an ethic of fear and muslim baby-making

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Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

an ethic of fear and muslim baby-making

i’ve had plenty of gripe moments on twitter about this issue, but i thought—after being sent a link to a youtube video—that i might explore it a little more closely (more on the video ahead). specifically, it’s what i’m calling an “ethic of fear”. by that, i mean living life in a way that fear makes your decisions. fear sets your agenda. it tells you where to go and where not to go. it determines your neighborhood and it pushes people to financial extremes (i.e. putting your kids in private school, fear of social ostracism creates a lifestyle of excessive spending, etc.). fear is a very powerful thing and when it becomes a life ethic, it can cripple people and, at very least, disallow people to live life to its fullest.

for example (and this is what i’ve griped about on twitter), since moving to little rock about a year and a half ago, i can’t even begin to count the number of times we’ve gotten questions like the following:
1. do you really feel safe where you live?
2. you let your kids play outside???
3. (in reference to the bed & breakfast next door to us) how do they stay in business in a neighborhood like this?
4. when are you guys going to buy a house and move out of little rock?
5. you guys aren’t going to put your kids in little rock schools, are you?
the list could go on and on. people think i exaggerate these questions, but this is truly almost verbatim from the mouths of various people. it’s not even just people who live in podunk little towns, but many people who simply live out in west little rock.
i believe these question come from a place of fear—an ethic of fear. i’m not saying these are ill-intentioned people or racist people (although, in another blog, i could make a very strong argument for this) or just not smart people, but i think it boils down to—in the very truest, definitional sense of the word—ignorance. in other words, people simply don’t know the facts. it’s very true that people fear what they don’t know and that’s the case many times here.
not to get too much into this particular example of little rock, but people have this idea that little rock is just a bunch of gang-bangers running around with automatic assault weapons and that all us poor, innocent white folks need to stay indoors and pray for our safety. no doubt, little rock has some crime problems, but it generally occurs in very small pockets of the city and it generally isn’t just random acts of horrendous violence. our neighborhood, for instance, is a great neighborhood that is quiet and wonderfully diverse and a great place to raise a family (for those that don’t know, it’s the governor’s mansion district in the quapaw quarter). peoples’ fears disallow them to know the beauty of little rock and the cultural diversity that is characteristic of the city. i truly can’t imagine raising my children in the “safety” of the ‘burbs or any other place than the city.
that’s simply one example which, in the grand scheme of things, is fairly minimal. on a broader scale, for literally hundreds, even thousands of years, fear has been the catalyst for mistrust, needless division, war, racism and religious extremism. specifically, religion, unfortunately, has been one of the biggest purveyors of fear-based logic and motivation. especially in the last 8 years since 9/11, christian fear towards muslims has reached an all-time fervor.
again, it’s the unknown that i believe drives this fear. there’s no better example of this than the following video that was sent to me.

the video illustrates the use of fear to motivate people to, well, get it on more. 🙂 ok, more to the point, the video, at its core, wants christians (read: americans) to produce more babies so we can “reproduce our way” to “beating out” the muslims. at its very core, though, even beyond just reproducing more christians, it’s the idea that if we get more muslims, we’re going to have chaos and violence and bombings and the like. an ethic of fear, indeed.
don’t get me wrong, though. i wish the whole world would decide to follow jesus. i don’t wish the whole world would be converted to “american christianity”, but i certainly think the hope of the world is following christ. BUT, while i certainly believe there are muslims throughout the world that practice violence and oppression, i also affirm that there are many millions more muslims that DO NOT practice violence and oppression. further, i also, sadly, must affirm that there are probably an equal number of “christians” throughout the world, who, in the name of jesus, also practice violence and oppression.
what i’m getting at here is that an ethic of fear is the driving motivation for a video like this. again, i don’t believe islam is a way of truth, but i would be much more in favor of a video that helped to shed light on the similarities between christians and muslims that translated to bridge-building, rather than fear-mongering. when we leave behind ignorance and choose to see what connects us, we can then engage a fruitful conversation (that hopefully honors and presents jesus in an honest way).
further, what really disturbs me about this video is the idea that our main method of introducing the world to jesus is to NOT introduce the world jesus. rather, what this video suggests is to just have a bunch of babies, so that we mindlessly raise up christians. it’s just a numbers game, basically. hey everybody, forget being jesus to the world through love and acts of justice and speaking about your life experiences…no, just get it on a little more!
obviously i’m poking fun at the whole deal, but the sad reality is that many american christians really buy into this kind of logic and, in the famous words of president obama, saber rattling. an ethic of fear is a terrible way to live life and raise children and pick a home and, more than anything else, live out our faith. throughout scripture, we repeatedly see fear as an obstacle to truly following jesus (i.e. people asking jesus—after he healed a demon-possessed man—to leave their town because they were afraid of what they saw, peter’s failed attempt to walk on water, etc.). it’s time to decide to live by an ethic of jesus, rather than an ethic of fear.