On Saturday I walked to church and listened to a podcast. The thing in the podcast that struck me the most was just how powerful a motivator fear can be. Having already read the mass readings, which address fear and other things, and I began to think about fear in our time. It is not all that different than fear in any other time; it just seems worse because we are bombarded with so much information.
So what are we afraid of? Well, that all depends. It seems to me that many people are afraid of refugees and immigrants. THEY are sucking up all of our tax money. THEY are stealing our jobs. THEY do not speak our language! THEY are changing our culture! THEY are all terrorists! THEY will destroy our way of life.
Yikes. Those damn THEY people. Once THEY were Irish, once THEY were Italian, once THEY were German, once THEY were Japanese. For many THEY either were or are Mexican, although sometimes Mexican might stand for anyone from South or Central America. Of course, THEY were (and are again) BLACK. We are in a moment of time where THEY are Muslim, and most dangerous. And who knows more about being THEY who wreck everything but the Jews? Xenophobia, and prejudice, and hate – yes the struggle is real. (Disclaimer, because this it the internet – no I do *not* believe any are THEY!)
This is quite curious to me because if we are Catholic, or any other Christian, our way of life is one of constant change and transformation. What else does Jesus invite us to? Change, change, change – and then more change. And didn’t Jesus say that he came so that “all might be one?” I’m pretty sure that does not mean that “all might be white, American one.” Just saying. Anyway, Pope Francis did have something to say about this.
Before I go any further, let me talk about the the first reading from the Second Book of Maccabees, we encounter a family put to death because they would not eat pork, which was against Jewish law. Some might say that they would rather die than change, and that this reading supports that. Well, maybe, but I do not think so. They were put to death because they loved and trusted God and they did not fear the threats of men. They believed in the covenant that God had forged with Israel, and that human beings could not force them into fear.
The Gospel from Luke brings home the point of slavery to fear, in fact an idolization of fear. When the Sadducees were arguing about a point of law Jesus goes to a whole other place with his response; he does not get into hairsplitting.
And that is part of the life of change – don’t just go right back into the argument. When they go low, go high, by keeping your eyes and mind and heart on Christ. Go to a different place with Him.
This all brings me back to the podcast, which was an exceptional episode of This American Life, Will I Know Anyone at This Party?. The episode was about changes in the Republican party in this election, and that things were not as they once were. Interesting, because the subtext of the story is that of many people who do not want to see their way of life change. So much so that they are willing to change their entire political stand as a result.
Reporter Zoe Chace, who has done an outstanding job covering the GOP for TAL over the this year. (Go to this link and page down for links to her episodes.) In this episode, she goes to Minnesota, a place where immigration has been a hotbed issue for a long time; there are many Somalis living there. You would have to listen to the podcast, but what I took away was this… Many people have fears of others. Reasonable or not, they are fears, and is referenced in the podcast, you can’t argue with a “feeling.” That said, how do we get to the place where faith and love trump our fears? (Yes, I did just go there.)
Before I go any further, I must say that all, and I do mean all, political parties use fear as a control lever. Some may do it more effectively than others, but it is present in all campaigns, and not just here in the US. We may do it better, and some of us (ahem) may really pull out all the stops, but it is used. Example: Elect FILL IN THE BLANK and we will begin impeachment proceedings and block all legislation. REALLY? Is that democracy? Anyway, it is a fear tactic.
Although I may have similar feelings to that particular fear tactic, and fear tactics can be reality based indeed, this one is on the same spectrum. Elect FILL IN THE BLANK and we will be brought to the brink of war. Well, true enough, but do I make my choice out of fear or out of faith? If I vote for anyone it will be because I have enough faith in them that the common good will be best served.
The Maccabees chose death without fear because of what they believed, because of their faith. Whatever choice I make on Tuesday, and I will make a choice, I will do so with faith. If I do otherwise then the tyranny of fear has won the election, and that is a risk I’m not willing to take. Why? Because that would be letting fear change my way of life. And that is just not going to happen. That is tyranny, plain and simple.
What will you choose? And no – I do not mean which candidate. Will you choose fear or faith?