There are many reasons why we should all be afraid.
No, I don’t mean our lives should be ruled by fear. I mean reasonable fear of the reasonably possible.
For example, in this sense of “fear,” I fear that a reckless driver will run his or her red light whenever I come to a busy city intersection. I see it happen every day.
So, when I am in the front of a line of cars and my light turns green, I do not just automatically go. I look to see whether anyone is turning left in front of me on his or her red light.
It happens every day several times although I’m not always in the front of the cars waiting to go when our light turns green.
This is reasonable fear.
We should all be afraid of the consequences of possibly human-caused climate change. We should all be afraid of the possibility of an active shooter in the building where we are working, shopping or going to school.
Again, not afraid as in constantly in a state of crippling anxiety, but afraid as in reasonably cautious and wary.
One thing we should all be afraid of is the very real possibility of a federal government led by a rogue politician/head of government/head of state who fires subordinates for obeying subpoenas to testify issued by legal authorities under pain of punishment for not obeying.
And we should all be afraid of democracy being turned into autocracy. We should all be afraid of people with power who are narcissistic and declare revenge on critics.
I also believe we should all be afraid of people who are so invested in the power they gain by supporting such people that they refuse to acknowledge the danger immediately in front of their own faces.
And we should be afraid of religious people who put power-abusing government leaders on pedestals as virtual messiahs.
We should be especially afraid when some admirers of such government leaders embrace conspiracy theories that include a mass rounding up of their critics and putting them in detention centers if not killing them.
These things that I believe we should be afraid of have all happened in human history. They could happen again.
“It can’t happen here” is a delusion. Of course, it could happen virtually anywhere – under the right circumstances.
When should ordinary fear of the possible, wariness of what might happen, turn into fear that the worst might be happening?
As soon as feasible. As soon as a person with power begins to use it to punish subordinates who simply did their duty, obeyed the law.
People talk about a “deep state.” What if the deep state becomes the light state, the one in the spotlight, the one everyone can see? But blind people keep looking behind it trying to find a “deep state” that doesn’t exist – hidden, behind the light state?
The time has arrived to fear every government led by a would-be dictator as soon as he or she punishes subordinates for nothing other than obeying the law.
Roger Olson is the Foy Valentine professor of Christian theology and ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas. He is the author of numerous books, including “Counterfeit Christianity” and “The Story of Christian Theology.”