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Fear! Fear! Fear!

THE FISCAL CLIFF!!  SERIAL KILLERS!!  CRISIS!!  DOOMSDAY!!  KILLER WHALE!!  BEWARE!!  OMG!!  WAR ON MEN !!  SITUATION DIRE !! BRAIN DAMAGE !!  SAVE THE PLANET!!  And that is all off just one internet page of headlines for today!!  How much worse could it get?headlines2

If you haven’t seen the drama video from Belgium, please take less than two minutes to watch it!  (You can skip the advertisement at the beginning, if you want.)  The reason this is so funny is because we are bombarded with “drama” at every turn.

Why is “drama” the only way to get our attention?  The longer I think about this, the more answers I get—which probably means there are lots of right answers—and that it is . . . well . . . complicated.  I’ll share with you what I think.

  • We are addicted to conflict. You can take the sweetest Disney movie or Winnie the Pooh or Beatrice Potter stories and you will always find conflict.  We think in terms of contrasts, distinctions, and variances.  We need differences to distinguish one thing from the other.  We don’t know how to tell a story without conflict.
  • Schadenfreude! Such a great German word to describe one’s pleasure at someone else’s misfortune.  The definition sounds more malevolent than it usually is, but it does suggest our darker, selfish nature.  “Boy, I’m glad I don’t have to handle that person’s child!”” I’m glad I wasn’t on that plane.”  There is a subtle pleasure in the fact that the misfortune happened to someone else and not to me!
  • Vicarious experience of danger!  One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is in Clear and Present Danger (1994) when the American government representative’s convoy is attacked by a drug cartel’s army in the narrow streets of a poor South American city. The big black vehicles roaring through the streets with a large police escort look invincible, but all it takes is one bad guy disguised as a motorcycle patrolman to turn the scene into mayhem! I can’t imagine how diplomats could watch this scene; it would be my worst nightmare.
  • Drama motivates others to action!  Which gets you out of your chair, the “consequences of last year’s indecisive tax measures” or the looming “fiscal cliff?”  Just the more dramatic phrase suggests danger, death, destruction—which must be avoided at all cost!!  Drama motivates.
  • Fear may be our most compelling emotion!  Fear of loss, fear of death, fear of pain! Fear seems to be built into us physically and as with our other senses, we like to overstimulate, tintilate ourselves for our own pleasure.

As Christians we know we are engaged in a great spiritual drama! Good versus evil is everywhere around us—even within us! So how does a Christian respond to a world driven by drama and conflict, but of a completely different nature?

  • Christians do not need an addiction to conflict because we know the Great Conflict has already been decided.(Spoiler alert!)  Good (God) wins!  (Knowing how the conflict ends makes all the difference, doesn’t it!)
  • Christians do not need to calm themselves with shadenfreude because having their own salvation assured, they are free to focus on the ultimate good of all others.
  • Christians do not need to seek vicarious danger because every day in our real lives, we are watching for our real enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The intense fear of the lions in The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) is heightened as they take on the even more dangerous metaphor for evil itself!
  • While some Christians continue to be motivated primarily by fear, our goal is to be motivated by the opposite of fear, which is love. John says, perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love” (1 John 4:18)  Perhaps the test is to ask yourself whether you are motivated more by love or by fear—to do anything?

If you are one who writes or speaks or provokes others to think or to do, be careful about manipulating artificial conflict or dramatic words to create fear. FDR said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  Scripture is full of God’s messengers saying, “Be strong and courageous, and do not be afraid!”  Fear is not a harmless emotion.

Jesus said,Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God . .  .” (Matthew 10:28).

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