Threat-Based Ideology

Mar 06, 2019

To the Editor:

Recently I was with a few friends and the conversation turned to politics. I don’t have to tell you that this is not a good idea these days. I began to squirm. I could feel my defenses as well as my blood pressure rising. One friend stood and stormed out of the room. Though no insults were hurled at each other, we were all feeling uncomfortable.

Clearly, the “fear epidemic,” as defined by Peter Marty, senior editor of Christian Century, and invoked by Donald Trump in daily Tweets, has stifled thoughtful moderates from contributing to the national conversation. In a speech to Liberty University students, the president said, “We’re going to protect Christianity.” Has he ever heard of separation of church and state?

Just three months ago, he pledged to defend Christmas. Peter Marty writes, “The problem is: Christmas doesn’t need to be protected. Christmas doesn’t have to se saved, and American Christians are not an embattled people.” Marty goes on to say, “We may need to live our faith more expressively, worship as if Christmas actually mattered, and champion the rights and needs of many more peoples. But protecting and defending Christianity fits a threat-based political ideology more than a life anchored in compassion and godly devotion.”

Marty concludes, “I recognize that fear is a terrific uniter. Fear holds people together like no other ideology, national symbol, or cultural creed. But subscribing to every fear and conspiratorial threat is a strange way to carve out a Christian life, and a national path.”

The tension-packed conversation I had with a few close friends revealed the difference, the increasing divide between those rooted in deep faith in God and those who have gravitated to the new ideology of fear … a force driven by narcissism, moral failings and a consistent disregard for truth.

As for me and my family, we will embrace belief in a fair and just and inclusive America. We need to join the conversation to forward democracy, finding the good in our neighbor and holding up hope (not fear) for all to see. Only then will our fractured nation be drawn together to provide liberty and justice for all.

I would like to conclude with a portion of an interview I read recently. When Raisa Brunner asked legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma if he would perform for President Trump, he responded neither yes nor no. He stated, referring to former presidential state dinners where he had played many times, “Talking from all sides of the aisle is incredibly important because if you can’t talk to one another, how can you work toward a common goal? If democracy is the result of discussion, how can you stop discussing? Civil discourse is so important – it’s the basis of what allows a civilization to function. It’s not about winning. The cultural part is about understanding.” May it be so.

Wesley Smith

Harvey Cedars

The writer is a retired pastor of the American Baptist Church.




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