Just this morning I ran across an old Facebook post on someone’s timeline. By old, I mean about three months old. It was of a letter from a political candidate who was predicting food shortages, lack of police officers; basically, general chaos moving into the fall and winter of 2021. The predictions were the typical fear-mongering, laced with a smattering of Biblical references to make the whole thing sound like the coming Apocalypse, and that this was prophecy. Cue the air raid claxons and the faint voices of monks chanting in the background.
The post, the letter itself was not what irritated me. Although, irritated is probably not the best word. Disappointment, perhaps. I was disappointed that the person posting this has a Ph.D. in psychology (a profession meant to help people through lies and anxiety) and was a self-proclaimed evangelical Christian. And I was disappointed that the people responding to this were not just acknowledging the nonsense in the letter, but were adding to it, with nonsensical ideas and accusations that were clearly based in fiction and unprovable alternative facts. Not a single person in the post comments seemed to suggest that this was nonsense, and that perhaps the facts showed a reality contrary to this prediction. It was like I had stepped into a virtual room full of conspiracists, all claiming that what they were believing was somehow God’s warning to stay strong in the faith and avoid the all consuming fires of the antiChrist.
Everyone in the comments was clearly choosing to accept the fear, and willing to live in a state of panic and heightened anxiety. And, as normally happens when people give in to fear, they then became angry, and their comments began to target those that they felt deserved their rage. In this case, the present administration, the nebulous “left wing liberals,” and all the godless. It was a collection of angry people, smoldering with self-righteous indignation, living in fear.
I believe that there is a reason that the Bible tells people not to be afraid – in some form or another – multiple times. The most obvious verses that come to mind are Isaiah 41:10 and Philippians 4:6-7. Some Christians focus on the dangers and the horrors of “how the world ends,” and this then leads them into anger, and possibly even violence and illegal activities.1 If the danger of living in fear is that it leads to hate,2 then there is every reason that we should seek to find ways to live outside of our fear, to live in God’s peace, even if that peace only manifests itself within our selves, despite the raging chaos of the world around us.
In my life, I’ve run across a few people who seem to be unmoved by the events of life around them, completely unflappable when it comes to life’s cruelties and exacerbations. Despite what happens to them, they will turn to you and say, “Praise God.” Now, this isn’t to say that they fail to do anything about the evil they see in the world, but only that they do not let that evil cause them to wallow in despair, or live in fear and anger. Instead, they draw upon a deep well of peace and look at you and say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures forever,” and also, “The Lord is at my side, therefore I will not fear; what can anyone do to me?” And finally, despite what is happening in their lives or in the world around them, they still manage to say, “This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118). And it is in that peace that they work to make the world a better place, a world full of peace and one in which Love is made manifest.
Now, not all of us have found that well of peace, but we would do well to search for it, and to draw on it when we can. Especially when confronted with misinformation and lies that seek to put us into a state of panic, fear, and anger. We may not find that deep well in every situation, but if we search for the ways in which God has made the day, and ways in which we can rejoice in it, despite the cares of this world, then maybe we too will be able to find ways to push forward God’s agenda in this world, rather than the agendas of those seeking to manipulate our fears and our “righteous” indignation.
1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!Psalm 118, NRSV
2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the LORD say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.
6 With the LORD on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?
7 The LORD is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in mortals.
9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.
10 All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees; they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me.
14 The LORD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly;
16 the right hand of the LORD is exalted; the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”
17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18 The LORD has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.
29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
- There are some very well researched articles that cover the reach of fear-based misinformation and the Christian mind, here, and here.
- “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Master Yoda
Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.