We live in a culture of fear.
The recent B.C. election was won on fear—fear that socialist hordes would do irresponsible things. Like throw money at schools. Raise minimum wages. Or even investigate the B.C. Rail cover-up.
The entire United States seems to run on fear. Homeland Security, FBI, CIA, Pentagon, Customs and Immigration, border patrols, Drug Enforcement, and a punitive prison industry—America spends more on protecting itself against what might happen than on anything that is happening. Like health. Or education.
Fear underlies international relations—fear of wars, fear of rebellions, fear of reprisals.
And that’s just the political world.
Consider how much of advertising focuses on fear. Fear of looking old. Fear of failure. Fear of looking poor. Fear of boredom. Fear of loneliness.
And ultimately, fear of dying. In a whole page of newspaper obituaries recently, not one person died. They passed away. They went to be with their Lord. They had an appointment with St. Peter. They were taken home.
Fear is so endemic that we cannot imagine living without our fears.
But a few people have done just that. Not surprisingly, religions formed around them—Krishna, the Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth….
I call myself a Christian, whether or not others would agree. Jesus lived without fear. He consorted with his bitterest critics. He broke religious taboos. He ate and drank with social outcasts. He went to Jerusalem, knowing his presence would inflame local authorities. He didn’t want to die, but he wasn’t afraid of death.
His disciples, by contrast, ran and hid. They denied they knew him. They met behind locked doors, in upper rooms isolated from the street.
And then, one day, something changed. Suddenly those same fearful disciples became fearless. They spoke boldly to crowds. According to the Bible, they even demonstrated in the Temple, confronting the authorities who had crucified their leader.
The real miracle of what Christian churches call Pentecost wasn’t some supernatural phenomenon that people could only describe later as tongues of fire, a mighty wind. The miracle was that a bunch of cowards lost their fear.
Tragically, their successors often exploited fear as a means of exercising power. People were taught to fear eternal punishment in hell, to fear a judgemental God, to fear exclusion from the community.
And sometimes, to fear torture and/or burning for daring to think outside a predefined doctrinal box.
Today, in a time of greater intellectual freedom, we can explore ideas that would have been unthinkable before. But I don’t think many of us can imagine what it might be like to live without fear.
We can imagine being reckless. We can imagine being brave. But not of living in such a way that we no longer fear dying. Or being robbed. Or swindled. Or raped. Or injured in an accident.
So we buy insurance. We lock doors. We hire lawyers to read the fine print on contracts. We choose our friends carefully.
We can’t imagine being totally open—emotionally, physically, socially, and economically—to anyone at all, to anything that happens.
We’re so immersed in fear that we’re afraid of living without fear.