The Paranoia Industry
"Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child. Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever." — Psalm 131
Some of the people I hear from live in astonishing fear. They seem to think that the “government” combines in itself all the power of God and Satan both, with a nuclear submarine thrown in for good measure. More astounding yet, said government employs all its manifold nefarious forces for no other purpose than to spy on them. They seem to forget that nothing happens outside the will and purpose of God.
WE’RE USIN’ CODE NAMES
Back when Y2K fever was raging a woman called us who wanted to buy a little gold—as memory serves, less than a thousand bucks worth which, to speak with generous candor, wouldn’t exactly upset the world’s economic balance whether she bought it or not. And she didn’t want to use her own address for delivery. (How we would deliver it to her remained a deep riddle.) And she didn’t want us to use her real name on the telephone. And she was calling from a payphone.
It reminded me of that classic scene in the movie Raising Arizona when the brothers Gale and Evelle burst into the country bank to rob it. Gale yells, “All right you hayseeds, it’s a stick-up! Everbody freeze! Everbody down on the ground!”
Seconds later Gale is shocked and bewildered because all the tellers had disappeared. Evelle says, “They’re down on the ground like you commanded, Gale.”
Gale, furious, responds, “I told you not to use m’damn name! Can’t you even try to keep from forgettin’ that?!”
Momentarily abashed, Evelle suddenly brightens and responds, “Not even yer code name?”
Gale takes the hint and says, “Oh yeah ... m’code name.”
Evelle then announces to all the customers hugging the floor, “Y’all hear that? We’re usin’ code names.”
THE PARANOIA INDUSTRY
There is a broad and active industry whose sole business is to cultivate fear, suspicion, and paranoia in the public. It exists on both the right and the left, but I am more familiar with that on the right, especially within that group that calls itself the “patriot community.” And many “conservatives” rank right up there with “patriots.” A tidal wave of newsletters and radio shows, especially short wave radio shows, minute by minute, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, spews out stories calculated to curdle your blood: An all-powerful government constantly spies on you, scheming to arrest hundreds of thousands and place them in already-built concentration camps, after first confiscating their gold and silver, of course, and forcing them to be vaccinated for flu and parvo. The New World Order conspiracy reaches down to the janitor in your local city hall. When they take over they’re plotting to brainwash your children and ship them to Cuba to work in the avocado harvest.
Now the left’s no different, especially Greendom and the environmental movement. They see conspiracies on all sides, too, usually between multinational corporations and government. The major conspiracy is to cut down all the trees and asphalt the planet, but there are thousands of lesser conspiracies. Most cite some hilarious statistic like, “Every day, four zillion trees are chopped down in the Amazon basin to make room for Coke machines.” Every time, if you take the trouble of putting pencil and paper to their statistic, you invariably discover that the whole Amazon only contains one zillon trees to begin with.
The primary ingredient of all these looming catastrophes is that they are too huge for me to actually do anything about. (The latest is Planet X, scheduled to hit the earth some time next year or so, throw the earth off its axis, and make Wichita beachfront property.) Since you can’t do one blessed thing about any of this, all you can do is hunker down in fear beside your radio, waiting to be titillated by the next thrilling story of your imminent dismemberment, enslavement, vaccination, or sunburn.
Now I do not for one nanosecond deny that evil is loose in the world, or that evil people work together to effect evil ends. I don’t deny that already horrible laws are on the books, even laws that would allow wholesale arrests and concentration camps. I don’t even doubt that some people will do anything for a buck, including polluting the land and poisoning their customers. I’ve taken the trouble to do the research. I know enough about the United Nations and World Heritage and GATT and the WTO and environmentalism to know that large and well-funded organisations exist with decidedly unpleasant agendas—and I know enough about multinational corporations and government bureaucracies to know they wouldn’t hesitate to strangle by hand the very last passenger pigeon as long as there was a nickel in it somewhere. Remember, I have actually seen the black-clad jackbooted thugs and ninjas on my own back deck, come to drag my wife and me off to jail.
But I also remember this:
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
And these words I call to mind:
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
NO OSTRICHES HERE
Understand that I am not making fun of anyone’s serious concerns about the future of a free society, or the survival of constitutional government in the United States, or anyone’s work exposing and opposing evil. But I know people who have robbed themselves of all peace, and daily keep on robbing themselves, because they allow these things to continually stir them up. They live in the “turmoil that passeth all understanding.” They are like alcoholics who take on themselves the responsibility for all the world’s woes, and then break down under the awful load. I knew one man who retired, moved off into the country, then spent all his time listening to shortwave. He would even tape the shows he missed, and play them immediately when he came home. He had a fine wife and many talents, but he allowed his mind so long to dwell on these things that he came off his hinges, wrote threatening letters to an elected official, and wound up in jail.
