Slander without slandering

Thabite Anyabwile writes:

“…I passed along that suspicion and doubt to others in my pastoral care. I didn’t say much about you with words. I can’t recall saying anything about you as a person. But with a raised eye brow, a shrugged shoulder, a “hmmm” before a redirecting sentence, I passed along what was in my heart, the sinful attitude rooted in the very misogyny and chauvinism you describe in your post. If we communicate most in non-verbal ways, then I’m afraid I’ve “said” a lot about you, and I have slandered you.

And I have let others slander you. I’ve been in rooms where your name was mentioned with disparaging tone. And rather than ask a few basic questions (how do you know this about her, do you have any evidence you can point us to, and so on), I said and did nothing. I wasn’t any different from Saul standing by holding clothes while Stephen was stoned.”

It’s part of an article/open letter to Beth Moore in response to her open letter to her brothers challenging us about their attitude to women in the church.

I want to pick up specifically on Thabite’s comments here because I think he cuts to the core of how slander, gossip and abuse are endorsed. We don’t need to say words but we can give our implicit endorsement to a position or we can undermine people with a look, a shrug, a smirk.  We don’t need to specifically accuse but we can fail to defend and we fail to ask questions like “how do you know?”  We can allow slander to go on simply because we are unwilling and uninterested in checking for ourselves. We can judge a person based on their reputation , often based on third hand comment and often based on who they are linked to even if by 2 or 3 degrees of separation.

Let’s make sure that there is no place for this in our churches