When people are afraid they try to make sense of what they are experiencing. In those moments, the narratives we have ingrained in us come right to the front. The Boston bombers are a great example of this. Some immediately jumped on this news that these guys must be white right-wing wacko’s. Why? Not because that is what anyone knew that to be fact but because that fits some people’s agenda. It fits their narrative so they just made it up. When fear is present agendas become most obvious because fear is a great interrogator…it gets us talking and spilling our guts over our thoughts, values and preconceived ideas and puts them out there for all to see and hear.
Fear’s use in politics
This happens in politics all the time. You can’t have a good political speech without one of two things behind you. You either need a dozen American flags or else you need all sorts of people used as window dressing behind you. You don’t get placed behind the President or prominent politician on accident. The people who are placed there are very carefully selected. They are carefully selected because they are used to communicate something. If they are pressing for gun control, they put victims on the stage. If they want to talk education, they put some kids on the stage or the latest spelling bee champion. If it is about social security they put some elderly Americans up there. Here is the message – if we don’t do something BIG right now these people you see up here are going to get hurt (whether it is true or not, who knows). If you don’t support this then you don’t support those on the stage. You must be heartless.
Now here is what is important…It doesn’t matter if the bill they are pushing would actually would work or if they have their numbers right on the actual cost. All that matters is that they look like they care. That’s it. And fear is used all the time to promote change because you can get people to accept things they might otherwise never even consider when they are afraid. It is easier to hand over freedom to someone who you think will protect you when you are afraid. You can convince people of things that don’t even make any sense when they are afraid. You hear that in this quote from Rahm Emanuel (who would become President Obama’s Chief of Staff) in talking about the financial crisis in 2008 (more info on this quote),
“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
That is the politics of fear described very eloquently. That is using fear as leverage for the change that might not have a chance otherwise. Republicans and Democrats both do it. This is not about roasting one side and ignoring the other. Both sides should be ashamed of that but it is easy to understand why they do it…it is highly effective.
The good news
Now, here is the good news. God doesn’t want His people to be people who lived terrified lives. Compare this quote from 1 John 4:18 against the Emanuel quote above,
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
God’s love overcomes all fear because through Christ God took on fear and overcame. Fear was challenged in the Garden when Jesus prayed and fear was ultimately defeated when the tomb was found empty. When Jesus stands there and makes his appeal to us he doesn’t need flags behind him. He doesn’t need a crowd of people to make his point. Jesus can stand in front of the empty tomb and command, “Fear not” because the worst thing the world can do to you is send you to be with Jesus. Don’t let people sway you or push around your resolve with fear because God’s team wins. So be strong and courageous and do not be afraid.