Introducing Big Geebus

I’m getting pretty goddamn tired of fear. Like, seriously tired of it. I’m tired of hearing rhetoric about any damn subject and hearing nothing but, “If this happens, destruction.”

“If gays get married, straight marriages will be made illegal, and the Homosexual Agenda will force everyone to perform same-sex acts!”

 “If Obama gets elected, the economy will collapse so profoundly that it will usher in a period of living terror, when the only currency accepted by our Muslim overlords will be the babies of white parents!”

 “If Romney gets elected, the one percent will turn the other ninety-nine percent into a caste of unpaid workers who are only allowed to rest on the day of their death, moments before they are turned into Soylent Green!”

 “If Rob Bell continues to say words, his demonic followers will be allowed, willy-nilly, to bludgeon old women to death with night sticks!”  

 

“Mwa ha ha ha haaaaa!”

 

I understand – we live in a scary world. Everyone needs stuff, and sometimes it’s hard to get stuff, and people might want to take our stuff, and some people eat different food than we do and wear funny clothes. It’s horrifying. I get it. But is it possible – even remotely – that maybe all of this freaking out is making it harder to do. . . well, anything productive about it?

The shootings in the movie theater in Colorado, or the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, have intensified debate about gun control. On every side of the debate, I see people reacting out of terror.

“If we don’t create stricter laws to control guns, we will never, ever, ever be safe leaving our homes!”

“If we create stricter laws to control guns, then law-abiding citizens will be surrounded by bad people who do have guns, and they’ll have no ways to protect themselves!”

I’m not saying there isn’t some room for reasonable debate about things like gun control – obviously both sides have some smart people among them, and this conversation should happen. But it won’t be a productive conversation unless people can speak logically, and civilly, and unburdened by the omnipresent terror and mistrust that, sadly, defines our current rhetoric, and has for the past several years.

The first casualty of the rhetoric of fear is common sense. Of course homosexual marriage is no threat to heterosexual marriage. Mitt Romney isn’t going to set this country on a collision course with oblivion, any more than Barack Obama is. And the gun control debate is too complicated to be conquered by a single triumphant sound bite. So why are we so damn terrified?

What makes me the saddest, when I think about how polluted the national conversation has become, is how much the Christian community has contributed to this pollution. Just the other day, I saw an article about Pat Robertson telling people not to adopt children, because they might have a history of sexual abuse or food deprivation that leads them to grow up “weird.” Seriously, he said this.  He then goes on to say that of course he loves orphans – his organization has ministered to thousands of orphans across the world – but that it’s not anyone’s responsibility to rescue them. “You really don’t have to take on other people’s problems.”

 

“Uh. . . what?”

 

Here’s a dude who has been in the “pray trade” for more years than I’ve been alive, and his response to the idea that some children have been through torture is “if you try to rescue them, they could be weird.” I don’t doubt that there is love somewhere in his wrinkled, old Grinch’s heart, but it’s been (at least in this case) overruled by fear.

The easiest explanation for the state of our current rhetoric, I think, is that it pays (other people) for us to be terrified. “Big Media” has turned the news into entertainment, and panic drives viewership, which jacks up ad revenue. And obviously the Dems and ‘pubs want to galvanize their bases, which is more easily done when the message is, “We are on the verge of the greatest disaster since the cancellation of  Firefly!”  

(In my head, everyone loves sci-fi.)

 

“Romney/Ryan 2012 – They’re your only hope.”

 

Of all the groups who are invested in fear to drive profits, the one that offends me the most is the one I call “Big Geebus.” The Christianity-for-profit industry bugs the shit out of me. Big Geebus wants you to fear, because fear brings you to church. Big Geebus wants you to doubt, because they sell books for that. Big Geebus wants you to see enemies in “the world”, because “the world” doesn’t go to church – which means they give no money to Big Geebus, and thus, they are not needed or wanted. The Christo-industrial complex loves the culture war, because – like the RNC or DNC – it galvanizes the base.

Paul wouldn’t approve of this message of fear. Paul was all about love, and faith, and hope. Paul didn’t hate “the world” – he dove right into it, mimicking the people of the cultures he was trying to save. Check out what he says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 9, verses 19-23.

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

 

“I should fear WHOM? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of me kicking ass for the Lord.”

 

Those are clearly not the words of someone who lived in pants-shitting terror of the people who weren’t exactly like him.

Here’s a thought exercise for today – imagine the members of the early church, around the first century. These are people who could be put to death by both Jews and Romans. They had few powerful friends, they made no political policies, and there was nary a Christian publishing company to be found. Did they fear the world half as much as Big Geebus tells us to? 

