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7/1/2013 11:22:00 AM
FYI: Keep on guard for FUD - fear, uncertainty, doubt
Catholic News Service

Here is a commentary from the June issue of The Northern Cross, the monthly newspaper of the Diocese of Duluth, Minn. It was written by the editor, Kyle Eller, who has a column called "Mere Catholicism."

DULUTH, Minn. — Most of us these days know a host of Internet or texting acronyms like "LOL" or "IMHO" ("laughing out loud" and "in my humble opinion" for the uninitiated).

One of my favorites is more obscure: "FUD." The term comes from the technology industry, where companies are sometimes accused of marketing or whisper campaigns designed to fill customers with "fear, uncertainty and doubt" -- FUD -- about a competitor.

The same concept is used elsewhere: in the marketplace, in politics and beyond.

What's key about FUD is that it isn't real. A legitimate warning about something truly dangerous or dubious is not FUD. FUD is not about helping anyone, it's about destroying trust and confidence in something else in hopes of advancing your own agenda.

I think it taps a real part of our psyche. It is astonishing how the smallest unsubstantiated doubt can change the way we look at something as trivial as an app on our computer ("Did someone say this has a virus?") or as important as a friendship. This seems to be true even when we think we know better.

Isn't it a common experience? We hear a rumor that a friend said or did something, and we have no real reason to believe it's true and good reason to believe it's false. We resolve not to believe it. (Justice demands no less!) And yet, when we see that friend again, we find ourselves fighting a doubt or a guardedness in ourselves, or tempted to be a detective observing closely to be sure all is as it ought to be.

A tiny dose of fear, uncertainty and doubt can have a completely disproportionate effect on us, breaking trust, tempting us to withhold a bit of our heart that we once gave freely.

We can see how effective FUD is by how widespread it is. Whatever else we may say about advertisers and political campaigners, they are savvy about what works, even if it contradicts what we all say. For instance, we all say we want elections that are based on the issues, not FUD in the form of negative personal attack ads and "gotcha" quotes. Yet which dominates our politics? FUD works.

Nowhere is FUD more abundant than in attacking the Catholic faith. I would argue that the devil is the origin of FUD. It is the very tactic he has been using since the Garden of Eden, where he tempted Eve to doubt God's truth, goodness and love. "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden? You certainly will not die. God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad."

Once you start to notice it, you see FUD is everywhere in attacks on the Catholic Church. Catholics hate science and reason? FUD. Catholics hate women? FUD. Catholics hate gay people? FUD. Catholics want to impose theocracy on the world? FUD. Catholics worship Mary and hate the Bible? FUD. Catholics think you can work your way into heaven? FUD.

Even many instances where there are legitimate criticisms of things Catholics have done, for instance in the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition, truth is mixed with FUD. This is a very effective tactic.

It is critical for us to recognize FUD and defeat it, both for ourselves, to guard against the wiles of the enemy, and for the sake of others whom we are attempting to reach with the new evangelization, our message of the love of Jesus Christ and his offer of communion with himself in the Catholic Church.

FUD is a deception, an illusion, an attempt to separate us from God, nothing more and nothing less.

No relationship depends more on our trust than our relationship with God, and no relationship is more important. Trust is really another way of describing faith: believing not just "in God" but believing God and what he says, what he proposes for our belief for our good. He asks our absolute trust and confidence.

Throughout the Bible we see examples of people who kept their faith despite being surrounded by fear, uncertainty and doubt. Think of the judges, the prophets, the Twelve Apostles after Pentecost who endured persecution, ridicule and death with unshakeable faith. I think of Daniel, holding fast to God even in the midst of exile and persecution, of Tobit doing the same. I think of Simeon, holding out hope in God's promise that he would see the Messiah even as he grew old. I think of the Blessed Mother, standing in faith at the foot of the cross.

We don't lack for witnesses in the 20 centuries of martyrs since, either.

God seems particularly to prize the trust of his chosen ones, especially when all hope appears lost, when it seems the world has forgotten him and that he is silent while his plans and promises come to nothing. It is through the cooperation and trust of these faithful ones that he acts, often dramatically, in his good time.

That is the trust to which we can aspire in these challenging times.


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