Friday, March 4, 2016

How to survive the rise of tyranny

I have to be honest--the results of Super Tuesday surprised me a bit. I thought surely authoritarian supporters would be a minority. Surely, people would hear the rhetoric of Hitler and Mussolini behind the words of this man who "speaks his mind", a man who publicly stated that he wants to increase the power of libel laws. I never thought this idea of building a wall was even meant to be serious, yet we're still talking about it. I believed in the goodness of people, yet here we are promoting an ideology of fear and hate even among Christians! Especially among Christians.

Vox has an excellent article that explains some of the sociology behind all this, showing the personality profile of authoritarians and how fear is a driving force in bringing their dark side to light. One of the interesting things they mention that is easily lost is that Trump isn't even the real problem. The real problem is an American people who espouse an ideology that creates and supports people like Trump. I want to say that he doesn't represent the Republican party, but from the people's point of view, he does (or at least more than half of it). And that means that even if Trump can be defeated, we will see more people like him in the future, because that's what the people are demanding. What we're seeing is a people who are so scared that they want a strong leader, one who will stop at nothing to ensure their security.

Stop at nothing? The thought sends shivers down my spine. This is a fear driven election. We're afraid of Muslims, afraid of Mexicans, afraid of atheists, afraid of homosexuals. So afraid that we're willing to do whatever it takes to squash the source of that fear. Build a wall. Increase surveillance. Ban anyone who isn't like us from the country. Even start a war. I remember hearing the conspiracy theories about how the government wants to label the extreme right-wing Christians as terrorists. At the time it seemed far fetched, but more and more I can see the very real danger--a cornered dog is not something to be trifled with.

This is a fear driven election. Those of us who see what is going on are desperate to stop Trump from winning the nomination. We are afraid of what he will do to this country, of how he will make us look in the eyes of the nations. We see the red flags, the warning signs of tyranny on the horizon. And when we realize that Trump is merely a symptom of a deeper problem among the American people, our despair becomes that much more magnified.

This is a fear driven election. But, here I must leave politics. I must let go of my need for control, of my worry, of my fear. I must not fall into the same trap that my opponents have fallen into--letting fear get the best of me so that I am willing to turn my back on even my own brother in order to save my own skin.

This is a fear driven election. But, we are not a fear driven people. As Paul tells Timothy, "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Tim. 1:7). Similarly, our Messiah instructed us, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28) echoing the words of Isaiah "Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, Him you shall honor as holy. Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread" (Isa. 8:12-13). For what is our life? "Whoever seeks to save his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" (Matt. 16:25-26). Indeed, shall we sell our soul and forfeit our faith for the sake of saving our own skin? Rather, "there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

If I have to infringe on someone else's liberty to feel free, then let me be a slave. If I have to harbor prejudice and hatred toward my fellow man to feel secure, then to hell with security. I refuse to transgress my faith for the sake of my life. I refuse to sell my soul to save my own skin.

Foolishness, you say? Indeed, it is. "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing" (1 Cor. 1:18). The wisdom of man says, I must secure for myself food and clothing and all things necessary for comfort. But the foolishness of God says, "Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33). The wisdom of man says, Give us a king who will wage our wars for us and protect us from every danger. But the foolishness of God says, "Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD His God" (Psalm 146:3-5, c.f. Psalm 147:10-11). The wisdom of man says, My life is all I have, therefore I must protect it from all danger. The foolishness of God says, "Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me" (Matt. 16:24).

What shall we say then? To be clear, I'm not saying we need to pull out of politics or stop voting. I will continue to cast my vote for what I believe is right. I will continue to be an advocate for truth even in the political sphere. But, I will not trust my hope to men. I will not lean on any system to be my security. What then shall we do?

Trust God. He is our life and our salvation.

Encourage the brethren. Exhort one another to stay strong in the faith, to not give into hatred or bitterness or fear, for we have one Master who stands on our behalf. Whom shall I fear?

Live the Gospel. Every day, loving those I come into contact with, extending mercy as God has done for me. Standing for the marginalized. Standing for the freedom of those who are not like me. Living in humble submission to God's holy will, loving mercy, doing justly, and walking humbly before my God.

And, above all, trust God. I know I already said that, but it bears repeating. Trust God.


  1. Good commentary on the political situation. I needed the reminder that people in office don't have the final say. God does. I feel powerless, but that's good, because it makes me rely on God more. I'm ashamed of the mess we've made, and will do what I believe is right, but I can't let fear get to me. God knows exactly what's going on. He is our Rock!

    1. Thanks, Kelsey. I have to remind myself often. God is indeed our rock.

  2. This is the best post I've read so far on the 2016 political primaries. I really appreciate your perspective and thoughts on it. I have not seen this much fear in an election ever? (though that may be because I only remember a few of them. haha but still, I truly believe that the fear driving it will propel us to put someone into office who we hope will make changes...whether or not they are the right ones for our country is debatable. Lots of prayers are being made over the choices Americans are making and going to make in the coming months. I'm thankful for a God who reigns supreme over all of this and who will sustain us through the coming years.

    1. Thanks, Sonja. And amen to being thankful for God's reign. One day it will all be made right when Messiah returns and His Kingdom is established on this earth. Until then, we're just sojourners placing our faith in God.