Perfect Fear Casts Out Love

Perfect Fear Casts Out Love March 25, 2017

A recent PRRI survey has been making the news, and rightly so. As you can see from this chart, white Evangelicals have a persecution complex (or, if you prefer, a martyr complex):


As the Episcopal Cafe highlighted, white Evangelical Protestant leaders are using fear and alarmism in an effort to drive people to faith. But the “faith” that results will inevitably be something twisted. Because if perfect love casts out fear, then if fear is not merely present but thriving, then it follows that love is being driven out.

This is the language of exorcism. And we see the implications of this reversal of what the New Testament calls for when loving one’s enemy, or simply loving, is treated as something demonic.

And since God is love, this fostering of fear is an attempt to drive God out.

This should frighten white Evangelicals, because the one sin that the New Testament depicts as unforgivable is attributing the work of God to a demonic source instead.

In view of that, it seems far safer to take the risk of being too loving, than to take the risk of embracing, perpetuating, and fostering fear. Conservatives often ask liberals and progressives “What if you’re wrong?” in not condemning others. But the teaching of Jesus should lead us to think that the big risk is not that we will be insufficiently judgmental, but that we will be insufficiently inclusive and loving.

I wrote those last couple of sentences when Facebook reminded me of the post from a couple of years ago, “What If You’re Wrong?” These statistics about Evangelical persecution complexes (in which I once participated myself) reminded me that I had written a draft post and meant to revisit that topic.

Of related interest, see the statistics suggesting that many Americans not only misjudge their own persecution or freedom, but also misjudge whether things like Antisemitism.







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  • Al Cruise

    “persecution complexes ” having been raised in them, and being part of them at one time, it’s clear to see, much of their purpose, where they get their energy from, where they get their power from to control their own , their primary reason for existing, comes from their preconceived, God given right to persecute others who are not like them . Hence, they perceive that taking away, or challenging their right to persecute others based on their beliefs, is in fact persecuting them. This is precisely what is occurring among-st the white evangelical crowd today. It is through education of young people that these “persecution complexes” will be eradicated. The information age occurring now will be the game changer.

    • charlesburchfield

      //they perceive that taking away, or challenging their right to persecute others based on their beliefs, is in fact persecuting them. //
      Jesus! ain’t it the truth!!

      //The information age occurring now will be the game changer.//
      I sincerely hope so!!
      a song has been coming to mind I thought I’d share it here. Here is just a few lines from Bob Dylan’s when the ship comes in:

      And the words that are used
      For to get the ship confused
      Will not be understood as they’re spoken
      For the chains of the sea
      Will have busted in the night
      And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean.

    • jh

      It’s also an excuse for why life doesn’t turn out the way they expect. (I used it a time or two when I was a Christian. It was so much easier to use that excuse than accept any blame.) It’s a subversion of what it means to be a victim when they play the martyr card.

  • grstatdoc

    We seem to be too good in perfecting fear, and not so good in perfecting love (more accurately, allowing love to be perfected in us)?

    • No, I think you had it right the first time; we are at our best when we’re in the business of perfecting love.

      It takes hard work. As the old song says, “love ain’t easy”.

    • Tim Boone

      The danger is that fearmongering and condemnation from both the right and left extremes are seducing seaway the common sense middle of the road who have always been our majority and the people who get things done…….

  • Gary

    Polls should be taken with a grain of salt.

    The case of “more likely to perceive discrimination” versus “perceive more discrimination”.

    To quote the article:

    “led to some headlines claiming that white evangelicals think they’re discriminated against more than Muslims. They’re not reading the data correctly.”

    “The poll cannot tell us what percentage of white evangelicals think they’re discriminated against more than Muslims because that’s not the question the survey asked.”

    “The actual survey question looked like this: “Just your impression, in the United States today, is there a lot of discrimination against [INSERT ITEMS; RANDOMIZE], or not? And is there a lot of discrimination against [INSERT NEXT ITEM], or not?””

    “The items inserted included several different groups, including “Muslims” and “Christians.””

    “What PRRI did not ask was for respondents to compare the amount of discrimination against Muslims to the amount of discrimination against Christians”

    “It probably didn’t help that PRRI itself also got the headline wrong on its own chart included in the report, writing, “White Evangelicals Perceive More Discrimination Against Christians Than Muslim.” (Update: I spoke with PRRI’s Daniel Cox after publication of this article. While we didn’t agree completely on how to interpret this data, he agreed to change the chart headline to, “White Evangelicals More Likely to Perceive Discrimination Against Christians than Muslims.”)”

    “it’s not possible to run an analysis on some pairs of questions. This happens to be the case of the question on discrimination against Muslims and discrimination against Christians. They were each asked of a different subset of respondents.”

    Now, in summary, I would question the source, The Christian Post, since they are a right-leaning Evangelical Source. But I can’t argue with the author’s facts. To evaluate the data of the survey, you have to know the actual questions asked.

    From the blog, “white Evangelical Protestant leaders are using fear and alarmism in an effort to drive people to faith. But the “faith” that results will inevitably be something twisted. Because if perfect love casts out fear….”

