Reflections on an Age of Fear and Hate

It has been a mind-numbing few days.  White supremacists have marched with torches in scenes reminiscent of the Nuremberg rallies. Some political and religious leaders condemned them, and others issued a blanket condemnation of “all sides” (as if “all sides” were equal).

We can’t equivocate.  I will not be party to any feigned neutrality or the normalization of fear and hate.  I said on Facebook,

If you defend white supremacists, the Klan, the Confederacy, its flag, its monuments, and the George Wallaces and Bull Connors who celebrated and protected that “heritage,” just go ahead and block me now. If you think that racism and equality are just two opinions up for discussion, just go ahead and delete me as a friend and block me. There’s no room for discussion or compromise. There is no moral equivalency between hate and those who protest it. Choose this day: Freedom or slavery, equality or segregation.

Jesus never spoke in terms of equivalencies. He didn’t say, “Blessed are the poor … Oh, and the rich, too, are blessed.” He didn’t say, “Woe to you rich … Oh, and woe to the poor, too.” The NT doesn’t say, “He has lifted up the lowly … Oh, and the rich.” He speaks judgment to the oppressor and hope to the poor. This is true OT and NT alike. He doesn’t condemn the idolator and then say, “Oh, and those who believe, are still sinners.” He doesn’t tell Pharaoh to let his people go, and then say, “And slaves, you better realize you are hopeless.” He says, “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” To treat oppressor and oppressed as “equally sinners” is to miss the point–God judges the haughty, and the oppressor, and lifts up the oppressed.

Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to preachers who wanted him to calm down, and not denounce injustice, and to let local people worry about their own problems; this is what he wrote to preachers who prided themselves on their liberality, but denounced demonstrations for justice as equivalent of the hate they protested.  It’s a good thing for all to reread today.

But we also need to see the broader context.  From whence did this old evil spring?

I think it the natural fruit of the fear that has been preached by many politicians of both parties since 9-11. They told us we needed to fear terrorists from without more than the terrorists from within. They told us we needed to give up freedoms to preserve security. They gave us the Patriot Act. They took us to endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They gave us torture in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and secret prisons. They stirred up hate and fear against immigrants of different colors and different faiths. And lots of Americans have gone along.

Fascists carrying torches didn’t just spring up from nowhere — they were sown by the dragon’s teeth of fear. And all those who preached fear need to do some circumspection.