About Daniel Mitchell

50% of "What the Faith?!?!", a blog about two skeptics who turned to God for no apparent reason. View all posts by Daniel Mitchell

14 responses to “Introducing Big Geebus

  • visitingmissouri

    Maybe Christians have lost grips on the world they live in, the world that’s broken and can’t be controlled. When I read a quote like the one from Pat Robertson, I always feel he should go the way Jesus went: gay bars, prostitutions and orphans. Maybe being elbow-deep in dirty diapers would teach him a thing or two on love.

    Also, you don’t want to be like the first church, because they were nothing but commies, as read in Acts 2:
    44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      I’ve joked about the early church being communist before (although I don’t think I’ve done so on the blog. . . yet) but in all seriousness, I think the difference between the early church and any communist nation I’m aware of (historical or contemporary) is that the church founders VOLUNTEERED to give all of their stuff. Communism is about taking from everyone and dividing it up, which produces the same result in terms of distribution of goods, but doesn’t at all come from a place of generosity.

      I agree with your first sentiment completely – why aren’t we going where we’re needed, in a spirit of love and friendship? It’s not the same to picket a strip club and tell everyone inside they’re going to hell. That’s the opposite of helpful.

  • Joe

    There is reason to be terrified. I think you will agree that Paul valued his Roman citizenship. In fact, he stated that he was born a Roman citizen and didn’t purchase his citizenship. Paul knew his rights as a Roman citizen. (Acts 22:25-29) However, when the “Christo-industrial complex” does nothing to stem the flood of illegal aliens (to fill the empty pews, provide cheap labor and get cheap votes) people are terrified that the value of their US citizenship will become of little value.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hmmm. I’ve thought about this comment, and I can’t say that I agree. In the course of human history, people have been given cause to be terrified. The Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals had a reason to be terrified of the Nazis, and the protestants living in a Catholic nation (or vice versa) during a large portion of the high Middle Ages had a reason to be terrified of the powers that were. At the height of the Cold War, Americans and Soviets had reason to be terrified that they were going to be annihilated in a nuclear holocaust. I don’t think immigration reform, no matter how badly needed, counts as something worthy of terror. If that’s what terrifies us, we have gained a level of over-sensitivity that borders on unhealthy. As they say on the inter-webs, these are “first world problems.”

      The point of my post wasn’t to say that vigilance concerning our laws, our culture, our economy, and our country are misplaced. They clearly are not. But vigilance is not terror – one is rational, the other irrational; one helps us solve problems, the other is problematic.

      Also, I’m not sure if you’re suggesting that the Christian media machine I call “Big Geebus” should be doing something to “stem the flood of illegal aliens”, but you seem to be chiding them for not doing that. If that’s the case, I’m confused. Border legislation is the responsibility of law-makers, not ministers. What do you think the “Christo-industrial complex” should be doing that it isn’t?

  • Joe

    “Also, you don’t want to be like the first church, because they were nothing but commies, as read in Acts 2:
    44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”

    It may have been also like a Ponzi scheme. It would work as long as the church grew with new members having possessions to distribute.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      I suppose that depends on the wealth of the people joining. Although my gut feeling is that the early church didn’t have a lot of money “flowing in”, so to speak. Until Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313, the early church seemed to not have a very easy time of things. I imagine that a large amount of money at the disposal of early church leaders would have made their lives a lot easier, if only to bribe their way out of the persecution they often faced.

  • Peter Benedict

    Great, great post. I’d like to hear it as a sermon, complete with the pix. Excellent stuff that makes me glad i know you.

  • Darren Beem

    Hey Dan:
    You’ve been busy! Enjoyed the post.

    Yes, the “pubs”, dems and big geebus all use fear as you state. They’re good at it and yet aren’t they simply exploiting what is already in us?

    The question I drift to is “Why does fear work?” “Why is fear so hard-wired into us?” “Why are we so insecure?” It’s not that I like fear or enjoy it, and yet I so easily succumb to it.

    I’d also say the folks in the first century used fear just as much as us. The pharisees used it and the “foolish” galatians used it, they just didn’t have benefit of modern advertising, facebook and twitter.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      I agree that they’re just exploiting what is already in us, but at the same time, people can be taught to respond to something beside fear. It’s a lesson that we easily forget, and that we need to be reminded of on a pretty regular basis, but still, we COULD be doing better.

      If I had to guess about why we succumb so easily to fear, it would be because we live in a hostile world. Responding to fear has real benefits to our survival instinct. But we have a lot less fearful stuff to react to than we used to – and yet, our response is exactly the same. As a big guy, I tend to think of it like our body’s tendency to store excess fat. If we were to enter into a months-long famine tomorrow, I would be set! But in our world, it’s rare that people need to use the excess fat that we’ve stored up, so we find people becoming obese, instead. The body has built in this system to help us survive, but the system doesn’t work ideally in the context of the environment we live in. It breaks down, it becomes problematic. I think that’s like our reaction to fear – we’re hard wired to respond to threats, but lacking real threats, we respond that way to anything we are TOLD is a threat.

      • Darren Beem

        It sounds right, Dan. A kind of threat mechanism.

