Several years ago I was privileged to hear former professor Eugen Schoenfeld, a Holocaust survivor, address a north Atlanta audience. In the midst of telling a portion of his story he made a specific statement that stuck with me. Here is a paraphrase:
Always watch what your government does in times of fear. Hitler rose to power during a time of national calamity and fear in Germany: fear of the economy, fear of the impact of Versailles. In times of fear it is easy for the government to take civil liberties because we readily give them up.
Schoenfeld may have been referring to the Patriot Act, but I do not remember specifically. It would fit the bill.
The aftermath of 9/11 brought a period of uncertainty, vengefulness and fear. Our national disposition was one of disbelief. We expected a response and were rewarded.
In order to ensure 9/11 did not become the progenitor of many such events, the Department of Homeland Security was formed. Even though we should have known better, we gave away certain rights guaranteed us by the Constitution. If we did not give them away, we did little more than pout as they were take away from us. Warrantless wiretaps, secret courts, and expansive government powers have re-defined “the American Experience.” In some ways we have more commonality with banana republics of the 1970s than with the American Revolution of the 1770s.
None of this happened because we evaluated the ramifications. All of this happened because of fear. We gave up liberties enjoyed by generations of Americans before us because we feared for ourselves and the generations to follow.
If you keep up with the news at all you know that we have consistently seen the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution eroded until almost nothing remains. “Probable cause” has become the humorless punchline to an inside joke of the police state. In 2013 America it’s closer to 1984 than ever.
In addition to the governmental overreach accelerated in the last decade, we have witnessed–from a New Testament perpective–a moral shift perhaps not seen since the 1960s. Gay marriage, which was a fringe issue a decade ago, now has the support of almost all Democrats and a new crop of leading Republicans. Within the year it could be legalized in all 50 states. Homosexual behavior, once was mentioned in hushed tones, if at all, is now the theme of movies, TV shows, and sympathetic news stories. At the current pace there will soon be no closet from which to “come out.”
The Democratic National Convention cheered abortion like a drunken pep rally might cheer another keg and barely voted in the most generic mention of God in the platform. The Republicans mention God, but could not define Him in a month of Sundays. Their most openly religious presidential candidate openly advocated for pre-emptive assassinations based on an Iranian person’s occupation.
Our concept of religious liberty, indeed the concept our country has held since the first feet left the boat, has been reinterpreted. Religious thought is as widely supported as ever…as long as it only affects your personal life. Try to bring it into the public square and voila it is branded “hate speech.”
These are times of extreme change, and nearly unbelievable societal morphing. The result seems to be a lot of fear and worry among Christ followers.
It is for times like these multiple scriptures were written. The Old Testament addresses fearful times: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
As does Jesus: “Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
“Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28
As does Paul: “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment.” 2 Timothy 1:7
As did an angel: “‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar.’” Acts 27:24 (Note the governmental aspect.)
As did Peter: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:14, 15
So, in the familiar refrain of the King James Version: “fear not.”
Fear not is most applicable when fear is most actual.
Fear not means little when there is little to fear.
Fear not is most personal when fear is most probable.
Even though there may be much we can fear, we are still commanded to have no fear. I mean, really, what is the worst thing that can happen? Total economic and societal collapse ending in death. For followers of Christ death is a doorway to the presence of our savior, so what is to fear?
What might be worse? Jail? Torture? Suffering? All–ALL–of these things have been suffered by our brothers and sisters in Christ since He ascended to heaven. Not only that, for centuries Christians have learned to rejoice in that suffering.
The worst thing that could happen to me in all the universe would be something God could do to me. And the worst thing God can ever do to me, because of Jesus Christ, is show me mercy. An Paul asked:
Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! [Romans 8:35-39]
Who knows? We might even begin to live like the church again rather than cogs in political machinery.
All scripture from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.