Fear-the Hidden Poison of Politics | Spiritual Meditations

There are many things that motivate us. But the most powerful motivator of all is fear.  Yet scripture tells us not to be afraid….God will be with us.

Fear is a primal instinct that served us as cave dwellers and still serves us today. It keeps us alive, because if we survive a bad experience, we never forget how to avoid it in the future. Our most vivid memories are born in fear. Adrenaline etches them into our brains.

Cultural norms also teach us whether something should be feared or not. Think, for example, about how certain social groups are feared and persecuted because of a societally-created impression that they are dangerous.

Nothing makes us more uncomfortable than fear. And we have so many fears: fear of pain, disease, injury, failure, not being accepted, missing an opportunity, and being scammed, to name a few. Fear invokes the flight or fight system, and our first reaction is often to flee back to our comfort zone. If we don’t know the way back, we are likely to follow whoever shows us a path.

Marketers use fear as a motivator as often as they can. They present a scenario they hope will invoke our sense of fear. Then they show us a solution – a path back to our comfort zone – that entails using their product or service. Fear is used to sell almost everything: cars, tires, and life insurance are classics. But clever marketers also use it to sell breakfast cereal and deodorant. As a result, we purchase all sorts of things that a generation ago were considered unnecessary: antibacterial soap, alarm systems. The list goes on and on. To use fear successfully as a motivator, a solution must be offered with it. A new path to follow.  (Robert Evans Wilson Jr. Psychology Today 9/23/09)

Politicians Manufacture Fear

And that is exactly what many political candidates do. If we buy into the ‘new path’ they are attempting to steer us into, through the fear-based scenario they present as likely, if not imminent, the only benefactor is the politician or political party that is doing the steering. Instead of being sucked into a belief in the politically proposed picture, let’s do our due diligence, use our logic and come to reasonable conclusions about the likelihood of the various threats and promises presented to frighten us into voting for them. Be confident in your spiritual beliefs of what is right and wrong, don’t let them manipulate you and then look for those who are honest in their speech and actions.

The Media Creates and Distributes Fear

Just as the government functions like any major conglomerate, as stated by Peter Vanderwicken, “Journalists and politicians have become ensnared in a symbiotic web of lies that misleads the public.” Some so-called news programs repeatedly sensationalize and create baseless hype for the purpose of entertaining, maintaining and controlling their audience. With self-interest and manipulation, their goals are not to inform the public but rather to make money from the public. Their stories often revolve around politics with a slant in the direction they have decided will excite the most attention and keep the viewer coming back for more.   If you have ever been aware of a news story first-hand and compare it to what was reported in the media, you know that there are usually discrepancies that can greatly change the readers conclusion.

Paul H. Weaver, a former political scientist (at Harvard University), journalist (at Fortune magazine), and corporate communications executive (at Ford Motor Company), states that we have become addicted to this culture of lying. Weaver states, “The culture of lying is the discourse and behavior of officials seeking to enlist the powers of journalism in support of their goals, and of journalists seeking to co-opt public and private officials into their efforts to find and cover stories of crisis and emergency response. It is the medium through which we Americans conduct most of our public business (and a lot of our private business) these days.”

Another tactic that we must beware of is the use of the sound-bite or snippet. Used by both politicians and the media to excite, entice or anger, it is a short poisonous phrase taken out of context. Look for the whole story by finding that news source that is complete and balanced in its reporting. If the announcers are pushing extreme opinions, this is probably not the one you want to listen too. Be assured that God is a better guide and don’t let them manipulate you.

How to Avoid the Hidden Harm of Politics

Yes, I know finding the truth takes some research which can be time consuming and requires tenacity. Unfortunately, it is easy to throw our support to whomever our friends or relatives have chosen, opinions often based on no more than the opinion of their friends or relatives….an endless chain, possibly based on misinformation and snappy slogans with no substance. Or, worse yet, a desire to be part of a ‘team’, possibly the same ‘team’ your authority figure is on, just to be a part of the contest without any real interest in the ‘players’ or their background and abilities. We all want to belong, but don’t let them manipulate you….do your own research and use the ‘golden rule’ as your gauge.

So how can we avoid being the politicians’ patsies? Remember: very little that a political candidate says can be considered the whole truth. Nothing fans anxieties like an absence of solid information, and nothing resolves anxiety like concrete data.  If the statements in a news story lead you to believe it could impact your life, don’t worry, but investigate the facts provided by a non-media source.  Preferably from someone directly involved or an expert on the subject.  If it is available, check the candidates’ voting record. If it isn’t available, ask yourself “how realistic is the picture he or she is painting”. Take an objective look around you; does your experience support their assertions? Self-monitor your fear-feelings (usually exhibited as anger) to determine if you are being taken in. We can also check the numbers candidates make up or exaggerate, thinking that we won’t check. But you are capable and can find the real statistics.

