The rising fear and hatred of Muslims now in progress in the United States has made me think more about this lately.
The Bible certainly expects us to be fearful of many things. For one thing, we ought to be afraid to do wrong. But it's also expected that we should be afraid of much else from time to time, and that is not necessarily a problem.
When does it get to be a problem? Clearly, when it becomes cowardice, which is indulging our fears so far as to do evil.
I have concluded that, unpleasant as it is, fear is a craving we love to indulge, like gluttony or sexual immorality, and cowardice is indulging and taking pleasure in that fear. I have to treat it the same way, with mixed results. I'd give myself a C-, to tell the truth, and I don't know how people handle it who don't know God, although many evidently do.
We all know that advertisers have known forever that sex sells - cars, beer, toothpaste, vacation packages, pretty much anything they want to sell us. But we haven't laid to heart that fear sells just as effectively, and so they use it the same way.
The nice thing about fear is that you can sell ugly politicians with fear, where sex might not work so well. Fear really works for Donald Trump - fear of Muslims, fear of Mexican rapists, fear of black people - and legitimate fears, too, such as the fear of people's jobs being exported for the convenience of the corporations that own the other Republicans and Hillary Clinton. But using sex to sell the Trumpster - I'm not a woman, so maybe I'm not fit to judge, but I don't think so.
I think that most Christians know that letting advertisers stroke our sexual lust is not good for us. It really is pornography, and it must lead to trouble, besides corrupting our judgment so as to make us buy crap we would otherwise leave alone, just as the advertisers intend. I wonder why Christians don't realize that indulging fear in the same way is similarly corrupting. It's actually a lot worse, because sex is a lot more normal and right than fear is. Perverting sex in this way encourages sexual immorality and disrupts family relationships, but perverting fear in this manner entices us to every sort of cruelty, up to murder, against the innocent.
C. S. Lewis was right about a lot of things, but he was wrong when he had Screwtape write to his young disciple Wormwood that the demons had managed to glamorize every sin but cowardice. That one, too, they've succeeded at. Cowardice is successfully sold as prudence, security, self-defense - even courage to go out and kill people. It has often been said that US society is obsessed with sex, and the popularity of pornography makes that point. But, much more, US society is obsessed with fear, and enjoys it in the same way - although like all other lusts of this kind, it's insatiable, and therefore painful without end. If Christians, especially, don't thoroughly repent of this depravity, it will end very badly - fascism being only one possibility.