Christmas urges us to fear becoming fearful |

Christmas urges us to fear becoming fearful

Rev. Jack Van EnsVail CO, Colorado

Reporters who describe Rudy Giuliani as feisty and fearless bring a quick smile to the GOP presidential frontrunner. New Yorkers who voted for their former mayor expect a city official to show a forceful personality. With fear hanging like a mushroom cloud over Manhattan, residents demanded a mayor who fearlessly punches before he ponders. Ironic, isn’t it, how dauntless Rudy makes fear the #1 selling point in his campaign? He exploits our strong identity of him with 9/11’s aftermath, repeatedly mentioning it on the campaign stump. We shudder when terrorists strike close to home. Fear bristles within. Giuliani understands how pandering to our fears wins votes. Endorsing the politics of fear helps explain why the Reverend Pat Roberson supports Giuliani’s candidacy. Granted, when many heard the Christian Coalition’s founder back adulterer and twice-divorced Giuliani, they couldn’t put together the pieces of this puzzling endorsement.The Religious Rights’ Old Guard led by Robertson, Gary Bauer who fights for traditional marriage, and Focus on the Family’s James Dobson know what increases fear among their constituency. They don’t want gay unions on a par with traditional marriage. They fear “judicial activists” who empower same-sex parents to adopt children into their families. The Old Guard realizes how revolting abortion on demand is to their devotees.Though Detroit’s Big Three trail foreign car competitors in sales, the Religious Right’s “Big Three” agenda still draws top ranking. Evangelical Christian fervor runs open-throttled on a national highway wedded gays, judicial activists who spin the Constitution to undermine traditional values, and pro-abortion supporters put up barriers.However, these issues don’t strike intense fear among younger evangelicals. They are fighting on the Green Revolution’s front lines. Wrestling with environmental destruction is as devilish for younger evangelicals as stopping abortion has been for their Old Guard. New evangelicals hear Christ calling them to endorse a broader agenda, beyond stopping abortion, activist judges and gay marriage.With this more expansive agenda, the fear factor is reduced. The Old Guard warns how having an array of issues on their agenda reduces spirited debate and compromises a militant mindset needed to fight the Big Three.What stokes fiery, primitive fear? What excites the kind of trembling that afflicted my boyhood church when the Russian Bear was ready to pounce on the U.S. with “godless communism?” When the Soviet Union fell, such fear dissipated. Many evangelicals adjusted End-time scenarios. The traditional Antichrist Stalin had died. The biblical “foe from the North,” identified as Russia, had collapsed.Who’s the new apocalyptic enemy spreading godless terror? Giuliani desperately needs a fear-inducing foe to replace the Soviet Union. Both the late Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson energize evangelicals to vote Republican by naming the fear.Prior to his death in May, Falwell dismissed global warming as “Satan’s attempt to redirect the church’s primary focus,” which is to battle the triplet evils of abortion, liberal judges and gay marriage. When quizzed about the evangelical litmus test on abortion and homosexuality, Falwell waffled. He asserted that terror trumped every other sin. A Republican nominee must not be naïve like a Sunday school teacher, Falwell said. His #1 enemy must be terror. Rudy rides this fear hard with national security in the stirrups.Robertson, after endorsing America’s Mayor, exclaimed how Rudy is his man because “to me, the overriding issue before the American people is the defense of our population from the bloodlust of Islamic terrorists.”Here Pat has had a conversion experience, now confessing how terror replaces the former Big Three as his top draw. He once dismissed the terror attack on 9/11 as not nearly as devilish as rampant judicial activism. Who can forget his explanation for the destruction of the World Trade Center? It wasn’t because Saudi terrorists flew planes into the towers. Pat gave us the inside scoop on what really was going on between God and the Islamic enemy. 9/11, said Robertson with a straight face, was God’s punishment for abortion, the prime sign of “rampant secularism.”Islamic terrorists inspire fear. Fearful citizens vote straight party lines. Giuliani welcomes Robertson’s endorsement. Pat jacks up the fear factor that may whisk Rudy into the Oval Office.Fear hovered over the first Christmas. Mary and Joseph had nowhere to stay in Bethlehem. King Herod unleashed genocide to kill baby Jesus. The Holy Family had to flee. Mary nursed a premonition. When dedicating her son in the temple, she feared his early demise.Christmas reminds us to harness our fear. Don’t dwell on it. Replace fear with faith. “Don’t be afraid,” an angel said to Zechariah. “Don’t be afraid,” a soothing Gabriel promised troubled Mary, “for you have found favor with God.” The heart of Christmas is what an angel sang to shepherds, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy … for to you is born this day … a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). As the carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” reminds us, and Giuliani’s crowd forgets, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee [Jesus] tonight.” The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth Ministries, enhancing Christian worship through lively storytelling and dramatic presentations that make God’s history come alive. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes,” is available in local bookstores for $7.95.

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