Flights of Faith

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fear and the Church

I am doing a lot of thinking as of late. It's really challenging stuff.

As of last year (and maybe before that), one of my big faith questions dealt with how to deal with Jesus' interactions with the Pharisees and the Sadducees given that our context almost always involves religious teachers who state belief and agreement with Jesus.

It's easy to make a flat statement about the way Pharisees believed in God as opposed to an exciting, dynamic, in-the-flesh Jesus.

On the other hand, it's a lot harder for me to separate the way one interacts around faith when they might sing the same worship songs I do using the name of the one I desire to be the King of my life. How can we be so different?

Yet, I feel this is a serious issue.

Let's look at three different issues: fear, signs and wonders, and sinners. We'll tackle fear today.

The Bible has a clear ethic surrounding fear. Fear God alone, nothing else. My take on this is that by being real beings (real time actors in the universe) our fear of something activates it as a real force as well. Our act of fear ascribes a personal reality to whatever we fear. This, as we've seen throughout history, can become viral (i.e. fear black people because they are evil). By fearing God alone, we let real beings exist as God made them. This is an existence filled with infinite possibility and bent towards faith, hope, and love.

However, a routine check of many churches will demonstrate that they encourage fear of the other, explicitly or implicitly. Most recently, this has taken the form of Muslims, homosexuals, socialists, and atheists.

So, let's go down the list and offer a worst case scenario from the perspective of those who fear the people in these groups.

M -> there is an Islamic state and folks either convert or are subject to Islamic rule
H -> something like everyone becomes gay or people are persecuted for having views in opposition to "pro-gay" perspectives
S -> government controls the world government
A -> rampant atheism will spread

These are all fears eventually based in the self. A fear that one will have to change against one's will. A fear many share with different elements of Christianity (perhaps, a reason why God seems to allow choice. If we were forced into believing, we'd probably hate God, rebel against God's ways, or end up distorting who God really is....Uh Oh)

If one only feared God, then these selfish fears would have no resonance. And if one believed God is good and actively blesses people, then one would not only be unafraid, but would also be positively involved, in my eyes. In fact, it seems that if someone did find anything disagreeable about our four fear targets, then they would engage these people and ways of thinking, being, feeling, or believing in a creative and charitable way while holding to their concerns, not consumed by their fears.

Wouldn't that change everything?

There's a whole lot of room for discussion here. I'll get to the other two scenarios, signs and wonders and sinners, soon.


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