I have noticed that there is always something for Christians to fear. At least that is what they tell us. When I was a kid it was Satanism, Dungeons & Dragons, heavy metal music and anything with a whiff of the occult. The teenagers of the 80s who ignored the warnings eventually got jobs, had families, and (for the most part) became contributors to society. They didn’t become devil worshipers or serial killers.
The kids who watched Fern Gully and Captain Planet in the 90s didn’t become hippies and pagans. The kids who read Harry Potter didn’t take up witchcraft. The teens who went to see the Twilight movies did not take up drinking blood.
The bar code did not become the mark of the beast. The Soviet Union never started World War III. Bill Clinton never tried to make Christianity illegal. And the United Nations has never attempted to reduce the surplus population.
Feminism has not led to the extinction of men. Belief in evolution has not led to a second holocaust. Gay marriage has not destroyed the sanctity of heterosexual marriage.
Yes, there were Christians who were promoting every single one of those fears, and even though none of the things we have been told to fear have turned out nearly as bad as we were told they would be, we are still encouraged to be afraid of new things every single day. Muslims. STDs. Gun control. Hilary Clinton. Zika. Inequality. False teachers.
A recent report was released by the Centers for Disease Control revealing trends about American teens. This latest report, when compared to annual reports from past years, shows us that risky behaviors (drugs, smoking, drinking, sexual activity) among teens is going down. Fewer teenagers are having sex now than 10 years ago. Fewer teenagers are drinking and doing drugs. These are hopeful findings, but have you heard a single Christian celebrating them? I haven’t. The reason is that the CDC’s report does not fit into our narrative of fear. Much of American Christianity is so invested in fear that we simply cannot accept when things actually get better.
Despite how it feels when we turn on the news, there is less violence in the world now than at any time in human history. The world is becoming more peaceful. This does not align well with the idea that we are moving quickly toward Armageddon. Christians often prefer the narrative that says violence of every kind is on the rise, and there is much to fear. This is simply not true.
Today our society assigns dignity to women, children, handicapped people, old people, and people who are different as no society in history has. We have eliminated slavery and child labor. We value equality. We seek to end the suffering of those afflicted by poverty, sickness, hunger, and natural disasters. We have eliminated many diseases that ravaged society in times past.
Fear is a powerful tool. Fear is used to rally the troops and to keep people in line. This is quite evident as we listen to presidential candidates. They give us a lot to be afraid of. As Christians, when we continually tell people that they must be afraid, we are not being like Jesus, we are playing the same game as power-hungry politicians. We are attempting to control people.
People who are afraid are more likely to accept our answers. They are more likely to accept the lifestyle that we tell them they must live. People who are afraid are more likely to fall in line. They are more likely to be supportive of what we say is important.
People who are afraid also come to love that fear. They want to tell stories of how much we should all be afraid. They want to convince other people that they should also be afraid. People who are afraid often reject good news in favor of bad news about the world.
As Christians, we will never be truly relevant, and we will never be honestly sharing the love of Jesus, if we concern ourselves with fear.