The Power of Belief. The Power of Fear.

Oh, Texas.
For the love of Sam Houston’s ghost…

The news out today is that the Jade Helm conspiracy is alive and well. And, worse, 44 percent of us Texans believe the US Army is likely to impose martial law on Texas. If you’re behind on the story, click here for the latest.

Or watch this video. If you’re like me, at some point, you’ll laugh out loud. But by the end, you’ll find yourself saying, “My God, he’s serious…”

Let’s remind ourselves once again of the actual truth. Texas was already  taken over by force by the U.S. Army. It was the final days of a little skirmish we like to call the Civil War. Yes. Texas originally came in to the Union as an independent nation, with all sorts of special rights and privileges. Blah, blah, blah.

But all that went out the window when we took up arms against the US.
You even know the date the US retook Texas by force. In our history books, we call the day, “Juneteenth.”

jadehelmquestions
(from Texas Monthly)

To be clear, Blue Bell trucks will not be used as mobile morgues.
Closed Wal Marts will be not used as detention centers.

But the shape of your paranoid fantasies are instructive. Closed Wal Marts and the lack of Blue Bell (even temporarily) are metaphors for an actual Truth: Texas is changing.

To those of you who believe these paranoid fantasies –aided and abetted by our governor–  the way of life you have always loved will change with it.

We now have a healthcare, same sex marriage, and (soon) the longest economic recovery in history. All on the watch of a Black president. It’s a lot to take in.

But your way of life is only changing, not ending. Trust me. Soon enough you and I will be sharing Blue Bell once again. (Come on, Blue Bell, apparently your comeback is far more geopolitically important than you knew…)

The final truth is that the military takeover you fear already happened. 150 years ago. Read a history text book or something.

Oh….right…we changed those.

For the rest of you reading –those who don’t believe these conspiracy theories, or who are shocked that 44 percent of us do– I’d remind  you of a great parable by Rabbi and Therapist, Edwin Friedman. Friedman was a great storyteller who had an amazing way of pointing to deeper truths through their telling.

In this story, a man comes home to his family and announces that he is dead. At first, his friends and family just argue with him rationally. But every time, the story goes, “no matter how sensible the argument, the man maintained that he was dead. He parried their thrusts with ingenious skill.”

Eventually, they begin to seriously worry about his mental health. They send him to a psychiatrist. They send him to a clergyperson. Each time, the “expert” comes out of the encounter completely exasperated by the fact that the man persists in his belief that he is dead. These experts throw up their hands, and give the man back to his family and friends.

Finally, they take him to a family doctor. The doctor takes a totally different tack. And the story ends this way:

“…after one or two questions in front of everyone, asked the man in a no nonsense way,
“Tell me, do dead men bleed?”
“Of course not,” said the man.
“Then,” said the doctor, “would you allow me to make a small cut in your arm, say above the elbow? I will treat it;
there’s no reason to worry about infection. I’ll stop the flow immediately, and we can see, once and all, whether you
are dead.”
“Dead men do not get infections, nor do they bleed, doctor,” said the man, as he proceeded to roll up his sleeve.
With everyone watching anxiously, the doctor deftly slit the flesh, and blood came spurting out. There was a gasp of joy throughout the group. Some laughed, others even applauded, though a few seemed rat
her to be relieved.
The doctor quickly dressed the wound and turned to everyone, saying, “Well, I hope that puts an end to this foolishness.” Everyone was congratulating the physician when they suddenly realized that the man was headed for
the door. As he opened it, he turned to the group and said, “I see that I was wrong.” Then, as he turned to leave, he added, “Dead men, in fact, do bleed.”
Friedman calls this parable “The Power of Belief.”
The power of our beliefs are strong. Whether we base our beliefs on science, spirituality, or art, it is often very challenging for us to step outside our strongly-held beliefs and see another perspective.

Long ago, I learned that a full frontal-assault on paranoid beliefs often does not work. That is why, for the most part, I have taken a spiritual vow not to argue with religious fundamentalists. (I am totally serious…)

However, I do believe God still calls me to lift up a danger of FEAR.

Years ago, President Roosevelt said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That’s still true today.

A good indicator as to whether or not our our beliefs are “of God” is the extent to which they are, or are not, based on fear. Because God is the one who is constantly tell us to “Fear Not.” God is the one who calls us to faith. God calls us trust. God calls us to believe that the “reality of reality is gracious.”

If our beliefs inspire fear, create fear, multiply fear, then there is very good chance that they are not truly of God.

So, while I no longer “argue with crazy,” I still find speaking against fear to be deeply important.

So, Texas….these conspiracy theories are paranoid, fear-based, and counterproductive to our state and nation. And to anyone who might say “But I understand the frustration that might lead to them…”

I would reply: OK. Fine. So, what are you doing to calm people’s fears and assuaged their anxiety? Or are you just calling up the national guard, and playing in to paranoia?

Because God calls us to be people who speak peace, faith, trust….

So, when you find yourself wanting to believe a crazy conspiracy theories…or when you find yourself afraid because of them…remind yourself what God says:

“Don’t fear, because I am with you;
don’t be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
I will surely help you;
I will hold you
with my righteous strong hand.”

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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