Verbal Terrorism and Chicken Little Christians
By: Kevin Chambers
VERBAL: of or relating to words
TERRORISM: the systematic use of terror (fear) especially as a means of coercion (to induce change)
A new phenomenon has swept our society in recent years. The rise of social media, and the associated advances in technology which made it our constant companion, have shifted the emotional center of our lives from the relative stability of family, friends, churches, and educated facts (as we perceived them) into a daily restructuring of reality, based primarily upon our chosen feed of media information.
We are bombarded with information, true and false, helpful and destructive. Skillful media influencers have crafted specific channels to draw us in and keep us, at best, in anticipation of what will come next or, more likely, in fear of the same thing.
This is verbal terrorism, using words to instill fear into hearts and lives with the goal of inducing change toward a desired goal.
We might expect this from politicians, attempting to draw us toward their ideology. All’s fair in love, war, and politics after all. I might even expect it from advertisers showing the superiority of their product. If I am afraid of a competitor’s product, then I am more likely to purchase yours. The place I would not expect it, and have prayed that it wouldn’t happen, is in the pulpit.
I can spend one minute on social media and find multiple so-called news stories purporting to predict the demise of something that is near and dear to each of us, unless we take some prescribed action (which may or may not be possible). It could be American liberty at risk, or gasoline powered automobiles. It could be fast food restaurants or “the end of the world as we know it” from a hundred different causes. Somebody wants you scared about it.
Sadly, this type of manipulative presentation of information has heavily infiltrated our pulpits. Fear-mongering has become the standard tactic to induce change in the lives of Christians.
The Bible says, in Ecclesiastes 12, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” This is true without question. However, I recently did a study on the most repeated commands in the Bible. First was “Praise God” with over 250 repetitions. The next one surprised me. With over 70 repetitions, we are commanded to “fear not”.
If I manipulate your emotions and cause you to fear the repercussions of an election, or even some retailer’s policy on bathroom use, then I am abusing fear. This is not Godly fear, it is verbal terrorism.
The media, and sadly many pulpits, are filled with preachers stirring up fear about how terrible things are going to get in the upcoming days and years. Of course, God was way ahead of them on that. (II Timothy, chapter 3 “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come…evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse…”)
But the same Bible that predicts things to get worse and worse also says in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Jesus never intended for us to live in fear!
If your daily information stream has you wringing your hands, like Chicken Little, that the sky is falling, then it’s high time to find a new source of information!
It will take a conscious decision, a determined effort, to free yourself from the doomsayers. There is nothing wrong with staying aware of the world around you. The same information can be presented in so many ways. There is raw fact (usually brief and verifiable). There is bias (personal inability or refusal to see facts clearly). There is spin (systemic slant toward a goal). The COVID daily numbers provide the perfect example. Media outlets who dwell on the record number of cases clearly want you to live in fear. That number is never, ever, going to decrease. It is a new disease. Every new case is a new record. Comparing areas of success against areas of failure? This could possibly be useful news if the facts are not slanted. Assigning blame? Those stories are almost always a deliberate spin, fraught with opinions and rarely beneficial to the hearers. So, we must see and understand that the same basic information can be conveyed in drastically different ways – some reasonable, others deliberate fear-mongering, verbal terrorism.
Lest I drift into a political discussion, let’s get back to the subject at hand. Do not fall victim to verbal terrorism – on the internet, the TV, or in church.
If you are a child of God then you have the victory. Do not fear what man can do to you. Do not fear what tower might fall on you. Do not fear what your children and grandchildren are going to face. Teach them to love God, to praise God as he commanded, and to fear not!
So much of the fear among Christians in the United States is because we have never dealt with the possibility of facing what Christians have faced in the rest of the world for thousands of years. The gates of hell will never prevail against the real Church. It has always thrived best in adversity. The greatest revivals have come in the face of the greatest persecutions.
Paul wrote the phrase “the powers that be are ordained of God” in the very year that the despotic Emperor Nero came to power in Rome. Governments come and go, but God does not change. Obey the law (insomuch as it doesn’t command you to sin) but never put your faith in human government. Change your focus to Godly things. As I said, this will not happen by accident. Emotions can lead us down the path to misery. We have to train them every day to trust in God and not man. There is a “peace of God, which passeth all understanding” but you will never find it by focusing on the problems in the world.
Change your news feed. Turn your eyes upon Jesus.