There's nothing as satisfying (for me, anyway) as cutting through the red tape of emotional and spiritual rhetoric and getting right to the core of an issue. Uncover the motivation and you'll get right to the substance. For instance, want to know what kind of legislator a political candidate will be if elected? Forget the campaign promises, polished speeches, dramatic advertising, and ooey, gooey town hall Americana and follow the money trail. See who might be "investing" in his or her campaign.
As sorry as I am to say this, fear is probably the most commonly used, and most quickly responded to, motivational tool on the planet, and in religious movements, it's usually connected to the money trail. It's powerful. How powerful? Think 9/11...an event founded on fear, inspired by fear, and designed to provoke fear, much of it religious fear. It worked, crippling many aspects of our society for some time, with lingering impairments still apparent today. It had a profound impact on all of us. On that particular day, I was playing on a session in Charlotte. With very heavy hearts, we finished the session, and the drive home was just...surreal. Driving right past uptown at 5:30 PM, hardly another automobile on I-77, and then miles up the highway, as I veered off onto the exit ramp to begin the final leg of my drive home through the hills, listening intently to the radio describing the delayed collapse of the final, 47-story building, I pulled the car over, having noticed the unusual sky. I stepped out and just soaked it in for a few minutes. A crystal clear, Carolina blue sky...and here, under a major east coast flight corridor, not a single contrail. Surreal. I remember thinking to myself, "Let this soak in, cause you may never see this again in your lifetime." A surface illusion of the nearest thing to perfection in a day, when in reality, it was the product of fear, fear that had created chaos on the global scene, turned our financial markets upside down, produced wild celebration in nations dominated by radical, militant Islam, but most significantly, had ripped away the lives of thousands at ground zero.
Fear kills. The heart - the mind - eventually, sometimes sooner rather than later, the body.
I become furiously angry when I see people thriving on fear-mongering. The people at the head of the movements I write about have it down to a science. Scare you, then convince you that they have the perfect antidote for your fears. They need to keep you scared, though, so you'll keep buying their stuff, which means that anytime they think you might not be scared, they'll throw something out about the evil ways of the world and modern society, the "world's system of this or that", the devil's gonna getcha, society wants to consume your children, et cetera, doing their best to lead you to the conclusion that anything other than the product they're selling will lead to death, hell, and the grave, sending you and yours to hell in a handbasket. I mean, there are sooo many things you need to be in fear of as a Christian, right? Live in fear and paranoia to find true happiness in the Lord, right? If you listen to these people, sometimes it sure seems that way.
Sadly, the radical, hyper-fundamentalists I typically write about aren't the only segment of the Christian community profiting from fear.
I'm torn between a chuckle and shaking my head in disgust when I see ministers on television peddling fear. They show advertising within their broadcasts describing their books and dvd series which cover end-time prophecy, the middle-east, armegeddon, and the return of Christ - and in the background, dark and ominous music which coerces you to feel some sense of impending doom. *Cue ominous music* "Buy my latest series!" *music builds* "Perilous times! This may be the most important series I've ever produced!!" *music builds more with low, droning synth* "Run for your lives, church!!!" *music now in an ominous, pulsating frenzy* "The return of Christ is near! Be afraid! Be very afraid!!!!" *music builds to Dr. Kevorkian levels while Lewis lights himself on fire* "You can buy this package for a love gift to this ministry of $49.95!"
Hmmm. Buying a package of fear with a "love gift". Not entirely sure how the math on that one works, but, anywho...
All while Jesus has this to say about it (from Matthew and Luke)...
"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened or troubled...Now when these things begin to occur, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption (deliverance) is drawing near."
Unless my eyes are deceiving me, that's hope. Not fear. Speaking of the most frightening times in the history of the planet in terms of hope and comfort? Not fear? That's a novel idea that this Jesus person had. If only He were a part of fundamentalist movements. (<- only half kidding) They say they're all about Jesus, but I don't really like their Jesus. He's kinda scary, actually.
Those at the forefront of the patriocentric movement and it's hyper-fundamentalist kissing cousins are the masters, peddling restaurant-quality fear in bulk while providing ongoing paranoia on the side to keep the fear fresh and marketable. Some who will read this article probably fall into this category. The irony is, they probably live far below the standards of wholesome Christian goodness they mask this market of fear behind, the standards which, btw, they use to keep their demographic in bondage to guilt and shame - on top of the fear. "Feminism is destroying our culture!!! Be afraid!!! Be very afraid!!! Stay emotionally pure you harlots!!! Follow our formulas, breed your own army of SuperChristians, and let's take back this nation for God before the devil kills us all with vile, nasty, filthy, disgusting Feminism and stuff!!! Trust us when we say how bad it is!!! Oh the humanity!!! You mean you would defy God by not buying our products and living this lifestyle?!!! You would defy God!!! Don't you want to be godly?!!!"
I don't care how pretty a bow is placed in it's hair, or how extravagant a denim jumper it's clothed in, THAT'S what's actually being said. Creating a demand, often where it doesn't really exist, then, demanding to meet the demand, because any other way would just be "ungodly". Then, the "patriarchs" who actually buy what's being peddled turn into tyrants of fear in their own right, indoctrinating their children, thoroughly, into a culture of fear that, even upon sometimes escaping, leaves scars that linger for years. Fear, not the intimate, personal love of the Lord, is the motivation used for remaining IN the movement. According to these fear-mongerers, you can't genuinely love and serve the Lord outside of the movement. That should be anyone's first clue that the movement is poisonous, that is, if someone were seriously willing to examine their life and beliefs.
"There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!"
...and, as the passage continues, special for some new friends...
"For fear brings with it the thought of punishment..." - Fear brings punishment, and perfected love has no fear in it, which means there's no punishment in it.
Fear has been propogated, and so shrewdly put to use, by hyper-fundamentalism to the point that those who've been brushed by it sometimes have trouble seeing the frequent encouragement in the scripture of "Fear not" as anything more than another command. It's a crying shame. These movements offer a life of waiting for, dreading, and preparing for the next shoe to drop, and that's really no life at all.
The money trail is where you'll cut through the bull and get to the base. Fear is big business, folks. Why is that, you ask? It's simple...
When the dollar bill is king, genuine faith doesn't sell all that well.