I’ve written here and there about “fear-based faith” and the obviously destructive side effects. But maybe the real issue is that some have fear-based LIVES.
I was walking today along my river path, enjoying the tall grasses of spring teeming with bees and small birds and one of my favorite creatures to spy: gopher snakes. I always delight in stopping to crouch down low to look these beautiful ground-dwellers in the eye. So still. So alert. I talk softly or simply smile, wish them well and good hunting, and softly step away. This day, an older man approached and asked, “See any snakes?” I looked up and smiled, “You want to find some Snakes?” He said he heard there were snakes. I said, “Yeah, I just saw three today and my wife and I saw four a few days ago. They’re gopher snakes.” He shook his head and laughed. ”Oh, there was a guy back there with a golf club who told me to watch out for snakes and made it sound like they were rattlers!” As he went his way and I went mine, I said, “No, just gophers.” He walked on shaking his head. And so did I. Ignorant people with ignorant-based fears. So silly, stupid and short-sighted. Spreading fear with no basis or experience. I thought of parallels.
In the last few days I read and commented on several articles. One was on CNN and the other two on Faux News (get it? sure you do). Each had to do with Conservative Christian-types whining about their faith being attacked; they are so hurt and outraged that Christianity is “under attack” by us Seculars and Atheists and Separation of Religion and State kinds (you know us, those irritating citizens who dare to think the Constitution is more appropriate to guide a nation than a Holy Book). Oh, how terrible they can’t pray and preach and put their stickers (crosses, commandments, slogans) all over the planet. What few of these fearfully faithful and full of fear folks rarely if ever stop to think about is Other People who are really living in fear, because they are in reality being bullied and oppressed and treated unjustly. In other words, the “other people” Jesus (presumably their lord and master) Cared Most About. Oh, let’s forget about them (homeless, immigrant, minority group. gays and lesbians, etc, etc). . .they aren’t as important as our “Right” to pray and preach anytime, anywhere, forcing anyone to hear about Our Fear-Based Faith!
Oh, sigh. I think of the thousands I have worked with in my life, as a minister, chaplain and now social worker and teacher. I think of the people I see everyday on the news and read about. The humans, the other creatures who inhabit the small planetary home in space, who suffer and live (or die) day to day with a fearfulness caused primarily by unthoughtful, greedy people who think only of themselves. . .the self-centered, self-righteous, self-serving people who overwhelmingly invade with their armies or corporations from proudly “Christian nations.”
Huge sigh and head shake here.
And one more parallel: I’m re-reading the trial of Socrates, the wise and weird teacher of Athens who got himself in trouble because he. . .asked the wrong questions! Tried for “heresy” (not the right kind of believer, daring to question Orthodox faith) and “corrupting the minds of the young”. . .because young folks were attracted to strange and new ideas, and because he dared to “regard popular opinion as ignorant.” Poor old Socrates. Poor, but one of the Richest people who ever lived. Executed by a fear-based State feeding on the fears of the herd.
How to move beyond FEAR. . .the question of our time. . .and all times.
Hint: it ain’t a fictitious shangri-la called “Heaven.”
Hint: To live in fear is often a Choice.
Another hint: Socrates gave many hints, 2400 years ago.