Preaching Fear

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  March 22, 2014

            It has been over a month now since the WIPP Site had its radiation leak. Following the accident, much of the ensuing media and internet attention has largely been a psychotic flurry of fear-based reaction by people who have never taken the opportunity to truly understand what is happening. It reminds me of something my Grandfather said many years ago.
            He served in the Navy during World War II and credited the Atomic Bomb for saving his life as it ended the war before he would have to invade Japan. Yet, as early as the late 1940’s he also said that the Bomb was a real tragedy for human history because it introduced the world to the potential of nuclear through the extreme atrocity of warfare and weaponry. The consequence, he went on to say, was that the world would forever fear this dynamic power that it really did not fully understand.
            Watching the internet and many news organizations in the month following WIPP’s accident, it was easy to realize how prophetically correct my Grandfather was. For those of us who have taken the time to know and understand WIPP, the outlandish reports were easy to dismiss. Yet, more and more people were drawn into the seductive net of fear and terror that these angry reports were generating. It was amazing to watch the power of fear-based rhetoric and disgraceful distortions of truth that has permeated the internet over the past month.
            To an extent, the fear and clamor for sensational information is understandable. It is part of our human nature. It is natural that we tend to fear things which we do not understand. We look into an uncertain future, witness change and transformation that runs contrary to what we know and trust, and see that the world is amid a constant degree of change. This prompts fear. It is also common that individuals who find themselves entrenched in their own unspeakable fear of that which they do not understand, react out of fear and use frightening images, speech, and assumptions to coerce others to join them in their fear. Fear, the powerful motivator, unleashes its ghastly poison spreads like a virus; consuming, destroying, and corrupting all along the way. Fear ultimately wields its most volatile weapon—hate.
            Even amid religious circles, fear can be used—often abused—to promote ideologies, doctrines, and codes of religious behavior that are prescribed by the religious authorities in their desire to maintain control.  All religions are susceptible to this incursion of human fear in the lives and attitudes of its adherents. Yet, it is corruption of the true intent of religious faith!
            The Apostle John addresses this aspect of fear in humanity in his first letter. Addressing a church that, for many good reasons, lived in fear, John sought to transcend the human fear and replace it with the truth of God’s love. Without genuine love—the true and unconditional love of God—one is prone to live in darkness. It is in the darkness where fear rules, uncertainty and doubt arise, and fear’s most powerful weapon is wielded. Fear-driven hatred fuels the heart, distorts the soul, promotes religious anger, and feeds on its own frightened energy until one’s entire sense of peace is consumed and the persona becomes a slave to fear.
            This is not how God would have the Christian live. “Perfect love casts out all fear,” he writes in 1 John 4:18. We are never called to live in fear! Not of the world events taking place on the evening news, not of the changes in our culture or community, and not of a religiously-created sense of divinity that is nothing more than a cosmic fear-monger. Such is not the ministry of Jesus Christ or the God of the Bible! “God is love and those who live in God live in love.” These words from 1 John 4:16 remind us that ours is to live out of God’s love and compassion.