What Causes Silence?

When it comes to religion, I’ve learned to never confuse love for God with following man-made rules. It can get confusing, especially if you’re taught that following God and adhering to rules are one and the same. You want to respect a person’s title, position or rules but there are boundaries and precise lines that you must draw to avoid practicing any religion with the wrong mindset, and silence about wrongdoing should never be part of that mindset.

You can tell the spiritual health of an organization by how they react to evil in their midst.

Look at the issues faced by the Southern Baptist Convention; 700 victims have come forward, and the leaders are resisting change. You may view the efforts of the Catholic Church as too little too late, where the numbers of abuse cases are in the tens of thousands. At the least they’ve come out of their see no evil hear no evil mode. At a recent summit called by Pope Francis to talk about the problems, Cardinal Marx stated:

“Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created,” Marx said. “Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them. The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution of offences were deliberately not complied with, but instead cancelled or overridden. The rights of victims were effectively trampled underfoot, and left to the whims of individuals.”

Sister Veronica Openibo, one of the few women invited to the summit said:

“A large number of Catholics are and will be angry and confused,” she said. “We must acknowledge that our mediocrity, hypocrisy, and complacency have brought us to this disgraceful and scandalous place we find ourselves as a church.”— NBC News

It is not the knowledge of abuse that brings down the reputation of an organization but the cover-up, and apathy that cause damage.

How many Pastors and their wives in my fundamentalist denomination used their power for spiritual abuse and bartered silence and counted on apathetic Pastors from other congregations to do nothing and look the other way?

One Pastor, I brought an issue to, told me that I didn’t really have any proof about a particular Pastor’s wrongdoing. That it was hearsay. It really seemed common knowledge though, but understood his point. I agreed that I had no smoking gun, but told him that people from that Pastor’s congregation were talking about incidents of abuse. He replied that he doubted anyone from that man’s group would talk because they were too scared to say anything about what goes on in their congregation.

Uh…Hello? And “that’s not a problem?”

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It appeared to be a point of admiration that the Pastor had them on lock down and “under control” and silent. But really? Even when something’s wrong? Apparently, this was an acceptable state of affairs, and the matter was dropped.

It made me wonder about the mental process that brings silence in the first place.

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What Causes Silence?

Silence is a mind game. A manipulation of thought. Often it’s the idea that protection of the institution is more important than the health of the victim. The image of the person, denomination, must remain intact at all costs. Having lived with a psychological abuser( my dad), I understand this thinking process. The abuser makes you feel almost guilty for tarnishing their image in any way. How dare you. In religious settings, I think those that support abusers or want it treated lightly say to themselves that the cause (the gospel) is so important that the good they could accomplish is more significant than anyone knowing the evils of an institution. This is a deception. Christ is the truth ( St. John 14:6). He always wants us to be truthful. Truthfulness is more of a representation of the will of God than pretending that everything in a denomination or a household is perfect. In our group, the “don’t talk” rule lingered because we painted ourselves as so perfect, and condemned other churches so much that we didn’t want people to know we’re just like everyone else and sometimes worse. Our church ego got in the way.

If someone can persuade you that hiding the real condition of a home or an organization is more important than the people who are being harmed, they can also convince you to be silent about any wrongdoing with the same old argument. That is never acceptable.

This is what kept me silent for years. I loved my church. I love what we stood for and I was concerned about the whole picture. I found myself saying, “if people only knew” and looking at these incidents as isolated missteps. But I found myself after a while keeping silent about more and more stuff and the actual character of people in leadership. Only to find out that some people already knew but did nothing because they were infected with the same disease. Silence. There shouldn’t be anything “to know.” Every home, denomination, and church for sure has its secrets, but those secrets should not be sexual, spiritual, spousal or child abuse. Yes, there are times we should keep information at a low-key, but when the “whole head is sick” ( Isaiah 1:5), that is not the time.

Often silence comes from fear. Fear of no one believing you; repercussions from the abuser; being misunderstood. These are legitimate fears, but I’ve found more freedom in Christ, telling the truth. There will be people who don’t understand, true, but there’s also enough other people that completely empathize. I found that I can’t worry about those that cry foul; or say that I have a spiritual chip on my shoulder for exposing wrong. I won’t stay on this forever because it’s not even necessary to dwell on this for my healing, but it is important for once– just once– to be able to tell the truth.

If we remember the prophets of the Old Testament; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah; these men spoke about the corruption in their midst because God told them to do it. God was giving the leaders in Israel a chance to make things right. An opportunity to call their own summit, like the leaders of the current Roman Catholic Church. God saw the corruption under His name in the Old Testament and didn’t like it one bit. He hates it just as much today. I’m not saying that I’m a prophet sent by God to clean up any church but God has his own way of using even the least to speak truth to power through their stories.

You may be one of the “least of these” who wants to share their story anonymously or not.

Send your story in an email to me at grsem7@gmail.com and be a guest writer on this blog.

Author: Renee

I am an author and a retired minister. My passion is helping others find their sense of self and identity after so many years of losing my own. So often we go to church and are still not aware of our disconnection with our true selves. The person inside that God deeply values. My husband and I have been married for over 30 years and have 3 children. I love gourmet cooking, swimming, all kinds of music, and political and religious discussion- the two things my mom said never to talk about at the dinner table.