The 60’s era was a time when war and violence became personal. The images streaming in via television and magazine of cargo planes filled with body bags, F4 Phantom jets delivering payloads of napalm incinerating jungle and humans, B52 bombers converting landscape into moonscape, Cobra gunships pouring out lead like neon pencils delivering letters of death, Buddhist monks and nuns lighting up streets in the silent protest of self-immolation, Diem government officials carrying out public executions of Viet Cong leaders in downtown streets, small children running naked and burned from their villages, and soldiers trekking through rice paddies while others weep over dead and dying comrades.
Horror, disgust, and repugnance were part of every American’s daily diet. Everyone knew someone who was killed or who was wounded. And if that weren’t enough, there were the scandals of American soldiers killing without reason, and the assassinations: John, Bobby, and Martin; and the racial riots, and the drug induced mayhem of Manson, the anti-war protesters and the National Guard’s massacring of Kent State students, and the generation gap that turned children against parents, and parents against children. We were a nation at war on every front, from within and from without. The disease became a plague and it raced through the land and touched every living person, leaving devastation, depression, and misery in its wake. We were a lost people who had had its fill of death and violence; then we grew up, and we forgot; then the silence; and it was, and is, deafening. The veterans reluctantly talk about the carnage, but chose to confine their memory to just a place and a time, dodging the details. They seem to cling to an occurrence, because it happened, and they couldn’t deny the fact; they live in a cage of lies and haunting reality that it was their duty: they were patriots after all, the war “just,” and the cause good. With this justification their consciences were exonerated and their sanity maintained, for most.
Every musician and poet was a prophet in those days regurgitating over and over the pain and suffering of the American people, till the sounds became nauseous, their disciples all stoned, and the prophets dearly departed. As the years passed-by we closed the book, and closed our minds, and the words of Santayana live on to haunt us; “ Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, and “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
Anyone who lived through this era knows the pain I speak of; there was lamentation, mourning, and sorrow in every corner of every community that just wouldn’t stop; and the thin veneer of patriotism could not hide the shame of what had just happened.
It is not for me to judge the rightness or wrongness of war; war will always be with us, and pain and suffering are its spirit and reward, profaning every heart and outraging every conscience. Contending, striving, laboring, competing, and troubling one’s self for the preeminence is at the root of war and discord, and lies at the foundation for every soul born of woman; it is selfishness from beginning to end.
I am not in agreement with most of the counterculture groups that have existed since that era or for the new groups that are arising; but they do demonstrate the seriousness with which people seek solutions for a better life. This period of time is not unlike the times during which the Anabaptist[i] of the sixteenth century appeared. It was a time of rebellion and violent non-conformity to tradition and authority, and it gave rise to debates and death. It was during these troubling times that a peaceful people appeared introducing a forgotten Biblical model of brotherly love and community. These gentle people were persuaded by Scriptures that nationalism and patriotism was the works of evil and are hopelessly invested in aggression, war, and violence. Their vision of world peace was tempered by the reality of watching the world rush mindlessly toward self-destruction.
Today there are those, like the Anabaptist, who have a vision of a pilgrim Church; those who have grown up under false traditions, coercive institutional programs, and creeds of established Christendom, seeking to free their lives by a separation from this world. Just like the Anabaptist, these new pilgrims believe that the Bible is relevant to the instinctive flow of human history, and that it alone is the key to knowing how God intends mankind to relate to each other.
It was these believers who suffered at the hands of the Catholics and Protestants, who were burnt, drowned, and mutilated for their Biblical stance of refusing to grease the wheels of the Church-state machine, and the power structures seen being formed across the continent. The spiritual battle that was waged was, for the Anabaptist, a direct assault against infringements on their liberty, conscience, and human dignity. Theirs was a true devotion for Christ and not for social reform, and their weapons were not of this world.
What is the Conspiracy of Silence?
The expression conspiracy of silence, or culture of silence, relates to a condition or matter which is known to exist, but by tacit communal unspoken consensus is not talked about or acknowledged. Commonly such matters are considered culturally shameful. Taboo subjects may be indirectly discussed via the use of politically correct code words, or euphemisms. (From Wikipedia)
Now, I could go on to expose the political machinery that propagates war, but I am not interested in that. Or, I could speak to the citizens who are the fuel that fires the machine, and try to shame them into acknowledging the hopelessness of sending their sons off as cannon-fodder to some foreign soil, but that is not the reason I am writing.
