Why Fear Prevents Progress

Bishop Robinson and Partner Last Tuesday, our distant cousins in the Episcopal Church resoundingly approved a measure that lifted the barriers which had been imposed in the wake of Bishop Gene Robinson’s election in 2003 and voted to allow gay and lesbian individuals to serve in all ordained capacities, even up to the episcopacy. This has been seen as a triumph for gays and lesbians within the Episcopal Church and Christianity in general. But of course, the more conservative factions of the Anglican Communion continue to raise threats of an impending schism as a result of these actions.

On a side note, this past Sunday I happened to be running late for Mass at my usual parish so I attended another nearby church later on that afternoon. Everything had gone fine until the priest began the homily. Of course he enumerated on that Sunday’s Gospel and the readings for that day which all portrayed God as a Shepherd of His people. The mood suddenly changed when the priest began to bring up the “Magisterium.” He then preceeded to compare the institutional office to a “fence” that protects the sheep of God’s flock from harm’s way. He then began to talk about “cafeteria Catholics” who “pick and choose” what they wish to believe and thus, knowingly, climb over the fence into the sinful abyss… I couldn’t believe that a priest was actually comparing the Church to a fence! As I think more about his comments I realize that fences, walls, and other defensive structures not only protect us from our genuine harms and enemies, they also shield and prevent us from coming into contact with forces, individuals, ideas, or situations that we would rather not deal or are uncomfortable having contact with.

When people are afraid of someone or something that they can’t understand they build up barriers to give themselves a sense of defense. Whether these barriers are emotionally constructed within one’s own psyche or actually created physically they don’t in the least contribute to understanding elements that we may not have a clear comprehension of. They only heighten and increase the fear and stigma surrounding the controversial individuals and topics du jour. Thus, instead of confronting the things we don’t understand, we run and hide from them and do everything possible not to try and understand the “abnormalities” that frighten us so.

Isn’t this what Hitler did with the Jewish people? Putting them on such a subhuman tier in society that the German populous generally began to believe what his propoganda fiends were spreading?

This is what is happening currently when it comes to the treatment of LGBT individuals within many Christian circles. So many people don’t want to take the time to understand homosexuality, to conceive that it somehow might actually be in the realm of God’s intended creation. Instead, they continue to confide in fear and ignorance of the unknown…

Almost the same battle is being waged current in the civic sphere of our country when it comes to the debate over universal healthcare. The healthcare system we have in place obviously isn’t working, countless have died as a result of it and many thousands will continue to do so if it is not reformed. But of course, the conservatives are back to their same old tactics, fearmongering, and apparently according to recent polls its working.

I’m proud of our Episcopal brethren in the Anglican Communion for taking such a courageous stride forward for equality for all of God’s people. I think that in this uncertain and difficult time our prayers on their behalf would be greatly appreciated. The late Holy Father Pope John Paul II most certainly would not agree with how I’m using his most quoted exhortation, but in these circumstances it only seems appropriate to turn to what Jesus Himself told us, “Be not afraid!” He is always with us, even in times when we can’t comprehend what we are being presented with. Instead of giving in to the fear of ignorance, let’s pray that our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion and everywhere (especially those within the Catholic Church) who are currently on the fence when it comes to the matter of  homosexuality might be enlightened, and embrace the courage that comes in trusting and following the Lord forward into the pages of history!

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About Phillip Clark

Phillip Clark is a social justice visionary, writer, and paralegal in Baltimore, Maryland. He is a contributing author to "Hyrsteria: A Zine of Social Difference" by Tanya Garcia and Valeria Molinari Interests include politics, theology, civil/human rights, social justice, LGBT rights, international relations, and history.

2 thoughts on “Why Fear Prevents Progress

  1. I don’t understand why anyone who oposes normalizing the acceptance of homosexual behavior automatically has to be boxed into “being afraid.” Is it not possible that people who believe that homosexual behavior is sinful, and should not be condoned, have come to this decision freely and rationally? Isn’t it even more likely that Bishops(and religious leaders everywhere from the pope to Rick Warren) have done the hard mental and spiritual work necessary to come to those decisions freely and rationally, just like the religious leaders who have come to different decisions?

    I think labelling conservatives as “afraid” of homosexuals is a convenient tool used to block off the opposition into their own little fenced off area labelled “homophobes.” Lightweight liberals can then write off “homophobes” and “homophobic ideas” as easily as lightweight conservatives write off “liberal” or “progressive” ideas (I use quotes because conservatives have turned these words into similar intellectual slurs).

    I also think it is much more common for us to put other people into these percieved pastures for our own compfort, than it is for us to label ourselves or box ourselves in. Not only is this labelling of others more common, but much more dangerous!

  2. I agree Nate, that its not always about fear. Its important to try and check in with our feelings on things though, to see what might be behind it. Maybe I just feel uncomfortable regarding homosexuality. Well, if that’s all it is, I’m going to get over it instead of letting something so small as being uncomfortable affect my decisions, the decisions that might ultimately affect other’s lives (voting). I often wonder about some folks who have no or little connection with anyone who is homosexual. If you don’t have a personal experience/connection/etc. will you take your decision in the voting booth as seriously? And finally, I continue to be amazed at how motivated we are to avoid feeling uncomfortable! In the emotional world, I think we have a survival of the fittest type experience, and often have fight or flight urges. I just see so many people taking flight. So, next time someone isnt there for you, doesnt come to your bedside when you’re sick, etc. it might not be that they don’t care, they might just be uncomfortable and they let that keep them from action.

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