Recently I’ve been musing about the damaging dynamics Fundamentalism has been creating throughout our society. A wise commenter responded to a recent blogpost and noted how Fundamentalists not only use fear; they actually instill fear. She then asked: “But who is using the Fundamentalists? And to what end?”
Indeed. A very good question.
I’ve learned to approach questions like this with the old adage: follow the money. I would say it’s the usual suspects of Money and Power that are cultivating the fear that is crippling our nation.
An economics of scarcity conjures fear by insisting there is never enough money to go around; that we need to grab all the wealth we can and stash it away; that our survival depends on winning; that only those who grab and stash, who work “hard enough” deserve to have enough.
A philosophy of power promotes fear. Power fears weakness and so it seeks to control others in order to assure itself it has value. Power fears insignificance and so it demeans others as a way to establish its own worth. Power fears equality and therefore must create and perpetuate hierarchy.
The human family has been setting up golden calves of Money and Power since our earliest beginnings. Idolizing the ideologies and market forces of dominance and preeminence, we worship our own greed.
Instead the rule of thumb for us humans seems to be: love ourselves and use our neighbor.
A recent blog of mine took issue with the destructive ideology of Fundamentalism. It is this system of belief infecting both religion and politics that I abhor.
Fundamentalism is arrogant, intransigent and rude. It refuses to compromise, insists on its own truth and decimates its opponents. Fundamentalism can see nothing wrong with itself and sees only the wrong in others. It is destructive, damaging and divisive. Fundamentalism is destroying our churches, our communities and our nation.
This creeping disease is a blindness: people think they see the world clearly but in fact their vision is twisted and tainted by fear. I feel sympathy for our sisters and brothers who are infected by this insidious virus of Fundamentalism. They live in a small, harsh universe dominated by anxiety.
But back to the original question: Who is using the Fundamentalists? And to what end?
Those who thirst for Money and Power will do anything to satisfy their insatiable hunger. Instilling fear and using fear is a time-honored ploy within this cult and the cultivation of narrow-minded, tunnel-visioned Fundamentalism makes their grab for money and power all the easier. And (needless to say) Money and Power are especially adept at using religion to serve its own purposes.
Religion in itself is not the problem. Across the ages and in every society, countless people have experienced awe for the mysteries of life and have created religious rituals to honor that mystery. Reverence for the numinous unknown is a reasonable response for us limited mortals; spiritual passion is an important part of what it means to be human.
The problem of religion is not its existence but rather its easy abuse. Spiritual passion is a powerful force that has been manipulated again and again throughout history. Religious passion infected by the ideology of Fundamentalism is easy pickings for the Cult of Money and Power.
There are deep divides damaging our current community, both across our nation and around the world. Us and Them. Good and Evil. True and False. In and Out. Everywhere we turn, from all sides, people are labeled and skewered and demonized.
We Liberals tend to imagine Conservatives as our enemies while Conservatives often see Liberals as the sinister other. When we do this to each other, we are blind to the actual enemy and all of us play into the hands of the Money and Power Cult.
When more of us start admitting the darkness within ourselves, then maybe we will find greater compassion for the darkness we see in others. When more of us start recognizing the goodness found in others, maybe we can be more hopeful for the creative goodness available to us from within our own human family. When we finally know each other as truly human, we are less likely to fear each as the “sinister other.”
In her ever fascinating Brain Pickings, the brilliant Maria Popova quotes a letter written by novelist Nicole Krauss in 1884 reflecting on Vincent van Gogh’s comments about fear and risk taking. Krauss said this:
Fear… is always without knowledge. It is a mental calculation based on the future unknown. And yet the experience of fear is the experience of being in the grip of a sensation that seems to possess an unassailable conviction in itself…
Bravery is always more intelligent than fear, since it is built on the foundation of what one knows about oneself: the knowledge of one’s strength and capacity, of one’s passion.
Sharing our strength and tapping into our shared human goodness is a brave act born of counter-cultural courage. Let’s learn how to use this shared strength for the cultivation of unity and harmony within our society and across the globe. Taking the risk to reject fear and to trust in the deep goodness of our shared humanity is how we must come together to dethrone the idols of Money and Power that threaten to destroy our national soul.
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She frequently shares her thoughts with Coffee Party USA as a regular volunteer.