Are you playing “The Quiet Game”?

We were all seated in the van and Josiah announced “The Quiet Game” – that glorious game every parent loves for their children to play.  The rules are simple – whoever can remain quiet the longest wins.  The peace and quiet was interrupted about a minute into the game by none other than Josiah.  “It’s ok,” he declared, “I’m the judge so I can talk…”

I’m not sure who eventually won the game, but long after it was over, I kept thinking about Josiah’s insightful comment – “It’s ok.  I’m the judge so I can talk.”  Isn’t that how we play the game of life, thinking ourselves the judge, and making up the rules as we go along?  The truth of the matter though in the game of life, we aren’t the judge and we aren’t the rule makers.  God is.  And it’s His rules, and His ways that not only govern our world, but are also the model after which we are to model our own lives.

Yesterday’s post, “Let justice roll” was a collection of Old Testament scriptures about justice and righteousness, and as I prepared that post, I had no idea how appropriate they would become in just a few hours.  If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might have noticed my numerous posts about injustice, leadership and doing the right things today.  These weren’t just random comments, but rather my gut-level response to issues happening in my community.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the famous statement by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Written originally in response to the atrocities of Nazi Germany, this statement could just as well be true about today.  When you hear about, observe, or experience injustice in your sphere of influence, what do you do?  How do you respond?  Do you shy away from saying or doing anything for fear of rocking the boat or having to take a stand?  Or do you stand up for what’s right?

Honestly, I just have to ask – since when is it ever ok not to stand up for injustice, just because it’s inconvenient or hard or uncomfortable to talk about? Doing the RIGHT thing takes guts, leadership and fortitude.  And as Christ-followers, we must take the lead in correcting injustices and bringing justice here on earth.  Isn’t that exactly what we ask for every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer?  “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

Today I heard a heartbreaking and disturbing report about college student-athletes being asked to leave a local restaurant so as to not cause a scene.  Whatever would prompt a restaurant to ask 4 or 5 paying customers to leave an establishment?  Were they causing the uproar?  Were they at fault for the problems that were developing?  Hardly.  The scene was actually caused by high school students who decided to harass the college students, using the N-word.  Yes, this stuff still happens.

So how did the restaurant respond?  Did they ask the high school students to be respectful and polite?  If that didn’t work, did they remove the individuals doing the harassment and using profane language?  Actually, no.  The restaurant asked the victims to leave – the college students who were being verbally attacked, who had done nothing wrong.  That’s bad enough.  But consider this.  This restaurant has the exclusive cafeteria contract at the college, meaning they make a considerable amount of money each year cooking food for the very college students they just kicked out of their local establishment.

I don’t personally know the students who were victimized by both the rude high school students and the restaurant.  But that doesn’t matter.  I don’t have to know them.  I do know they are individuals made in the image of God, who have the right to sit undisturbed in a restaurant, order and eat food.  And sadly, this isn’t the first instance of outright racism being directed at college students.  Last fall a student got badly beaten up downtown when he defended his teammates against racist remarks.

This is just not right.  It isn’t.  We cannot make, change and ignore the rules so as to not have to take a stand against injustice.  Leadership is about doing the right thing – not the easy thing.  It is about having the guts to use your influence to correct the wrongs.  I am honestly frustrated by what appears, thus far, to be a lack of response from those in leadership at the college.  Perhaps they don’t yet know of the latest event at the restaurant.  But when they do learn of it, there must be a response.  How can the college employ (via contract) a restaurant that is so offensive to the very individuals they are hired to serve?  How can the college allow such obvious offenses to go unmentioned?  How can we as a community sit by and remain silent?

I know this garbage happens everywhere.  There is no community immune to the sinfulness of bigotry and ignorance.  But silence is never ok.  Silence is never a solution.  Silence communicates approval.

“Why bother?” you might think.  “It doesn’t have anything to do with you.”  It has everything to do with me, and not just because I am the mother of three minority children.  I am a human who values a person’s dignity and rights.  I am a Christ-follower whose God is a God of justice and righteousness.  That’s why I bother.  And change will only happen when many of us “bother” and stand together to make a statement.

Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody.   MLK Jr

As much as I like when my children play “The Quiet Game”, it isn’t a game to be played by adults, particularly when it comes to responding to wrongs.  And as cute as Josiah was declaring that he was the judge and could therefore make up his own rules, we cannot do the same.  How will you respond?  Will you “bother” yourself to do what’s right, or sit quietly by, pretending it doesn’t matter?