Thursday, February 3, 2011

Enveloped in Fear

One of my long time blogging friends Don of Reflections has recently commented on the fear factor which has enveloped the lives of many evangelical Christians. (I know this post is a tad outdated but I felt this was still worth commenting.)
I have come to the inevitable conclusion that a large number of evangelical Christians live in fear. Fear of God, fear of the future, fear of the unknown. This fear may not be a 24/7 thing to them…or it may be. The indoctrination within evangelical Christianity teaches them to fear the judgment and condemnation  of a God who loves them. I think many evangelicals "need" this fear to keep them "in line", to keep them on the "straight and narrow". I just don’t understand this thinking anymore. To me it is so schitzophrenic. How could God be loving and condemning at the same time. IMO, he can’t. It’s that simple, He Can’t…
Note that he didn't say ALL Christians or even ALL Evangelical Christians, but a large number within this cultural and religious subgroup. And also to clarify (for my occasional Christian readers, please don't take offense) this is not another jab at Christianity and its belief system, but merely a comment on a particular view within a very large cultural subgroup in America. I strongly believe that like Jacob in Genesis who wrestled with his humanity and the Divine we too should wrestle with who and what we are. Don hit the nail on the head by his last line "How could God be loving and condemning at the same time." For many people this question does not even bubble to the surface because by merely asking this "heretical" question they fear the walls of reality will come crashing down upon them.

Fear causes separation, and love can't truly reside among and within us if fear is present. It simply can't! If God (however you may use the word) is love then there is no punishment to fear. It really is that simple. But why should we give in to the fear which makes us distant, condemning, and even outright prejudice against our neighbor? Evangelicals may claim that they are only following God's Will by hating what God hates but how is that any better? Shouldn't our goal be to transcend the holy hatred that divided our tribal ancestors? Should we not be more compassionate than our fathers?

A huge factor which fuels the Evangelical's fear of everything considered "un-Christian" is their fear of losing their identity. For many people their belief system and way of life IS their identity. To remove, change, or in any way alter any component of their beliefs places their own identity into question which then throws their entire perception of reality into question. What most people see as meaningless and random chaos I choose (keyword) to see an endless sea of new life and new possibilities. The universe is an explosive arena of creativity and as the most advanced expression of the universe how can we stop ourselves at any one point in history and say "this is it, no more change". History, life, and mankind will continue progressing long after we're gone. The Christianity of today HAS evolved from the Christianity of 2000 years ago (most Christians forget that the first Christians were Jewish AND occupied by the Romans; a perfect storm scenario for the creation of apocalyptic and messianic literature), and in another 2000 years, if Christianity survives, it would be completely alien from the Christianity of today. As the world becomes more globally interconnected and aware of itself the previous tribal walls of separation and identity are beginning to melt on a massive scale. We are also beginning to disassociate ourselves with our previous concepts of morality: we no longer need a god which threatens us with damnation to keep us in line, we keep ourselves in line because we recognize our shared humanity with our neighbor. We are no longer enveloped and driven by fear, we are guided by compassion and love.


Andrew said...

Yep, plenty of folks want/need the fear because they feel it keeps them in line. As one popular evangelical pastor said from the pulpit " No hell? If there is no Hell, I am heading to the strip joints tonight!"

captron52 said...

I believe that anything based in fear is just to crippling to do much good.

Don said...

Thanks for your great assessment. My constant question for my evangelical friends is, "Why..Why do you need this FEAR?

Doug B said...

I totally agree with your words: "we keep ourselves in line because we recognize our shared humanity with our neighbor." But the old tribal deities are dying slowly. Actually, they are probably evolving along with us. I prefer their death, however, as being unnecessary. As you suggest, we no longer that type of God.

Sabio Lantz said...

I think you are right.
Religion often serves as an identity or security anchor in a secure world -- at Epiphenom, Tom Rees discusses research showing this.

But I think you are sort-of wrong when you say: "we no longer need a god which threatens us with damnation to keep us in line" because it obviously still works for many. It may not be needed in your mental space but unfortunately is very helpful in the troubled minds of many. This is a question of the various ways in which religion works.

But good post, I liked most your points and maybe I misunderstood your use of that sentence.

Eruesso said...


I can see how that may come across as confusing. What I meant was that the view of a god requiring obedience for blessings or even salvation is no longer our only option. I live in the heart of the south so I completely understand how others may draw comfort from belief in a deity in complete control of the cosmos. I guess what I was trying to express is that it is no longer the only option we have available to us. And I am ALL about options.

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