“Nothing to fear but fear itself”

Oh great! News from Russia gives us something else to be afraid of: a meteorite explosion. The roofs of our houses could cave in, destroying our beds, our sofas, our computers and cell phones. We could be killed.

Americans already have plenty to worry about: car accidents, theater shootouts, heart attacks, cancer, homosexuals, and socialists. And a more recent one: a tyrannical U.S. government. You can buy a Hummer so you’re less likely to be killed in a car accident. You can avoid going to theaters, stay at home and rent Netflix instead. To ward off heart attacks people ingest a daily dose of aspirin, eat flaxseed, and take fish-oil supplements. To prevent cancer they eat whole grains, tomatoes, broccoli, and drink green tea. Those afraid of homosexuals picket churches and businesses who accept gays. Folks who watch Fox News can identify the socialists then write letters to the editor to warn everyone else.

Recently we’ve been hearing that to protect ourselves from intruders and a tyrannical government we should buy an arsenal of AK-47s and glocks. Where can we get hand grenades?

As I recall, my father had fears too. He feared that if Kennedy was elected, the Pope would run our country. He was scared of communists. He was positive they had infiltrated the highest levels of our government and that it would be better to be dead than Red. He worried that if I danced I’d get pregnant, and if I went to college, my professors would teach me about evolution and destroy my Christian faith. I guess he took his own life because he was afraid to live it. That’s where fear can lead.

Sure, there are appropriate times to be scared: when our lives or the lives of others are imminently threatened. We should be cautious: buckle our seatbelts, install smoke detectors, avoid dark alleys late at night. But we need to remember that demagogues gain their power by appealing to our anxieties. It is to somebody’s advantage (and not always clear whose) that we organize our lives around those fears.

What is the alternative to a life dominated by fear? One grounded in joy and trust. Joy in the life we’ve been given, trust in a higher power and in each other.

Or we can move into a bunker so that if a meteor comes, we’ll be safe. Maybe.

If Jesus Had a Gun

(I can’t resist the urge to keep tweaking the previous blog. Thanks for being forbearing.)

How incredible that during this Christmas season we’ve been arguing about guns. This season when we send cards and sing songs about the Prince of Peace. “What would Jesus do?” some people ask when trying to make a moral decision. Apparently many think Jesus would arm himself to the hilt.

I’ve been trying to imagine that kind of Jesus.

Joseph was so determined to protect the vulnerable infant that he kept a gun right there beside the manger. As the shepherds, the Wise Men, the angels approached, he said, “Don’t come any closer,” successfully keeping them at bay. As Jesus got a little older Joseph taught him to fire a weapon at a target in the shape of a Roman soldier.

Later, when he recruited disciples, the Jesus I’m imagining made sure they were armed. After all, we know from the Good Samaritan story that robbers preyed on travelers. And there were all those dangerous Romans soldier occupying the land, denying the Jews of all liberties. Surely Jesus and the twelve spent hours by Lake Galilee practicing their shooting skills.

One day Judas said, “I hear the Romans have new guns, more powerful than an ordinary rifle. Their guns can shoot bullets in rapid succession.”

“Then we must have them too,” Jesus replied. When Judas returned with thirteen AK-47s, Jesus and the twelve had confidence that these weapons would provide the protection they needed. Besides, firing these guns made them feel like real men.

When crowds began to gather around him, a gun-toting Jesus told this parable: “One time there was a wealthy merchant. A robber came to his place of business, but the merchant had a gun and was able to kill the robber. Behold, we live in dangerous times when we must protect our families and ourselves. Only with powerful weapons are we safe.” And the crowds believed him.

What about the night Jesus was arrested? While some of the disciples napped, others played cards. Jesus, though, was engrossed in prayer. So he was taken completely by surprise when Roman soldiers burst on the scene. Still, he was able to reach for his AK-47 fast enough. The disciples too. They mowed those soldiers down—like the good guys do in movies.

No, that’s not the Jesus I know either.