The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


October 16, 2007

Can we keep silence?


There’s a new law in Illinois that requires a period of silence in public classrooms. It’s not to be “conducted as a religious exercise but shall be an opportunity for silent prayer or for silent reflection on the anticipated activities of the day.” People debated if this was a way of getting prayer back in schools, how to enforce the law, the need to mandate everything and the lawmakers’ priorities.

Putting that debate aside, I kept thinking about Rep. Monique Davis’ quote in the Chicago Tribune. A sponsor of the proposal and former educator, Davis said children are bombarded with too much noise in society. “But do they ever have a moment of silence to reflect, to listen to the rustling of the leaves, to listen to the chirping of a bird?” she asked.

Can we even handle silence, whether it’s in school, at home or even in our churches? We all have ways of dealing with too much silence. We keep the TV or radio on at home. A co-worker breaks the office silence with: “Wow, it’s really quiet around here today.” Walkers and runners wear iPods. Even sanctuaries that once were quiet before worship for a time of reflection can hum with the noise of greetings and fellowship.

But I wonder, as our society gets busier and noisier, do we need to tune out noise to tune in and reflect? Or have we learned to think while tuned in to the world’s noises?

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