Searching for Christ in a Culture of Fear

This morning President Obama signs historic healthcare legislation into law. A lot of people are not happy about this. Many decry this as the end of America, others as the end of time. I thought we had until 2012? Either way, I’m not a prophet or a poli-sci major so I wouldn’t know for sure. I have noticed many Christians are at maximum freak out levels. I would like to provide some helpful reflective thoughts for your consideration. Thank you.

Since “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18) a measure of our distance from God is how fearful we are. The church is in bed with fear and would spend most nights alone if not for her company. We would never sell our souls to the Devil, but then he would never be so forward. He invests in us as we nurse our worries and gradually he becomes our primary stockholder. His controlling stake allows that he move us in directions we would not otherwise go.

Fear is an issue at the personal and family levels within the church, however these are symptomatic of wide-scale problems at the institutional level. Our methodologies are often rooted in the septic soil of fear. We are known for our scare tactics to get people “in the door” and our use of shame to discourage discussion and dissent. Fear drives us not to love our enemies, but to neglect them. When afraid we fail to engage the world. Instead, we camp out in front of our TVs soaking up the bad news: unruly weather, criminal activity, political corruption, and impending doom. We listen to “My Redeemer Lives” on repeat but find the idea fantastical. And why not? All signs point to no. When fear is our only language, we can’t read any other signs.

“There are so many wonderful things in life to be afraid of, if you just learn how scary they are!” The Tale of Despereaux

I’ve not been above the frenzy. I’ve managed a slew of my own faith-based fears over the years. There was that distasteful notion that I might have to go to strange continents and love people and share the gospel. You could get killed doing that. A rigid interpretation of biblical prophecy cast world leaders as antichrists, false prophets, and Babylonian whores. That was enough to induce agoraphobia though thankfully it did not. For years, I wrestled with uncertainty about my salvation. This was not on any scriptural grounds, only as response to that eternal nag “What if you’re wrong?” Though these are not wholly illegitimate fears, they are illegitimate in that they do not account for God’s provision. They have robbed me of joy and effectiveness and because of them I have been anxious about the future. Why do I give fear so much power? Is it Lord of me?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7)

In comic books, the distressed damsel stresses very little. When she’s been captured by the villain and her life is threatened, she remains calm and attests that her hero will arrive to rescue her. Without fail he shows up, detains the bad guys, unties her, cracks a lame joke, and disarms the explosives before it’s too late. Where is our faith that we do not react to adversity with a peace as assured? Faith is an informed optimism, not an ignorant one. Christians are not permitted to close their eyes tightly and hope it all goes away. If we do not keep up with world events it will seem that we are hopeful only because we do not know any better. When everything around us dies and we are next in line, our steady faith offers understated testimony of a God whose “perfect love drives out fear.”

The world is fearful without our help. Is the sky falling? Yes, but do we really need one more person to point out the obvious? The part of Chicken Little has been occupied. 6 billion frightened voices announce their anxieties. We need voices of reason. Cable news programs of left and right angles proliferate fear by affirming those anxieties. Why shouldn’t they? Fear sells as well as sex does. They even make fear sound sexy. They sell it as “justifiable concerns” under the guise of “taking action” and “being prepared.”

The gospel of Christ, however, is not a sales pitch. It is not an industry which relies on profit to continue its endeavors. It is no less than a free offer to be rid of worry.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”(1 Peter 5:6-7)

About Chase Livingston
  • Jason

    Very good word!

    You are right we should be like the damsel just waiting patiently to be rescued. Yet I do feel God sometimes provides us with the means to rescue ourselves. It is just a matter of seeing that.

    Even so, I fear for this country. Not because one man is trying to destroy it, but because many people are allowing him to do so. That shows just how far we as a country have come away from God as our leader. However; “In God We Trust” still on our money, “One nation under God” still in our Pledge of Allegiance, and “endowed by their Creator” still in our Declaration of Independence, God is STILL a part of this country.

    I am now patiently, with my fists curled, and ready to battle (if I must) for God to rescue us.

  • Dianne

    You said it so much better than I could have, and indeed have tried to, in the last few days. Amen, and amen. Thank you for the reminders. I needed to hear them, too.

  • Bruce

    “…the septic soil of fear.” Quite excellent, your third paragraph, as far as explaining much of evangelicalism’s hand-wringing paralysis and general conservative’s slinging of mud…who ironically offer little but mud pies of their own, ‘fresh’ from their easy-bake ovens.

    You stated roots of the problem clearly, but some practical action points would help to put feet on your exhortation toward a closer identity with our fearless Christ. For example, a simple solution to one of your first stated ills, “…we camp out in front of our TVs soaking up the bad news…” Well, we DO need to stay in touch with some news in the world, but the problem is one of UNBALANCE. Therefore, if you listen to far right stuff, you gotta listen to the far left. If you can’t stomach that, then shoot for some moderate news shows. Along with telling my community college classes that I’m a follower of Jesus, I also tell them that NPR (National Public Radio) has saved my life as well.

    Balance with the inputs can lend more toward finding common ground with the outputs, and voila, we will soon be able to engage the world again. And instead of fear, we will be moved by love and compassion. We don’t need ‘fists for battle,’ we need open up-turned hands ready to give and then receive…and then give again.


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