Listen to the Silence: Thoughts on World Vision and the Pitfalls of Modern Communcation
These are important conversations we are having. Where do we invest our money responsibly in organizations who do the work of justice? How do we interpret Scripture regarding sexuality and marriage, and how does that intersect with church and parachurch employment practices? In what ways can we truly love our neighbors — gay, straight, rich, poor, Christian, Atheist? These are questions that matter to real life people in our world, and we must talk about it.
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But we are talking too fast.
What is troubling about the events of the World Vision Reversal last week is not just the divisive and contentious nature of the voices coming from different sides of deeply entrenched ideological lines, but the speed with which it happened. So much of the hurt came not from the impact of actual punches, but from the whiplash of sudden, rapid reactions.
When it comes to issues so central to the Christian life, faithfulness requires thoughtful dialogue, tenacious endurance, and meaningful change from the bottom up. In arguing back and forth about how best to live faithfully as Christians in our culture, we have all fallen prey to the most daunting of predators: the Tyrant of Time. Technology has created an illusion that we can accomplish things better and faster than ever before. Indeed, advancements in technology afford us the hope of dreams to deliver rescue for the oppressed, to sound the voices of freedom, and to end poverty. But technological infrastructure cannot hurry a mind who ponders, rush a weary soul journeying through disenchantment, nor hasten hearts wrestling with slow movements of the Spirit. The deepest, most precious parts of our humanity were created to move within certain rhythmic parameters, and they are being crushed by the high speed of social media sound bytes.
We ignore the sanctity of the process through which we came to our conclusions when we dash to publish them online. We fail our conversation partners when we assume our absolute opinions arose out of a vacuum, and not through the long term input of peers, mentors, and leaders. When everyone talks at the same time, nobody really gets heard. Ken Wytsma, President of Kilns College and Founder of the Justice Conference, said it best in the article “Are We Talking Too Fast?”,
“When everybody speaks with a prophetic tone, it dilutes the value of the prophetic voice. ... What we need these days is not an increase in provocative conclusions, but a growth in compelling explanations.”
I don’t know the long term ramifications of the World Vision debacle, or whether the Christian community will find enough common ground to stand on. I am not sure how the path forward will be forged as each divisive issue threatens good intentions and good work. In the meantime I am listening hard to the silence. I am straining to hear the prophetic voices rise out of the clutter. I believe in the solid hope that emerges out of laborious, un-glamorous, daily commitment to live justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.
This media frenzy will pass. The storms of outrage will blow over as quickly as it rolled in. What remains are the sounds of ordinary people who are doing the best they can to be faithful in their families, work, and neighborhoods.
Listen to the silence: you will hear whispers of love, gentle cries of compassion, and a dull, rhythmic, hum signaling meaningful change that is to come. Slowly, but surely.
Cindy Brandt blogs at cindywords.com and serves on the board of One Day's Wages, an organization fighting extreme global poverty. She studied Bible/Theology at Wheaton College and holds a Masters of Arts in Theology from Fuller Seminary.