Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Lie of the fearmongers

I mentioned a while back the argument ad metum. I also notice that this is being used a lot in Referendum on the European Union. Both sides have been using the same argument to frighten people to vote one way or another. Facts are now so distorted that it seems so difficult to ascertain how true they are. From senior politicians this is not acceptable.

What should the Christian do? The answer is very simple. "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell?

Many people would say that this person to fear must be God. After all, He made us and so can destroy us with perfect moral justification if not by His sheer omnipotence. However, we remember that God is Love, and it isn't He who casts us into Hell - that's us! By sinning, we put ourselves where He isn't, and where He isn't that is Hell. Also, it is God in Our Lord Jesus who tells us not to be afraid. We should fear God in the sense that we should have the utmost awe and trembling wonder in His presence. We simply will not be able to stand in the presence of God because He is just superlatively magnificent and Holy. This fear comes from being in the presence of the One Who is supremely good.

No. The fear of being destroyed in Hell is purely negative, It is a fear of total annihilation, something that God neither wants nor wills. There is only one being who seeks to destroy to that extent.

Yes, of course we should fear the Devil for it is he who tries to nullify everything that we are. He wants to break God's Creation so that the Incarnation of Our Lord has no effect. That's monstrous and terrifying which is why we flee to God, just like chicks run to their mother hen for protection. That's the point, we have someone to run to. Psalm xci speaks of the benefits of holding fast by God. Benedictines pray it every night at Compline: there is no need to ask why.
WHOSO dwelleth under the defence of the most High : shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say unto the Lord, Thou art my hope, and my strong hold : my God, in him will I trust.
For he shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunter : and from the noisome pestilence.
He shall defend thee under his wings, and thou shalt be safe under his feathers : his faithfulness and truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid for any terror by night : nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
For the pestilence that walketh in darkness : nor for the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day.
A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand : but it shall not come nigh thee. Yea, with thine eyes shalt thou behold : and see the reward of the ungodly.
For thou, Lord, art my hope : thou hast set thine house of defence very high.
There shall no evil happen unto thee : neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee : to keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee in their hands : that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone.
Thou shalt go upon the lion and adder : the young lion and the dragon shalt thou tread under thy feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him : I will set him up, because he hath known my Name.
He shall call upon me, and I will hear him : yea, I am with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and bring him to honour.
With long life will I satisfy him : and shew him my salvation.

We are right to be concerned about the outcome of the Referendum, but need not be afraid. We must vote with our conscience in the belief that we are voting for the best for everyone, not just ourselves. If we leave the EU, life may get difficult, or it may not. If we remain, life may get difficult, or it may not. We must vote for the best and trust God.

It is lamentable that many people have used immigration as a factor in voting out. Yes, we do need to be careful with immigration, as we must make sure that we can provide resources for everyone in the country. Uncontrolled immigration does put a strain on our resources. Yet, most of the arguments I have seen have stemmed from a thinly veiled xenophobia. There is this constant fear that we are letting in ISIS or other militant terrorists. There are also those who think that any Muslim is persona non grata. even when many immigrants are actually Eastern Christians and not Muslim!

That's interesting. I've met so many Muslims and I've taught so many Muslims, and not one of them has tried to kill me. I've spoken of my faith to them and, while they have not converted (and I didn't expect them to) they actually respected my decision. Of course, they believe that I am wrong, and I believe that they are wrong, but we hold our beliefs dearly and firmly.

 As a mathematician, I have to thank Muslim scholars for algebra, algorithms, astronomy, the rediscovery of Aristotle's work, and so much more. The Christian Faith would have had to do without so much wisdom without their input. However, I cannot hide my distress at some of the radicalisation of Islam that we are seeing. The suppression of women's rights, the nature of corporal and capital punishment, and indeed the wilful destruction of certain social groups in the Middle East are truly appalling and one can say that the hand of the Devil is there somewhere.

I wouldn't mind, but I do see some similar attitudes among some Christians, especially some sexist and anti-intellectual beliefs. It's worth remembering that there are different Muslims just as there are different Christians. I'd rather have tea with Sadiq Khan than any member of the Westborough Baptist Church. We have to get out of this whole business of sweeping generalisation and tarring everyone with the same brush. We see that so much between Christians. Do all Catholics worship Mary? Do all Protestants believe the Pope is the Antichrist? Are all Christians Tritheists? Do all Muslims believe in cutting off a hand of a convicted thief? We must watch carefully for sweeping generalisations because they can use the ember of a small minority to inflame the whole.

However, it is fear that breeds fear. It is the fear of oppression that causes a refugee to come to a place where he believes he and his family can be safe. Yet, when he finds the fear of the inhabitants of that country directed against him, he finds solace in a community like himself, a community that will come together and defend him against all perceived attack. It is the fear that breeds the ghetto, and the ghetto that breeds the fear. Separation grows.

Again, the Christian must stop and think. Did Christ die for the foreigner? The answer is yes. God so loved the world, the whole kit and caboodle. Is the image of God in the stranger? Yes, for God made Man in His own image.

What we have to combat here is not people, but the lies that come from fear and that beget fear. This means that both sides have to work at alleviating the other's fear while having the courage to face the fear that one bears in one's heart. That's no mean feat. A fragile peace is easily broken by a single act of terrorist violence or by a heavy-handed enforcement of the law. If the Devil is keen on separating al of humanity from God, then we have to recognise this and fear that separation as a work of diabolical origin. Of course, we have a right to defend ourselves from all acts of violence and we need to protect society from aggressors and hatemongers. But we also need to protect society from fearmongers too and they can be very subtle in their dealings.

Of course, many will say that I am naive, but I do try very hard to see the best in people. That's not easy when I'm grumpy. Yet my Faith in God leads me to believe that everyone is potentially redeemable and there may be strangers in Heaven and the familiar face in Hell. Personally, I pray that everyone comes to know the love of Jesus Christ and turns to Him to find a life that's worth living. There is a lot of fear in this world and we can only break it by developing trust, first in God, then in each other. We need to stretch hands across the divide of any incipient ghetto. Whatever we have to lose, God will restore unless we have chosen to lose God Himself. Now that's a truly terrifying prospect.

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