Don't Give Into Fear
I was born less than two months into Ronald Reagan's second term, but the Gipper has long been my hero. His "Morning in America" theme resonated with the country in his time. Reagan exuded enthusiasm, and whether you agreed with his politics, he was by all accounts a positive, likable person. Perhaps my favorite Reagan anecdote is of he and Tip O'Neill (the Democratic Speaker of the House) eating jelly beans together in the Oval Office together, something I highly doubt Paul Ryan and President Obama have ever done. Without reservation, this has to be the most rancorous, messiest, depressing presidential political cycle of my lifetime——and the general election campaign has scarcely started! My goal in this article isn't to tell you who to vote for, nor to argue over whether you should vote at all. I only want to make a heart-felt plea:
Don't give into fear.
As I listened to speeches last night coming from the Democratic National Convention, I was struck by how similar they were to those of the previous week at the RNC in Cleveland—and that isn't an allegation of plagiarism. It seems more and more, all politics is based on fear. Fear of what the other person or party would do if they were to gain power. Trump is a dictator in disguise. Hillary is a communist or a socialist in disguise. Trump is a philanderer and Hillary is a murderer. Trump loves himself. Hillary loves herself. Trump is tacky. Hillary is evil. All of these allegations have been thrown around.
If Hillary is elected, so I'm told by people I trust, she'll hand over the keys to the Oval Office to members of ISIS within 48 hours of taking the oath of office. If Trump is elected, so I'm told by people I trust, he'll nuke the whole Middle East back to the Stone Age and send Europe a Dear John letter.
The thought of Hillary Clinton as my future president triggers the same emotion in me that an untimely Tony Romo interception does. And if Donald Trump wins, I'll feel about the same way I did when Auburn DB Chris Davis caught that field goal against Alabama in 2013 and sprinted 100+ yards for a kick-6 and a chance to play in the championship game.
But one emotion I will forbid myself to feel is fear. Fear that the world is about to implode. Fear that my country is about to be handed over to socialists, communists, abortionists, homosexuals, liberals, RINOs, race-baiters, dictators, fascists, or any other scary word you want to conjure from a political thesaurus.
I refuse to feel fear because America has withstood plenty of attacks upon her values. We have survived the inhuman institution of slavery, the disaster of FDRs New Deal, the icy threat of Soviet Russia, the darkness of 9/11, and one political scandal after another. If the history of the United States has proven anything, we are a resilient people.
I refuse to feel fear because I haven't given up hope in the checks and balances of the U.S. Constitution. Our founding fathers weren't always right, but they weren't always wrong. Though Hillary may pack SCOTUS with justices who make Sonia Sotomayor look like Robert Bork, I refuse to give into fear. The people who occupy the Oval Office and the SCOTUS bench matter, but they would still have to deal with an (in all likelihood) Republican Congress.
But the biggest reason I refuse to feel fear is that God will still be God. He will still cause the sun to rise and set. His grace will still reach me, the worst of sinners.
Scripture is clear that the greatest threats to the elect of God come from the inside (greed, adultery, pride, power, etc.) rather than the outside. God has always protected his people from the evil influence of external powers. As Elisha reminded his servant, so God reminds the church in 2016, election-plagued America: "Those who are for you are more than those who are against you."
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline. Fear (paranoia) is not from God, nor is trust in any human institution for deliverance. I refuse to fear or trust in man; my strength comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
It's only been over the last few days that I've realized how much politics is predicated on fear, and how that reliance on fear is fundamentally at odds with the gospel. Little attention in the NT is paid to the political climate of its day, and when it does become a prominent theme (in places like 1 Peter and Revelation), the message is one of faith in God and dedication to our evangelistic mission. "Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good" (1 Pet. 4:19).
Don't give into fear. Don't tell me the sky is falling. ISIS and the communists and fascists and socialists and liberals aren't a threat to us if only because we have something they cannot take away. A lot less of the donkey and the elephant; a lot more of the Lion and the Lamb.
Don't give into fear. Don't tell me the sky is falling. Or you might scare my generation into believing that we need something more than Jesus. You might scare my generation into believing that God is the feeble old man some think him to be.
You might scare my generation into ignoring you when we need your wise counsel the most.
President Reagan understood that we are at our best as human beings when we are filled with hope, when we feel as if an exciting new day has dawned, ripe with possibilities. The same could be for Christians. We are at our best when we are filled with the power, love, and self-discipline of the Spirit. "The kingdom of God is ... [a matter] of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" Paul once wrote, very little of which I saw in Cleveland last week, or in Philadelphia last night.
If you vote for Hillary, we'll still be friends. If you vote for Trump, we'll still be friends.
But if you start down this road of fear-mongering with me, you and I will go back to seeing each other as often as a European Christian sees the inside of a church building.
If I want to be around fear-mongers, I'll watch cable news, thank you.