Monday, June 8, 2015

Let us not withdraw into silence

In his Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville makes an important observation about the power of the majority and its tendency to shame, intimidate, and silence those who speak the truth. 
In America, the majority has staked out a formidable fence around thought. Inside those limits a writer is free but woe betide him if he dares to stray beyond them. Not that he need fear an auto-da-fé but he is the victim of all kinds of unpleasantness and everyday persecutions. A political career [or a ministerial calling] is closed to him for he has offended the only power with the capacity to give him an opening. He is denied everything, including renown. Before publishing his views, he thought he had supporters; it seems he has lost them once he has declared himself publicly; for his detractors speak out loudly and those who think as he does, but without his courage, keep silent and slink away. He gives in and finally bends beneath the effort of each passing day, withdrawing into silence as if he felt ashamed at having spoken the truth.
It has been said, inaccurately of course, that the voice of the people (vox populi) is the voice of God (vox Dei). Nothing could be further from the truth. Faithfulness to God often (did I say often? How about usually) requires us to take a stand against the majority. May God give us the courage to do so.

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