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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Booo!

In recent times there have been countless headless chickens running round the courtyard under a sky that seems to have been perpetually falling in. Alarmist predictions about total economic collapse, falling asteroids, decimating pandemics and the like have far outlasted the millennial transition, usually most noted for such scare mongering.

It’s not of course that these risks do not exist. Life is and always has been beset by dangers numerous and unseen. Part of the population, however, seems stuck in the nursery where nothing bad could or should happen. Then we have the bogus experts whose careers have been built on keeping the various bogeymen at bay, real or imagined. These have a vested interest in pandering to the fears of the worried well and the various other Chicken Littles of this world. They compete for attention with some politicians for whom the fear of terrorism, disease or natural disaster can be meal ticket to electoral success and social control. Those who are really trying to help, the professionals in the field, are continually hindered in their work by the panic inducing reactions of the risk averse and their cynical manipulating guardians.

Then there are others of course who just like a good scare. They include the sociopaths and misanthropes who relish the effects of disasters and the bored for whom the excitement of danger, any kind of danger, is far preferable to the monotony of conventional modern living ... which is why peace time armies have never been short of naive young men. But what of you and me? Go on admit it! We all like a good scare from time to time! Disaster movies attest to the universal human fascination, the adrenalin pumping thrill of everything going “belly up.”

Bad religion has also sometimes cynically used this fascination with death and destruction, both the dread and the relish, in order to control its adherents. The sociopaths have rejoiced at the pains of the damned, sadists have enjoyed their torturing of heretics, preachers have used the fear of hell to convert their hearers and the profane have shocked with their blasphemies. Mercifully such things are entirely absent from Christian Orthodoxy because we are not concerned to control and unregenerate mass of reprobates but rather we would have God restore freedom and dignity to humankind in the face of the demonic forces that oppose Him and us.

Fear and anxiety are indeed extremely potent human emotions and we have a complex and ambiguous relationship to both. The gospel, however, sets quite a different standard for fear. There is a godly fear which approaches God with reverence and awe. Against this I do not speak but there is another servile fear which has no place in Christian living. It is a fear of life, a fear of the “other”, a fear associated with punishment, a dread of death. The existence of this fear betrays an attenuated or absent sense of the love of God. Such Perfect Love casts out fear, (1 John 4:17-19). It assures of what St. Paul taught from his own experience when he wrote:- “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.” (Romans 14:8).

So whereas we can all enjoy the occasional good scare our hearts at deep level must know both the security and assurance that can only come with an abiding knowledge of both God’s love and providence, His own very Presence with us and in us. Against such there is no law, no threat, no ensnaring danger but only the perfect peace and glory of the saints. Perhaps it is this that this generation misses most of all.

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