Over the last couple days, I’ve put a lot of thought into considering how best to communicate the influences under which I was brought up, influences that continue to resonate in my life, as well as culture at large. There are so many factors, so many complicated memories, conversations, and experiences, it’s difficult to organize my thoughts into a linear fashion. And, to be perfectly honest, it’s hard to reflect on previous experiences, since the echoes of those experiences continue to impact my life on a daily basis.
Sometimes those echoes manifest in personally wrangling with what I currently believe and with what has been subconsciously ingrained. Other times, like today, those echoes manifest in difficult interactions with strangers, friends, and family, who, with a wide array of intentions, express disapproval, disappointment, and sometimes even hatred. The disapproval isn’t surprising: I’m not so naïve as to expect open acceptance to vastly differing views of an essential nature. What I will never get used to, however, is the judgment and anger that sounds more like panic, terror, and desperation. And really, now that I think about it, it is the presence of panic on a religious, moral, intellectual, and social level which characterizes so much of what I remember, and what I see so many people continue to imbue today.
It’s impossible to fully understand fundamentalists’ beliefs and actions without recognizing the pervasive and paralyzing influence of fear. It may sound reductionist to say, “Fear can make people to crazy things,” but truly, if you consider the power fear can hold in the mind, body, and spirit, it’s much more understandable why so many people can cling onto seemingly irrational or even harmful practices.
Fear of disapproval. Fear of temptation. Fear of sin. Fear of that which is different. Fear of not being grateful enough. Fear of not enough thinking. Fear of too much thinking. Fear of yourself. Fear of being wrong. Fear of eternal damnation.
That may sound a bit paranoid, a bit of a caricature, perhaps a bit Dante-esque, and, in a way, it is. But when you utterly and completely believe in the possibility of spending eternity in flames if you say, do, or even think the wrong thing, it’s not a ridiculous newspaper caricature at all. Instead, it’s a survival montage in a dramatic war movie. Within this mindset, it’s far less like Bugs Bunny and much more like Saving Private Ryan.
One of my closest friends of almost ten years just told me there’s no way to be a Christian while also holding to my current convictions. I have no desire or will to try to be eloquent about it…it hurts. It hurts not that a friend would hold a differing opinion, but that my differing interpretation of the culture and religion we share translates to him as a direct and disappointing offense.
You can’t have a discussion within those parameters. Because at that point, it’s no longer about the issues, or about convictions, or about science or education or statistics or logic or even love. I know because I’ve been there and I remember: it’s about being in control and pointing out to others that they’re not. Because in that moment, you truly believe that you’re a spiritual war hero, trying to drag a fellow soldier through enemy lines.
4 thoughts on “Fear.”
Wonderful blog! You’re inspiring! It’s definitely possible to be a Christian and also have a liberal, open mind. Go you!!
My dad is a proud evangelical and has told me the same thing- that because I believe in equality for all and the right for people to make their own choices about what to do with their bodies or who they want to marry- I am not a Christian. It’s hurtful but untrue. And you’re right, there’s no reasoning once that has been said. I’m so glad you realize this as well and reiterated it for people who need to hear it. Enjoying your perspective- keep it up. 🙂
I am a therapist and I see the truth in your description of what fear can do. I work with people so hurt by their own fears, long after they have intellectually rejected the beliefs, they still find that the fear has a hold on them. Thanks for your writing!
Fear. The reason why people do crazy things. Isn’t that the truth?!?! (See name)
Reading (listening- love Audible) to Brene Brown’s book “Braving the Wilderness.” She has some really interesting insights into how we “sort” ourselves, as well as how to have conversations with others (specifically others who hold very different, even opposite, viewpoints than ourselves). You might enjoy it. 🙂