There is no doubt in my mind that at least we US citizens are immersed in a culture of fear. We who have so many advantages, and use so much of the world’s resources, are taught to fear “the other.” If we allow more immigrants, they will take our jobs. If we do not fight terrorism aggressively by employing a preemptive strike strategy, we will be victims of terrorism. If we do not execute the criminals, it will encourage others to commit crimes. If we support our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, it will threaten the institution of marriage. I’m sure you can think of other examples.
Consider this excerpt from an article in the April 2008 issue of U.S. Catholic, which discusses how the “culture of fear” plays out in U.S. electoral politics.
Jesus, who lived in a very dangerous time and place, told his disciples to “be not afraid.” American Christians need to take that direction to heart. We need to stop worshiping safety and security and face the fact that life is full of risks. We are all frail and mortal human beings, and no president with his finger on the world’s largest arsenal is going to protect us from those risks. No tough guy is going to ride into town and wipe out evil or destroy all our enemies. The simple truth is that we cannot conquer our fears by scaring everybody else.
McCormick, Patrick. “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Though we Americans often vote our fears, we should ignore the Cowardly Lions within us and elect lawmakers who demonstrate more brains and heart.(culture in context).” U.S. Catholic 73.4 (April 1, 2008): 42(2).
I believe that we in religious communities are not immune from this pressure to be self-protective. There is a legitimate need for us to tend to the health of the institution – we have frail elderly sisters who deserve our efforts to care for them. And we must weigh the risk of any action we take, both as a congregation, and as individuals connected to the congregation, against these legitimate needs.
But risk we must – there is too much at stake to let our fears paralyze us. It is a delicate balancing act.