Much of the anger and hostility so present in social media and social settings today stem from a fear that has engulfed a lot of white Americans — even, or especially, those who claim a high allegiance to the one who repeatedly said, “Fear not.”
But change — or the prospect of change — is just too much for them. They can only imagine and feel secure within a future that looks remarkably like the past.
Anything else elicits fear, which elicits defensive victimhood, which elicits hatred and hostilities.
So, they lash out at anything and anybody who doesn’t share their irrational fears — even if it means tossing aside all those values and characteristics they’ve long championed. It is a sad spectacle.
One doesn’t have to read or listen much to know that white Americanized Christians, in large numbers, are acting or reacting in this tragically unhealthy and unhelpful way.
So many are scared. Afraid people of color will usurp their “rightful” place of cultural dominance.
Afraid an accurate recounting of America’s history will strip away their deceptive and idealized versions of “exceptionalism” that excuses the long list of human rights abuses that have well served an advantaged segment of this nation’s residents. (It would. And should.)
Afraid people might actually hear and heed what Jesus said — rather than what has been manufactured within institutionalized Christianity to be more palatable when served up as being “Christian,” although nearly devoid of Jesus.
Fear has long been the major roadblock to needed social change. And, for many, it seems to be exacerbated when they age.
My mother used to lament the daily — or many times a day — phone calls from her older cousin Pearl who was always aroused by the latest thing she saw on TV some 30 years ago. Fear was her ongoing companion.
I recall overhearing one conversation in which dear Pearl expressed distress over what she’d just heard on The Geraldo Rivera Show. Of course, creating fear and distress was the show’s intent — and a minor league version of what Fox News serves up to its fearful audience each day now.
My mom’s loud and pointed response was: “Then don’t watch Geraldo!”
Mom used a very southern English pronunciation of “Geraldo” rather than the Spanish one that begins with an “H” sound. For many years, that line — “Then don’t watch Geraldo!” — became the way my older brother and I jokingly responded to each other regarding just about anything.
While we found humor in that incident, the fear of the future that dominates many lives is real and serious. And particularly tragic when it isn’t based in reality.
It’s odd how the 1960s and ’70s — once regarded as “the dark ages of the 20th century,” to quote the original Jerry Falwell — are now considered the “good old days” when everything was right with the world. If we could only go back there!
Apparently, rock music, long-haired hippies, anti-war protestors, motorcycle gangs and voting rights for African Americans weren’t the end-of-the-world forces they were feared and forecast to be.
It seems every generation thinks the next one is screwing things up. So, thanks for the invitation, but I choose not to join this latest pity party.
The reality is my hope rests far more in those who embrace more equal and compassionate expressions of humanity than those who think only white people, especially men, can be trusted to lead. And while holding some good memories from the past, there are emerging trends that bring freshness and hopefulness to our lives.
Through faith, hope and love, there are clear ways out of such fear-gripping living — starting with actually trusting God rather than just plastering the slogan on money and car tags.
One very helpful approach is to get to know younger, non-white people from various backgrounds. It’s pleasantly surprising what can be learned from those with a different ethnicity, gender, religion and experience than our own if one chooses to listen rather than lecture or exclude.
A needed illumination for many is that our old, familiar ways just might not be the best ways for everyone for all times.
Perceiving change as an enemy — a personal threat — is a sad and unfulfilling way to live. It can only lead to increasing fearfulness and its awful offspring of destructive attitudes and actions.
Identifying what fears drive our thoughts and behaviors — and then running them by God, with Jesus’ life and teachings as the measuring stick — is a needed, ongoing spiritual discipline.
Another wise move is to turn off the alarm. Not the clock, but those echoing the harsh media and religious voices who make their living by raising a listener’s temperature rather than IQ.
In other words, “Stop watching Geraldo” — or whoever now is simply stirring up anger and ignorance that drown out the words and ways of Jesus who called us to be driven by love, grace, hope and faithfulness rather than by fear and self-interest.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.