I cringed. My sister had the nerve to raise her hand and give her opinion … in class… in front of other people!

What if she made a mistake? What if she made a fool of herself?  Worse of all, what if she made a fool of me?

I suppose it’s understandable to be twelve and easily embarrassed by your sister. After all, we had the unusual circumstance of being in the same grade. Unfortunately this was more than teenage shyness.  It would take me years to figure it out, but I had a fear of people speaking their mind.

All too many times I’ve found myself (silently, in my head) hushing anyone who was about to put themselves at social peril.  I mutely pleaded, “Hush! Just don’t say anything … Don’t embarrass yourself … Don’t risk offending others and making everyone you are associated with look bad.”

Funny thing for a person who is probably considered outspoken, but I can see this about myself now. Always cautious. Oh, I speak up when around those most likely to agree with me, but carefully side step politics and faith unless surrounded by those who are like minded. (All the time looking at the craziness happening in our world and wondering WHY won’t anyone say anything!?)

Then I came across this mattwalshblog post. With no apologies he butts right into the abortion debate. “Finally!” I am thinking, “Someone who is dishing it out with the same passion as the pro-choice side.”

There are certainly many who have spoken up about abortion, marriage, and other moral dilemmas squeezing our society, but what if the church had been speaking up this strongly all along?

Face it, no matter how informed we sound or nice we are, these are controversial times.  We are going to be challenged by those who don’t agree with us, and often in not-so-pleasant terms.  So would it be better if we just hushed up?  I don’t think so.

Several years ago a friend read some of my writing and wondered if I wasn’t being too harsh and therefore, offensive. (I think I used the word “hypocritical” when addressing the local library for toting programs for kids, yet they allowed access to porn on computers and left magazines with pornographic pictures in sight of children.)  I reverted to my teenage shyness and decided not to do anything with the letter. I didn’t want to give Christians a bad name.  So I just prayed for them.

In part, I did the right thing.  I am all about prayer. Without prayer behind us we really should keep out mouths shut.  I’m also not about belligerent language or ugly name calling.  Once the belittling starts everyone loses.

But what the church has done is to say very little, or to say it in hushed, sweet tones so that no one is offended. What are we hoping for? Do we think that the issues will just go away? Or are we going to “nice ourselves” and others into change?

My Solution –  Sausy Guidelines for speaking out:

1. Keep it kind … but don’t be so bent on not offending anyone that we avoid the truth. Even Jesus got a bit abrasive with those who misled others: “Snakes!” “Blind Guides!” “Hypocrites!” (Matthew 23)

2. No more hushing!  A fool appears wise when he holds his tongue. (Prov. 17:28 – and yes, I did read the verse in front of it.) Remember … this is talking about a FOOL; someone who looks wise only when he’s not talking!  Proverbs says that Wisdom SHOUTS out in the streets. (Chapter 1) The New Testament declares that if people don’t speak of God, rocks and stones will cry out. (Luke 19:40) We don’t need many words, and we certainly should hold our temper, but there is definitely a place for God’s followers to speak out.  If we don’t lead, others certainly will.

3. Politics do matter. I know this will cause some to cringe, but simply put, government is a system for allowing people to get along with each other.  We either do it democratically or by force. No society survives without some form of governance. And the oh-so-cool thing about the governing systems in America is that they were originally structured to be shaped by the voice of the people. The more citizens have sat back, the more our rights have eroded.

The Bushes in Africa
George and Laura Bush helping to renovate a medical clinic in Africa. July 2013.(Photo found on Todd Starnes/Fox News FB. I could find no other attributes.)

4. Actions are louder than words, so let’s put actions in front of our words.  I love this picture, because I think it challenges each of us do what they are doing – lead with action but don’t shy from debate.

I used to hush my sister simply out of fear.  Someone should have told me to “hush!” and let her speak.  Perfect or not, she needed to find her voice.  I pray that we each QUICKLY find ours.

I am far from nailing down this topic.  Do you dread speaking out?  Do you speak out too much or too harshly? What are your thoughts and solutions?