Saturday, October 25, 2014


Fortuitously, this popped up on my Facebook feed today

This post has been gestating for a week or so.  But given the events in Ottawa this past Wednesday it became more important that I actually put it into words....

80 years ago, in the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt told the people of the United States "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself".

Centuries ago Isaiah spoke the word of God that had been revealed to him saying:
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1,2)
Indeed, one of the most common phrases we find in Scripture is some form of "do not be afraid".  Angels say it almost any time they appear.

So why are we so afraid all the time?

What really started this post was the pondering if we are becoming MORE afraid.  Which really doesn't make a lot of sense.  I mean my parents grew up in the era of "duck and cover", or as Billy Joel put it "under their desks in an air raid drill" leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the politics of brinkmanship.  In the 1980's I remember concern over the possibility of a Soviet invasion of Poland during the Solidarity "crisis", and the Iran-Iraq war, and at least one day when school lessons were pre-empted by discussions of nuclear war following the aring of the TV movie The Day After (especially since it was commonly assumed that the Edmonton area, with many oil refineries, was relatively high on the target list).  Then there was the Kuwait invasion and the first Gulf war.  And 9/11.  And the growing environmental awareness.....

But still I wonder if we are becoming more afraid.  Actually I think we are becoming more afraid.  So really the question is why...

I don't think it is because there is any more reason to be afraid.  I don't think ISIS or other "terrorist"/paramilitary/radical groups or Ebola are a greater threat than the idiocy of mutually assured destruction and brinksmanship was.  Different threats definitely but not greater.  And let us be honest, various populations have lived in the shadow of possible violence for many years.

I think part of the blame is in the power of the military industrial complex, which only makes money when there is a demand for militarization and warfare(open or covert, hot or cold).  But that is easy picking.  We have known since the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower that this was a problem.

I think the big cause is the media, both traditional and social.  I have long believed that the 24 hour news cycle and the movement away from real journalism and into "sound bite news" in the haste to break a story first )sometimes without really worrying about confirming factual details) has been detrimental to how well we actually understand the world.  But add that to the premise that "if it bleeds it leads" and the news media serve to breed fear (Fearbola one TV comedian termed it recently).  Hearing the same story, or half story, over and over again also increases the spread of fear and changes our focus on the events around us.

Social media is no better.  It takes little to no time for sensationalized accounts of events to meme their way through social networks.  And fear is a contagious thing so everytime we click "share" or "retweet" we make a choice to increase fear or to limit its spread.

A prime example took place this week.  Even before the story was close to being over there were people making assumptions about what was happening and who was to blame.  Our Prime Minister, even before details were known about the shooter (at least publicly, it is plausible the PM had more information than had been released) was quick to use the terrorist word and link this event even if only through implication, to ISIS/ISIL and other radical groups.  AS it turns out an equally plausible explanation to the event was that a mentally-ill/troubled individual had a break and acted violently.  But of course that doesn't make us afraid and therefore willing to support actions like expanding military action in Syria/Iraq or advocating the further breakdown of civil liberties in the name of security and safety.

Yes the world is not what we wish it would be.  Yes there are terrible things that happen.  But we can choose to be ruled by fear or not.  We can choose to trust that things are not as bad as they are made out to be.  We can choose to think about things in a way beyond the sound bite and the headlines.

If Isaiah heard right, it seems God wants us to work through/past/avoid the fear.  Because maybe FDR was right--we only have to fear fear

ANd on a related note, what would your boggart turn into?  

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