The conspiracy of which I speak is the muteness of the body of Christ to be the bold voice of their Lord, in a world gone mad with war and violence. The Church has lost its voice to the proclamation of peace at any price, i.e. to the saving of their own flesh. The message of Jesus was evident in His non-violent, non-resistant walk of faith and trust in His Father.
Where do we hear that voice today? Have you heard it? Do we hear it from the “evangelicals?” They are way too busy talking about the business of “Church Growth.” All we hear is the sound of silence coming from the pulpits. The Amish, Mennonites, and Quakers have their voice but it is confined within the walls of their communities, and we only hear their voice by studying history books.
Although the teaching of Jesus nowhere endorses the support of politics or war, and proclaims loudly that Christians are not to actively engage in these matters, we hear nothing from our Churches, yet they call themselves evangelicals, messengers of truth.
It simply is not enough to just preach love and forgiveness; we must walk as He walked. We hear with unceasing regularity how much God loves us; the Devil himself knows how much love God has shown in our behalf; but that is not enough; we must walk as He walked. How did Jesus walk? He loved His enemies and forgave them while pinned to a cross, suspended above the earth, with nails holding Him tight, with agonizing pain shooting through the length of His body; while being displayed in humility to savage, gawking, human animals, He forgave them. Can you forgive your enemies, foreign or domestic? Will you vote for the guy who will destroy your enemies? When they destroy our people and knock down our buildings do we shake our fist and plead for revenge? If you do, you are in very good company, because nearly every pulpit across this great land is with you, and they hate, and vote, and plead their “just” cause to kill those who would kill them. That is fine; it is their choice, only don’t use the Bible or Jesus to support it, and don’t say you walk as He walked.
Why the Conspiracy of Silence?
Why is that part of Scripture that commands us to “love our enemies” to “turn the other cheek” and “to overcome evil with good” almost totally ignored by those who we pay to preach the “whole council of God”?
Christians are today little different than what they were during the times of the Anabaptist in the 16th-century. You had the Protestant Christians of that era, and then there was the Radical Protestants, the Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites who are the descendants of those radicals. These radicals did not buy into the confessions of the Reformed Protestants of Calvin or the Lutheran Reformers, but held to a strict Sola Scriptura that disallowed infant baptism and active support of government, but also held that a Christian needs to repent of sins and live a life of close communion with God and fellow believers. Popular Christianity of the Reformation era, as it is today, believed that a simple confession of their belief was all that was needed to secure a place in Heaven. They also believed that there was a connection of Church and State and that Christians should actively be engaged in government and whatever that government promoted, even the killing of their enemies, i.e. the “just war.” These ideas, infant baptism and “just war,” were byproducts or appendages brought over from Rome. Just as the Catholics ambushed and defeated the Roman Empire so the Protestants believed, by way of Augustine, that Christianity should rule the government. This is not the way of Jesus, and only displays a severe lack of faith in the providence of God to initiate and control nations.
If we consider these things in the light of history, is it any wonder that we hear so little about non-involvement in government and non-resistance toward evil as a lifestyle? If we would only look at the New Testament, the life of Jesus, and the lives of the Apostles, would it not be obvious that there is indeed a conspiracy of silence surrounding these things. This conspiracy can be attributed to about six things:
- Ignorance of the New Testament teaching of Jesus.
- The blind leading the blind. Ignorant pastors who have, in turn, followed ignorant pastors and teachers.
- Fear! Fear of believing and following, by faith, the clear teaching of Jesus. It is easy to follow warmongers and politicians, all you have to do is throw your heart and mind into neutral and just be carried along with the tide. Just go with the flow and you don’t have to fear appearing dumb by asking earnest and serious questions. Most pastors have become unapproachable anyway, and enjoy a status akin to a high priest or archbishop and have put their ignorance beyond reach.
- Laziness. That repentance stuff is not for most people, it just requires too much religiosity and maintenance. I will just apply the tithe, take the speech, and then drown it all out with a little family time watching football.
