What do fear, smugness, self-centeredness, irresponsibility and overstimulation have in common? These are five characteristics of contemporary American culture. We Americans live lives of smug, self-absorbed, irresponsible overstimulation. It is not working, and it is not safe. These characteristics have led us into a culture of fear that makes us vulnerable targets for terrorism. We will look at these five aspects of American life during the five weeks of January and see both as a society and as individuals why we are at risk and what we must do to halt and reverse this trend of superiority and complacency.
We are living in fear. My grandparents did not have insurance policies, security systems, locks on their doors or guns in the house. They had neighbors. They knew their neighbors, and they depended on their neighbors. Their neighbors depended on them. They did not have to monitor the conversations their children had with friends. They knew the parents of all of their friends.
This was not because no strangers came around. They certainly did. My grandmother told me that when she was teaching in a one-room school, she had a majority of students who did not speak English. Her major challenge was teaching young men bigger and taller than she their new language. She taught twelve grades (probably, realistically, eight) in one room and never had a discipline problem. She had involved parents who needed their children to get all the education they could. They, at the turn of the last century, were strangers in a strange land, and they wanted to acclimate quickly.
Today we are the products of a mobile society. My brother and I both left the security of Durham, Pennsylvania and traveled to New England and Ohio. It was not very far, but it was away from home. Consequently, when our parents died, the only roots that were left were buried in the cemetery on the top of the hill. Generations had called that small town home. Now there were no members of the Rau family left there.
My brother has lived in more than thirty different homes in his fifty some years of marriage. Perhaps because he came from such deep roots, he needed none of his own. His wife, from nearby Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, also had deep roots and was able to transition easily from place to place. I have lived each place longer, but even I, the more tentative, relocated from Ohio to North Carolina two years ago.
I know five of my fifteen neighbors in this small southern neighborhood. In Ohio, I knew perhaps the same percentage of neighbors. Since leaving Durham, I have never had a neighbor I could have called on in the middle of the night. I have never had a neighbor who would have taken me to the hospital or given me food when I was hungry or loaned me a car.
This sense of isolation, aloneness, fend-for-yourselfness, is, I believe, the major cause of the fear with which we live day and especially night. We lock our doors, turn on our alarm systems, load our guns and listen, with increasing anxiety, for any indication that we are not safe. Of course, we are not safe. We do not know our neighbors.
I have joked that I was “dropped behind enemy lines” when I came south. I am a tolerant, peace-loving, liberal northerner. My daughter-in-law has advised me that I am perfectly safe here in rural, North Carolina, since everyone in the county owns a gun, and no one would be stupid enough to break into anyone else’s home. They would be shot.
I would rather be welcomed than shot.
My pal, Michele, told me a story about her neighbor in Akron. He is known to have a love of alcohol and sometimes, it is rumored in the neighborhood, stumbles into the wrong house at night and settles down on the sofa. She heard the front door open in the middle of the night and came to see what was happening. Sure enough, it was the intoxicated neighbor. She walked him home. Luckily, she knew her neighbors.
Remember when you were little or your child was little and was afraid of the monster in the closet? We are afraid of the monsters in the closet now. We have to turn on the lights. The lights are so simple. They are so accessible.
Some say faith is the antithesis of fear. I have found that to be true. In one of my three daily readings, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young recommends that when you are afraid just say the name of Jesus out loud. I say, “Jesus, I know you will keep me safe.” Turn your fear over to Him. I frequently do this about three-thirty in the morning when Coco, my cat, makes her nocturnal trip to the litter box and then jumps back onto the washer and dryer which rattle into each other and startle me. Obviously, the laundry room is right next to my bedroom.
Knowledge is the antithesis of fear, too. Know your neighbors. We are social animals meant for community. We are herd animals. We are tribal.
Have you seen The Hunger Games? By turning us against each other evil triumphs. What would you estimate are the percentage of terrorists in the world today? I would have to say .001% of the population. The only way terrorists and evil and horror can overtake us is to turn us against each other and make us live in suspicion and fear.
Peace, blessings, support, and love from Tony and Susan who adamantly reject fear.
Winston Churchill rallied his British brothers and sisters by reminding them: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Amen.
Please leave your prayers and concerns at link below:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18 (ESV)
“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6 (ESV)
“You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” Psalm 91:5 (ESV)
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
“So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6 (ESV)
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