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For What It’s Worth

September 9, 2015

“Paranoia strikes deep.  Into your life it will creep.  It starts when you’re always afraid.  You step out of line, the man come and take you away.”

For those of you not old enough to remember, the line above comes from the song by Buffalo Springfield whose title I borrowed for the title of this blog post.  If you don’t know the song you can follow the link and listen to the whole thing.  I apologize for the poor video and audio quality but, hey, it was 1967 and it was the best we could do.

I remember sitting with my friends in my college apartment smoking, something we weren’t supposed to, and thinking that the song touched our real fears.  This was the era of war protests, free love, race riots, bra burning and a host of other things.  Students my age were in the thick of it and it was easy to make yourself believe that “the man” would indeed come and take us all away.  That fear was ominous but vague; which was why the song started with “There’s something happening here; what it is ain’t exactly clear.”  We were sure we were onto something new and exciting but felt threatened by sinister forces trying to silence us.

In due time the 60s ended and we went on with lives.  Most of us married, got jobs, and settled down.  Some, like me, became Christians and put that song away with other memories of those times.  Yet now, here I am nearly 50 years later and I am beginning to think that, for, many of my fellow evangelicals, the song’s lyrics are back; the times of vague fear and ominous threats seems to be now.

We interpret the recent short-term incarceration of KY clerk Kim Davis as proof that we can all soon expect that “the man come and take you away” applies to Christians now.  Here are just a few of the comments I’ve seen by evangelicals in the past few days.

  • The criminalization of Christianity. Who is going to be hauled off to jail next just for being a Christian?  No amount of reasoned assurances that this is not imminent lessens the fear.
  • The normalization of same-sex relationships. One writer managed to get his fear of this into a blog post eight times.  I suspect “normalization” is going to be a new evangelical fear-word.  I’m a little uneasy in that, if we don’t want them to be considered normal, then the unspoken thing we want them to be considered isn’t very gracious.
  • The slippery slope. This has become a standby.  There is a vague but oft-stated concern that all sorts of horrible things are just around the corner and there is nothing we can do to stop them.
  • The five lawyers in Washington. This, of course, is the new sinister group controlling the Supreme Court that, all by themselves, are forcing unspeakable evil on our land.
  • The assault on marriage. The fear here is that a smattering of same-sex couples who want to be married are somehow attacking the institution.  The evangelical hue and cry far exceeds that we heard when sex outside marriage, Ashely Madison, rampant porn and spousal abuse became norm.

And those are just a few.  It is time to call this all for what it is.  Paranoia.  To be sure, our culture is changing and evangelical values no longer control the day.  We do need to figure out how to live and witness in this ever-changing cultural landscape.  But our screaming, fear-filled reactions aren’t doing a very good job of that.  Trying to use political or cultural force to get others to live by our values is having the opposite effect.   Worse yet, it leaves us open to being manipulated by self-serving politicians and culture war advocates who are only too eager to tell us we need to be afraid.

Putting aside fears is not easy.  But perhaps while we are waiting for “the man” to come and take us away; we can work on some important real problems like racial injustice, income inequality, poverty, a sensible immigration policy.  Who knows?  If we do maybe instead of coming to take us away he might come to thank us for our graciousness.


From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on Antiquarian Anabaptist and commented:
    I must be about the same age as this blogger, I remember the song and have come to pretty much the same conclusions. Another line in the song says “Ain’t nobody right if everyone’s wrong.” As Christians we need to stop fixating on all that is wrong with the world and truly be ambassadors of all that is right and good.

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