that others feel diminished. When I’ve talked about this with trusted friends, they say “Just let it go. Just because so-and-so has behaved badly doesn’t mean you should get all stressed and anxious about it” or “It isn’t your battle, if Sue feels bad about what Edith said, it’s up to her to say so”. It’s a very real question as well, because my response causes me a lot of stress, which some might argue is unnecessary – you could even make a scriptural case for “tomorrow having enough worries”.
I think there’s some wisdom in what people are saying that I need to listen to carefully, but I also want to make a case for speaking up. And explain myself a bit. The quote below comes from a letter Martin Luther King wrote to the church leaders in Birmingham, Alabama. They had criticised him for getting involved with non-violent direct action in a city they regarded as not his patch. His detailed and measured response contains the following:
“All I'm saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
This is referring to something the Old Testament calls “Shalom”, which is usually translated as Peace, but which actually has a much wider and deeper meaning. An important part of this meaning is that peace, health, wholeness cannot happen to the individual alone, but needs to be happening for all of us.
For me, this means that while one American Christian sister feels unable to use gifts that God has given her because she is oppressed by those around her, I cannot be all I can be, and neither can any of us. I know I can’t fix everything, and I know I have a lot to learn about graciousness and love when speaking up, but keeping silent isn’t always the same as keeping the peace. Jeremiah 6 addresses the oppressive practices of Jerusalem and declares God’s wrath against it. Verse 14 says this: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.” Interestingly, the King James Version refers not to “the wounds of my people” but to “the hurt of the daughter of my people”.
It wasn’t comfortable being an Old Testament prophet, and Jesus made himself extremely unpopular when he spoke up, but if God has put some Holy Discontent within me, keeping silent isn’t an option.