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What did FDR mean by “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself?”
On March 4, 1933, FDR delivered his inaugural address. In it, he used the phrase “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. I did a little searching and this phrase is used a LOT in Christian books. So often. But it almost always refers to the fear one person has in their heart. In reality, it is a comment on collective fear. The Great Depression started in 1929 and was exacerbated by a bank run in which Americans lost faith in the value of our currency and the banking systems.
Do we believe in God’s economy?
That is an important distinction. FDR’s speech is about collective fear. As I’ve contemplated the modernist/fundamentalist debate this season, I keep returning to the idea of fear, not in the US economy but in God’s economy. He commands us to love the Lord, keep His commands, love our neighbors, turn the other cheek, and give to those who ask of us. Why do we forget to do this important work? Could it be because we’ve lost faith in God’s economy?
This episode features a clip from my discussion with Jacob Goldstein, former host of NPR’s Planet Money podcast and the current host of Pushkin’s What’s Your Problem? podcast. His book is Money: The True Story of a Made-up Thing.
- FDR’s Inaugural Address
- Jacob Goldstein’s Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing
- Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life
- Why does it matter that FDR’s quote “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is a collective statement and not one about individual fear?
- What are some identifying features of God’s economy?
- Do you trust in the way that God tells us to do things?
- When was the last time you prayed for someone who you don’t like?
- Do you believe in turning the other cheek?