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Using Fear to Impose Religious Beliefs

Peter Goodman


Think about all the unnecessary pain human beings are causing each other.

Putin is wantonly killing civilians, destroying a promising democracy, and enforcing laws that make love a crime if your feelings differ from the official norm.

Florida and Texas are not only finding clever ways to undermine democracy, but persecuting those who differ.

Growing up is hard. Harder when you don’t fit in. It must be especially hard when your deepest feelings don’t match those of the other kids, or your skin color seems to be a problem. Discussing, acknowledging, growing to understand who you are, that must be like heaven. Must help you feel you’re as good as anyone.

I’m saddened by the huge overreaction to schools’ efforts to face up to the persistently racist aspect of our history and national character. (Persons of color see daily that racism hasn’t disappeared.) I’m appalled by states’ efforts to control women’s lives, and criminalize those helping women who need to abort a pregnancy. If your body and heart/mind disagree on your gender, you might need counseling; and your medical treatment should be decided by you, your parents, and your doctor – not some political ideologue; but states want to outlaw such counseling and treatment, labeling it “child abuse.” But they permit “programming” you back to “normal.” (Putin would love our recent anti-gay measures!)

I’m sad to see people being punished for trying to be who they are, without hurting anyone. I’m also sad for the folks who live in such constant fear of anything different that they have to act like Putin or Paxton or Desantis. How must it feel to hold such fear of people with different sexual orientations, ethnicity, or opinions that you lash out against them? What’s the fear? Just the unknown? Or do folks fear that if we were truly free, they might sometimes love someone their conscience and upbringing says they shouldn’t?

Fear engenders strange behavior. Folks who identify as “freedom-loving” trample all over other folks’ most personal and essential freedoms. They rage against intrusive government while passing incredibly intrusive laws. Folks who can’t abide the slightest restriction on owning weapons of war are the most eager to extinguish others’ freedoms to be themselves. Requiring masks is Hitlerian, but your insides are state business.

A deeper contradiction is the apparent belief that Jesus would somehow approve of harassing some poor girl outside a health clinic, denying kids in need the counseling and empathy they deserve, pretending that our society isn’t rife with racism, or kicking gays out of restaurants.

Jesus was inclusive. He told us even Samaritans were okay. He said whatever we did to poor folks and strangers, we did to him. That’s not an invitation to quiver in fear and throw people in jail. It suggests we withhold that first stone if we ourselves have ever sinned, and be courageous in meeting people where they are, even fallen women. Maybe we should try to imagine how we’d feel if criminal law forbade loving whom we love. Just as Jesus would have been appalled by people invoking him to justify slavery, He’d be pulling out his hair over how folks in Texas and Florida are misusing his name and words.

He’d invite us to walk along with those “others,” see our common humanity, understand them. He’d say, again, to accept and love.

But it’ll snow in Las Cruces before his followers even hear him.