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Strengthen What Remains, part 2: Be Not Afraid

Fear politics are…. directed at you, as an individual.  And the way you personally deal with these attempts to influence your mind will make a difference, more powerful than you know, in our recovery as a nation–Martha Stout, The Paranoia Switch

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.—1 John 4:18

Be not afraid. Jesus says this to his followers over and over, both before his death and after his resurrection. It’s a simple commandment. It’s not hard to understand. It’s hard to keep.

It may be especially hard this election year. Campaigns rely heavily on fear. Obama is waging war on religion! Romney is waging war on women! Obama will deliver the country into the hands of soulless Communists! Romney will deliver the country into the hands of soulless vulture capitalists! Our freedoms will be abolished! Our founding values will be destroyed!

When fear takes control of our lives we don’t think clearly. We don’t perceive nuances. We don’t notice context. Our view narrows to ourselves, the thing we fear, and whatever we think will rescue us from the threat. We lose sight of the humanity of the people we fear. We lose sight of the questionable practices of our own side.  We lose sight of the common ground on which we might still be able to work with our opponents for a more just, loving and sustainable life.

The President elected this November, whoever he may be, will be unable to work toward a freer and fairer commonwealth so long as we citizens remain fearful, angry and divided. He will be unable to destroy either our freedom or our core values so long as we abide in that love that casts out fear, remember who we are and what truly matters, and keep reaching out to our neighbors with love and honesty.

Perfect love is not within our human capability. But we can recognize the harm that fear does and try not to let it rule us. We can make the effort to get to know people who disagree with us, to know them as people, children of God, with all their gifts and struggles, not just as faceless opponents. Such knowledge opens a way to love.  And we can keep turning back to God, from whom all real love comes.

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