Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why are American Christians so afraid these days?

I hear a lot of fear and fear-mongering coming from people who call themselves Christians these days. I read it in "official" pronouncements and I hear fear in day to day conversations where "responsible" talk of self-preservation is thinly veiled worry. I overhear fear on Facebook, in emails and in the middle of daily transactions. They tend to attach their fear to the coming Fall elections, prophesying doom if we reelect the Muslim instead of the Mormon. Brainless, yes, but "fear is the mind killer," says a warrior in that memorable line from Dune. 

Why are Christians so fearful these days? I ask you that question with a open heart. Why do you think? Here are some of my answers: 
(1) They say the words but don't really trust or understand that "Jesus is Lord" means we can remain in full serenity because the Good Shepherd has it all in hand, and His kingdom cannot be shaken. 
(2) They have confused the two kingdoms. Because they believe their well-being is tied to the fortunes of THIS kingdom, they cannot see the forest through the trees. They are convinced that their geopolitical worry and material-economic analysis is rational and crucial and determines their future happiness. In their confusion they have lost their peace, the "peace that is way beyond all comprehension," as the Good Book calls it. 
(3) They are being manipulated by false shepherds who use the shears of fear to keep fleecing them for personal gain. Fear is the stick these battered sheep are driven with. "If you don't vote for ______, all hell will break loose." "If you don't give more money, the sky or roof or something bad is going to fall and hit you." "If you don't seclude yourself and put up a wall around yourself, bad things are coming..." Whatever happened to confidence in the saving power and loving care of Jesus? Whatever happened to, "Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world?" 

The fear-focus of contemporary Christians is in stark contrast to the example the first Christians set for us. When the first Christians confessed, "Jesus is Lord!" they were making a radical claim that was politically confrontational. They were confronting and denying Roman power and the control of Caesar who demanded all confess, "Caesaris Kurios!" -- Caesar is Lord. Roman regional leaders knew the moment they heard these upstart losers call Jesus "Lord" that this was political treason and these traitors had to be killed. The Romans even believed they were atheists, because they denied the divinity of the true and living god, Caesar. They were usually given a chance to confess Caesar is Lord and deny Jesus. It became so common to be executed for "witnessing to Jesus" this way that the word "witness" had its meaning changed to "die for Jesus" (martyr, matures in Greek).

You would have thought that would have been the end of Christianity. But the opposite was true. The more they killed these followers of Jesus, the more others came to believe, too, that the real king is Jesus and that Caesar's power was fake, temporary and fading. "The blood of the martyrs is the seedbed of the church" they realized, as they saw the Christian movement rapidly expand like dandelions in the spring wind.

Why did watching Christians get killed make other people want to become Christians too? The answer is straightforward, I think. In the face of withering and crushing Roman violence and intimidation there was something very obvious about these Christians: they had clarity and were unafraid. They did not fear what any person could do to them because Jesus the king of all time and space had kicked death in the teeth. He showed them that life is not about just wearing a meat suit. He demonstrated that the second death is what we should be worried about, not the first death. For them, there was a clarity that life on planet earth is a tale of two kingdoms: THIS kingdom (which is dust and chaff before the winds of time) and God's Kingdom (which is solid, stable and cannot be shaken). Through this lens they could see past the shimmering materialistic mirage that keeps so many in bondage and fear, and they would say things like, "Do not focus on what you can see but on what you can't see. What you see is temporary and fading, but what you don't see is permanent and everlasting" (2 Corinthians 4:18). They said it because they felt it deeply and were convinced it was true. They were filled with a strange peace and strong love from following Jesus. Hard to argue with strong feelings, I have found.

One of the Tricksters cons pulled regularly on Christians is to make them swallow that there is such a thing as "being so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good." The opposite is the case on the ground right now. We are so earthly minded we are no earthly good. We have gone native. We somehow think the King and the Kingdom hinge precariously upon which party and puppet control the government of the United States. This petty fearfulness is small-minded, and reflects that we do not know the voice of the Good Shepherd, His character of trustworthiness and His rule (that allows for this temporary but soon to end rebellion).

To all the Freddy Fear-mongers I say, The Lord is my shepherd--I shall not want. The Lord is my king, I shall not fear. America is not the light to the nations--Jesus is. All my hope is in Him--I shall not fear, and my hope will not be disappointed.