Out from the caves of fear


“There is no passion so contagious as that of fear,” wrote Michel de Montaigne.

During the five minute drive to Auburn Manor in downtown Chaska Monday morning, I turn on the radio to hear what they’re saying about the Vikings’ overtime victory over the Bears.

I turn to the ESPN sports channel. But it’s not about sports. It’s Glenn Beck advising listeners to buy food insurance. On the heels of the call to buy food insurance in preparation for catastrophe comes the advice on how to buy your first gun.

Passion. Contagion. Fear. They’re everywhere. Not just Glenn Beck and the far right, but on the left, in the middle, and among the apathetic and the cynical. Fear does not have one opinion. It is a contagious passion that has a thousand different voices. While the foundations of the familiar shake, we are infected by a pandemic of fear.

Fear does terrible things to a person and to a society. It is for this reason that the New Testament Gospels see fear as the root source of ill-will, self-absorption, greed, and war. The “Fear not” uttered by the heavenly messengers in Luke’s birth narrative is repeated in the middle and at the end of the Christ story. “Fear not, little flock.” “Fear not, for I am with you.” It is both invitation and command: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear…”.

We are always prone to fall back into fear. We fear because we are mortals. We die and we know it. We seek to secure ourselves against the threats, overt or covert, that cast death’s dark shadow over us.

In such times the psalmist comes to mind. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” I will buy no food insurance. I will buy no gun. To do so is to run straight into the arms of death as a living power that robs us of life’s goodness and meaning.

“Man’s self-absorption is the movement of our flight from death,” writes Sebastian Moore OSB. “This is what is meant by the scripture’s description of man as ‘under the shadow of death’. It does not mean ‘man knowing he will die’ but ‘what man does and becomes under this knowledge.’. It is not to our mortality, our animality, that scripture offers a remedy. It is to the death that we become in our self-absorption. It is to what we allow death to become in us by fleeing from it in the hopeless pride of man.” (The Crucified Jesus Is No Stranger, Paulist Press, 1977)

I turn off the radio. I dial back the passion. I interrupt the contagion of fear by repeating an old psalm, and drive over to the community food pantry to volunteer.

End the Violence

Today’s Sojourners’ blog posted End the Violence .

After reading this article, I submitted this comment about the “comments”:

I am continually amazed and dismayed by the character and content of comments on articles like this. I have the sense that Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have told their listeners, “Go on Jim Wallis’ blog and take him down!” Lines like “liberal Christian drivel,” “a law that restricts a persons (sic) ability to fulfill their divine obligation to protect their home and family” (the legislation does NOT restrict it, and there is no such “divine mandate” except in the NRA Bible), and “what are these faith leaders doing about abortion?” (when the issue here is violence with guns and the allegation is that religious leaders must choose between the two) – these comments do not engage the issue.

There is an anti-legislation, anti-democratic, anti-government streak in so many of these comments. The comments are political in the worst sense, demeaning the integrity of the writers and stereotyping their views into predetermined conclusions.

This seems to be the nature of the blogosphere, but it is especially distressing to see it here on Sojourners where readers mostly profess Christ and have attempted to take to heart The Epistle of James, “So the tongue is a little member and boats of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!” The tongue is “a restless evil, full of deadly poison. WITH IT WE BLESS THE LORD AND FATHER, AND WITH IT WE CURSE OTHERS, WHO ARE MAD IN THE LIKENESS OF GOD. FROM THE SAME SOURCE COME BLESSING AND CURSING. Brothers, this ought not to be so. (James 3:5-10).

As a writer and a blogger, I am grateful that the comments on Views from the Edge are respectful and thoughtful. Those of you who choose to comment engage the substance of what this blog posts. Such is not the case with the Sojourners blog with Jim Wallis. Jim Wallis is a progressive evangelical Christian, author of “God’s Politics: How the Left Doesn’t Get It, and the Right Gets It Wrong” and subsequent books on American values, economics, religion, and politics. Glenn Beck has publicly targeted him as a Social Gospel liberal (i.e.) a socialist disguising himself as a Christian.

Out of the mouth of Walter Rauschenbusch

Walter Rauschenbusch, "father of the Social Gospel"

Walter Rauschenbusch (1861 – 1918), “father of the Social Gospel Movement”

“All human goodness is social goodness. Man is fundamentally gregarious and his morality consists in being a good member of his community.”

“The chief purpose of the Christian Church in the past has been the salvation of individuals. But the most pressing task of the present is not individualistic. Our business is to make over an antiquated and immoral economic system….”

The Rev. Walter Rauschenbusch had a profound impact on Christian theology and activism that led to the end of child labor and to legislation that protected worker rights in the early 20th Century. The man whose theology was shaped by his ministry with the poorest of the poor in the “Hell’s Kitchen” of New York City is the man from whose “Social Gospel” Glenn Beck now urges church members to flee for their lives.