I was seven when I saw the original Star Wars trilogy, and eleven when The Phantom Menace came out. To say that Star Wars had an impact on me would be one hell of an understatement. I was obsessed. Completely and utterly obsessed. I loved everything about those stories, and almost everything I wrote for over a decade was Star Wars fanfiction.
Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
I didn’t fully understand what he meant as a teenager, but as I’ve grown I’ve come to appreciate the truth in this quote. Over the last few months I’ve come to appreciate it even more, as it’s been occasionally difficult to not let my justified and righteous anger over so much of what’s happened– police brutality, domestic Christian terrorism, the utterly depraved, utterly evil policies advocated for by Bush, Cruz, Trump, Carson, and all the rest– to not let that anger transform into hatred.
Hatred would be easy. Hatred would even feel good, probably.
But Yoda was right: hate leads to suffering. What’s become vividly clear to me, watching with nauseated horror this circus-cum-trainwreck, that the Republican party is deeply and terribly afraid– and that fear is leading to anger, and then to hate, and culminating in terrorist attacks and assaults and murders. People’s homes and churches are burning to the ground. Little girls are being attacked at school for wearing a hijab.
Many Republicans say they’re Christians; in my experience, they tend to be Republican because they think that Christianity is Republican. However, the modern Republican approach to many issues– from foreign policy to economics to domestic public health concerns– blatantly contradicts two Christian principles.
… I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God … for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling …
The context of this passage is one of suffering . Regardless of whether or not Paul wrote this to Timothy or some later person wrote it in Paul’s name to the persecuted church, it’s clear that the author of this letter was encouraging their reader not to be afraid. To live by their Christian principles (love, joy, peace, kindness, forgiveness), to use their Spirit-given gifts, regardless of what the people around them were doing or what the frightening consequences might be.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but the modern Republican party is wholly consumed by it. Fear is the driving force behind calls to only admit Christian Syrian refugees (just in case you think Trump’s the only one who thinks Muslims shouldn’t be let into the country, that was Bush). Fear is turning into barely-restrained panic, prodded and goaded by white supremacist, fascist, misogynistic, and homophobic rhetoric. Christians are afraid, and so they’re filing for Title IX exemptions that will allow them to discriminate against women, people of color, and LGBTQ persons while still receiving federal money.
We’re so very afraid, and we’re letting that fear dictate almost all of our political choices. We’re letting unprincipled men and women use that fear as a weapon to control us and maintain their power.
Fear is leading us to suffering.
But it’s not just fear controlling us. We’re being manipulated by lies.
One of themes woven throughout Scripture is that the truth will set you free: that Christians are supposed to value and love truth, that we’re supposed to be honest, that we’re supposed to condemn duplicity. Many of our Bible stories are about the consequences of lies and self-delusions, encouraging all of us to be honest about who we are and what we’ve done.
In fact, truthfulness and honesty are such bedrock Christian principles that the greatest antagonist of our faith is called the Father of Lies:
If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!
We’re afraid of lower social classes, of black people, of LGBT people, of Muslims, of foreigners, and all of that fear is based in lies. We’re Christians– we’re supposed to love and accept the widow and orphan, the foreigner, the weak, the prisoner, and yet conservative Christians have gone out of their way to lie — with unbelievable impunity— about all of these groups for decades.
Read the common Christian propaganda about the AIDS epidemic from the 80s– it’s almost totally bald-faced lies, and the things that aren’t are still twisted half-truths. Or, for a more recent example, look at the videos the went viral this summer that claimed that Planned Parenthood is “selling baby parts” for financial gain. Carly Fiorina is still using this outright deception, and Ted Cruz is just thrilled to pieces with Troy Newman’s endorsement. If you don’t know who Troy Newman is, he argues that people who murder reproductive health providers are committing “justifiable homicide.” All of this led to Robert Dear shooting twelve people at a clinic– and a rapid increase in aggression and violence since the release of the videos.
Many Christians are convinced that the “only faithful Muslim” is a radical jihadist, that “true Muslims” are committed to killing infidels, and peaceful, loving, tolerant Muslims aren’t real Muslims. This is a lie. It’s possible to make any religion look brutal and violent– in fact, a straightforward, un-nuanced, un-contextual reading of the Bible (yes, even the New Testament has its problems) could lead someone to conclude that God wants his followers to commit genocide, since he commanded them to do exactly that repeatedly.
Or how about the despicable lie that transwomen are just looking for a way to assault women in restrooms? The truth– the truth that Christians are supposed to uphold and cherish– is that there have been exactly zero times that this has ever happened. Instead, Christians in Houston fought tooth and nail against allowing trans people to use the appropriate bathroom because of nothing more than fear and lies.
We’re not supposed to be afraid. We’re not supposed to lie. But, instead, it seems like modern and supposedly Christian Republicans are rarely capable of anything else.