We’ve been talking about hysteria, hatred and vengeance as inappropriate reactions to the trauma of terrorism in our world. These play right into the hands of the psychopathic terrorizers and only make the circumstances worse. Now if we must be utilitarian about it, how do these reactions affect us? What does a hateful and inhospitable spirit do to us as people of God?
Hysteria and hatred hijack our abundance
“If love is the greatest virtue, then hatred is the greatest vice. We must work at least as hard at stemming our hatred as cultivating our love.” Scott A. Bessenecker
Unfettered anger and fear drive us to extremes and tempt us to make stupid decisions. Not only have I experienced this personally, it’s just as true on a national and international level. When anger turns to hate and fear to morphs into panic our judgment gets murky These emotions can be quite indiscriminate. They’re undiscerning and paint everything with a very wide brush. All of a sudden every person that we categorize a certain way is covered in the color that we slop all over them.
There’s a reason we call certain unlawful acts, “hate crimes.” They’re crimes that are motivated by hate for whole groups of people. So, instead of restricting justifiable anger to a murderous individual, we profile with a wide-angle lens and hate all Muslims or Blacks or Whites or Hispanics or cops or gays. Instead of narrowing the parameters of our fears we assume that every Syrian, all the way down to the orphan, is dangerous.
I think our panic about terrorism is as hazardous to us spiritually and socially as the terrorism itself. It burrows into our souls – even our so-called saved souls – and infects them like a virus introduced into software. It takes control over our minds and emotions.
When I hear Christians invoke God’s judgment on entire populations or on adherents of another faith I wonder if this judgment looms as much over us, an alleged “Christian nation.”
In his book, Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis depicts an uncle demon writing advice to his nephew about how to harass his human victim. Interestingly enough he points out to him the connection between fear and hate especially during wartime (in his case, WWII). “The hatred is best combined with fear. . . The more he fears the more he will hate.” See if you can’t draw some parallels between Lewis’ time and ours.
Hatred we (that is, we demons) can manage. The tension of human nerves during noise, danger, and fatigue makes him prone to any violent emotions, and it is only a question of guiding this susceptibility into the right channels.
Let him say that he feels hatred not on his own behalf but on that of the women and children and that a Christian is told to forgive his own, not other people’s enemies. In other words let him consider himself sufficiently identified with women and children to feel hatred on their behalf, but not sufficiently identified to regard their enemies as his own and therefore proper objects of forgiveness.
We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear. There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading the human mind against the enemy (that is, God). He (God) wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.
Of course anger in itself isn’t a sin. We’re even counseled, “be angry but don’t sin.” Sometimes the only righteous thing to be is angry, nevertheless we have to be wary lest our anger leads us to act in ways that grieve God and harm people. We should be angry, as is God, about anything that harms humans but not react vengefully or independently of the wisdom of God.
And then of course, neither is fear essentially sinful. It’s the natural reaction to actual danger. There’s something dysfunctional about the person who is never afraid of anything. We should be leery of some things – T-Rexes, hurricanes and rabid dogs, for instance. But being driven by fear endangers the Christian soul.
It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. . . .You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right. Aung San Suu Kyi (Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate)
If not only for the sake of society, for our own sakes, we must manage our fears and anger in such a way as to not jeopardize the abundance Jesus offers us. Remember he said, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.” The thief to whom he refers is the original terrorist, the devil himself. He creates killers and motivates murderers. The job description he’s taken for himself is to terrorize humans and drive them away from God.
Alternately, Jesus went on to say that he came to give us “life and that more abundantly.” Yet many Christians don’t live abundantly. Why is that? Near the top of the list of reasons for our paltry spirituality and dearth of abundant living is our hysteria regarding our danger in this world and our hostility toward those who threaten that danger. History’s top terrorist knows that he can plunder our abundance by fear and / or anger in their malignant forms.
Jesus gave us a choice between abundant life and hardly any life at all! Whenever we allow fear and anger to take over our souls we’re choosing the latter. Hate and hysteria corrode the containers that carry them and poison their contents!
In the last piece we’ll talk about how our reckless reactions to terrorism negatively influence our witness…
Got any thoughts?