The Evil of Religio-Political Fear

10 08 2016


Americans love Happy Hour! I know I do! I’m not normally a big drinker, but who can argue with $3.00 drafts, $5.00 glasses of wine, and cheap specialty cocktails – not to mention half-priced sliders, calamari, and nachos? They are enticing; and I’m sucker for a deal!

Like restaurants and bars, religious groups and political parties also work hard to “bring people in!” Theologies are fabricated with eschatologies that can save people from a ‘hell’ish eternity, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth; promising instead an afterlife in the heavens, complete with the joyful music of fat little babies plucking on harps, and/or the affection of 72 virgins.

Similarly, party platforms and candidates proclaim whatever needs to be communicated in order to grow their audience. They promise everything from the appointment of Supreme Court Justices who will never allow women to lose the right to make their own reproductive choices, and the establishment and enforcement of laws that will protect us from companies destroying our environment; to building walls that will safeguard Americans from rapists and murderers, and ridding our culture from attempts to abolish the second amendment.

And people are enticed into these camps, all of which promise a safety and security designed to shield us from all who are trying to take away our rights and freedoms, as well as from those who are trying to physically hurt or harm us. Portions of our religious community, as well as certain segments of the political establishment, stoke the fires of fear, encouraging us to suspiciously question the agendas and motives of those who do not think like us, look like us, believe like us, or behave like us. And sadly, the solutions they offer are nothing less than evil.

They’re evil because they are birthed in fear; and operating out of place of fear is rarely a good thing! Karen Armstrong, in her book “12 Steps to the Compassionate Life” says that “fear (makes) us flee or fight anything that threatens us. (It) makes us hate those we regard as dangerous. (And) it makes us wary and suspicious.” When fear is the foundation from which we attempt to make important decisions, Armstrong says that it will often prevent us from reaching out to others, and cause us to shrink back into ourselves, all in an attempt to ward off the impending menace that we perceive to be intimidating us.

Fear is something that blinds even the best of us, leading us to operate in ways that are often irrational, unreasonable, and sometimes, downright foolish. We make decisions that are not grounded in reality, and thus fail to take into account the kindness, compassion, gentleness, and generosity of others. Fear normalizes suspicion and mistrust, thereby causing us to question the motives of people and political parties, churches and governments, and most organizations and institutions – all of which are regarded as . . . “out to get us!”

And if this kind of fear isn’t dangerous enough, today, it is being mixed up with a shot of religious fundamentalism, and a splash of political extremism, thereby creating a very dangerous and toxic cocktail – one that has the capacity to destroy the very religions people believe they are saving, and the very governments they believe they are protecting.

This is what we are currently seeing in America!  Fearful religious fundamentalists have made disagreeing with their theology a heretical affront to God, deserving nothing less than excommunication or at times even death; and fearful political extremists have crafted an ideology that, if rejected, is deemed to be unpatriotic and even anti-American. Everything is regarded as a conspiracy; and the misinformation and suspicious nature of these fear-mongers threatens the very fabric of the America that many of us love.

These religious and political zealots believe that their theology is the only acceptable way to talk about faith and God; and that their religion is the only acceptable foundation upon which this nation can and should be built. And rather than regarding their loss of majority status as a movement of God’s sovereign Spirit, it is regarded as something to be feared, and thus resisted. Further, the political dogma of these faithful patriots is nothing less than extreme – where the government is regarded as the enemy, and governmental institutions are perceived as only interested exercising power and taking away individual rights and freedoms.

Sadly, the drunken stupor of this segment of the American populace is actually more of a danger to our nation than those this segment of the population fears; for this stupor, more than anything, is what threatens the soul of America. This group’s understanding of justice and law too often minimizes the role of ethics in decision making, as well as the very morality that they claim to hold dear. Their perception of unity is in reality a bland and controlling state of uniformity; primarily because embracing the diversity that has allowed America to be regarded as the melting pot of the world simply requires too much work and demands way too much compromise. And their supposed commitment to freedom continually blinds them to the inequality that has for too long been the fruit of America’s pursuit of ‘liberty and justice for all.’

Fear is bad enough; but when mixed with religion and politics, it becomes downright evil. And the results won’t make America greater, or safer. They won’t make us more Christian, more Godly. Rather, they will cause us to become more and more suspect of one another; they will continue to divide our nation into privileged and oppressed groups of people, that are alienated from and angry toward one another; they will sap the beauty and joy living together in a beloved community; and most tragically, they will only multiply and increase the fear that in the end, will become the root of all our evil!

The hour has come for us to stand up and caution people against being suckered into chugging down the poisoned cocktails being offered up today, by both the religious fundamentalist and the political extremist. So stick with a Mojito, and the calamari!  All the other stuff, is nothing short of evil!