Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hating the Government?


There is a lot of anger out there. We saw it even before the election. Sarah Palin rose to prominence by channeling it. Now Barack Obama won the election by a nice margin, but that anger never went away. For some reason people "love America" but hate the government. I'm not sure why that is. I realize that from the beginning there has been a certain distrust built in. Thomas Jefferson championed small government and a sort of agrarian libertarianism. That same agrarian populism has emerged in different places over the years -- back in Kansas at the end of the 19th century and more recently in the South and in the Mountain West. Don't take my guns they shout. Conspiracy theories abound.

Richard Beck, a psychologist, a professor, and a Christian, suggests that we all hate something -- but the question that we must answer has to do with where we channel it. Do we channel it toward the Yankees (or in my case the Dodgers) or on the government. In the 1940s it was Nazi Germany and Japan. Later it was the Communists in the Soviet Union or in China. Now, it seems that the enemy is our own government, which for some is personified in the President.

Richard writes:

So in one sense, it is natural and normal to hate the government or the other political party.

And yet, there is something more dangerous about hating the government. The government is so distant, powerful and bureaucratically faceless that it can seem malevolent. Which pulls the paranoia out of us like a poison. All our wounds, failures, and frustrations are poured, in great buckets of bile, into our feelings about "the government." And like with our sports teams, our anger and paranoia can personalize, turning political leaders into enemies and demons.

In short, I think the poison of political discourse is due to this displaced anger and paranoia. When you see someone ranting about a political figure like the President what you are witnessing is an angry paranoid projection. A mind turned inside out by its own fears, frustrations and failures.


So, what is afoot here? Is it true anger or is it an expression of paranoia? And what does this say about a growing number of Americans? Is it frustration with the way things are going or is it something else. I don't think we're on the verge of going totalitarian, but totalitarianism breeds in just this kind of soup!

15 comments:

John said...

Bob,

You said "we all hate something...."

I disagree. A great many of us are hate-filled, and it often gets mis-directed. But I do not think that we are all hate-filled.

More importantly, I think that is the message of Christianity - the new Way, a way of love and not hate, a way of compassionate response and not angry attack and counterattack. This is the core of what Jesus taught, those who are faithful followers of Jesus do not confront others with anger or hatred - even our enemies.

I think we as Christians should be appalled that our message has been so degraded and deformed that any serious Christian could proclaim a message of hate. Worse yet, is the circumstance that we who know the truth can stand quietly by and allow such hate-filled speech to go unanswered.

John

Anonymous said...

I agree John, and the chance of being a member of a group as you describe is why I (re)joined the club. The fact that I'm still here after almost a year is very encouraging to me, and my family. Enemies aren't worth the bother. It hurts to hate. I pray I'm done with it in this life. David Mc

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Guys, I'm not sure whether you read Richard's complete piece. He's speaking as a psychologist. There is something in us that seems to need to be against something -- so in normal situations we channel that in some benign way. I hate the Yankees or the Red Sox or the Dodgers or Michigan or Michigan State. It offers a way of letting off some steam.

But, when we move away from that and express hatred toward our government or another person, what does that mean? The danger he's speaking of here is that of paranoia, which is what we're experiencing right now.

John said...

I guess I was addressing two separate issues which struck me from your blog: the distress I feel when I see the Christian Right publicly proclaiming a message of hate and violence and fear; and the seeming indifferent and casual use of the term "hate".

The Christian Right continues to dominate center stage and has thus led a large number of people to despise Christianity because they assume that the very vocal message of fear and bigotry that spews from the Christian Right is representative of he Gospel.

It is tragic that those who embrace the truth of the Gospel message, of reconciliation and peacemaking, of compassion and servitude, fail to effectively witness and communicate this truth to the world, leaving the stage to those who have perverted the message of Christ.

As for the point about language, I am a Michigan State fan and I root for my team but I surely don't hate Michigan, even when they win. It is a friendly rivalry that pushes each side to try harder and be better. When rivalry is casually referenced as hatred, the mindset may well develop in some that hatred is genuinely involved - and I know some people who genuinely hate Michigan, and vise-versa. I find it disturbing. That casual language gets carried over into other areas of life, often with harsh consequences.

I learned long ago with my children that words matter, even casual ones, especially words used by authority figures.

John

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

John,

Thanks for the response. I think the point I'm trying to make, is that there is a real sense of anger that seethes under the surface of our country, and that it is making paranoia a possibility.

On the health care issue, I think much of the angst is about a fear of the unknown. People know what they have, and even if they may complain about it, well it's better than what we don't know.

