"My Tribe" by Bret Kincaid
I grew up a Roman Catholic but entered the Protestant fold when, as a college freshman on a secular campus, I fell into an evangelical conservative crowd calling themselves Campus Crusade for Christ. Through unconditional love and discipleship these new friends instilled in me a fresh and powerful desire for marinating my mind in Scripture and sharing my faith with others. Because at the time I felt a vocational calling to psychotherapy, they steered me to a Christian college and assured me that I would be better off learning Christian psychology rather than the psychology of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and B.F. Skinner taught at the secular university. I followed their advice, but at the Christ-centered college I attended, I unexpectedly came to face what they feared—i.e., the psychological theories of modern thinkers who started their thinking from non-theistic assumptions—and learned to love looking for truth wherever one can find it.
The last days of the 2008 presidential election reminded me of this fear-based approach to culture. I recently became aware of it when I watched an invocation given by an evangelical pastor at a McCain rally. Then Focus on the Family Action issued the “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.” Of course, I had already heard the rumors circulating in the evangelical camp that Obama is a Muslim, not a US citizen, is the anti-Christ, “pals around with terrorists,” and the like. Last week I received a DVD from my evangelical in-laws that cast Obama in a scary light. I haven’t bothered to look, but I’m sure this kind of fear is expressed throughout the evangelical Christian corner of the internet. And just last weekend a former evangelical pastor and relative of mine said he plans to move back to the Eastern bloc country from which he escaped in the 1940s because it is less socialist than Obama’s nation will be.
This reaction to an Obama presidency is rooted in fear, and as any good horror flick demonstrates, fear often distorts what is real. I believe president-elect Barack Obama and his administration will make mistakes, and he will push for or tolerate policies that many will find problematic, even repugnant. I also expect some of those policies will be just and some won’t be. But he is no more likely to be an ogre—or, in evangelical parlance, the anti-Christ—than John McCain, the boogey man of the radical left.
I used to be surprised by this political fear, but I’ve gotten used to it. Nonetheless, I never cease being severely disappointed in many of my tribe for being so predictably fearful rather than hopeful, especially in the face of what they believe will be a political disaster. Since evangelicals became a powerful political force in the US, we have become widely known as fearful rather than hopeful people. Yet, the most common command of Scripture is “Do not be afraid,” a command tethered to hope. When election races are tight we so often act as though 1) God is not sovereign over history; 2) when God intervenes in history, it is primarily through politics; and 3) few of us are working in organizations that help move civil society in a healthy direction. Instead, let’s remember that the US is so fortunate to have a strong, richly textured civil society, a bulwark against tyranny, and a potential vehicle for encouraging a just society. Through our faith-based organizations—i.e., churches, colleges, businesses, nonprofits, etc.—and through our memberships in the political parties and various interest groups, we have the privilege and opportunity to express our living, vibrant, and hopeful faith, which will naturally reverberate in ways God can use.
I offer this reflection in the spirit of Paul’s common admonition to be content and to be thankful to God, while rolling up our sleeves to live into the prayer “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
I've written before about how fear is all too often the rule for evangelicals.
Let's live with faith, hope, and love. Let's not give in to fear.
"God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7)
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." (1 John 4:18)