Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
- Mark Twain
I don’t tend to stray into the politiverse, and this post won’t be any different. Since Hell is definitely on our minds, I offer this to pyre of recent discussion. I haven’t read Coulter’s new book and won’t read it. So this isn’t a review. This isn’t even a guess as to what’s inside the cover of Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America.
We ought to be careful who we label demons, and why we are labeling them. Do we mean little impish things with horns and bad breath? Or are we doing something more sinister than the image itself: trying to control the emotional and imaginative response of the listener by suggesting an image that evokes fear? Is all this about provoking fear? I think it is.
When people think differently than we do, or I do, we tend to resort to the kind of mythology that creates a hero and a monster, like Theseus and the Minotaur. In Coulter’s case, we have Demons and, I suspect, the rival Angels. The problems with this are many, especially for those of us who follow Jesus (which we’ll come to in a moment). For one, this is an explicitly religious metaphor. Demons serve Satan and Angels serve God. While drawing from these characters of the Bible displays at least a handle on flannel board theology, it dangerously strips all humans of their ability to think, not just the ‘liberal mob.’ Angels carried the messages of God, they are not known for original thought. Demons, I suppose, are the same with Satan. They carry out the will of the one they serve. Both, in Scripture are rather horrific, but neither are famous for their independent will or thought.
The problem with developing a culture of fear in politics, faith or anything else for that matter is that it creates an uncritical and unthinking audience. Humans become machines for which fear becomes the fuel, souls become shields and reason becomes an afterthought.
Furthermore, who wants to have anything to do with demons? We want to avoid them at all costs. By painting a group of people as ‘demonic,’ it creates a new class of untouchable, a new group of unclean, a new dehumanized ghetto (Nazi much?)…a new Samaria. When a man asked Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded by naming a group of people who were the hated of the hated. The Samaritans were the ones whom the Hebrews prayed that God would pour out his wrath upon, and I imagine they were willing to help. But Jesus instructed him, as he does us today, to enter into the world of the Samaritan and give life saving, life honoring love. Jesus didn’t call the Samaritan woman at the well a demon, he offered her living water. He didn’t change her ‘party affiliation’, he transformed her from the inside out.
Last week, I watched this talk given at the Mighty Waters Conference at Fuller Theological Seminary. The preacher is Brenda Salter McNeil and her words are astounding. I think she addresses this fear culture with grace and obedient thunder. The speaking starts at 9:00 (Mark Labberton and Fuller President Richard Mouw are in that first nine minutes.
MW Session 2 Day 2 from Fuller Seminary on Vimeo.
Today, the Church needs the courage to speak out on behalf of those whom pop authors label as demons. The Church is called into the new Samaria. The Church has one choice, to see all people as people that Christ loves and wants to welcome in the eternal Kingdom of God. It means that words like them and they and those people and this mob or that mob become distant memories of a language that did not speak with intelligence or authority.
There is a new word: Us. When we speak Us, no one is a demon. When we speak Us, worlds change, children thrive and names become a blessing. When we speak Us, the Kingdom draws closer, Jesus is glorified and the Spirit moves without limitation.
So what’s it going to be? Courage or fear? Us or just another tired and abrasive version of them?