There are groups that have seized on that fear, have stirred the anger, and pointed fingers. If you look at some of the responses to this issue you'll see a strong anti-immigrant response. Everything would be fine if we just sent all the illegals home. Of course, that's not true, but it's easy to scapegoat.

That is, I think, what Richard has in mind!

Yes, words do matter, but context is also useful. If I say I hate the Dodgers people know that I don't actually hate the players or the fans. It's just a sign of a strong and lasting rivalry. Hating the government is much more visceral and dangerous. I've never seen a Giant or Dodger fan try to blow up the other's stadium.

Anonymous said...

a large number of people to despise Christianity because they assume that the very vocal message of fear and bigotry that spews from the Christian Right is representative of the Gospel.

What scares me are these attitude in SPITE of the Gospels. How can that be rationalized? It can't. David Mc

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

The reality is that for most Christians, we are guided more by our culture than by the Gospels. We are more the creatures of Constantine than of Jesus. I suppose it was inevitable, but the damage has be tremendous!

It has been said, and I believe it to be true, that you would get more resistance in a church for the removal of the American flag than of the cross!

John said...

Are we "creatures of Constantine"?

If by this you mean we confuse our sense of loyalty to our nation with our loyalty to God then yes I agree. We forget that we are called to love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might.

Only then do we render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's.

Another form of confusion is sort of in reverse: when we try to follow Jesus, we do so as if we were following a worldly king, marching as Christian soldiers, ready to challenge any who fail to worship our King and ready to fight, even to kill any who do not accept His Lordship.

Surely we can do better.

John

Anonymous said...

Don't get mad, get even...

Dear David,

I'm delighted to let you know that we received confirmation today that Verizon Wireless is no longer advertising on the Glenn Beck show.

ColorOfChange.org has done amazing work to bring national awareness to Beck's race-baiting commentary on FOX News Channel. In the last few weeks, over 20 companies including Wal-Mart, CVS, Best Buy, and Travelocity have confirmed with ColorOfChange.org that they have ceased advertising on the show or placed Glenn Beck's program on a "do not air" list.

It was on July 28 that Glenn Beck declared on FOX News Channel: "This president has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people ... this guy is, I believe, a racist."

I'm sure you know this guy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry.. but hating the opposing team is the blood sport right now. Has a positive word even been said about Bush? If the same type of personal attacks on Palin were leveled on Obama.. I shiver to think of the thought. That said.. I think now people see vulnerability in Obama and he gets waled on. Both sides should be ashamed.. yet.. to quote your football analogies.. both sides will kick, bite, and pull to make their "team" win.. regardless of what they are actually rooting for.

Chuck

John said...

George w. Bush was a decent human being - a little over his head, but I don't think anyone can seriously challenge his heart.

Cheney was dangerous, by virtue of his arrogance and pride, and therefore a different story. But he is no longer in a position to influence events and so not a serious concern.

The things which were said about Palin were indeed said about Hillary Clinton. The difference is that Hillary Clinton, whatever you may think of her history and her ambitions, is well informed and very capable. Palin, on the other hand, is not conceernd about information, and is seeking to merely to realize her dream of becoming nothing more than a fear mongering demogague. She needs be done with this pitbull mentality to develop a message of hopefulness.

I am just saying....

John

Anonymous said...

John
I agree and disagree.. the birth of Palin's daughter was even challenged. Clinton of course has a long long track record which is easy to challenge. Palin has no track record.. for better and worse..so the attacks went personal almost immediately. The other point I would make is that even in your response.. you fail to say "shame on the accusers" rather its "it happened to Clinton, so all is fair..". Just saying. :)
My point is that our sin nature loves the digs on each other. It takes the Holy Spirit to scream STOP and be the one to say something positive. All of them need Jesus and prayer.

-Chuck

John said...

Chuck,

I lost my zeal about this issue when I watched the following:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-september-3-2008/sarah-palin-gender-card

Yes, shame on the political hacks who with their cynical approach to the American voting public have lost all credibility, and worse, have undermined the credibility of the system.

If Sara Palin wants to be come a serious candidate she needs to discover a constructive message of hope.

John

Anonymous said...

the birth of Palin's daughter was even challenged.

By who? Maybe that it was a big challenge. A Downs child is a big challenge, especially when running for VP. Oh, you mean the plane trip just beforehand? David Mc

Anonymous said...

Anyway, I was interrupted. You make a good point. Pornography is more of an issue outside the church though. Especially in marriage. A true modern temptation. I can see how it can be rationalized as harmless and how it can become a bad habit. There is a commandment for it at any rate. Don’t covet. It’s hurtful and nasty too. I keep it at a minimum. David Mc