January 27, 2021

Jesus, Faith and a Universe of Fear

ferWhen I started studying Mark’s Gospel many years ago, I learned that, in Mark, faith is not contrasted with unbelief, but with fear.

The command to “not be afraid” was common in Mark. The disciples are constantly choosing between faith and fear as they journey with Jesus. It is fear, not unbelief, that cripples the community of Jesus-followers.

I don’t believe Christianity is a mind-game where we force ourselves to think happy thoughts. Far from it, I believe Christianity allows- even insists on- a full embrace of the difficulties, obstacles and deadly realities of life.

What does concern me, however, is the response of disciples to the media universe we live in, a media universe that uses fear in ways that are crippling to the mission of Jesus and detrimental to the work of the Holy Spirit.

1. I am concerned that many Christians do not understand the media’s financial stake in creating an atmosphere of crisis about as many stories as possible. They will do anything to keep you watching and reading.

2. I am concerned that many Christians do not understand the manipulation that a diet of fear-mongering makes possible. The media seeks influence and audience. A constant crisis creates that atmosphere.

3. Without in any way taking a skeptical attitude toward science, I have to wonder how many Christians realize media science reporting on many of the popular television and internet venues is exaggerated and quite “unscientific?” Loch Ness this hour, asteroids the next, swine flu at 6, followed by a special on alien DNA.

4. I am concerned that the multiplication of “fear factors” has powerful impact on some Christians, to the point of challenging fundamental aspects of how we as Christians face the painful, unpredictable and evil aspects of existence.

Am I alone in this? Is anyone else feeling that the thermostat of corporate fear is being turned up by media and its echo chamber for all the usual reasons- profit, influence, audience addiction, government empowerment- and many Christians are becoming the victims of an atmosphere not unlike what we saw at Y2K?

Anyone else see Christians becoming easy fodder for this, and failing to relate what they hear to the sovereignty of God, a moderate skepticism of media and the truths of the faith we live by in scripture?

When I heard a guy making motions about the Mayan calendar and 2012 at this year’s SBC, I thought….we’re over a line here. Now I’m seeing many more evidences of the same thing and its getting worse. Those of us who don’t have televisions are at risk for being “unbelievers.”

Is it just me?


  1. It’s you–you’re not watching enough Trinity Broadcasting!

  2. This is the main problem with visual media, though print media is also complicit. We human beings see images with our eyes and too often believe what we see. Visual images tend to dull the senses and thought processes. This is fine when enjoying basic entertainment, such as cinema, but it is the norm when it should be the occasional distraction.

    It is fearful sensationalism that has turned me away from televised religious shows about the end times and made me want to steamroll Michael Moore documentaries. Visual mediums used in cinema are fine, but more and more, people with agendas, both left, right and religious, are using the television to entice other to their point of view. Disturbing.

    If I want to be frightened, I’ll watch a Hitchcock film.

  3. This is a rather interesting post. Here in Australia, we had a very interesting article in the Australian Financial Review (my paper of choice alongside The New York Times) by the international editor, Tony Walker on the current climate in the US re: Obama and his health-care plans but extending to the fear that exists in right-wing/conservative America towards your president and his administration.

    It’s scary to think that in what is supposed to be the country that is the “leader of the free world”, you have so many scared people that are fearful of anything and everything. The example Tony Walker cited was that Arizona pastor (I think Armstrong might have been his last name, I think he was interviewed on CNN as well) who was preaching from the pulpit that he would go home that night and pray for Obama to go to hell. It didn’t help that the picture that accompanied the article was of a clearly evangelical church with an attendee carrying a gun in a holster while seated in the pews…

    If this is the message that Christians are sending out in America to both the wider American public and the rest of the world, it’s no wonder why some of my work colleagues pointed that article out to me and asked “Are all of you Christians as crazy as this guy is?”

    I sadly shook my head and said that no we aren’t, but it’s always the crazy minority who kicks up a helluva fuss and makes a loud noise that screws it up for the rest of us who are ACTUALLY trying to live as Jesus did.

    If I have to choose news, CNN and Fox News Channel (FNC) don’t even rate in my books for news content anymore. Gimme BBC World News, Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service World News and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s news services anyday. And to complement them, I end up hitting Al-Jazeera English, ChannelNewsAsia and Sky News UK/Australia (this is funny given that while it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch, as FNC is, it’s far less biased than FNC) online as well. Other Australian Christians I know who do watch CNN and FNC, along with our tamed down version of TBN, the Australian Christian Channel seem to be more fearful than those who ignore these channels.

  4. I keep not getting that little box that will make my analog TV able to receive the digital signal, so we can only watch rented movies, etc. I think it does wonders for our peace of mind. (and our IQs, but that’s a separate issue)

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