Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Fear sells. Fear makes money." DANIEL GARDNER, The Science of Fear

There is something both curious and disconcerting going on in America. It’s an unhealthy confluence between anger and fear. Recent polls reveal most Americans are angry about something. Most are inflamed by the federal government, fuming about immigration, incensed by lawyers, doctors and the healthcare law. Likewise, large numbers of our neighbors are afraid. Nearly half don’t believe the government can protect us from terrorists. Americans fear courts will not protect their rights. People are anxious someone will take our guns, threaten traditional marriage or break into our houses in the middle of the night. Polls suggest we no longer believe FDR who said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” While some are optimistic and hopeful, many are irascible and apprehensive.
What is curious about the state of our collective mind is that ours is a nation that held hopeful through a Civil War, a Great Depression, two world wars, the assassinations of presidents and other events that shattered our lives but not our spirits.
What is disconcerting about the angst and animosity is what it reveals about the “still small voice of God.” The 1st Book of Kings tells of Elijah huddling in the wilderness, fearful and angry. An angel speaks, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. Behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord.” But the Lord was not in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire; but the Lord was in “a still small voice.
The question is whether the “still small voice of God” can be heard over the harsh and thunderous voices dominating our days? Take a deep breath and think honestly before you answer.
Those we dislike the most, those whom we fear most resolutely are oftentimes those we know only through the loud voices of entertainers like Rush Limbaugh, Olbermann[1], Beck and others. Their shrillness drowns out the still small voice of God. Theirs are the voices filling our days like those long ago that incited Elijah’s fear and anger. The angel comforted Elijah, assuring him God would not be found in the earthquakes, winds and fire. Neither can God’s still small voice be found in the fury and discord of the media pugilists.
The still small voice of God cannot be heard above the fury of the talk show hosts. For them, strident words raise ratings. Ratings sell advertising. For our lives, they sow fear and hate, dividing not uniting. Spend less time listening to them and more time reading scripture and other inspired books, listening to uplifting music and the voices of children.
When the loud voices ward you off from Muslims, immigrants, homosexuals, or others they consider “lepers”, listen instead to the still small voice. Get to know one whom the loud voices would alienate from your life. You just may, like Elijah, hear the still small voice of God above the fire and wind and earthquakes and that will lessen your fears and relieve your anger.

[1] Poignantly, my spell check suggests changing his name to “Doberman.”

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