Most of you know I am a word nerd, and I absolutely love tripping over an unknown word that absolutely nails a current condition. I have heard the word felicitous for years, but never was sure that I knew its real meaning. It means “well-suited for the occasion, as an action, behavior, or expression; appropriate.” So, I was close but not exact. Now, the word fantods was completely foreign to me, but it means (according to dictionary.com) “a state of extreme nervousness or restlessness; the willies; the fidgets.” It immediately occurred to me that we are surrounded by felicitous fantods — social media, the house of representatives, immigration rhetoric, the stock market, the dark web, the deep state (snicker) — all designed, appropriately or not, to keep us all in a state of extreme nervousness and restlessness. Do most people look comfortable and secure on their smartphones? Do people at political rallies look happy? Do we protest because we are content? Don’t pandemics qualify? What about those immigrants and refugees? Just what flame can I fan to make you wet yourself with terror? Democrats and liberals are the felicitous fantods of the conservative Republicans; Republicans and Right-Wingers the felicitous fantods of those not-overly-obvious left-leaning progressives. Anywhere we can see demons, we can strike fear.
But why? I mean, what is the real and lasting benefit of making everyone nervous, suspicious, afraid, and prejudiced? Does this help us create the world we really want? Of course not. But scared people are easy to manipulate. Just ask the weapons industry. Gun sales skyrocket each time a new fantod event occurs. Fear motivates people to take steps to make themselves feel safer. But it’s a chimera – a mythological creature just as likely to turn and bite you as protect you. A majority of 58% of Americans say they feel safer having a gun, but 87% say they feel less safe knowing their neighbor has a gun. Fantod fallacy.
Undermine trust and you foster felicitous fantods. That stranger of a different skin hue walking toward you on the street? A criminal. The refugee escaping inhumane and violent persecution or death in a foreign land? A drug dealer, a rapist. The woman willing to work for slave wages doing a job you don’t want? A threat. A young person awakening to a different identity than the one they were born with? An enemy. See how easy this is? Good thing we aren’t so stupid or credulous, huh?
Except that is exactly what the purveyors of felicitous fantods count on. In the last few weeks we have heard damning testimony from Fox “News” personalities that they intentionally and strategically lied to serve their fan base, reporting misinformation they knew was false, all for the sake of ratings and fostering more discontent in those who agree with their worldview. And is it making a difference? No. Proponents of masochistic manipulation cry out that their Foxy heroes are being forced to confess to things they never did by militant liberals who hate America.
Fear is toxic and demoralizing. Fear drains energy and undermines reason. Few, if any, function well under fear. But reason, common sense, critical thinking, and rational analysis are the only tools we have with which to combat fantods. The loss of our ability to engage in civil, respectful, and insightful disagreement and dialogue is quickly killing us. We actually have people in positions of power calling for civil war, for violence against opponents, and the demonization of those who think, act, and speak differently. In what universe is this healthy?
What is the church’s role in such a time as this? Sadly, the proponents of felicitous fantods freely use the Christian faith and religion in the broader sense to wreak their destruction. Disingenuous manipulators – those who have no scholarship or proficiency with scripture or theology – are redefining Christianity to deny the core teachings of Jesus and to turn the good news of forgiveness and redemption into a caustic judgmentalism and punitive attack. But pulling bits of the Old Testament out of context to make the faith a weapon of mass destruction and calling it Christian nationalism doesn’t make it true. The body of Christ needs to stand strong and speak loudly to challenge the sacrilege and blasphemy that a few uneducated blowhard false prophets proclaim to be the TRUTH. You don’t go to a politician for medical or financial advice; don’t go to them for religious advice either.
We face a critical time to redeem and reclaim reason and common sense. Respecting experts, verifying claims, taking time to study and engage in critical thinking. Relearning the art of true conversation and healthy debate. Reading actual well-documented books while avoiding the web and corporate and social media. Simply paying attention and listening more than spouting off. Remembering that there is a difference between truth and opinion. These are some small but significant ways we can find our way back to the light, escaping the darkness of all these felicitous fantods.
So good to have your words “back.” How might local congregations help with “Relearning the art of true conversation and healthy debate.”?
Thanks Dan. I think most political ads are fantods…