‘Fear is the path to the dark side’

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge - Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (Yoda)

It may seem unlikely to include a saying from Yoda as a devotional text. But Yoda, the legendary Jedi Master of Star Wars, had a strong connection to the Force. This quotation carries a great truth. As David Plazas wrote in The Tennessean (03/06/16), “Fearmongering is dominating American politics in 2016.” “Whereas past villains might have been Communists, today’s villains are Muslims, undocumented immigrants and sexual minorities. America needs a leader with hope.”

We know that fear brings out our own dark side. In order to be safe or to hold a superior position against opposition or the unknown, we become angry at those who differ from us. This anger can turn to hate and people suffer. History is filled with leaders who fueled hate to build armies for personal support. Hitler killed millions of Jews and

convinced the German nation to follow him into a disastrous failure. Millions of Christians were lured into following this genocidal murderer. In our own country, having feared and hated communists and people of color, we have now turned to other minorities to stir our anger and lead us to hate.

The Bible is filled with references to “Be not afraid”. The actual number of times it appears depends on the translation one is using. But biblical authors understood that fear can lead to anger and hate. Sometimes the admonition not to be afraid was a revelation that a new truth was not a matter to be feared but of joy. “And an angel of the Lord appeared to the [shepherds], and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:9-11) This is but one of many references in the Bible teaching us not to be afraid. That is not to void our cave man fears warning us not to treat lions as pussy cats. It is in the realm of human behavior and social movements that fear can produce negative results. We tend to be fearful of things we don’t know much about. Rather than engaging in a process of understanding we often fight to

eliminate what we fear. Jesus’ message was quite the opposite. He said to love, to be understanding and compassionate, and to realize that we are all children of the same heavenly Father.

Unfortunately, the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam also have numerous references to violence. As Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer has written, “The widespread acceptance of violent images of God solidifies the relationship between violence and the divine so completely that functionally, violence is the real religion in the world today.” (Another Inconvenient Truth)

We can follow leaders who instill fear, anger, hatred, and violence within us, or we can follow the example of Jesus who taught us to love our enemies, to care for the stranger, to feed the poor, and to overcome evil with good. We can follow the “fear not” model of open minded engagement, or as Ray Waddle wrote, join the “pageant of hostility.” “Only by making our politics less violent and pathological – and more hopeful and useful—will the spiritual witness find its integrity again.” (The Tennessean 03/05/16)

Fear caused Jesus’ death. The Romans feared anyone who had strong influence with the people. Jesus’ alternative kingdom of peace and generosity was a threat to the Roman

Empire. Rome thought they had solved their problem by crucifying Jesus; but Love ultimately won. Jesus continues to live in the hearts of people throughout the world. Easter changed the rules.

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge

Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

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