A Time to Keep Silence

“For everything there is a season: a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:7.

People think the job of a talk show host is to talk. It is really more about listening. It would be nice if followers of Jesus could realize the great teacher was also a man of few words.

While dealing with controversial subjects on my talk show, sometimes I would allow people to make outrageous or even untrue comments without challenging them and numerous emails the next day would complain that I didn’t straighten that wayward caller out. I am as opinionated as the next person and could even argue that my opinions are more informed by learning and facts than many or even most others, but there is a time to keep silence.

I learned this after my brother was born with brain damage. I needed to make my journey through disappointment, anger then disbelief and on to a deeper belief and there wasn’t much anybody could say as I made my way. Most of what people said to try to help me deal with my brother’s cerebral palsy was not useful; they issued forth with their superficial bromides, illogic, obscure scripture quoting and bad folklore theology. If there is a time to keep silence most religious people don’t seem to know it.

Today I would like you to listen to three separate stories of people’s journey through various stages of doubt, disbelief and belief.

First, Dan McKown, one of seven people wounded by a 20-year-old who entered a Tacoma Mall and began randomly shooting. McKown (Photo above) was the most seriously injured by far. He was shot five times, with one bullet severing his spine. He was initially told he might never walk again. “Since [the shooting], intensive physical therapy has restored the use of his right leg, but he says his left leg remains essentially “dead.” He uses a wheelchair and wears a colostomy bag. He suspects these are not temporary inconveniences. [He] aspires to be a stand-up comedian but cannot stand.

Second, Julia Sweeney, a comedian, formerly of Saturday Night Live fame, who says, “she’s a spectacular example of how adult Bible study can backfire.” Today she is a self-proclaimed atheist performing a road show titled “Letting Go of God.”

Third, Julie Nicholson, a former Anglican priest whose daughter was killed in the London subway bombing, sending her on an unwanted journey, filled with rage and grief and questions.

It is important for everyone to listen to stories like these, but especially for “I’ve got the answer-people.” I honestly don’t know anyone who has personally experienced deep tragedy, who remains theologically glib, and since I find glibness to be at the heart of American Christianity, I’m afraid it means we aren’t listening very well.

For everything there is a season: a time to keep silence and a time to speak¢â‚¬¦let the silence begin.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in May 6, 2006 by | No Comments »

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