Fear Not

Every day, it seems, Donald Trump says something outrageous, offensive, down right mean and frequently contrary to the very highest and noblest values upon which the United States of America is founded. And every day his poll numbers rise.

What in the world is going on? Pundits are scratching their heads. Republican Party leaders are increasingly frantic. Ordinary citizens are beginning to ponder the possibility of a Trump nomination and presidency which, on the face of it, in the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, is preposterous.

My sense is that Trump has become a masterful manipulator of fear. History is full of examples of opportunists who gathered enormous political power with disastrous results by understanding the power of fear and stimulating yet more fear.

At a particularly fragile time in our history, when the nation was in the grip of the Great Depression and people were wondering if a democratic United States would survive, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation on the radio, March 4, 1933, and told the millions of anxious Americans that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Novelist Marilynne Robinson, (Gilead, Home, Lila) wrote recently in the New York Review of Books:

           “I have something I have felt the need to say.
           1. America is full of fear.
           2. Fear is not a Christian habit of mind.”

Robinson elaborated with several succinct observations on the power of fear…”We make irrational responses to irrational fear.” One thinks, for instance, of the ludicrous suggestion to bar all Syrian refugees from entering the United States. And “fearfulness obscures the distinction between real threats on the one hand and on the other hand terrors that beset those who see threats everywhere.” e.g. the proposal to bar all Muslims from entering the country. Finally, “Granted the fears of the world, it is potentially a very costly indulgence to fear indiscriminately and to try to stimulate fear in others.” That is it exactly – Trump is a “very costly indulgence.”

Walter Brueggemann said once that the message of the Bible can be reduced to two words – “Fear not.”

When Moses is becoming nervous about leading his people out of Egypt, God says, “Fear not. I will be with you.”
To a frightened people, quaking in fear before a cruel and overwhelmingly powerful enemy….”Fear not. I will be with you.”
To any who face the ultimate threat to life…”Even though I walk through the the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
To shepherds startled in the middle of the night by bright light and angel choruses… “Fear not. I bring you glad tidings of a great joy”.
And at the end of the story, to frightened disciples at an open and empty tomb…”Fear not. He is not here. He is risen.”

In the middle of Advent’s lengthening darkness, when we remember that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not, and will not, overcome the light, I’m singing to myself daily my favorite line from one of my favorite carols, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”…

Yet in thy dark streets shineth
    The everlasting light.
    The hopes and fears of all the years,
    Are met in thee tonight.


  1. Ruth Beckman says:

    Thank you dear friend A necessary voice in the darkness

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. It’s my favorite line too. I join the young marchers in the street. They give me hope. Join us for the annual neighborhood caroling at Argo in Connors Park Sunday Dec 20 5.00-6.00. We’ll sing O Little Town and Argo will give us free hot chocolate. There’s seating, songbooks and a choir master.

  3. Marianne Estes says:

    Thank you, thank you for this post. My head and heart said “Yes!” to “…costly indulgence.” It’s up to Jesus followers to remind, “Fear not.” Marianne Estes

    Sent from my iPad


  4. Ann Boseman says:

    I think the bible and hymns are full of fear! I have been comparing Trump to what we have been taught. They pull you in with fear and make you a believer so you will give them money and they can control you.

  5. You have always been my inspiration, John. Thank you, once again! Just when I needed it.

  6. Doug Poland says:

    Thank you, Dr. Buchanan, for continuing to be a voice of reflection, peace, and compassion in a society that is all too ready to give in to the uglier impulses that each of us harbors at some level. I also note the timely passage in the lectionary reading from this past Sunday, December 13: “The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion;” (Zephaniah 3:14–20)

  7. Thank you so much. I found a note in my Bible recently of a comment you made in a sermon — the angel on Easter morning saying “Fear not” was the understatement of all time. This post is a marvelous connection to that, especially because I love “O Little Town of Bethlehem” too. I think I shall start singing that line while I watch TV news reports.


  1. […] a similar note, John Buchanan’s post, Fear Not, offers an important reminder that Christians are not to be ruled by fear.  Buchanan quotes […]

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