My wife and I met George and Vivian Johnson at Irvine United Congregational Church ten years ago. George was a retired progressive Lutheran pastor who had an exciting, challenging ministry but wanted to continue sharing his gifts with our church family.
About four years ago, George began to suffer liver problems, diminished eyesight and hearing, and some memory loss, but he still wanted to share his gifts with the world.
Then George and Vivian moved to a continuing care facility because they realized that George’s health was failing.
One day, George fell and broke a hip but bounced back.
Then came the ultimate challenge: George was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Shortly thereafter, George confided in me that he had one more book in him that he wanted to call Silence Is Not the Answer. I told George about my wonderful editor, Sharon Goldinger, who could help make his dream a reality.
To make a long story short, the book came off the press on August 12 and is now available. Annie and I will spend August and September helping George launch Silence Is Not the Answer.
The timing couldn’t be better. The silence of the mainstream churches is deafening as they sit back and watch our democracy being eroded, our constitutional rights being violated, the concentration camps along our southern borders growing, women and the LGBTQUI community being attacked, and extreme forms of racism happening daily. Anyone who stands idly by and watches this travesty of justice deserves the consequences.
The synopsis on the back cover summarizes George’s book beautifully:
Silence Is Not the Answer is a collection of prophetic voices urging us to wake up, notice what is happening, and take a stand. This book offers viewpoints from a variety of writers who call us to make our voices heard on critical justice issues. Walter Brueggemann, Bishop Herbert Chilstrom, Marcus Borg, Larry Rasmussen, Vivian Elaine Johnson, Jim Wallis, Sallie McFague, and others encourage us to break the silence—not by shouting down others but by starting a real conversation.
Silence Is Not the Answer has already evoked an amazing response from advance readers. I don’t have the space in this blog post to share all of the wonderful things people have said about this book, so I’ll quote just a few of my favorites.
Canon Brian J. Grieves, a retired peace and justice officer of the Episcopal Church, said this book “is a much needed collective challenge to all . . . to find their voices and speak out against the divisive and hateful trends of our present day and proclaim a gospel of inclusion, love, justice, and respect for the dignity of all.”
Rabbi Arnold Rachlis of the University Synagogue in Irvine, California, declared that “to read the passionate and honest words of so many is to be reminded that repairing the world demands our immediate attention.”
And theologian and author Walter Brueggemann loved George’s book—he called it a “crisp, terse testimony to the urgency of gospel justice concerning a range of current issues.”
I am so proud of George for putting his failing health on the back burner, writing essays for this book, and convincing so many influential people in our society to join him in speaking out. Silence Is Not the Answer inspires us to break our comfortable, easy silence and speak up on behalf of others who are suffering, whether we choose to do so by writing, protesting, or voting. The First Amendment gives us Americans not only the right but the responsibility to criticize unjust governmental and religious institutions. If we want our world to change for the better, we can’t wait around for someone else to do it for us—we must speak out and take action, and Silence Is Not the Answer shows the myriad ways we can accomplish that as people of faith.
My dream is that this book will energize many people from different religious traditions to shout from the rooftops about how we can make the world so much better for everyone.
My nightmare is that people will peruse the book, say “Nice book, George is so courageous,” and then return to silence.
Can we count on you to help break the silence?