    Except that in the other categories, “All Americans”, “White Mainline Protestants”, “White Catholic”, “Non-White Protestant”, and “Unaffiliated”, percentages from 23% to 40% feel Christians are experiencing “a lot of discrimination”. Does that mean that 40% of non-white Protestants have “twisted faith”, or a “persecution complex”? Perhaps, just perhaps, White Evangelical Protestants feel the way they do because of posts that call their leaders twisted in faith – because of a 57% number versus a 40% number. Not exactly “perfect love”.

    Polls didn’t exactly get the 2016 election right either.

    • Al Cruise

      “Polls should be taken with a grain of salt.” I agree with you. You get a much more accurate understanding of how they feel when you to listen to white protestant evangelicals face to face. Go sit with them in their Churches, listen to the sermons they listen to, listen to them after service in the Church parking lot , then you will find out how they really feel.

      • jh

        rather than listen to their words, follow their actions. Words can lie. Actions always speak for what the person truly believes.

        • Al Cruise

          True. One action they did was vote for Trump.

      • Gary

        Done that. That’s why I don’t go to them anymore. However, I don’t really think the poll convicts them of twisted faith. Individuals may have convicted themselves by what they say. But, not all. And certainly the poll doesn’t accomplish what some people thought it did.

        • Gary

          A case of over-reach.

  • Gary

    I have another issue with the poll graphics, which seems to indicate an attempt at sensationalism, instead of just presenting facts. The title, “White Evangelicals…” Highlight a conclusion.
    Why the category “White Evangelical”?
    The Evangelical churches I’ve seen have white, black, and Hispanic members. Does the poll hide the black and Hispanic members in the “Nonwhite Protestant” category? Or did they just leave these groups out? Even in mainline religions like Methodists, they are struggling with conservative and liberal wings on issues like gay marriage. And it turns out that southern black and African congregations are more conservative. Does the title “White Evangelical Protestant” turn out to be an easy target to attack? But black and Hispanic evangelicals are a more difficult group to attack in the progressive mind set, because it is not politically correct. Something seems fishy with this entire poll, at least in terms of drawing conclusions about the group’s “twisted faith”.

    • ChrisDACase95

      White Evangelicals are called such, not so much because of their race but because of its history.

      What is known as the White Evangelical movement is the latest incarnation of the religious movement that started around the 1850’s. It was the same movement that used relgion and the Bible as a means of keeping slaverly and in its more extreme cases, started the Klu Klux Klan. Following this it used relgion as a means of justifying Jim Crowe and Segregation. Once the racial equality went underway, they moved on to women. When women’s rights went underway, the LGBT community was its next target. It’s hardly even about racism, but more about eltism, with the rich caucasian males on the top.

      The basic idea is the White Evangelical vison is the desire to bring America back to its pre 1960’s era (at least as far as ideology goes), where whites had power over the other races, the rich had power over the poor, men where in charge and a women knes their place, and gays and transgenders would be institutionalized. All with Christian Dogma backing it up. This is what “Make America Great Again” refers to.

      Or for a better perspective, check out “Bioshock Infinite”.

      So while White Evangelicals is a broad term, I have no doubt that there are black and Hispanic members of that group. Once again, race has nothing to do with the term, but the term stems from its history. And while I admit this comparison is extreme on my part (I’m having trouble thinking of a better one) hispanic and blacks that adere to the White Evangelical movement would be equivalent to a holocaust survivors grandchild joining or supporting a gang of skin heads.

      • Gary

        Even more reason to retire the term “White Evangelical” category in a modern survey. If it includes the Hispanic and Black Evangelicals, then it is not correct in polling. Especially if they are lumped into the “Non-White Protestants”. Even more so, for full disclosure, when the poll asks the person to self-identify as “White Evangelical”, they should explain the background on the term. Then no one would self identify as “White Evangelical”. (Or I probably should say, very few would – I am sure some small percentage might – boaderline KKK – but that is the extreme).

      • Gary

        Unless the pollsters are still living in the 1860’s, or 1960’s. Time to move on. But just my opinion. I don’t put much faith in polls. They are part of the multimillion dollar political campaign machinery (left and right), which could be put to much better use doing something useful with the money.

      • Gary

        After reading my comments, I don’t think I am explaining it too well. Let me try once more in one sentence.
        It’s like a pollster going into a church congregation, and saying, “I want to poll your white members only”.

        How valid is it? When the prime subject is based on religious views.

  • Argaman

    Why do you say that Americans misjudge antisemitism? There has in fact been an increase of antisemitic acts in the last couple of years (FBI stats from 2015 showed an increase).

    • Because of the information in the linked blog post, which shows a misjudgment in spite of the increase you mention which that post also mentions, and so I am not sure what your disagreement is with.

  • Obscurely

    Dr. McGrath … as a courtesy to your readers you might want to have an assistant test the links in your blog entries going forward — e.g., the “What if you’re wrong?” links above are broken …

    • The link works fine for me, and I do not have an assistant when it comes to blogging.

      • Obscurely

        Working for me too now! sorry for false alarm