A month ago, I read Rachel Muer’s book Keeping God’s Silence: Towards a Theological Ethics of Communication. Rachel Muer, a Quaker, was educated at Cambridge, then moved to Exeter and is currently lecturer in theology at Leeds. The book is an exposition and interpretation at its best of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology on the vulnerability, hiddenness and unknowability of God. Here are some excerpts from the book:
“Christian speech, and Christianity’s emphasis on speech, is interpreted as an attempt to seize and maintain control, not only over the expression and conceptualization of divinity, but thereby over the capacity to shape social structures and values.”
“If God has so often and consistently been named and thought as one who speaks, we need to disturb the predominance of that way of naming and thinking God – lest a limited understanding of God and God’s action can be substituted for the fullness of God’s mystery.”
“…Christ’s silence can mark the hiddenness, weakness and foolishness of the Word of God in the world. Christ is not only made silent, but mute and passive. Christ’s silence in one sense conceals nothing; but at the same time it apparently claims no power to communicate itself.”
“The resurrection does not mean that the powerful Word of God reduces all other words to silence, but rather that the whole situation of speaking, silence, and listening must be reconfigured Christologically.”
Such biting commentaries keep me thinking that members of Christianity in general and the most astute lawyers or politicians of any nation-state or government or technocrat of any “successful” institution (save a few like Dag Hammarskjold or Nelson Mandela – both were men of silence) are not totally indistinguishable from each other in their claim for impact and influence, grandstanding, claim to relevance in the world, ceremonial robes, drive for wins and successes, lust for awards and the spotlight, rabid competition to be “original,” hoarder’s mentality, and the absence of a life of paradox (to be in the world means to be always seen as influential and successful which are different from being joyful).
Muers, Rachel. Keeping God’s Silence: Towards a Theological Ethics of Communication. Masachussetts: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004.