FEAR: Media’s Motivator, Our Trap

And then I took a look around
And I saw the love that surrounded me
I knew that it was up to me
To cast off all the fears that bound me

–  Jackson Browne’s “Cast off All My Fears”

Old stories such as “Hansel and Gretel”  and “Little Red Riding Hood” were meant to put fear into children. Lessons such as Aesop’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” were likely to prevent a child from basically ringing the fire alarm for fun. Fear is a motivator. It works. Fear of losing your job can be leveraged to keep you and your coworkers from offering legitimate grievances and used in turn to add hours and workload without additional compensation. From TV news to Facebook posts about the ending of the world, fear sells and gets our attention. Our fight or flight chemistry is amped to the max. It’s a science and it works.

When it comes to issues of faith, fear is surely present. Fear of making God upset seems paramount in our churches. God is an angry God. Things will only get worse. The Earth is doomed and if you do not get right with God you are doomed along with it. Or, if you don’t learn the right way to pray and worship you may lose financially or otherwise. God seems to be bent on keeping us in line either by the carrot or the stick. Fear motivates. 

In fact, some argue that theologies that keep us in fear are necessary. “How can we motivate people to holiness if salvation is secure?” “How can you truly be evangelistic if we think this earth is our home?” Pessimists breed fear, draw crowds and shout louder than optimists. Just as in the fable, are many Christians “crying wolf”—pretending to be concerned but really simply building platforms and drawing crowds? How “different” are we to the worst of our culture in the fear department?

Reality TV is based on up-close examination of the unusual, the decadent, weird and surely fringe lifestyles of society. The reason we watch is the same reason we look at a train wreck in progress—we simply can’t turn away from something so rare and awful. It usually is not that dramatic, however. Fear of being behind the times at the water cooler might actually be a weapon used to keep us tuned in. We may feel ostracized if we don’t know the latest trends, news or happenings. Indeed, being ostracized is yet another fear.

How about the fear of being unheard, marginalized or invisible. As a Christian community it seems that we can make a lot of noise on blogs about celebrities, leaders and issues. We can drum up comments on both sides and feel accomplished that our noise makes further noise. Our fear of being marginalized draws us into debates we perhaps are at times too immature to be helpful in or loving to be effective with. Fear motivates us to do things we wouldn’t do if rationally loving people were the goal.

I say, let us cast off fear and instead of noise offer peace. With celebrities living larger than life, news outlets projecting violence and hate and politicians slicing us into pie pieces we still have a choice. Do we follow “flight or fight” chemistry or do we embrace rational, sane and welcomed peace? Peace is not weak, but peace is not loud, either. Forgive me Lord for not realizing this countless times over!

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

John 14:27 (NRSV)

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

16 comments

  1. Very well said. Back around Earth Day, I actually saw a fairly well-know Christian leader claim that since "it’s all gonna burn up soon anyway", we have no reason to take care of our planet. This fear-mongering has no place in Christianity, and it’s only driving us farther and farther away from people. It’s hard to fully live out Jesus’ teachings when you never encounter anyone who disagrees with you.

    Anyway, you’ve articulated something I’ve been stumbling over for a couple of weeks now. I guess this means I don’t have to write a blog post of my own, though!

    1. Bryan,

      "This fear-mongering has no place in Christianity, and it’s only driving us farther and farther away from people."

      AMEN AMEN!

      • RK
  2. Right on, Rich! Two comments:

    1) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, brother!! Very nice to see your post popping up in my feed on such a notable day!

    2) I learned a month or so ago in one of my Bible studies that the Hebrew root of the word "peace" or "shalom" is more connected with completeness than with a lack of strife. So when Jesus gives us peace and assures us it is not like the world gives, it’s about us becoming more and more complete in the vision of who God created us to be! So the way we love, who we love, and how much we love should be getting more and more like the love of God as demonstrated by Jesus throughout His perfect life.

    I think this understanding of "peace" aligns wonderfully with your post. Blessings to you, your great family, and your ministries, friend!

