Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is tied to a quote that has transformed me. “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
This quote compels me to act, and to denounce the hatred and prejudice in our world rather than remaining quiet. It can be uncomfortable to engage in controversial issues, but that should not prevent us from asking the hard questions that will push us to grow.
Society focuses heavily on preventing extremist acts so much so, that to not fall into its trap, we disengage and therefore stay silent at a lukewarm temperature.
Speaking up and condemning injustice can cause uneasiness within us and exhume our insecurities about how others view us. This is never a valid excuse to refrain from standing up for what is right, just and equitable.
Discrimination does not affect all people in the same way, nor to the same degree. One of the most important things we can do as Christians is to recognize this truth: that we do not belong to ourselves, but to one another and to Christ. Therefore, what hurts our neighbor and our communities should affect us too.
There are forms of discrimination that I will never be able to comprehend, but I can come alongside my neighbor, choose to educate myself and secondhandly suffer with them. Their pain should influence me to be an avid member in the fight for their justice and the justice of those who are not given the rights that I am.
Devastating events like the rally led by white supremacists in Charlottesville remind us of the desperate need for change. Although we have made progress, we have not attained equity for all.
Our government often functions around what will benefit the rich, the white, the male, the privileged. Those who do not fit into these specific categories face a variety of disadvantages at the hands of those possessing power and authority.
A question I consistently ask myself is, “what can I do to avoid becoming desensitized to the sufferings around me?”
The first and most valuable step is to educate oneself. Although I am unable to fully understand the experience of some Americans, through my relationships, readings and research, I can do my best to put myself in the position of someone being discriminated against. This gives me a clearer understanding, which enables my heart and mind to expand so I am more equipped to better love those who may be suffering.
Secondly, we make a daily choice to leverage the privilege that we are given in order to hopefully obtain a society that is equitable for all. This involves making ourselves aware of the specific privileges offered to us and denied to others. No individual or community has ever benefited from silence. Get involved, be informed, listen to those who are seeking to be heard and encourage them to share their stories. Choosing not to do so will not unify us but rather add to the separation between us.
The devotion we should have to one another is perfectly described by Frederick Buechner: “Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me.”
I fail everyday to be the neighbor and friend I should be; I lack compassion and selflessness, and I often subconsciously take advantage of my privilege. Although I fall short, I am always extended grace, which gives me the freedom to grow, reevaluate and try again.
Charis is a junior political science major from Eaton, Ohio.