Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fear of the End Times, fear of economic calamity, and fear itself

(Evangelist Harold Camping and his Family Radio organization predicted that the end of the world would occur on May 21, 2011. Some followers of Camping left their jobs and families, and gave away all their possessions. See "Road Trip to the end of the world," CNN, March 23, 2011. Photo by Brent McKee.)

If the past 7 years have shown anything, they've shown that fear (and anger) sells. Predictions of the End Times and predictions of economic calamity--certain to be caused, we are told, by progressive policies like the expansion of Medicaid and the end of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy--have spread across the land. A whole industry of books, DVDs, and survival food is capitalizing on people's fear that the end is near. 

If you go to YouTube, and type in the search words "Obama" and "Anti-Christ," you'll see tons of videos that will make you question the sanity of the human race (if you haven't already been questioning it). And back in 2012, Chuck Norris and his wife famously predicted 1,000 years of darkness if Obama was re-elected. But all I know is this: If Obama is the Anti-Christ, he sure is waiting an awfully long time to brand us all with the mark of the beast. I mean, waiting to the last minute like this is going to create a HUGE administrative nightmare. Think the roll-out of Obamacare was rocky? You aint' seen nothin' yet!

There is also an "End Time" magazine (although, for obvious reasons, I would advise against the long-term subscription options). Pastor Jonathan Cahn, with his best-selling book The Harbinger, has been warning us of impending doom for several years now - and he has the ears of many Congressmen. Pastor John Hagee has been warning us that "blood moons" are a sign the end is near. Jim Bakker is aggressively selling survival food, including End of the World Biscuits and Gravy. And former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has said: "...as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times...we are to understand where we are in God’s End Times history...Rather than seeing this as a negative...we need to rejoice, Maranatha come Lord Jesus, his day is at hand."

This fear and hysteria, often driven by profit, crosses over into the economic realm too. Republicans and Tea Partiers predicted that Obamacare would be a job-killer. They also predicted that raising taxes (i.e., the end of the Bush era tax cuts) on the holy "JOB CREATORS" would be another job-killer. Instead, however, the unemployment rate has been steadily dropping for several years, ever since these two things occurred. And economist Paul Krugman has repeatedly pointed out that perpetual, conservative claims of runaway inflation--caused by liberal policies of course--have failed to materialize year after year after year. Further, many on the political right have predicted, ever since Obama became president, that the price of gasoline would skyrocket. Well, I just filled up a few days ago at $2.19, the lowest I've paid in years. In fact, the highest I ever paid for gasoline, in my entire life, was during the Bush Administration, when it went to over $4 a gallon.

The fact is, the real economic problems we face stem not from progressive policies, but from Corporate America's criminal activity, Corporate America's unpatriotic tax avoidance, and Corporate America's refusal to give American workers a raise despite increased productivity.

 (The President and the First Lady, 1940. The description for this photo reads, "President Roosevelt observes seventh anniversary in White House... by attending services at St. John's Episcopal Church today." Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

President Franklin Roosevelt--himself a devote Christian--had a different outlook on life, an outlook he made clear during his first inaugural address in 1933: "This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Roosevelt then led the nation through the Great Depression and World War II, and also set the stage for America's post-war economic boom. Many conservatives who yearn for the economic times of the 1950s always fail to mention the fact that New Deal policies & infrastructure were firmly in place at that time, e.g., roads, bridges, airports, Social Security, FDIC, protections for unions, higher taxes on the wealthy, and the minimum wage. 

A lot of people today are obviously not heeding Roosevelt's words (if they've heard his words at all). For example, instead of universal health care for all our citizens--a "needed effort" and a policy that has proven workable and beneficial in nearly all industrialized countries--millions of Americans tremble in fear that such a policy will bankrupt the nation, make Americans lazy, and perhaps even cause the end of the world. Ironically though, the lack of such a system is causing people to die; which, I believe, is an outcome that Jesus would probably disapprove of (see, e.g., "Texas’ Other Death Penalty: A Galveston medical student describes life and death in the so-called safety net," Texas Observer, November 13, 2013, and "Study: Thousands of people will die in states that don't expand Medicaid," Talking Points Memo, January 31, 2014).

So, with respect to fear, which is the best approach? Caving in to hysteria and buying lots of End Times books and DVDs (thereby funding lots of mansions and private jets for opportunists) or, being strong in the face of challenges, as Roosevelt advised? Well, you have to decide that for yourself, but I'll end with this: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

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