Silent No More: Finding One’s Prophetic Voice

We are meditating on the sacramental dimension to people finding a common voice, a common call against injustice, while marching in solidarity to express their anger and their grief.  We are also meditating on the irony of a white cop killing a handcuffed black man by kneeling on his throat, his fifth chakra for 8+ minutes and how that man’s voice is now being heard around the world.

“George Floyd Lives In Us: Oakland, California, June 6, 2020.” Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.

In an essay called “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action, “ poet Audre Lorde writes about how, when she was told she was dying of breast cancer, she underwent a profound revelation about the need to speak out:

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.

Audre Lorde. Photo taken in Austin, TX in 1980 by K. Kendall. On Wikimedia Commons

Facing her mortality, she realized:

…what I most regretted were my silences….My silence has not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.

Lorde is calling us to our prophetic vocations.  To speak out.  To interfere.  To act.  To speak with one’s actions. To change things: One’s profession; one’s work; one’s citizenship; one’s religion; one’s way of seeing the world; one’s economy; one’s media; one’s ethics; one’s spirituality. 

This life is not a rehearsal.  It is for real.  It is what is real.  The deeper the injustices, the deeper the pain, the louder must be our response at reinventing those structures—what Martin Luther King, Jr called the “conditions”—that allow bad things to happen and injustice to flourish.

Silenced behind the facade. Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Lorde elaborates on the need to move beyond fear of finding one’s voice when she says:

We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence…the weight of that silence will choke us.

Others depend on our standing up and speaking out and being counted. 

We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid.

Meister Eckhart teaches that “the purpose of a word is to reveal.”   We are revelation to one another, we are unveilers of often hidden or forgotten mysteries and truths—including the omnipresence of racism and injustices. 

Pastor Josh Clemons of One Race church preaching on the street in Atlanta

He urges us:

…pay attention to what is in you.  Announce it, pronounce it, produce it, and give birth to it.

The throat is indeed a birth canal—we give birth to our truth through it.  Passing through the throat and the larynx our deepest truths and passions and moral outrage at injustice become being in the world.  They become our children.  They grow up to strategize how to make a more enduring relationships, how to make love and justice happen.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 317f.

Banner Image: “Black Lives Matter – We Won’t Be Silenced – London’s Oxford Circus – 8 July 2016”. Photo by Alisdare Hickson on Flickr

Queries for Contemplation

Have you ever felt you were “as mute as a bottle”?  Are you coming out of your silence now?  About racism; and climate change; and politicians who lie about important matters?

Recommended Reading

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3 thoughts on “Silent No More: Finding One’s Prophetic Voice”

  1. Avatar

    The french philosopher jean paul Sartre said that m/woman is the sum of h/her actions
    All we take with us and all we leave behind are the fruits of our thoughts, speech , and our actions during our lifetime.
    This is our karma, our continuation.
    When a cloud is polluted, the rain is polluted.
    Purifying thoughts, words, and our actions will create a cultural, conscious, shift
    I hope , I pray for this to happen
    Stay safe

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Billy, Thank you for your words. I too appreciate the life and works of Sartre–he was a man of action and he encourage others to act as well. And it is true that all we leave behind us are “the fruit of our thoughts, speech, and our actions”–and as Jesus once said, “a tree is known by its fruit…”

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