The fear of the Lord, say the biblical sages, is the beginning of wisdom.
Lots of postmodern skeptics think they don’t believe that and even think that such sayings are a primitive appeal to servile fear.
But then they take a look at the smirking face of a bully like Stephen Miller as he flouts the law to sentence desperate children to deportation and (admit it, guys) long for swift and terrible justice to find this miserable creature. They watch Trump lie his way through the deaths of (soon) 100,000 people with stupid garbage about Obamagate and attempts to blame the very Administration whose pandemic response program he ignored and destroyed and, again, they know in their hearts that such criminal evil demands justice.
Typically, out of a desire to not invoke You Know Who, the cry is for “karma” or “the Universe” to visit the well-earned fear on the villain, but at the end of the day, the sentiment is the same as that of the author in Proverbs. The point is that there are, in this world, a certain percentage of people who are what are known as “assholes” and until they learn some common decency by learning the thought, “That’s just wrong and I shouldn’t do that” they will never begin to acquire wisdom and they will remain forever at the level of mere predators and hopeless selfoids. At times in our lives, we may even recall the moment when the person who needed to experience fear was us.
(Side note: one of the curious effects that the rise of the miserable antichrist cult of Trump has had–in addition to turning “prolifers” into apologists for “my body/my choice” while turning pro-choice people into passionate advocates for the value of human life–is that it has made “faithful conservative” Christians into apologists for moral relativism and naked lies “for the greater good” while making liberals into loud advocates for the Christian doctrine of human sin.)
But that’s not what I want to talk about here. What I want to focus on, as a Catholic writing to Catholics, is fear. The gospel does not tell us to fear nothing, but to fear the right things. Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not fear him who can destroy the body. Fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”
And this is the core problem with the MAGA antichrist cult: It fears all the wrong things and does not fear the right things. Above all, it fears the first death far more than the second death, for all its boasting about courage. For instance:
All the boasting of the Cult about its “courage” in refusing to wear a mask means is that the Cult has been persuaded that the likelihood one of them will get the disease seems to them to be low, so they don’t care if they give it to somebody else. “Prolife” superstar Abby Johnson reflects the “If the weak die, they die” mentality perfectly:
It’s not going away, so it is better that the weak die than that a whole stock portfolio perish. This mentality–that suffering only matters if it affects me or somebody I care about–is the defining characteristic of conservatism in the age of Trump.
Indeed, it gave us the Age of Trump. Time was, Conservatives could conceive of the Common Good even when it did not effect them personally. But now the Common Good is reflexively dismissed as “socialism” or even “communism” by the MAGA Freak Show, including by Catholics who should know better, but who have forsaken a birthright of Catholic teaching dating back two millennia for a pot of Libertarian message.
As a result, they fear not tying millstones around their necks by spitting on the second greatest commandment, but mere inconvenience to themselves:
To which Normals reply:
Note what drives Starnes. It’s name in English is “fear”. And it is fear of something utterly trivial while those around him face literal death.
This habit of majoring in minors, of straining at gnats like toasters while swallowing camels like the death of one’s neighbor is one of the consequences of sin.
So Leviticus warns Israel that when it gives itself over to sin, one of the consequences will be that “the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall” (Leviticus 26:36). Proverbs 28:1 likewise tells us that “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.”
And this is what we see playing out. Those who are committed to doing the right thing–i.e. loving their neighbor–demonstrate courage, one of the fruits of righteousness. That does not mean they do not feel fear. We all feel fear in this hour. But as Mark Twain says, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” If the Son of God could sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, there is no shame in feeling fear. But the Son of God was also able to overrule his fear, not give in to it and self-indulgently amplify it to justify cowardly betrayal of God and disobedience. So he could say to his Father, “Let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).
But the MAGA antichrist cult is afraid of mere fantasies. So, for instance, Ben Carpenter, an Alaska Republican legislator, seriously compares having to show a little consideration for people at risk of catching COVID to the Holocaust, demonstrating, yet again, that the MAGA cult uses, not protects, Jews it sees as convenient for portraying itself as the true victims just as it uses, not protects, the unborn:
When lawmakers return to Juneau on Monday, they will be required to undergo a health screening. Those who pass the screening will be asked to wear a sticker.
“How about an arm band that won’t fall off like a sticker will?” Rep. Ben Carpenter wrote in a message copied to all 40 members of the Alaska House. “If my sticker falls off, do I get a new one or do I get public shaming too? Are the stickers available as a yellow Star of David?”.
You will be unsurprised to hear that Alaskan Jews did not appreciate the legacy of the Shoah being used in this cheap, stupid way:
Two Jewish members of the Legislature immediately responded, again copying all members of the House.
“Ben, This is disgusting. Keep your Holocaust jokes to yourself,” wrote Rep. Grier Hopkins, D-Fairbanks.
Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, said, “I don’t think a tag that we’re cleared to enter the building is akin to being shipped to a concentration camp. It’s more akin to needing a boarding pass when you get through TSA. This is that.”
