For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.
As I read the book of Esther, Mordecai’s words to the Jewish queen of Persia speak to me: “For if you keep silence at a time such as this . . . you and your father’s family will perish.” (Esther 4:14). I chose to keep silent during Advent because I didn’t want my words to bring people down during the celebration of the birth of our King. The season was a time to remember that the King came into the world for all of us, bringing us hope, peace, joy, and love.
But now I can’t keep silent as Mordecai’s words echo in my being. I’m thankful that the hateful rhetoric of this nation seems to have turned down a few notches this past year, but I’m worried that the slight improvement in public discussion will lull us back into a state of passive existence. While we may be tempted to go through life without taking seriously our choices and assumptions, we must face the fact that those choices and assumptions are leading to devastation and destruction.
In November 2021 I had the opportunity to go on an Immigration Borderland Tour with MCC. We visited small towns and cities on both sides of our southern border. We learned about the inhumane conditions many sisters and brothers face traveling to the United States and the roadblocks we put in their way. I thought of Persia in the time of Ester. Like the nefarious Haman, many of our nation’s decision-makers self-centeredly seek tribal power and others’ capitulation to their supposed greatness. They stifle any indication that our country’s power and greatness have been gained on the backs of others. Since our birth as a nation, we have been taking what doesn’t belong to us, holding other people groups down while we climb up, and creating systems and policies that allow us to remain in power while others suffer.
Many still call the United States a Christian nation . . . I’d still like to think of my country that way. But what I saw along the border, what I learned the United States has done to Mexico and Central America, is nothing short of evil. What we continue to do to those seeking asylum are acts of the devil. And our silence, our passive tolerance, makes us minions of evil maintaining the wheels of hate and destruction.
Take, for example, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Approved in early 1994, NAFTA required major structural adjustments in Mexico that devastated small farmers, small business owners, and local initiative— creating dependency on multinational companies less interested in Mexican well-being than in external profit and power. I guess that should not have come as a surprise to me; U.S. history is full of such choices.
Who are we, really? How do children of God participate in a country so mired in structural evil?
Even if our silence has placed us in the camp of the unholy, Christ has given us a bridge to cross back over to the Promised Land. But we must first learn for ourselves the truth of what this nation has done and continues to do in our name. We must study, clear-eyed, U.S. history and its impact on other nations and peoples. Then we must speak as did Esther spoke to the powers in Persia. She first waited, listened, and learned; then she stood and spoke.
We can no longer sit quietly, allowing others to suffer because we live safely in the palaces of our relative wealth and power. “For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise . . . from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish” (Esther 4:14). While Mordecai’s words were for a different time and place, they ring loud and true to me. I am convinced that it is past time for us to risk our privilege and stand for righteousness. Mordecai continues, “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this” (v. 14). We, too, are granted our positions of relative power for just such a time as this, a tipping point in human history. We must stop seeing ourselves as “us versus them” and remember that those oppressed by our nation’s policies and actions are beloved fellow human beings.
You, dear reader, are my sister regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status, education, religion, mental and emotional state of mind, age, or geographic location. May I, may you, may we act in the strength of knowing we are never alone.