Almost daily I come across people whose lives are so paralysed by fear that they can neither live in the present nor plan for the future. They have forgotten their own unimportance and the power and providence of God.
Ah, yes, I know that Rugged Individualism is the bedrock doctrine of Americanity, but let’s face it: in the Great Scheme of Things, most of us are just pismires. We aren’t very important. This is not humility speaking, but steely-eyed realism. Most of us occupy no position of importance in the sense of being able to order about thousands of agents, or place armies in the field, or throw nuclear warheads at our neighbours. Most of us have no armoured divisions, no nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, no weapons of mass destruction, no billions of dollars to throw around. Surely every human soul is precious in God’s sight, but that’s not my point here. Rather, even if the government were as powerful as paranoids believe—even if they have spy satellites that from seven miles in the air can read the footnote fine print in your Bible and tell whether you’re reading the Authorised Version or the New American Standard, even if they can listen in on all your phone calls and monitor all your e-mails—why would they bother with you? Answer: they probably wouldn’t. And if they do, they’re even stupider than I think they are.
In fact, no government has all power and all money and all personnel to pursue anyone. Broad as their resources may seem, covering over 300 million people they are very scanty. Therefore governments must choose whom they will track and persecute. Unless you offer a very juicy target, you’re just too small to blip on their radar screen.
But if you do appear on their radar screen, better to appear boldly than timidly. The bolder you are, the more fearlessly you struggle against them, the less likely they are to attack you—easier to seek weaker prey.
Wondering what these folks are scared of, I remember this, “The wicked flee when no man pursues.” Is it fear, or a guilty conscience that drives them? Everyone knows the proverb, "The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” How many remember the rest of that verse, “But the righteous are bold as a lion.”
THE POWER OF GOD
No government is as powerful as our fears. No doubt, these bluffers want us to think they are all-powerful and all-knowing, but for all their technology, they are just a puff of dust. “Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, And are counted as the small dust on the scales;” “Surely men of low degree are a vapor, Men of high degree are a lie; If they are weighed on the scales, They are altogether lighter than vapor.”
The truth is, all power belongs to God. If you doubt it, then listen twice: “God has spoken once, Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God." This power is so utterly complete, that even when God delivered his only Son over to the Pharisees and Pilate to do whatever they thought they wanted, they could only do what he had purposed before all eternity that they should do.
Governments are not all-powerful, God is. Only God knows the secrets of our hearts and hears every word from our mouths. Frankly, that’s a lot more to worry about than the almighty United States government and every single bumbling agent it has.
THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD
Nothing comes to us before God determines, or without God determining, but only exactly when God determines. If he sent it, he will turn it. If he sent it, then he has already made us ready to handle it. If he sent it, no matter how painful, how wrong, how tyrannous on the part of evildoers, yet he will cause it to work for good. Therefore Paul can call himself not the prisoner of the Romans, but the prisoner of Christ, because if he was in prison, he was there because God put him there, and would work greater things through him there than in freedom. Besides, we know that evil things will, most certainly, happen to his adopted children because thus he sanctifies us and conforms us to the image of Christ by sharing his sufferings. Now if Christ himself had to learn obedience through suffering, how will we learn it without?
There are no accidents.
The wicked are not in charge.
God works all things together for good to his beloved.
AN UNOFFENDING LIFE OF PEACE
Well, Moneychanger, if you admit that many horrible laws and plans are already on the books, why are you ragging those who are informing themselves? What would you have us do, hide our heads in the sand?
I hesitate. I was about to write that I am not in favour of ignorance, but the fact is, a little ignorance never hurt anybody, and it’s much better for you than useless knowledge. If the purpose of “knowledge” is just heap up looming catastrophe on top of looming catastrophe without any hope of action or solution, then I say let me ignorantly walk to my looming doom. Otherwise I am condemned to live in a perpetual dilemma without any matching solution, and knowledge only brings terrified despair.
Without question, a diligent citizen and patriot ought to familiarise himself with events and trends that affect his country (and his children’s) future. Further, he ought to do whatever lies within his power to oppose the evil and install the good, prepare to take the consequences, and then rest in God. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind. But merely to know without doing is lower than cowardice—too timid to face the danger boldly, too mousy to run like an honest coward. Ambivalent and indecisive, they enjoy a hell of titillating vacillation.
That’s no solution to life in this world. The Christian way is to assiduously cultivate a life of joy and peace in fruitful work and family life. Life in Christ displays to the world a normative life, how redeemed men created in the image of God should live. Day by day our faithful work builds his kingdom, and if the oppression of tyrants interrupts that work, then we pray and trust that God will enable us to quit ourselves like men—and that our perseverance and suffering will build that better kingdom.
Everywhere the Scriptures teach us this, but Psalm 37 summarises it very neatly:
Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
Wisdom can say no more.