I came across an “alarming” headline from a very conservative financial planning group the other day about future of the economy. The banner of the article inspired some anxiety about the coming year.
The script read a little like this:
Dr. Peter Venkman: “This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.”
Mayor: “What do you mean, ‘Biblical’?”
Dr Ray Stantz: “What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.”
Dr. Peter Venkman: “Exactly.”
Dr Ray Stantz: “Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!”
Dr. Egon Spengler: “Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…”
Winston Zeddemore: “The dead rising from the grave!”
Dr. Peter Venkman: “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”
Mayor: “All right, all right! I get the point!”
“Who you gonna call?” (Wasn’t that the line?) I know. I am being ridiculous.
Seriously, the bold title from the usually old-fashioned Edward Jones projected a much grimmer conclusion than the actual text inside the article – which was simply forecasting another recession next spring.
But the headline worked. It set me to reading.
Fear sells. It captures us.
I know of a guy who wrote a book about how the world was going to collapse in the year 2000 when the clocks rolled over into the new millennium. It had something to do with glitches (or a bug?) in the world’s computers. His book sold like wildfire and had folks stocking water and canned goods (and even ammunition) in their basements. Of course the ball dropped and the “insect” was nowhere to be found. Everyone had a party and history progressed briskly forward without electronic Armageddon. The author of this startling book did QUITE well for himself though.
Why? Because fear sells, it draws us in and then closes the door behind us.
Look all around us: from headlines about the Mayan calendar, forecasts of war, terrorism, or financial collapse to the more personal worries about losing our proverbial “place in line” — the theme of our stories all read a little like the lines from Ghostbusters.
Even religious culture uses fear to sell.
Many of us grew up hearing more stories of hell-fire and brimstone than stories of grace and mercy; more talk about the end of the world than the joy of life to the fullest. Too many of us are driven into religious practices as a way to try to control and suppress this dominating fear.
Consider this: We buy out of fear. We operate among our friends out of fear. We make fear-based work and business decisions. Some of us live in marriages and families dominated by fear. Many folks take medication to ward off persistent fear.
Fear is the glue that keeps us stuck in one place…it imprisons us in a cell – far from a meaningful journey.
Fear leads to a life-long incarceration.
1 John 4:17-18 (The Message) tells us “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us…There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life — fear of death, fear of judgment — is not one yet fully formed in love.”
This kind of love sounds ridiculous.
In order to live our lives in a constant forward motion following the One who came to give us freedom, we cannot allow fear to be the driving force of our decisions, our actions and our thoughts.
One of my favorite pop-stars sings a question about our pervasive apprehensions, “Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear… the right to be ridiculous is something I hold dear.”
Fear sells… but maybe it’s time to stop buying it, get out of our cell and start living a “ridiculous” faith…