The Fear Factor*
New Life Bulletin ~ 5/23/21
If I were making a list of the things that would make me drop out of being involved in organized Christianity, or any religion, it would be the fear factor. I have reached the age where I can reflect on sixty or so years of Christian experience, as well as “historical” Christianity. What I see is that fear dominated, and still dominates a major segment of Christianity. I know there are many Christians who do not fit this pattern, but those who do make the most noise. There is no mystery in that, fear is always noisy, and often violent.
It’s difficult to write about “Christianity” in the general sense of the word because there is also the narrow meaning as well. For me, the narrow meaning is to have an understanding of Jesus that fulfills his teaching, attitude, actions and way of viewing the world and humankind in my life, as best I can. Rather than saying “Christianity” it might be better if I say “God-fearing” people, with the recognition that Christianity is the focus.
Aside from the God-fearers’ resistance to Galileo and the crusades, which was a long time ago, I think of the irony of two opposing armies in just about any war in history, both doing battle in the name of the same God.
I think of the resistance to the emancipation proclamation by God-fearing people, and the fear of what freedom for slaves might mean.
I think about the God-fearing resistance to women’s suffrage and equal rights for women and the fear that it was somehow against God’s pattern. I remember all those sermons on how the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) would destroy the American family. The fear factor. I think about Birmingham, Montgomery, Jackson, and other cities whose God-fearing people burned churches and killed civil rights workers. I remember the ugly pamphlets that were passed out by God-fearing preachers, warning of the coming ruin if we integrated. All based on fear.
I think about how we, and I mean Christians in general, viewed the divorced and remarried. I still have a tract that was popular (and may still be in some quarters) that ended with a statement that said something like, “Like the lepers of old, the divorced woman should shout ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ to warn innocent young men of her condition.” Again, the fear factor of losing one’s soul if they married a divorced woman.
It was nearly always the women who were blamed. I can think of at least two whose husbands either left them for a younger woman or beat and abused them, who, upon divorcing, or being divorced, were removed from the teaching program of the church. I think how often it was “the authority of scripture” until that elder or preacher had a child who ended up divorced. Most of the time a new understanding of scriptural authority was developed. Even sadder were those who refused to look again at what they believed.
I think of human rights. It seems every time we take a step forward, we seem to take two steps backward. After a certain calm came Charlottesville, a lovely college town invaded by those carrying Tiki torches on the University of Virginia campus chanting “Jews will not replace us!”
We had never heard of “systemic racism” repeated over and over in reference to our societal condition, even though we knew it existed. It was now in our faces and could not be ignored.
As the corruption among the Central American nations increased, more of those came north seeking asylum. That increased the old fear that those of color would eventually outnumber the whites and take away our freedoms. Rarely did anyone suggest that the color of a person’s skin did not determine their moral character. This view means if you look different, dress different, worship different, you are to be feared.
Think about the years and years of harmony which ended due to ignorance and slander ~ Asians became the enemy because of Covid-19.
I think how often “God fearing” people, quoting scripture, have perpetrated that kind of fear and prejudice. And I am reading more and more of Christian clergy who are giving up on the institutional churches due to the increased insistence that these fear-based ideologies be part of the church’s message.
I think how often God-fearing people have stood in the way of science. God-fearing people have been an easy sell for the idea that science is out to destroy God. How can anyone or anything, destroy God? Perhaps it is the belief in God that they fear science will destroy. Belief in God is based on faith not science. “Faith is not the foundational interest of science.”
History has recorded far too many places where the God-fearing have stood at the edge of a new frontier of Science, Medicine, or exploration and denounced it as being against God.
Does humankind have the ability to destroy itself? I suppose so. Could God? Of course, although looking back I can see no reason why.
What I have to remember is that all these “God-fearers” do not really define Christianity. Jesus does that. And I need to remember that down through the ages there have been those who, in Christ’s name, have been more afraid of not moving forward, of not exploring and asking questions, of not demanding human equality and dignity, than of being afraid of fear.
*Revised article from 2009
THOSE TO SERVE IN MAY
Announcements: Mike Branch
Ushers: Lyn/Susan Jordan
Singing: 23 & 30 Del Bolin
Scripture: Holly Wagner
Communion:23 Keith Wagner
30 Wayne Flora
22-Abraham & Kathleen Sirgy
26-Delmas & Leena Bolin
CONCERNS: Jim Hunter has been diagnosed with an autoimmune deficiency and will be going to UVA for further tests. Alisa Flora will be staying in Alabama for a few weeks to be with her sister Melanie, who has Stage III cancer and nephew, Ethan Gentry. Ethan had brain surgery, and he has a long-complicated recovery ahead of him. Wayne Flora’s parents, Sylvus and Martha Flora, and sister, Jan. Newlywed medical student of Del Bolin, Cory, was recently diagnosed with a rare cancer. He has had two rounds of immunotherapy. Leena Bolin’s brother, Steve (Covid lung scarring), Steve’s ex-wife (possible ALS) and son (bi-polar). Friend of Mark McRoy, Mr. Calesta Saunders, is paralyzed from a spinal stroke. Please continue to pray for Judy McWhorter’s sister, Jan, and brother-in-law, Gary Overstreet. Gary is now home. Megan Downing’s aunt, Stacey Smith, finished with her chemo treatments but will go back each week to get CT scans. Megan’s grandmother’s (Bonnie Beaver) surgery went well, and she will have 3 more treatments every 3 weeks. Erma’s sister, Lorretta, has serious health issues and is awaiting an oncology treatment plan. Del Bolin’s mom, Carrie, has health issues. Teryn Gaynor’s mother, Brenda Windham, has cancer. Joni Beach’s niece, Jamie Cole. Pray for Debbie McRoy’s cousins, Linda Alsup and Erica Halford. Deanna McRoy has a kind of cancer that can return at any time.
ALSO REMEMBER: Alan & Joni Beach, Kerry & Sula Hay, Judd Beaver, Lebreska Whitaker, Wayne & Susan Phlegar, Angela Cavalier, Nick Hodges, Martha Albert, Ruby Crosen, Mark & Ellen Tidwell, Donte McCadden, Joni and Alan Beach’s fathers, Jo-Ellen Griffith, Sheila Jansen and daughter, Amber Weaver, and Tim Elder.
Movie Night – Working through the logistics of setting up a weekly movie night for the summer. Begin praying about this special outreach.
SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS
Please join us for the study of “The Acts of God in the Book of Acts” at 9:30 am, in person or online with YouTube.
Thank you to all who came out and worked! We got a lot done. Stay tuned for future dates for additional workdays.
RESCUE MISSION / AGAPE AFTERCARE TRAINING
The Agape After Care training program will be on May 23rd from 1:00pm to 4:00pm in the auditorium. Please consider joining us! You can learn more about it before making a commitment. After Church, feel free to go to lunch, then come back for the training.
ONLINE YOUTUBE SERMONS
We continue to provide services online. The Roanoke Church of Christ YouTube channel link is below:
Join the Zoom Meeting on the Matthew at 7pm. Meeting ID:873 6718 6931https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87367186931
Congratulations to John Bolin on his graduation from Virginia Tech! He majored in Applied Economic Management with a concentration in Poverty Studies.
Congratulations to Nick Bolin! He will be starting his new job with Amazon and will be moving to Seattle, Washington, by August.
PRAY FOR PEACE IN ISRAEL!