Silence is Complicity

The Nineteenth Century British philosopher John Stuart Mill, whose socialist political ideology I generally find abhorrent, proved correct the adage that “even a broken clock is right twice a day” when he stated:

Let not anyone pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject” (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address to the University of St. Andrews, February 1, 1867).

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Mill put into words a concept of tremendous relevance to people of all ages; namely, that we have a moral duty to speak out against wrongs regardless of where they are committed, who commits them, or if they impact us directly. To look on as evil is being perpetrated on others is itself evil. Neutrality is a phantom. Indifference is a sin. And silence is complicity.

Each person is born into mortality “with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There is no right bestowed by nature without a correlating duty or responsibility being likewise conferred. The right of life, for instance, does not grant us the privilege of living selfishly for ourselves alone with zero regard for the well-being of others in the society. We do in fact have duties and obligations towards others.

We are not our brother’s keeper in the sense that it is our job to take care of everyone in socialist cradle-to-grave fashion. No one owes us a living. No one is obligated to subsidize our existence out of their own pocket. We are not entitled to anything at the expense of others. Simply, it is not the state’s job to provide for you, to give you health care, to educate your children, to give you a house, or to provide “free” services that you could otherwise provide for yourself through your individual industry.

However, we all belong to the same human family and we have an obligation to ensure that our brothers and sisters enjoy an equal chance to live and breathe and work out their lives in the pursuit of happiness, greatness, and salvation. We have a duty to see to it that each member of society is treated fairly, that each is protected in their rights, that each receives the dignity due a son or daughter of God, and that each is equal in the eyes of the law.

It is particularly true that we each have a duty to protect not only our own God-given rights, but the natural rights of all other individuals in the community. To sit silently while your neighbor has his rights violated by the government or the collective community is as if you violated them yourself. While I don’t favor so-called Good Samaritan laws which operate on the principle of compulsion, the example of the Savior Jesus Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan is instructive.

You may recall from your Bible study that the Samaritans were mostly descendants of pagan foreigners deliberately planted in Palestine by the Assyrian conquerors as a way of undermining Israelite societal cohesion and power. Some Samaritans also intermarried with Israelites and worshiped Jehovah, though their claims to religious fellowship were rejected by the supremacist Jews, creating antagonism between the two groups.

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Jesus’ parable begins with an important exchange. The Master asked a lawyer what he believed the most important commandment was. The lawyer responded:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27).

The Lord confirmed his response, to which the lawyer asked the follow-up question: “And who is my neighbour”? (Luke 10:29) Jesus answered with a parable about a man traveling along a dangerous road. The man was attacked, robbed, and left on the brink of death. Along came a Jewish priest who saw the man, crossed to the other side of the path, and continued on his way without helping. Yet another Jewish religionist saw the man, ignored him, and passed by on the other side of the road. However, a Samaritan – one of those whom the Jews hated so badly – came across the wounded man and “had compassion on him.” He dressed his wounds and took him to an inn, pledging to pay for whatever care he needed during his recovery (Luke 10:30-35).

When He finished his story, Jesus asked the lawyer which of the three passersby was a true neighbor to the wounded man. The lawyer responded, of course, that the merciful Samaritan, though a hated foreigner and outcast in the Jewish mind, was the real neighbor to the man in need. The Savior said simply, and perhaps with a bit of a rebuke: “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37).

Jesus’ words apply to you and to me. Though we are under no legal obligation to give our neighbors charity, we should nonetheless be charitable. What’s more, we are to protect others from abuse when it is within our power and to help them receive justice when they have been wronged. Society at large – and society is comprised of individuals like you – has a responsibility to ensure that the natural rights of each member are secured and that justice is exacted when violations occur. Otherwise, there is no point in joining together in a community.

As implied by the parable given by our Redeemer, Christians ought to be the first people to stand up against injustice, error, and despotism. The oppressed, abused, and violated should be able to rely on the support of their Christian neighbors. The weak and defenseless should likewise be able to count on the unflinching assistance of the true follower of Jesus Christ.

Oftentimes when people think of that humble Man from Nazareth, they think of a weak or compliant Individual who always turned the other cheek and submitted to evil. But how accurate is this image? Does Christ really expect us to submit to injustice? Does He want us to kow-tow to government regardless of whether the actions of that government are immoral? And, perhaps more poignantly, during His mortal life did He behave in the passive manner that some Christians today believe we should exemplify?

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In an April 1917 sermon, the Christian leader Charles W. Penrose spoke of the Savior’s personality and His stance on resisting evil. He stated:

True, Jesus Christ taught that non-resistance, was right and praiseworthy and a duty under certain circumstances and conditions; but just look at him when he went into the temple, when he made that scourge of thongs, when he turned out the money-changers and kicked over their tables and told them to get out of the house of the Lord! “My house is a house of prayer,” he said, “but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Get out of here! Hear him crying, “Woe unto you Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and then ye make him ten-fold more the child of hell than he was before.” That was the other side of the spirit of Jesus. Jesus was no milksop. He was not to be trampled under foot. He was ready to submit when the time came for his martyrdom, and he was to be nailed on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, but he was ready at any time to stand up for his rights like a man. He is not only called “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” but also “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” and He will be seen to be terrible by and by to his enemies.

