Fear Rules!

We live in a dangerous world. People are out to get us. They want to kill us, maim us, abuse us, steal from us. They want to destroy our way of life.

And we don’t know what to do.

Thursday, someone took a suspicious object into a middle school in Clovis, New Mexico. After locking down the school and having police in place all around the school they discovered the object was a burrito. It was a really BIG burrito (30 inches), but still only a burrito. Scary.

Burrito’s are pretty dangerous. Just imagine how many calories and how much fat a 30 inch burrito would have. I bet the tortilla wrapper wasn’t even whole wheat.

Maybe burritos aren’t the biggest danger we face. But neither are terrorists. Though more dangerous than burritos – and absolutely murderous on many occasions, the worst they can do is kill us. We would be foolish to let our fear of terrorism control our lives – and equally foolish to pretend there is no threat. We need to find a healthy balance of preparation and busying ourselves with what we need to do.

Supporters of Beth Stroud looking for a change in the UMC blame the current UM position on homosexuality on homophobia. Translated into plain english, they’re saying the majority in the UMC – at least the majority as determined by General Conference voting over the past 30 years – is AFRAID of homosexuals/homosexuality. Sometimes they generalize: We’re afraid of the Different. We feel threatened. We might find that we’re different too.

Is fear a factor, or is this just another way of the schoolyard challenger yelling, “Chicken!” – encouraging us to be more afraid of being afraid (or seen to be afraid) than acknowledging danger?

Is there any danger – anything to be afraid of? I suppose one could express a fear of displeasing God; a fear of leading the church astray; a fear of leaving people in brokenness away from the transforming grace of God; a fear that sexual hedonism will become the norm in the church as it is in the broader culture. Of course each of these presuppose the idea that God has an opinion – a preference – regarding human sexual relations, and that we can best discern that opinion/preference by consulting scripture before we consult our feelings, experiences – even our science.

Assuming any or all of these (or others) might be legitimate fears, what might be an appropriate response? Calling out the police? Deploying sharpshooters? I don’t think so. If we look at Luke 15, we see the Pharisees and Jesus arguing about holiness and how to relate to those perceived as unholy. If we take Jesus as authoritative, then we can learn from his approach of defining holiness as not merely adhering to certain codes or standards, but bringing people back to God. Now this is a tough place to stand. It can easily be on the precipice of the slippery slope to antinomianism – “as long as I’m ok with God I can do whatever I want.” But Jesus DID describe his way as narrow – and I think it is in more than one way.

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