Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Politics of Fear

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear.  Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”  Luke 12:4-5

Political science, in a nutshell, is the study of public policy by which it is determined who gets what, how much, when, and by whom.  In public policy, then, it is the government that decides who gets what, how much they get, when they get it, and who (which agency) will give it.  Ideally it would be that such policies seek the well-being of the whole society without favor, without passion, and without prejudice.

This is text book political science.  The reality is altogether different.  More and more are becoming more acutely aware that public policy is entirely manipulated by those who can buy favor in Congress or state legislatures or, as has become the case lately, by those who can strike fear in the hearts of members of Congress, state legislatures, city councils, and lately, boards of trustees at certain universities.  And the fear is not about personal safety; it is entirely about political fortunes and professional futures.

For the longest time I was “represented” (yes, I use the term loosely) by Democratic legislators.  My letters of concern to them regarding public policy were eventually answered, but the replies seemed to make clear to me that I need not bother to write since my direct questions were never answered nor my concerns addressed.  Now that I have Republican representatives, I cannot say I feel any better “represented”.  My direct questions are still not answered (do they just not know?), and my concerns are poo-poo’d away as having no real bearing on anything important.  I have no money.  My family name is not socially or politically significant, and I am not part of a larger organization, a PAC, or a lobby group with the power to get a legislator’s serious attention. 

Alone I am no threat to their political well-being.  I lack the power to strike fear into the heart of any legislator.  I cannot even seem to command simple respect, judging from so many condescending replies.  Yet apparently (judging by the robo-calls, spam e-mails, and circulars in the US mail) I have the awesome “power” to change the world … if I will but send them money to “continue the fight”. 

In other words, I do have some “power”.  Such “power”, however, seems only useful in the hands of another.  That is, I have only the “power” granted to me by these legislators and candidates.  Evidently I am in great need of someone else to “fight” for me since I am obviously incapable of defending or representing – or even thinking for - myself in the political realm.  If not for these self-appointed “messiahs”, I would have so much to fear that I could not possibly function as a citizen or lead a normal life in peace and safety.  If these are not elected or re-elected, I may as well hide in a cave or leave the country since all will be lost.

So there it is.  Politics is the system by which “it is determined who gets what, how much, when, and by whom”.  It is not public money or services being appropriated by public policy, however; it is fear.  These candidates and legislators and their minions need me to be afraid of something in order for them to be effective as legislators, public *choke* servants, president … savior. 

The election season, as those too often before this one, is already in full swing, but it seems to be more acute this time around that I feel I am being made to believe myself to be ignorant … or have my head buried in the sand (or up my you-know-what) … or blind to certain truths … or … or … It is not enough that I can simply disagree with a concept.  I must – I MUST – demonize those with whom I disagree, or I’m not a “real” American.  And if I am unwilling to demonize, then I must be demonized.

I guess there is some measure of fear within me, however.  Only recently did I read a study and timeline on events leading up to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany and the specific events and public policies leading up to the marginalization of European Jews and ultimately leading to that human tragedy we dare never to forget: the Holocaust.  Rank-and-file Germans were told whom they should be afraid of and who can rescue them.

So are we.  Without exception each candidate – from both sides – is playing on our fears.  The Democrats need us to be afraid of the Republicans, and the Republicans need us to be afraid of the Democrats.  They need us to be afraid of something or someone.  Their own political futures depend on stoking fear rather than inspiring confidence.  In order for them to be needed, we must be afraid of something from which only they can protect us.  They, along with the current president, are tearing at the very fabric of what makes this nation truly great – our unity.

What is most troublesome are the many Christians from both political sides playing directly into those fears and, consequently, betraying the very One they claim can truly “save”.  Christians are passing on incomplete or downright false information in efforts to demonize a political opponent or give more credit than credit is due their preferred candidate.  Portraits of their favorites are being passed around social media reminiscent of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s portrait all over revolutionary Iran.

Frankly, the biggest threat I see is the idolatry rampant in this country.  One cannot believe Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, or Ted Cruz will “save” this country while also claiming Christ Jesus as the Savior of the world and Savior of one’s own soul. 

What are we really afraid of?  Whatever fears we may be subject to must be given their proper place because we do need to be aware of our surroundings.  Even Jesus was afraid when facing the certainty of His tortuous death, but He faced that fear with the greater certainty of the Resurrection and the fullness of Life offered from the One who can truly “save”.  He did not believe for one second that “Caesar” could ultimately save Him or Israel, but He knew hatred would end His physical life in a very painful way.

We can be politically informed, and we can make responsible political choices.  We must be careful, however, of how high we would lift any politician and how much credit we might be willing to bestow on one who will one day “return to the dust from whence they came” just as surely as you and I will.  And in a matter of two, maybe three generations they, like we, will be long forgotten.

These candidates and legislators have only the power we grant to them, and it seems clear to me they cannot handle such awesome power.  I dare say no human being can live up to the impossible standards we establish for and expect from political candidates.

We must be careful whom we declare to be worthy of “savior” status.  In the end, that may be the only “savior” we will ultimately know.  And he, or she, will soon be “dust” just like the ones of us who expected redemption from them.  Be afraid of that.

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