‘What can I say?’: Reflections on (Un)Permitted Speech and Justice

When is speech justified? This question is admittedly vague. To be more precise, as of late I feel as though I have had to ask myself many times, “Is the particular desire I have to speak in this instance and in this particular way justified’? Perhaps this is a question that we face every day in our innumerable interactions with family, friends, lovers, strangers, acquaintances, and the list goes on. How will my speech be received? How will my speech shape, not only the future of discourse, but the many inter-relations that constitute my own and others’ existence? Will my speech take on a form that will lead to just relations or will it create or further entrench relations of violence. If the latter be the case, I may be surprised to discover to what extent my speech has never really been ‘my’ speech at all, but speech already defined and delimited by a demonic “technological methodism” (Stringfellow) of a cultural-linguistic variety.

In ecclesial settings, I have found this conundrum to be particularly powerful. There have been many instances in which, in ecclesial settings, it is so obvious to me that the form that speech is ‘allowed’ to take is demonic in what it excludes a priori. Voices that would contribute real discourse towards recognition of minorities in ecclesial settings, outsiders that have been held at bay by “Orthodoxy” and “Ecclesial Unity,” are all prevented from speech that can realistically be received or recognized. I speak as one who is not an outsider, one who is privileged, one who has consistently struggled to create holes in the boundaries of the speech-form of ecclesial contexts so as to allow those boundaries to be more porous. At times I wonder if poking holes is enough. Poking holes seems to some already to be evidence of ‘wild speech,’ untamed by discipline. I propose, however, that ‘boundaried’ speech is more illustrative of an untamed tongue than speech that transgresses the demonic boundaries set by human will and desire. I believe this to be because ‘boundaried’ speech is precisely untamed in its hypocrisy — praising boundaries while transgressing the just relations that are given in the transgressing of demonic boundaries.

James 3:8-9 – No one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people, who have been made in God’s likeness.

I still do not know ‘what I can say’ in the many settings I am in. I can only try to poke more holes to allow un-permitted speech to become permitted so as to make partners in discourse aware of the “question mark” (Barth) that stands against all our speech. Perhaps ‘just speech’ in this world is only recognizable under the sign of this question mark.





One comment on “‘What can I say?’: Reflections on (Un)Permitted Speech and Justice

  1. Kampen says:

    Boundaried speech is untamed in its perpetuation of oppression, crying peace peace where there is none, and the curse it speaks in its silence (i.e. to be silent is still to say something).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s