Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Don't Believe the Fear Mongers

Tis the season. There are fewer than 50 shopping days until the election. The political ads are upon us, and men with deep, scary voices are in high demand. It's the season of fear mongering. If you vote for the wrong guy, then senior citizens will have to eat dog food, children will die, and America will cease to exist. This is the most important election of our lifetimes.
Amazing Pics of Sacred Bros at a Haunted House

And it's all a lie. It's all fear mongering.

Political marketers have learned a basic truth about human beings - fear is a remarkably effective motivator. When we are scared, we will act. Give us an enticement, and we might do what you want. But scare us, and we will definitely be moved to action. 

The fundamentalism of my youth understood this truth too. Fundamentalism uses fear to keep people in line. Like the adults in the movie The Village, the fundamentalist churches I grew up in created boogeymen to scare us from stepping out of line. Here are some of their most popular incarnations:

The Slippery Slope: If you question any point of the faith, you will end up questioning and abandoning all the faith. The best way to keep the faith is to never start down the slippery slope in the first place. Therefore, no questions. No doubts. No problems.

Experience Is Opposed to Truth: People who abandon the faith put experience ahead of truth. They let what they have gone through in life determine what is true and false. The danger, we were told, was that they would end up interpreting the Bible in light of their experiences rather than the other way around. Subjectivity would become more important than objectivity. (The real danger was never mentioned. This approach leads people to repress and deny their own realities, producing not just hypocrisy but, often, very emotionally unhealthy people.

People "Out There" Don't Love and Respect Jesus and the Bible Like We Do: I could write a lot about the remnant mentality of fundamentalism. The fundamentalist churches I grew up in was inherently distrustful of any other denominations or faith traditions. If you were to leave fundamentalism, you'll inevitably end up caring less about Jesus and the Bible.

Fear mongering is really effective at keeping people in line. It works. That's why political operatives and fundamentalist pastors use it. Until you realize that they are all lies designed to keep you from being truly free. I am living proof that a person can leave fundamentalism and not be consumed by the boogeymen they told us existed. My questions and doubts did not take me further from God. In fact, they led me closer to God. Being honest about my experiences didn't undermine my commitment to truth. It revolutionized it. Leaving fundamentalism didn't mean that I left Jesus and the Bible. In fact, my reverence and love for both has never been richer.

The most dangerous thing that the fear mongers face is someone standing up and saying, "No. That's not true. That's nothing to be scared of. It doesn't have to be this way." I wrote Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism But Didn't Lose My Faith to share that very message. The fear mongers are still shout loudly into their bullhorns, but we don't have to believe them any more.

How about you? What lies were you told by fear mongers in church?


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