**Companion Resources Newsletter**
edited by Paul D. Leichty
Volume 4, No. 12 December 2002
“Fear not!” boomed out the voice of the angel puppet. The shepherd puppets cowered in the corner of the stage and squealed with the voices of middle school students. “Aaahhh!!”
“I said, ‘Fear not!'” the angel puppet again proclaimed. Again, the students presenting the Christmas story squealed with fear. In a departure from the literal words of the Bible, the angel thereupon intoned, “Which part of ‘Fear not’ did you not understand?”
Nine years later, as the 2002 Christmas season winds down, I want to ask that question of our whole country. One of those middle school students, my daughter, now a college senior, invited me to go with her to see a documentary film.
This film, a documentary, not made in Hollywood, but showing in a standard movie theater, was remarkable enough for that alone. Yet the remarkable way in which “Bowling for Columbine” shows, in our own words, the obsession with guns in the U.S. and our underlying culture of fear is devastating. One by one, director Michael Moore, dispels the myths that are often used to explain why, for example, Canada has only 165 murders per year, while the U.S. has over 11,000. The conclusion he comes to is that we are a nation that lives in fear, a fear amply fed by our government and the mainstream media.
Over and over in America, our response has been one of flight (to the New World, to the West, to the suburbs) or fight (against the “Indians”, the blacks, the Communists, etc.). Through it all, the gun has been the personal weapon of choice with so many Americans fiercely holding onto their rights to have guns to protect themselves from all of the evils unleashed by injustice, slavery, greed, oppression, and world domination.
As we enter 2003, we stand upon the brink of yet another war born out of our fear. This time the fear on the surface is that a very unpopular dictator in a relatively small country will unleash a biological, chemical, or nuclear attack upon us or upon our interests around the world. Underlying that fear is that our ability to get enough oil to fuel our economy will be seriously jeopardized by a petty ruler who refuses to play our game. So our government stands ready to commit hundreds and perhaps thousands of our lives and billions, perhaps even hundreds of billions of our dollars to get rid of this supposed menace to world peace. At the same time, we are seemingly willing to stir up more anti-American sentiment and terrorist fervor in the process.
As alarming as it is to think of the immediate deaths that a war will bring and the devastation and destruction it will wreak on the lives of millions of Iraqi civilians, there are so many other consequences that are not even considered.
Let me just paint one small scenario starting with my other child, a son with special needs. In the past year, the State of Indiana finally approved a new program using Federal and State funding that enables my son and many others to receive some Medicaid dollars for very basic services like finding a job, securing transportation, and learning basic skills to function interdependently in society. It still will not cover many basic costs for him to have supervision to live a high quality of life in a normal way that is more independent of his parents. Yet, it is definitely helpful as he searches for appropriate employment in a constrictive economy.
However, the fear generated by September 11, 2001 and the subsequent recession, have taken their toll on the budgets of state governments. Already, there is talk of cutting back on Medicaid funding.
Even on the church scene, the economic fears are taking their toll. Yesterday evening, I met with a group of persons concerned about the cutting of national church denominational programs to provide education, support, and advocacy for persons with mental illness and disabilities.
If even the very conservative estimate of $60 billion is spent on the war in Iraq, it will further erode funding desperately needed for public health and welfare considerations like Medicaid and put it into the destructive machinery of war. It will weaken an already shaky economy and force more institutions to make cutbacks. (President Bush fired one of his aides who publicly estimated $200 billion!)
It is hard to even fathom the results, particularly for hard-pressed faith-based organizations who are just now thinking seriously about accepting government funding to provide services that volunteers and charitable giving cannot sustain. Where will the money come from as both the public and private sectors put countless dollars into the waging of war and the consequences of war?
In the midst of this kind of scenario, it is very easy for me to be afraid. How will my son fare in this kind of environment? What will become of the work I am doing to try to build community for persons with special needs? Can I even find a job myself, any kind of meaningful work, in this economy? What are the other economic consequences of war that I haven’t even thought of?
In the midst of this war fervor during the season of the Prince of Peace, I too need to hold onto the words of the angel in the Christmas story. “Fear not!” And when I’m tempted to cower in the corner in the midst of everything, I hear God’s messenger (even an angel puppet) asking me again, “Which part of ‘Fear not’ did you not understand?”
I have been and continue to be living with a fair degree of personal uncertainty in the midst of these larger issues in society. Yet I have decided that in the new year, I want to increasingly let go of the fear in all of its forms that limits what God can do through me. That’s not easy, but if I am to take seriously the message of Christmas 2002, it will mean moving forward in the confidence that a peaceful and just and inclusive community is possible as we face our fears together in community, hand them over to God, and then move ahead in the power of the Spirit.
For more information on the film *Bowling for Columbine*, see http://www.bowlingforcolumbine.com/. See also the peace section on the Companion Resources “Gentle Teaching” page at https://companionresources.org/Companionship/Gentleness for more resources on alternatives to war. I continue to also add materials to the Companion Resources site under new pages dealing with issues of aging, dying, grieving, respite, and caregiving.
May we all experience the blessing and peace that overcomes fear in 2003!
Paul D. Leichty
“People using Technology building Community”