I think my adopted homestate has lost its collective mind.
A few weeks ago, there were reports of an active shooter at one of the state’s largest and busiest malls. As it happens, there was no shooter. Rumors of one caused an epic panic. All the injuries sustained, were as a result of the stampede. The eye-witness accounts varied as to the number of gun-men, if it began as a fight between two people, the kind of guns were either sub-machine guns or hand guns and beyond. And there were no bullets found or shell casings or anything. There were also false tweets sent out by employees of one mall business saying that the gun-man had taken hostages. While people were definitely right to flee the perceived threat and their fears were very, very real, it turned out to be hyper-vigilance and fear-mongering at its worst that ignited this panic.
Then the clowns appeared. Around Winston-Salem, NC there began to be reports of people dressed as clowns luring children into the woods. Then the news spread like wild-fire. And suddenly “copy-cat” claims surfaced state-wide. Nowhere else in the country did claims prevail the way they did here. And then…this was reported. Turns out all the claims, ended up being false. And fed by the frenzy of fear.
Then, late last week, a pipeline burst in Alabama. It largely affects gas in NC, SC, and GA. Guess which state has a gas shortage? And not because the pipe burst, but because the hysteria and mere thought of a possible gas shortage has led to hoarding. This continues despite news reports that more gas is being sent. Yesterday, a co-worker witnessed someone filling ten gas cans at the station. A friend on facebook also confronted someone filling cans and told him he was being selfish and what would happen if everyone did that?
Instead of doing practical things like car-pooling, limiting driving to essential trips only, those who can work from home doing so, having kids who attend public school ride the bus, planning grocery store trips etc around commutes, people have 50+ gallons of gas in their garages along with 2 or more full gas tanks. God help them if someone tosses a cigarette butt.
The attitudes I largely encounter here are reminiscent of Salem during the witch trials. The paranoia is at an all time high and people are powder kegs just waiting for the latest “crisis” to ignite them.
Why is all this happening? Why here? Because in this state, what was once the buckle of the Bible Belt, we’ve decided we’re more American than Christian. That we’re patriots first and patriots are only out for themselves. The strong survive by not protecting the weak and by exploiting them; by not loving our neighbor as ourselves, but by spurning them. We’re real good here about quoting our Bibles, we kind of suck at living the Gospel though. We park our butts in pews with the best of them but we leave God there the moment we climb in our SUVs and head to the pump. Is it any wonder that people began publishing this meme in response to our current self-induced gas “shortage?”
We’ve turned to our self-reliance instead of God. We’re great at telling people we trust Him, but actual trust…God is here, but most of us have tried to handle everything while ignoring Him. And so we’ve abandoned not only faith but reason as well. Contrary to what many think, the two are not diametrically opposed.
So, let’s just take the recent self-created gas “crisis.” What does the Bible say about hoarding?
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay can destroy, and thieves break in and steal.
But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay can destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
Storing treasures on earth and not heaven? Deciding to stockpile instead of exercising prudence? Jesus really makes a clear point here on what is important. Hint: it’s not gasoline.
How does Jesus say we should deal with anxieties of our time?
He said to [his] disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds! Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Luke 12: 22-32
That doesn’t sound like rugged independence and patriotic individualism. It’s not unfettered capitalism either. It’s very basic. Trust God. Rely on Him. Give it all to Him. That’s not just about a gas shortage, that’s about all the worries and fears of active shooters, terrorist threats, natural disasters and everything else.
If you are living a life of constant fear and anxiety, if your actions are motivated by the “me-first” herd mentality, let me give you some sound advice. Turn off the cable news channels. Close your lap-top. Remove your social media apps on your phone. Walk away from conversations that you know you will gain nothing from. Turn the world off. Turn Him on.
Pray a Rosary and ask the Blessed Mother’s intervention in our world. Read Scripture and pray before reading that the Holy Spirit guide your hearing of His word. Take a knee–in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and just be in His presence. Pray the Divine Mercy chaplet that you may feel His mercy and kindness in your life and in the lives of those around you and that He may have mercy on the whole world. Go to Mass. I cannot say this enough, go to Mass and pray with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Encourage others who are despairing by praying with them and for them.
Stop bowing before the altar of self and start reverencing the altar of His sacrifice.
Rugged individualism and self-reliance are not virtues. Total abandonment of self and full reliance on Him are.
Remember, Jesus also said:
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
If you’ve already stock-piled, is there an elderly neighbor you can share with? A large family with a gas guzzler you can support? What about your parish priests? God can and will work through past indiscretions. We are all called as Christians to care for our neighbors, if we got caught up in the panic, how can we offer that now to Jesus?
This weekend at Mass, during the Gospel, we heard the story of the dishonest steward and in the homily, our pastor talked about increasing our tithes that we may give back to the local community as parts of the Body of Christ. If we use this panic as a way to help others, it doesn’t have to be all bad. If we acknowledge our sin and repent and do our penance, God freely gives us His forgiveness and mercy.
NC, it’s not too late, we can overcome this tragic lack of faith and worship of self. But only when we turn to Christ.