“I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak!” —2 Cor 4:13
Humans have an amazing ability to adapt to bad situations. Our minds can take terrible circumstances and slowly normalize them, leading us to cope and even find happiness when things are rough. But there is a flipside: this same ability allows us to become desensitized to evil. Vile acts simply become a new normal over time.
I knew a woman once who let herself get in with a bad crowd, and I watched it happen. It went poorly for her, and afterward she asked me, “Why didn’t you tell me about him? Why didn’t you warn me?”
I failed her. I’m reminded of the opening quote from Paul: I believed, and so I spoke. Now more than ever, it’s important to speak up. As the applause of a single man in a sea of silence is undeniably powerful, being the lone voice against a dark culture is indisputably a shock to a system suffused with mendacity, malevolence, and hypocrisy. And it’s undeniably our duty as Christians. Christians can feel the calling in their core: we must stand up, even when we feel alone.
If standing up makes you feel bad; if you feel like you’re alone, remember that you’re not. Recall that this evil is not new; it’s just growing and thus surprising to us. Times have been worse for others, as the prophet Elijah experienced:
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” God asked.
“I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
The Lord said to him, ‘Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”—1 Kings 19:9-18
It may seem a terrible time, and perhaps it is. But as the lighthouse’s beam seems brighter than the noonday sun, and as the applause of the lone man seems louder than thunder, so our principles stand as rocks against which waves shatter themselves. You are not alone: I and others are here, and will continue to speak up until such time as we are forcefully put down. It was a sentiment that JRR Tolkien must have understood when he wrote the Lord of the Rings, as I noted in one passage:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.—The Lord of the Rings
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
And while Gandalf’s words rang true to Frodo, it’s a tale that calls to people in any story, because in our depths we know its truth—even the perpetually bemused Bilbo had to confront such a call to speak up.
When we have to stand up, we must take what begins as shock and make it into opportunity. We can’t let immediate pain or distress trick us into not trusting in God. Instead of saying with Frodo, “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” why not say with Mordecai, “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” -Esther 4:14
With thanks to L. Olmstead.