Shouting "Fire!" is wrong, "Be not afraid" is right


By Tom Ehrich

Donald Trump's call for barring Muslims at the border comes close to shouting "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater. Many people were already afraid and looking for scapegoats. Naming Muslims as the dangerous "other" feeds that fire of fear.

This is the work of a demagogue who hopes to weave outlandish words into a wall of hatred, bigotry and anti-American dread.

It is also a profound trespass on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though white male evangelicals are said to be rallying to Trump's side, there is nothing remotely "Christian" or "evangelical" about him or his message.

Jesus was descended from a nation of refugees. They were the hated "other" in their day, as they still are today in large segments of the world. Jesus parents were oppressed subjects of a Roman dictator. God broke through the safety, comforts, convenience and privilege of both religion and empire to save humanity.

If Trump's evil nonsense had been applied then, Jesus and his parents would have been stopped at the Egyptian border and sent back to Galilee, as Anne Frank was once sent back to certain death.

The religious establishment of that day became sworn enemies of the Gospel. The mob of that day shouted for Jesus' death. His own followers stood back in fear for their own safety.

A frightened people are easily manipulated by bullies and blowhards. But a people following the Gospel know that Jesus gave only one new commandment. It wasn't to start a church, or to allocate power, or to fashion doctrines, or to launch a nation governed by religious law.

"Be not afraid."

That was his one new commandment. "Don't be afraid." "Fear not."

I don't expect any of our bigoted Presidential candidates to echo that commandment,. They are small people desperate for power. It will be up to Christians to speak the Gospel. Preachers, leaders, people in pews, Christians who have fallen away -- we all need to stand for the Good News of God in Christ.

Yes, there are some scary people out to do scary things to our nation. But collapsing in fear isn't the answer. Naming a hated "other" isn't the answer. The only helpful answer we have ever known in the United States is truly to be the "home of the brave."

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