- Disobedience. Disobedience closes the door to God and therefore to a correct understanding of the Bible. We think it is enough that our pastor is obedient and feeds his flock the proper diet. Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians that, “In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good” could apply to most Church services today.
- Time. We are creatures of habit. The law of inertia applies nicely to our situation. It takes a lot of effort to be a Christian, but it does get easier if applied consistently. For six hundred years we Americans have been fed a poor diet and we have become fat and lazy, and I am sure the Devil is impressed with our ability to do nothing in the face of truth. Time, in this regard, has not been our friend. But, with the earnestness of a sincere will and a heart softened by trials and suffering we can accomplish His will, and be rewarded with grace upon grace. Time is something we have to consider; our lives are short and Jesus will be returning soon, so don’t waste any of it.
Much of the unbelief in the world is due to this conspiracy of silence. Atheist and others say we do not believe our own Bible, and mock God because of us. Jonathan Dymond, almost 200 years ago, said it like this.
“What is the fact? Muslims and Pagans (have seen our scriptures and) do not believe that our religion allows war. They reproach us with the inconsistency. Our wars are, with them, a scandal and a taunt. ‘You preach to us,’ say they, ‘of Christianity, and would convert us to your creed. First convert yourselves; show us that you yourselves believe in it.’ No, the Jews at our own doors tell us that our wars are evidence that the Prince of Peace has not come. They bring the violence of Christians to prove that Christ was a deceiver. Thus do we cause evil to be spoken of the way of truth. Thus are we, who should be the helpers of the world, its stumbling-blocks and its shame. We, who should be lights to those who sit in darkness, cause them to love that darkness still. Well may the Christian be ashamed for these things. Well may he be ashamed for the reputation of his religion. And he may be ashamed too, for the honored defender of the Christian faith who stands up, the advocate of blood, who invents subtle sophisms and searches over the fields of speculation to find an argument to convince us that we may murder one another! This is the ‘wisdom of the world’ – that wisdom which is emphatically called FOOLISHNESS.”
Has the conspiracy of silence gained us anything? Has the effort of the Church to promote Reformed Theology and get Christians into government prevented any wars or saved any lives? Has abortion disappeared off the radar? The war to end all wars has never been fought, and never will. Does war yet hang on the horizon? And what about perversions, are we becoming more “moral?” Can Christian government really legislate morality? Wasn’t James Dobson’s Focus on the Family really off the narrow path, shouldn’t it have been focus on Christ and walk in His ways?
I do not believe that the conspiracy of silence will be broken by the institutional, commercial Church, but like the Anabaptist, it must be a grassroots movement. It has to be every individual adjusting his/her will to align with the will of the Father. When enough believers, “believe,” again, we will hear the complaint of the world “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here.”
I pray that that time will be soon, maranatha, come Lord Jesus.
[i] It is important here to differentiate between the Anabaptist of yesteryear and their pacifist descendants, who have strayed from the “Old Order” Anabaptist stance of nonresistance and have taken on more of a social gospel doctrine. Also, I must make a distinction between what is being called the “Emerging Church” and the practice of the Anabaptist of the early reformation period. The Emerging Church, who are for the most part liberal pacifist, tend to close ranks with the liberal social gospel leanings of the newer Mennonite/Anabaptist practicing what is called non-violent pacifism, active non-violence, or active non-resistance. These types of non-conformist are really not anti-war in the strict sense of the word, but rather choose to simply fight a different kind of war, like “Occupy Wall Street.” Their active non-resistance wages a war of their own choosing that they have every intention of winning, through the use of protest, occupation, sit-ins, hunger strikes, marches, or any act that will draw attention to their cause and stimulate confusion. This is not Biblical, although they call their acts Christian. The Anabaptist, of the Reformation period, who laid their lives down for the Gospel were true Christians who literally followed Christ bearing their own cross, and refused to engage in violence, appeal to government, or to protest against wrongs received. They lived peaceable, productive lives, and obeyed the authorities without complaint, except when it went against the teachings of Jesus and His example. They had no intention of converting the whole world or forcing Christianity onto the unwilling masses of mankind, but rather to perform a mission, then go home to their own Country. It is very important to make these distinctions because the lines tend to get fuzzy unless a person knows his/her Bible and able to differentiate between the true and the false, light and darkness, what is of this world and what is from Heaven, and what is good and what is evil.