    1. Thanks, Allen.

      Shalom is an explanation of perfect community–like the Trinity, in fact. "Salem" in Arabic and "shalom" do have a deeper meaning of the translation to our word peace. I love how "sharing the peace" to each other states our commitment to this idea.

      RK

      PS..thanks for the birthday wishes!

  3. Right on, Rich! Two comments: 1) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, brother!! Very nice to see your post popping up in my feed on such a notable day! 2) I learned a month or so ago in one of my Bible studies that the Hebrew root of the word "peace" or "shalom" is more connected with completeness than with a lack of strife. So when Jesus gives us peace and assures us it is not like the world gives, it’s about us becoming more and more complete in the vision of who God created us to be! So the way we love, who we love, and how much we love should be getting more and more like the love of God as demonstrated by Jesus throughout His perfect life. I think this understanding of "peace" aligns wonderfully with your post. Blessings to you, your great family, and your ministries, friend!

    1. Thanks, Allen.

      Shalom is an explanation of perfect community–like the Trinity, in fact. "Salem" in Arabic and "shalom" do have a deeper meaning of the translation to our word peace. I love how "sharing the peace" to each other states our commitment to this idea.

      RK

      PS..thanks for the birthday wishes!

  4. Right on, Rich! Two comments:

    1) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, brother!! Very nice to see your post popping up in my feed on such a notable day!

    2) I learned a month or so ago in one of my Bible studies that the Hebrew root of the word "peace" or "shalom" is more connected with completeness than with a lack of strife. So when Jesus gives us peace and assures us it is not like the world gives, it’s about us becoming more and more complete in the vision of who God created us to be! So the way we love, who we love, and how much we love should be getting more and more like the love of God as demonstrated by Jesus throughout His perfect life.

    I think this understanding of "peace" aligns wonderfully with your post. Blessings to you, your great family, and your ministries, friend!

    1. Thanks, Allen.

      Shalom is an explanation of perfect community–like the Trinity, in fact. "Salem" in Arabic and "shalom" do have a deeper meaning of the translation to our word peace. I love how "sharing the peace" to each other states our commitment to this idea.

      RK

      PS..thanks for the birthday wishes!

  5. Right on, Rich! Two comments:

    1) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, brother!! Very nice to see your post popping up in my feed on such a notable day!

    2) I learned a month or so ago in one of my Bible studies that the Hebrew root of the word "peace" or "shalom" is more connected with completeness than with a lack of strife. So when Jesus gives us peace and assures us it is not like the world gives, it’s about us becoming more and more complete in the vision of who God created us to be! So the way we love, who we love, and how much we love should be getting more and more like the love of God as demonstrated by Jesus throughout His perfect life.

    I think this understanding of "peace" aligns wonderfully with your post. Blessings to you, your great family, and your ministries, friend!

    1. Thanks, Allen.

      Shalom is an explanation of perfect community–like the Trinity, in fact. "Salem" in Arabic and "shalom" do have a deeper meaning of the translation to our word peace. I love how "sharing the peace" to each other states our commitment to this idea.

      RK

      PS..thanks for the birthday wishes!

  6. Right on, Rich! Two comments:

    1) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, brother!! Very nice to see your post popping up in my feed on such a notable day!

    2) I learned a month or so ago in one of my Bible studies that the Hebrew root of the word "peace" or "shalom" is more connected with completeness than with a lack of strife. So when Jesus gives us peace and assures us it is not like the world gives, it’s about us becoming more and more complete in the vision of who God created us to be! So the way we love, who we love, and how much we love should be getting more and more like the love of God as demonstrated by Jesus throughout His perfect life.

    I think this understanding of "peace" aligns wonderfully with your post. Blessings to you, your great family, and your ministries, friend!

    1. Thanks, Allen.

      Shalom is an explanation of perfect community–like the Trinity, in fact. "Salem" in Arabic and "shalom" do have a deeper meaning of the translation to our word peace. I love how "sharing the peace" to each other states our commitment to this idea.

      RK

      PS..thanks for the birthday wishes!

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