Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rise of the Fearmongers

You’re going to hell!
Yep, I heard it yesterday, twice in fact.

It’s nice to know that some people feel comfortable enough to step into God’s shoes and dictate where I’m going when I die. Somehow I suppose I should be comforted by these self righteous god-lings who have the power to ‘save’ me from myself, but I’m not. I find them annoying, arrogant, and downright sad.

These self same folks will tell you that they love you and care about you, but the truth is, they really don’t. The only reason they’re aware you exist is because your difference has pinged their radar of fearful emotions. Otherwise, you’re only on their mental periphery, and only come into focus when they realize that you don’t share their fear.

And that’s what it all really boils down to. Fear. Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. And fear, if I may quote a popular series of science fiction films, leads to anger, then to hate, hate leads to suffering, and finally, to the dark side.

If you don’t believe me, tell a fundamentalist Christian that you don’t care to receive their free gift of blood sacrifice and see what happens. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Or, to really get a good taste of what the fearmonger has in store: go to the nearest tea party rally and watch terror drenched men in business suits torment a Parkinson’s patient.

There is no love or compassion from people who grab you by your spiritual lapels and scream into your face that you are going to hell, no matter what they tell you.

When fear is the driving force for religion, or politics, or even our daily lives, there is no room for anything else. And when there’s fear, there’s rage, and hate. And where there’s hate, mon cheres, God has left the building.

So what do you do when someone grabs you by the spiritual lapels with the white knuckled intensity of a person on the world’s fastest roller coaster and screams that you are in the wrong religion, or political party, gender orientation or whatever?

It would be so easy to let fear and rage take over, and letting you go at them with as much vitriol as what is doled out. After all, having someone tell you you’re going to an awful place is not a good way to win friends and influence people. But lack of civil discourse only creates a nuclear arms race of angry words and emotions, and at worse, breaks up families, friendships and can even literally come to blows. And as Buddhists, that is not something we want.

The key, Lama Jigme taught me is to devise a strategy to disengage from this type of conversation, quickly and effectively, before it escalates.

Sometimes this takes a bit of finesse.

Take last week for example. I tried to explain to someone why I wasn’t the least bit afraid of hell and told the individual why, which in all good conscience, thought that they would understand my point of view, accept it and be done with it. I further tried to explain why (oh the awful question of why, which should not be engaged) I felt that a blood sacrifice of any sort, calling it a free gift was truly appalling, (which it is.) Sadly this person remained landlocked inside their fear and their rigid belief system of “the way I was thought is the only way.” She screamed in my face that I was going to hell, and how DARE I NOT and odd infinitum. I shut this person down by turning around and walking away.

Sometimes this works brilliantly. Sometimes it gets you smacked upside your head. Fortunately this time it just shut her up.

Due to this encounter, I realized that indulging the fear monger does no good, neither for the frightened person, nor for me. They believe stolidly in their position, and exploring possibilities beyond what they’ve been taught creates an abyss of terror so deep that they cannot transverse it.

Which is very sad.

So I take Lama Jigme’s advice and abandon this type of engagement as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Sometimes its as easy as hitting a delete or block user key.
Sometimes it’s as easy as simply walking away, letting their fear, along with their lips, flap uselessly in the breeze.

And other times, “I’m not available for this conversation works wonders.”

And during those particular times, which, thankfully have become less and less as I grow older, and the community in which I reside has become more accepting, is to simply tell them that Its best not to judge lest they be judged, and if they truly believed that God has a plan for everyone, then it stands to reason I’m living the plan, and it’s best they not interfere with it.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the wisdom of the late W. C. Fields.
“Go away, kid, you bother me.”


  1. Patricia, love this post, thanks! Very pertinent in this day of "fear" reporting all over the medias. Thanks ...

  2. Dear Pat,

    I absolutely loved the phrase,
    "terror drenched men in business suits"

    well done ;-)


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