        I think it’s also an appeal to my ego and my hubris. As if to say that I can gain control over my life and world. I can control all outcomes.

  • Joe

    Dan -

    You said,

    “Border legislation is the responsibility of law-makers, not ministers.”

    The issue is not border legislation, but rather enforcement of existing legislation. Ministers should not be aiding and abetting or harboring illegal aliens due to personal convictions. It makes it much more difficult to enforce legislation when ministers are on the side of the the illegal aliens.

    “Also, I’m not sure if you’re suggesting that the Christian media machine I call “Big Geebus” should be doing something to “stem the flood of illegal aliens”, but you seem to be chiding them for not doing that.”

    I’ve read articles from the Christian media machine that are sympathetic to the illegal aliens, but can’t seem to recall any that take a strong stand against such activity.

    “I don’t think immigration reform, no matter how badly needed, counts as something worthy of terror.”

    It certainly is worthy of terror when illegals are given driver’s licenses and vote for pandering politicians. The rights of citizens are slowly but surely being eroded.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hey Joe. I’ll use the format you used, because it’s more convenient that way.

      You said,

      “The issue is not border legislation, but rather enforcement of existing legislation. Ministers should not be aiding and abetting or harboring illegal aliens due to personal convictions. It makes it much more difficult to enforce legislation when ministers are on the side of the the illegal aliens.”

      I’ve spoken to one minister who admitted to help Mexicans cross into the U.S. illegally. He was a Methodist minister in a small border town in Arizona I used to visit when I lived in Tucson. At the time, I wasn’t a Christian, but I assumed that most Christian leadership did not do what he did. In fact, even today, my general assumption is that the bulk of the Christian religious establishment tends to align with Republican causes – which would feed my assumption that most ministers are against illegal border crossing. However, I suppose my point here is that I really can’t say with much authority what most Christian leaders teach about the subject. Barring a Republican leaning, my second guess would be that they don’t have a solid stance on it as a community. But I could be wrong.

      You said,

      “I’ve read articles from the Christian media machine that are sympathetic to the illegal aliens, but can’t seem to recall any that take a strong stand against such activity.”

      Hmm. Again, I don’t know. I imagine that Christian leaders in Tucson, AZ (where I lived for eight years) feel differently about illegal border crossing than Christian leaders in Duluth, MN (where I live now). If Big Geebus has a stance on it, I haven’t seen it – but again, that’s more a statement of my ignorance than anything else.

      You said,

      “It certainly is worthy of terror when illegals are given driver’s licenses and vote for pandering politicians. The rights of citizens are slowly but surely being eroded.”

      This is where I still disagree with you, if only because of the word ‘terror.’ I remember the evening of 9/11, when I lived in Hollywood, Florida. I was home early that day, and I kept hearing fighter jets rocketing overhead from Homestead Air Force Base, which was maybe eighty miles south of where I lived. Every time I heard their approach, I wondered if it was a passenger plane set to crash into one of the tall financial buildings in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. That feeling was the closest I have ever felt to terror – a visceral reaction to danger. No matter how many illegal border crossers are getting to use some of the advantages we have as American citizens – and I won’t pretend to have the numbers – the fact remains that this scenario is extremely unlikely to lead to you or your family being rounded up into a camp to be shot. THAT is terror.

      Should we feel concerned? Sure. Vigilant? Absolutely. Angry at the status quo? That’s reasonable. But I stand by my statement that terror is, in this situation, counter-productive. Is it possible that you have been told to be terrified by powers that benefit from you experiencing a feeling of panic? That’s my assertion.

      One last thought – having been a resident of southern Arizona for eight years, I have met many people that are in this country illegally. While I don’t always agree with them, and I wish that they would become legal citizens so that they can pay taxes like the rest of us, none of them are monstrous. We should have a better way to integrate them into our nation, so that they can be a legitimate wave of legal immigrants in the tradition of all of the waves of legal immigrants who have come before them. After all, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Irish potato famine. But speaking from personal experience, and as a Christian, I don’t fear them. When possible, I try to love them. That doesn’t mean I approve of illegal border crossing – I don’t – but that being said, they’re not worse people than any of the legitimate United States citizens I know.

      In summation of this increasing long comment I’m leaving you (sorry about that, by the way) my final stance is this – border legislation and enforcement are the job of the government. All citizens have a right to speak their opinion – and if those citizens are contributors to Big Geebus, they still have that right. The problem is when religion attempts to reach into the political arena, when preachers convince their flock to vote a certain way on a given issue. That I am never cool with. In my opinion, Big Geebus shouldn’t have a dog in this particular fight.

  • Taking Breaks and Doing Things « Momentary Delight

    [...] friend Dan Mitchell recently talked humorously about the power of fear in his blog. I appreciate the humor, because too often I’ve felt totally shackled by my own fears.  In the [...]

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