Now while we are not particularly required to pattern after the “lion” side of his character unless it becomes necessary, the Lord does not expect us to submit to be trodden under foot by our enemies and never resist. The Lord does not want us to inculcate the spirit of war nor the spirit of bloodshed. In fact he has commanded us not to shed blood, but there are times and seasons, as we can find in the history of the world, in Bible and the Book of Mormon, when it is justified and right and proper and the duty of men to go forth in the defense of their homes and their families and maintain their privileges and rights by force of arms. . . .

. . . Does the Lord permit the shedding of blood and justify it? Yes, sometimes he does. Was not the war of independence of this country justifiable? Were not the rights and privileges of the people of this land trampled under foot, and did they not rise in their might and the God of Battles strengthen their arms and they went forth to victory and brought liberty, not only to themselves and their immediate families, but to hosts of people from down-trodden Europe who are rejoicing today under the Stars and Stripes with liberty of conscience and liberty of speech and liberty of action within proper guidance and direction of righteous law. These principles are to go forth to all flesh. Don’t you forget it. The time will come when they will be carried to all the nations of the earth and they will be delivered from tyrants and oppressors” (President Charles W. Penrose, Conference Report, April, 1917, 19-20).

I love the line “Jesus was no milksop.” Google defines a “milksop” as “a person who is indecisive and lacks courage.” Synonyms include “coward,” “snowflake,” “pansy,” “wimp,” and “weakling.” No, Jesus was no coward. He was not a weakling. He was certainly not politically correct or in need of “safe spaces” like today’s “snowflakes.”

Rather, Jesus was full of passion. After He cleansed the temple the first time, John recorded: “And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17). Jesus was a zealot for righteousness. No one has ever made a firmer stand for truth, justice, and goodness. Our Lord was strong and resolute and fearless in the face of maniacal mobs, the machinations of government leaders, and centuries of stubborn precedent. He brimmed with courage, honor, virtue, leadership, and decisiveness. He was a true man in every good sense of the word.

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We are meant to pattern our life after our Savior. He stood unshakable before vicious detractors and in spite of constant persecution. His principles were constant and immovable. He immediately helped those in need, deliberately violating commonly accepted, albeit utterly incorrect, religious traditions in the process. He bodily hurled the money-changers from the temple more than once. He was a Man of action, a Man of passion, and a Man of perfect honor. If we are to to be like Christ, we must be the same type of individuals.

When we see our fellow men groaning under oppression, what is our reaction? Are we pained? Are we indifferent? Do we yearn to help? Do we sit by and ignore the situation? Our reaction to injustice, atrocities, and evil tells a lot about us. And again I repeat: Silence is complicity.

The fiery freeman Thomas Paine explained that part of our duty as patriots is to defend others, even those we dislike, when we see them suffer injustices and abuse:

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself” (Thomas Paine, Dissertation on First-Principles of Government, 32).

If we do not stand up and challenge wrongs at least verbally when they happen, we enable future wrongs and embolden perpetrators. Those same wrongs may one day knock on our door. And if we have not stood in defense of others and done our utmost to defend them and redress the violations of their Liberty, can we honestly expect them to stand up for us when are on the receiving end of tyranny’s kiss?

For instance, if we, as a society, sit idly by as one segment of the populations butchers babies and murders the unborn, how can we expect others to rush to our aid when we are threatened? Babies are the most defenseless, helpless, and innocent among us. If we can permit them to be slaughtered to the ungodly tune of 70-90 million in the past five decades, we don’t have a prayer of justice prevailing in our land. Infanticide – the negation and violation of the fundamental right of life – is simply unconscionable and incompatible with a moral people and a civil, ordered society.

Yes, even our enemies deserve to have their rights secured and safeguarded. If we do not allow them to speak (excepting those like avowed communists who breathe out threatenings against our Faith, Families, and Freedom and who intend to enslave us under a global dictatorship, thereby forfeiting their rights), we should not expect to be allowed to speak either. Criminals also deserve to be treated with dignity and due process, even though our sense of humanity cannot overrule our sense of justice. If we turn a blind eye and deaf ear to human suffering, how can we escape such suffering ourselves? Eventually, that which we allow to happen to others will happen to us.

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In 2019, one of my favorite guitarists and musicians, Daron Malakian, released a characteristically quirky song for his band Scars on Broadway titled “Angry Guru.” The catchphrase of the track states: “Silence leads to violence.” This is an accurate statement. The silence of good people emboldens criminals, thugs, liars, bullies, and tyrants. Silence leads to deception, coercion, and even genocide. Silence encourages inaction, thereby allowed committed enemies of humanity to do their work with little opposition.

