By Trudy Wischemann
This past Sunday, Mark Smith, the Methodist pastor who has served both Exeter and Lindsay congregations, preached his last sermon. He called it “Unafraid,” and used texts from both the Old and New Testaments to bring home the primary message of the Bible: that God is in charge and we, the people, should fear not.
His message was more than comforting. It was, and is, also a challenge, because we use fear to keep us comfortable. “I can’t do that,” we tell ourselves, whatever “that” is, “because ____,” and then fill in the blank with some reason or excuse to cover the fact that, in truth, it’s because we fear the possible consequences.
Of course, we in the pews as well as behind the pulpit have had reasons for little bouts of fear since we all heard the Methodist Conference’s decision to transfer Mark to two churches in Amador County. Moving a family and facing new congregations teamed up with finding a new pastor who will preach messages we can hear (and who knows what else?) have made people on both sides of the aisle uncertain. Our new minister and his family are from the tiny South Pacific island of Tonga, where things are very different than here. But God’s in charge. We move forward and be grateful.
As I listened to Mark’s sermon, I wished we could apply this message to our current national conundrums around immigration, international trade, the budget, even the elections. Stirring up fear has been this administration’s primary tool for generating votes and legislation, not to mention executive orders. The fears being stirred are in us, however. We are responsible for having become a fearful people.
“Oh, I’m not afraid,” I hear you protest in my mind. Yes, we have things we use to protect ourselves: laws and regulations, firearms and fences, locks and alarms, police and the military (and of course there’s always location, location, location.) If we’re not afraid, then what is the uproar over illegal immigration, or school shootings, or the trade deficit with China? Or North Korea’s challenge to our nuclear military capability? Or even the possible elimination of Medicare and Social Security? It’s fear, folks: fear that our comforts, our support systems, our way(s) of life will be changed or disappear, replaced with something different, less, or eliminated completely. It’s no small thing. Even the small things.
“When did we vote for this?” a friend’s friend is reported to have said when the Lindsay Public Golf Course began to be dismantled. I could tell him it’s when we voted (or didn’t) for the current city council members; I could tell him it’s when they voted at a city council meeting which he had the right (unexercised) to attend and to speak against the proposal. But when I have invited people to join me in the council chambers, most often they look away, check their schedules, mention how inconvenient it would be to come. Sometimes they confess they wouldn’t want to say anything for fear of looking foolish, or out of step with people they admire (or fear), or possibly for generating consequences that might make their lives more difficult.
It occurs to me that perhaps we have become a fearful people because we’re afraid, mostly, of fear. It’s an interesting proposition we might explore – as a people.
Trudy Wischemann is an unmethodical person who writes regularly anyway. You can send her your thoughts on fear c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.