You will, perhaps, be equally unsurprised to hear that Carpenter, in classic MAGA fashion managed to telegraph his support for Israel and for white supremacist anti-semitism, all at the same time. If you are unfamiliar with that technique, I encourage you to watch this before proceeding:
With that information under your belt, now observe the code language Carpenter deploys. First, Carpenter declares:
“I certainly have no ill will toward the Jewish nation and the Jewish people in our country,” he said.
Translation: Yay, Israel!
But then he feels it important to add this bizarre comment:
“Can you or I — can we even say it is totally out of the realm of possibility that COVID-19 patients will be rounded up and taken somewhere?” he said. “People want to say Hitler was a white supremacist. No. He was fearful of the Jewish nation, and that drove him into some unfathomable atrocities.”
Right. Hitler, who literally referred to Germans as the Master Race was not a white supremacist. He was fearful. Jews (whom Nazi rhetoric routinely referred to as a plague and a disease) were scary. You know, the way COVID-19 is scary. And in his over-reaction to scary Jews, poor Hitler got carried away. In a way, he was the real victim and Jewish scariness made him do bad things. We don’t want to overreact to scariness the way he did.
Hopkins immediately replied to this filthy anti-semitic code with more patience than I would have mustered:
No, Hopkins said.
“That’s not what led to the Holocaust,” he said. “There was no Jewish nation at that time. It didn’t exist. And using that term is anti-Semitic and a misunderstanding of history. … If he wants to have a conversation about constitutional rights, that’s a discussion we can have, but likening it to genocide is completely erroneous and wrong.”
No. Showing some consideration for the vulnerable during a pandemic is not like the Holocaust. Nor it is comparable to Jim Crow, except for the astonishingly selfish people who reckon themselves the saviors of the Church from the Holy Father:
“Separate but equal.” pic.twitter.com/l0o2ZxETix
— Eric Sammons (@EricRSammons) May 18, 2020
This fear of ridiculous fantasies is endemic in the MAGA cult. It’s conspiracies and bogeymen as far as the eye can see. When it’s not fear of concentration camps and lynchings of white people, it’s Bill Gates plotting to vaccinate you with chips (which the Cult writes about using software they buy from him, because convenience, not consistency is all they care about):
or it’s Science trying to make you gay or trans:
Or the Deep State organizing a “Plandemic” to make Trump look bad, so that FREEDOMEAGLEMAGAPATRIOTS have to kill the Governor of Michigan or Anthony Fauci or whoever else criticizes the Dear Leader to keep us free.
The apocalyptic fears are uniformly conspiratorial. “They” want to take our freedom, or our lives, or our sexuality, or our faith from us. “They” are coming to jail, brainwash, sex change, or kill us. The slightest concession to common courtesy such as washing hands or wearing a mask when you go shopping is the first step to slavery, sin, and death!
And it is all massively selfish and self-centered. Those who refuse to wear masks always speak of being heedless of their health because they are so brave, as RR. Reno did when he boasted about spitting on the sidewalk near a mother and child, or when he boasts that he defied hospital rules to visit an ER in the same column he tells us he tested positive for COVID-19 a few days later. They give zero consideration to the danger they pose to others. Those concerned about their manhood fear what sinister feminizing forces are doing to them, never thinking of (and often contemptuous of) the needs of others. Trump is so bent on himself that he wants less testing because the fewer tests you administer, the less anybody knows how widespread the disease is. And Reactionary Catholics likewise see things only in terms of themselves. The Pandemic is, for them, a plot to abolish communion on the tongue or to get rid of the Mass altogether. Or it is God punishing their enemies for the Amazon Synod. The idea that they are not at the center of all things, or that somebody beside themselves and their obsessions should be considered does not enter their heads. Both their fears and their vainglorying against imaginary foes are fantasies starring themselves.
Meanwhile, people who consider the good of others as well as themselves (what scripture calls “loving your neighbor as yourself”) realize that the Common Good simply means making the imaginative leap to understanding that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. That is not Communism. That is the Golden Rule. And those who are following it in this Pandemic find that 0beying competent public health authority is not slavery, or death, or the extinction of the Faith but simple common decency and love of neighbor.
More than this, it is to do the will of Jesus Christ, whether or not you think he exists. And his reward, whether or not you think he exists, is the same for believer and unbeliever: you do not live in servile fear of conspiracies and bogeymen, but rather experience the pleasure of coming together with decent people everywhere to do something good for others–even for those others who live in selfish fear and think only of themselves. And this too is Christlike, for as he said, “If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:46-48).
We will none of us be perfect in this life. But Jesus still gives us the target to aim for. It is in the direction of giving your life away even for those who despise you, not in the direction of hogging your life, safety, and freedom even when nobody is threatening them. Let us not live in selfish fear for our skins or our convenience. Let us live in love for one another.
Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8).