In order for evil to gain a foothold in a society, it requires the silence of the majority. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the famed Russian writer who spent time as a slave in Stalin’s GULAG, later recalled that if the Russian people would have dared to speak out and take a stand against the Bolshevik occupiers, communism could have never conquered and maintained control in Russia. With remorse, he wrote:

And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? After all, you knew ahead of time that those bluecaps were out at night for no good purpose. And you could be sure ahead of time that you’d be cracking the skull of a cutthroat. Or what about the Black Maria sitting out there on the street with one lonely chauffeur – what if it had been driven off or its tires spiked? The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!

If . . . if . . . We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation. We spent ourselves in one unrestrained outburst in 1917, and then we hurried to submit. We submitted with pleasure! . . . We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1, 13).

The Russian people were the victims of an invasion by a foreign clique of anti-Christ gangsters. These predominately Jewish thugs brutalized their way to power, plundering, torturing, enslaving, raping, and murdering everyone in their way. The only real opposition to their Satanic schemes came in the Russian Civil War that began with the communist coup d’etat in 1917. As soon as the Bolsheviks began to gain ground, the Russian people “hurried to submit” to their iron-fisted rule as they had done under the tsars for centuries. If more than a handful of Russians had spoken out and stood up in defense of their rights, they could have rebuffed and driven out the communist cabal. Tragically, their slavish conditioning was too great and the communists prevailed.

Solzhenitsyn said that the Russian people deserved what they got because of their inaction and silence. Does a silent, and, therefore complicit, nation really deserve the horrors of tyranny? Perhaps so. Alexander Hamilton similarly stated:

Moderation in every nation is a virtue. In weak or young nations, it is often wise to take every chance by patience and address to divert hostility and in this view to hold parley with insult and injury—but to capitulate with oppression, rather to surrender at discretion to it is in any nation that has any power of resistance as foolish as it contemptible. The honor of a nation is its life. Deliberately to abandon it is to commit an act of political suicide . . . The Nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a Master and deserves one” (Alexander Hamilton, Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, February 21, 1797).

A nation not prepared for just war and whose citizens are not prepared to put their own lives on the line to defend their Faith, Families, and Freedom, cannot possibly maintain their civilization. A people so cowed and cowardly that they will sheepishly endure abuses is a people without honor. It is tantamount to national suicide to silently witness evil. Silence is in actual fact complicity.

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I now share a poignant warning from the great Ezra Taft Benson. His words were spoken in 1968, but they’re even more applicable now. He proclaimed:

Great nations are never conquered from outside unless they are rotten inside. Our greatest national problem today is erosion, not the erosion of the soil, but erosion of the national morality – erosion of traditional enforcement of law and order. . . .

Those of us conscious of the seriousness of the situation must act, and act now. It has been said that it takes something spectacular to get folks excited, like a burning house. Nobody notices one that is simply decaying. But in America today we not only have decaying but burning before our very eyes. How much we need hearts today who will respond to the inspiring words of the poet, John Greenleaf Whittier:

““Where’s the manly spirit

Of the true-hearted and the unshackled gone?

Sons of old freemen, do we inherit their name alone?

Is the old Pilgrim spirit quenched within us?

Stoops the proud manhood of our souls so low,

That Mammon’s lure or Party’s wile can win us to silence now?

Now, when our land to ruin’s brink is verging,

In God’s name let us speak while there is time;

Now, when the padlocks for our lips are forging,

Silence is crime”” (President Ezra Taft Benson, “Americans Are Destroying America,” General Conference, April, 1968).

What kind of individuals will we be? What kind of society do we want to live in? Do we prefer to live in a spineless nation of people who turn a blind eye to suffering and injustice or do we want to live in a society of stalwart patriots who rush to our aid at the first sign of oppression, harassment, or abuse? Will we be full of valor, virtue, honor, and manliness? Or will we shrink from the fight, stop our ears, cross to the other side of the road, and ignore the plight of our countrymen? The choice is ours, but we already know the outcome if we choose to remain silent like sheep.

We ought to be men and women in the mold of our Master, Jesus Christ. We should help others, show compassion, advocate truth, denounce error, dare to rebuff false teachers and tyrants, and cast the money-changers – both figurative and literal – from our hearts, communities, and nations. In this age of rising oppression, our voices should be raised loud and strong against wickedness and evil.

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We can never be guilty of silence in the face of advancing evil – the stakes are too high. If we are silent, we are complicit. If we close our mouths when others need an advocate, our cries will be met with deafening silence when the jackboot of tyranny forces them from our lips. We cannot afford to be silent. We must speak. We must fight. We must win this war. Failure is not an option. Inaction is unacceptable. And silence is complicity. Be silent no more.

Zack Strong,

March 1, 2020

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