Fact Checking Resources

Here are a few sites that can help with ascertaining the truth. If you are aware of others, please share them in the blog post comments where readers can access them. Comments on Facebook will not always be available.

Politifact (fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others on its Truth-O-Meter) https://www.politifact.com/

FactCheck.org (The special interest groups behind the TV ads and more) https://www.factcheck.org/search/

Washington Post‘s Fact Checker (Checking the truth behind the political rhetoric.) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/

OpenSecrets (Data on Campaign Finance, Super PACs) https://www.opensecrets.org/

The Sunlight Foundation (Making government & politics more accountable & transparent) https://sunlightfoundation.com/

Snopes https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/

FactChecker (for India) https://www.factchecker.in/

FullFact (regarding European politicians and media) https://fullfact.org/europe/

AfricaCheck (sorting fact from fiction)   https://africacheck.org/

Your Good Stewardship

Why bother with all this research? Good stewardship. God has created a world full of the wonderful creatures, the people He loves, the most beautiful scenery, an exciting universe, and a very sophisticated ecology. We, humans,  do not always do our best to sustain it; sometimes out of ignorance….many times, because of a greedy use of resources and thoughtless dumping. And in war-torn areas, environmental issues are a low priority. We aren’t necessarily doing this damage ourselves, but we are putting people in positions that make a difference; good or bad.

This is why your educated vote and involvement is important in sustaining and restoring the world that God made for you and your children. Instead of letting the politicians and media manipulate you with their fear tactics, research whatever issues concerns you. You are capable to take the road less traveled instead of being part of the frightened herd.

If you are trying to guess what political party or candidate I support, let me be very clear that I try to listen to God and support those who act as though they are following the teaching of Jesus. Verbiage meant to solicit the religious vote does not qualify. Do their actions show that they love God and love their neighbor as themselves? If they are attempting to frighten us into a particular vote or support, this is contradictory to scripture which repeatedly tells us to “fear not”. As my friend, Pastor Nathan writes in the following excerpt, ‘shine a light on it’, whether it be fear created by politicians or the media or something more personal.

Dealing With Fear

One of the modern classics of horror is Stephen King’s “It.” Anyone who has seen it and analyzed it can tell you that, as much of King’s work is, the movie serves as an extended allegory for what fear can do to people, groups, and even whole towns. What ultimately can defeat IT (fear), is laughter, even love….Much like the movie IT, fear itself becomes the monster inside of us, paralyzing us, hurting us, eating away at us, until it nearly kills us.

God tells us over and over again in the scriptures (365 times or there about) “do not fear.” And we hear later that “perfect love casts out fear.” Yet, IT happens to all of us from time to time. Small fears, or big fears creep into our psyche and play against our minds, hearts, and wills. Much like the classic horror films I used to watch, the unseen monster only hinted at in our imagination is the enemy, but who or what is the vanquishing hero? Classic Sunday School answers work here, I think. Jesus, God, love, laughter, yes all of these are good at overcoming fear.

But I think something else is a great place to start. Light. Shining light on the enemy within is a great starting point. Naming it, illuminating it, and facing it head on helps us to get a handle on it. Most of what we are afraid of will never happen, and if it does happen, most of the time it’s not as bad as we imagine it, and even if it is, we often find that we have more strength to get through it than we thought we would.

It’s amazing then, isn’t it, that love and light are but two ways Jesus gets described in the Gospels? I don’t think it’s any accident. I don’t know what you’re facing this week, or month, or year. Perhaps you have big fears, maybe only small ones.… But trust in God, lean on Jesus, shine some light, be filled with God’s love, and let God lead you through.   –Pastor Nathan

Relevant Scripture:

Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1)

  I went past the field of a sluggard,
past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
 I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man. (Proverbs 24:30-34)

Again, I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
and they have no comforter. (Ecclesiastes 4:1)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil 4:6-8)

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:20)

For “Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”   Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:10-13)

References:

Theo Tsaousides, Ph.D. is a neuropsychologist, assistant professor, and author of the book Brainblocks: Overcoming the Seven Hidden Barriers to Success. Article in Psych Today   https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smashing-the-brainblocks/201511/7-things-you-need-know-about-fear

Paige Gilmar, B.A. English Literature & Journalism, McGill University (2019)

 

 

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